LEAGUE 2 CHAMPIONS
LEAGUE 2 CHAMPIONS
Mansfield Town 0
Blues win final away game
Pompey won their final away game of the season at Mansfield to keep title hopes alive.
A fractious contest was settled just before the hour mark with a goal that Carl Baker and Conor Chaplin both claimed.
The Stags thought Matt Clarke should have been dismissed earlier in the second half and could not make their late pressure count.
Paul Cook made three changes from the side that beat Cambridge on home soil the previous week.
Chaplin, Christian Burgess and Danny Rose all returned, with Nicke Kabamba, Jack Whatmough and Stanley Aborah – the latter of whom had been struggling with a neck injury – dropping to the bench.
The hosts were desperately searching for a play-off spot, so it came as no surprise that they showed more urgency in the opening stages.
A free-kick led to a scramble in Pompey’s box and Lee Collins’ cross ricocheted off Rhys Bennett and straight into David Forde’s arms.
Another set-piece from the hosts was quickly given to the familiar-sounding Danny Rose, whose low drive was comfortably stopped by Forde.
In truth, however, neither side was able to get out of second gear in a drab half that yielded very few clear-cut chances.
Mansfield’s Rose had another effort easily dealt with by Forde, while Kal Naismith took a swipe at thin air and ended up on his backside – drawing laughter from Cook in the technical area.
Gareth Evans was looking lively for the Blues and he dragged a shot wide after stealing the ball from Alex MacDonald.
Naismith then had the best chance for the visitors with a fierce drive that was heading for the top corner until being beaten behind by Jake Kean.
Kyle Bennett also enjoyed an impressive run along the edge of the box, but his shot did not cause the Stags keeper too much trouble.
Mansfield Town 0
The first half might have been forgettable, but the second exploded into life in the opening few minutes.
Mansfield’s Danny Rose caught Clarke dithering and was brought down by the defender, who would have just had Forde to beat.
The home crowd – and players – were baying for a red card and left furious when referee Lee Swabey instead pulled a yellow one from his pocket.
There was more bad news for the Stags moments later when Rhys Bennett found the net, only to have his celebrations cut short by an offside flag.
But the Blues did break the deadlock on 57 minutes – even if there was some confusion about who should claim it.
BAKER played a neat one-two with Naismith and curled a shot past the grasp of Kean and into the net.
He was certainly credited with the goal, although it might have got a touch off Chaplin – not that it mattered to the celebrating travelling fans.
There was certainly a fractious atmosphere, not helped by a late challenge by Ben Whiteman on Bennett.
That led to some pushing and shoving, with Swabey booking both Whiteman and Bennett, as well as Enda Stevens.
Mansfield knew they needed at least a point, so poured forward in search of an equaliser and MacDonald should at least have hit the target after being picked out at the far post.
But Chaplin then had an opportunity at the other end of the pitch and dragged his shot narrowly past the post.
MacDonald aoon had another chance for the hosts, but his effort was well saved low to his left by Forde.
Whatmough replaced Chaplin on 69 minutes as Cook looked to shore things up at the back and was immediately called into action to head clear a free-kick.
Cook completed his changes with the introductions of Gary Roberts and Aborah for Baker and Bennett respectively.
But Mansfield substitute Matt Green should have levelled soon after when he was sent through on goal and lifted the ball over Forde – but also over the net.
It was backs to the wall for Pompey as their hosts poured forward in search of a leveller, but that left spaces at the other end.
Naismith should have taken one of them late on, but could not keep his shot down after being teed-up by Roberts.
It mattered not, however, as the Blues saw out six minutes of stoppage-time to maintain hopes of adding some silverware to their promotion party.
Mansfield (4-4-2): Kean; White, Pearce, Bennett, Benning; Whiteman, Collins (c) (Green 68), Byrom, MacDonald (Hoban 86); Coulthirst, Rose (Taft 83)
Booked: White, Whiteman, Bennett, Pearce
Subs not used: Jensen, McGuire, Potter, Hamilton
Pompey (4-2-3-1): Forde; Evans, Burgess, Clarke, Stevens; Rose, M.Doyle (c); Baker (Roberts 77), Naismith, Bennett (Aborah 77); Chaplin (Whatmough 69)
Goals: Baker 57
Booked: Baker, Clarke, Stevens, Bennett, Aborah
Subs not used: O’Brien, Linganzi, Lowe, Kabamba
Referee: Lee Swabey
Cambridge United 1
Baker and Naismith on target
Pompey ensured their promotion party did not fall flat with a 2-1 victory over Cambridge at Fratton Park.
