Comment: Why Pilgrims are pivotal to Pompey promotion push

Here's Part II of our Pompey writers' Blues predictions.

Tuesday, 15th March 2016, 4:20 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 5:41 pm
Pompey boss Paul Cook celebrates his sides victory over Plymouth at Home Park back in August but was unhappy with the Pilgrims late consolation goal Picture: Joe Pepler

Up next is chief sports writer Neil Allen...

It’s a goal which still irks Paul Cook, a strike to scratch the shine off the scoreline.

Pompey’s second League Two outing under the Scouser conjured up an eye-catching 2-1 victory at Home Park.

Yet an 89th-minute consolation from Gregg Wylde gave the final score an unrealistic reflection.

A punt down the field, Christian Burgess wrestled Reuben Reid to win the ball aerially, only for it to fall for Wylde to strike home from the edge of the area.

Leam Richardson addressed the press afterwards. Cook was heard chuntering about that goal as he headed into Derek Adams’ managerial office.

The sides meet on April 16 at Fratton Park for the reverse encounter.

Unless Pompey complete the double over Adams’ side then they can forget about automatic promotion.

Even then that may not be enough, the other nine matches which remain will dictate that. But it remains pivotal.

Having myself attempted to calculate the outcome of the final 10 matches for League Two’s top eight, Bristol Rovers appear the biggest threat.

Yet for Pompey, Argyle are catchable – and next month’s scheduled south coast encounter will decide whether Cook’s men will finish ahead of them.

Victory and I predict third place will arrive, albeit on goal difference ahead of Oxford United.

Defeat or a draw and the Blues will be trying their luck in the play-offs.

Back on that August day at Home Park, few could have anticipated how vital the rematch will be.

For so long doyens of the promotion pack, the Pilgrims are faltering.

With two wins from nine matches, the fluency has been punctured – providing hope to those intent on flashing by.

Still, chief spoilsport to Oxford, Plymouth and Pompey remains Bristol Rovers – a side on a four-match winning streak.

Also armed with a favourable run-in, I estimate a 23-point haul from their final 10 matches, giving Darrell Clarke’s team second spot with 85 points.

A shock for Oxford then, who have been the best side Pompey have faced this season and also booked into a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final with Barnsley next month.

That grand occasion could well prove to be a convenient distraction in the eyes of their rivals. I’m going for another 17 points to see them finish on 82.

Similarly, the unstoppable Northampton will march to the title. However, it is fortuitus Pompey face them in the season’s final match.

Chris Wilder’s side will have nothing to play for – the Blues could have the goal of automatic promotion on the day.

History shows on such occasions in a league finale the underdogs often win. Pompey will have to.

For me, the Blues will get an additional 23 points. Slipping up with a defeat at AFC Wimbledon and home draws to Carlisle and Wycombe. After all, nobody’s perfect.

That would see Cook’s side taking third spot with 82 points, on goal difference ahead of Oxford (fourth). Trailing would be Plymouth (fifth) and Accrington (sixth).

Still, none of this fantasy can occur if Pompey fail to win on Saturday, April 16.

My Predictions:

Mansfield - W

Notts County - W

AFC Wimbledon - L

Carlisle - D

Dagenham & Redbridge - W

Plymouth - W

York - W

Wycombe - D

Hartlepool - W

Northampton - W

Total points gained: 23 points

My top three:

1 Northampton (101 points); 2. Bristol Rovers (85); 3. Pompey (82)