Carl Baker fired them ahead before the break and Kal Naismith’s fine free-kick doubled the advantage in the second half.
An equally impressive strike from Luke Berry reduced the deficit, but the Blues saw out the closing stages to secure all three points.
Paul Cook made three changes from the side that won at Notts County to secure promotion on Easter Monday.
There were maiden starts for Nicke Kabamba and Stanley Aborah, with Gary Roberts and Amine Linganzi making way.
Matt Clarke also returned from injury to replace Christian Burgess at the heart of Pompey’s back-line.
There was a carnival atmosphere inside Fratton Park as the sides emerged from the tunnel to the tune of the Herman’s Hermits hit ‘I’m Into Something Good’.
And it was the hosts who looked more threatening in the early stages, with Naismith’s effort blocked before Baker drilled a low shot just past the post.
Enda Stevens then tried his luck after cutting inside from out wide, although his rising drive cleared the crossbar.
And Cambridge skipper Leon Legge managed to head clear a cross from the left-back before it could reach the waiting Kabamba.
Gareth Evans was next to have a pop and hit the ball cleanly enough from 25 yards, only for it to fly straight into the arms of Will Norris.
But the United keeper was beaten on 20 minutes, as Stevens got free down the left and cut the ball back for BAKER to side-foot home from inside the box.
That was the signal for the play-off chasing visitors to start showing some more ambition and try to chase an equaliser.
Medy Elito whipped in a free-kick from wide on the left, with David Forde was at his commanding best to punch clear.
But Cambridge almost drew level when the keeper failed to claim a cross on 35 minutes, as Michael Doyle initially cleared before Uche Ikpeazu’s effort was turned off the line by Jack Whatmough.
The danger was not over yet, however, and Liam O’Neil should have found the target after being picked out from the resulting corner.
And Forde did brilliantly to somehow claim a dangerous delivery by Piero Mingoia with just one hand in a crowded area.
But it was the Blues who almost snatched a goal to extend their advantage just moments before the break.
Naismith and Stevens combined well down the left and the latter’s centre was hooked back across goal by Baker, although just too high for Kabamba to divert on target at the far post.
Cambridge United 0
There was another great chance for the hosts following the restart as Norris spilled Kyle Bennett’s shot, only for Kabamba to slip before he could reach the loose ball.
It was only a brief respite for Cambridge, however, and Shaun Derry’s side did fall further behind on 51 minutes.
Aborah was brought down 25 yards from goal and top scorer NAISMITH stepped up to curl home a beauty of a free-kick.
The visitors needed some inspiration and quickly made all three of their substitutions, including introductions for former Blues players James Dunne and Adam McGurk.
And Cook made a couple of switches of his own, with Kabamba and Baker making way for Conor Chaplin and Monday’s goal hero Jamal Lowe.
That seemed to take the sting out of the game, although it was still Pompey playing with more attacking intent.
A dangerous low Stevens cross was turned into his own keeper’s arms by Legge, while a couple of fine passing moves were just lacking a final killer ball.
But Cambridge found a route back into the game on 80 minutes when Aborah conceded a free-kick that Berry superbly fired past Forde’s desperate grasp.
The same played had another sighter following a foul by Doyle soon after, although this time he smashed his shot straight into the wall.
A third free-kick from Berry in stoppage-time was then heading for the net, until Forde managed to push it to safety.
And United were unable to find an equaliser, meaning that Pompey still have slim hopes of catching leaders Doncaster.
Pompey (4-2-3-1): Forde; Evans, Whatmough, Clarke, Stevens; Aborah, M.Doyle (c); Baker (Lowe 67), Naismith, Bennett (Roberts 72); Kabamba (Chaplin 63)
Goals: Baker 20, Naismith 51
Booked: Baker, Whatmough, Forde
Subs not used: O’Brien, Talbot, T.Davies, Rose
Cambridge (4-1-4-1): Norris; Halliday, Legge (c), Taylor, Carroll; O’Neil (Dunk 57); Mingoia, Newton (Dunne 61), Berry, Elito; Ikpeazu (McGurk 63)
Goals: Berry 80
Subs not used: Gregory, Wharton, Maris, Lewis
Referee: Gavin Ward
Continuing a great football season Havant & Waterlooville clinched promotion today.
The Hawks claimed the Ryman League premier division title despite a goalless draw at Kingstonian. The point for Lee Bradbury’s men was enough to seal automatic promotion back to National League South after Bognor were held to a 1-1 draw by Met Police. Jimmy Muitt had given the Rocks the lead but their hopes of overhauling the Hawks were dashed when Will Salmon silenced the Nyewood Lane crowd on 71 minutes. Jamie Howell’s Bognor now go into the play-offs, with Wingate & Finchley their semi-final opponents.
Notts County 1
Blues win promotion to League One
Pompey secured promotion to League One with three games to spare after winning at Notts County.
The result – coupled with Luton’s failure to beat Mansfield – ensured the Blues ended their four-season exile in the fourth tier.
Gareth Evans fired them into the lead from the penalty spot, only for Jorge Grant to level after the break.
But Jamal Lowe came off the bench to add two goals and the referee’s final whistle was the cue for the party to really begin.
Paul Cook made two enforced changes from the side that drew with Plymouth on Good Friday.
With Matt Clarke and Danny Rose both nursing knocks, it opened up spaces in the starting 11 for Jack Whatmough and Amine Linganzi.
The sides emerged to a sea of ticker tape from the 4,366 travelling fans crammed into the Jimmy Sirrel Stand to the side of the pitch.
And although there was a slow start to proceedings on the pitch, there was certainly a jovial atmosphere off it.
Pompey supporters were in fine voice as they sang the Herman’s Hermits hit I’m Into Something Good, with the lyrics adjusted to reveal they had promotion on their minds.
It was the visitors who looked more threatening in the early stages and Gary Roberts was blocked off after being slipped through by Kal Naismith.
And they were awarded a penalty when Michael Doyle’s incisive pass released Naismith, the stand-in striker burst into the box and former Blues defender Richard Duffy was drawn into making a clumsy challenge.
Referee Graham Salisbury had a simple decision to make and EVANS stepped up to coolly send County keeper Adam Collin the wrong way from the spot.
Pompey fans had further reason to celebrate soon after, when it emerged that Luton had fallen behind at Mansfield.
But the visitors were certainly not home and dry, with Jon Stead not able to get a decent connection on Adam Campbell’s cross and the ball flying into David Forde’s arms.
A free-kick then led to a scramble in the Blues box before Carl Baker was eventually able to hack to safety.
There were certainly not an abundance of clear-cut openings at either end of the pitch, however, as the half drifted along.
Forde tried to launch an attack when he claimed a cross and picked out Naismith with a fine clearance, but the Scotsman was crowded out.
Notts County 0
The hosts looked more lively once the game restarted and Matt Tootle found Campbell unmarked in the box, only for the forward to volley over the bar.
And there was more reason to feel tense, as a couple of goals were soon scored to put Pompey’s promotion party on ice.
First news began to filter through that Luton had equalised at Field Mill and then Notts County grabbed a leveller of their own.
Elliott Hewitt sent a lofted pass into the area and Grant met it to send a fine curling finish past Forde’s grasp and into the net.
A more traditional striking option was introduced for the visitors just past the hour mark, as Roberts made way for Conor Chaplin.
There had not been much pressure applied by Pompey since the restart, although Baker’s incisive pass found Enda Stevens down the left and his low centre was just behind Kyle Bennett.
And Baker could then only chip the ball into Collin’s arms after struggling to dig the ball out on the edge of the box.
The visitors were pushing for another goal and when a couple of fine passes from Baker and Chaplin created a chance for Naismith, his angled drive was kept out by the feet of Collin.
Another attacking player was thrown into the mix on 69 minutes, with Baker withdrawn for Lowe.
Pompey were suddenly looking a real threat and the lively Bennett surged forward before seeing his stinging drive superbly tipped over by Collin.
And their pressure paid off on 77 minutes when LOWE collected Naismith’s pass, cut onto his right foot and curled home a shot.
Home fans thought they should have had a penalty soon after when Mark Yeates’ cross appeared to strike the hand of Christian Burgess, although there did not look to be much intent from the defender.
And Lowe made a vital block to deny Rob Milsom as fingernails were chewed among the expectant away fans.
But they had cause to celebrate late on when LOWE burst clear and confidently lifted home his second goal of the afternoon.
There was also a roar when those supporters learned that it had finished all square between Mansfield and Luton.
And when Salisbury blew the final whistle, it was the cue for Pompey fans to pour onto the pitch and mob their heroes.
Three more games and then the Blues’ League Two stay is at an end.
Notts County (4-2-3-1): Collin; Tootle, Duffy, Hollis, Bola; O’Connor (c) (Yeates 45+1), Milson; Hewitt, Grant, A.Campbell (T.Campbell 75); Stead
Goals: Grant 51
Booked: O’Connor, Bola
Subs not used: Searson-Smithard, Dickinson, Clackstone, Smith, Forte
Pompey (4-2-3-1): Forde; Evans, Burgess, Whatmough, Stevens; Linganzi, M.Doyle (c); Baker (Lowe 69), Roberts (Chaplin 62), Bennett (Aborah 90+2); Naismith
Goals: Evans 14 (pen), Lowe 77, 90
Booked: Linganzi, Chaplin, Naismith
Subs not used: O’Brien, Talbot, T.Davies, Main
Referee: Graham Salisbury
Plymouth Argyle 1
Roberts on target in Fratton stalemate
It finished all square at Fratton Park, as Pompey came from behind to secure a point in an Easter showdown with Plymouth.
They fell behind to Jake Jervis’ header, but then proceeded to dominate for most of the contest.
And the pressure paid off after the break when Gary Roberts capitalised on some uncertainty at the back to equalise.
It was the Blues who looked most likely to get a winner, but they could not find another path through to goal.
Paul Cook chose not to change the side that beat Yeovil on home soil the previous week.
There were three former Pompey players in the opposition line-up, with Sonny Bradley, Ryan Taylor and Jervis all starting.
And it was the visitors who were first to threaten when David Fox fired in a shot that was well blocked by Matt Clarke.
Carl Baker was then denied at the other end, as Bradley came charging across to make a tackle, injuring himself in the process.
The Blues forced Luke McCormick into action on 11 minutes, with the keeper showing good reactions to keep out Gareth Evans’ swerving shot.
But Argyle broke the deadlock just seconds later when Jervis met Gary Sawyer’s cross and firmly headed home at the far post.
Pompey were guilty of trying to rush things and it was only when they slowed things down and kept possession that they started to look dangerous.
The Pilgrims, however, were determined to keep hold of their lead and got plenty of men behind the ball to frustrate their hosts.
But they were indebted to McCormick on 33 minutes, with the skipper spilling Kal Naismith’s curler, only to quickly recover and stop Roberts from sliding in the loose ball.
Plymouth were still looking dangerous on the break, though, and Matty Kennedy fired into the side netting after skipping past a couple of challenges.
However, most of the action was happening at the other end of the pitch and Naismith saw a free-kick deflected narrowly over late in the half.
Plymouth Argyle 1
Pompey continued to show plenty of attacking intent after the interval and Naismith’s cleanly-struck effort forced McCormick into action.
A shot from Kyle Bennett then deflected off Yann Songo’o and flew narrowly wide, while a Naismith effort was also diverted past the post.
Plymouth were throwing themselves in front of everything and some brave defending was paying dividends.
But they contributed to the equalising goal on 57 minutes, as Pompey’s persistence finally paid off.
Baker slipped a fine pass through to Bennett and his delivery caused confusion between McCormick and Songo’o, allowing ROBERTS to nip in and score.
Pompey continued to push and an incisive passing move ended in Naismith winning a corner, from which Baker drilled wide.
Roberts became the first Blues player to be withdrawn on 67 minutes, with Conor Chaplin on to replace him.
And it was still Pompey looking the more adventurous going forward, as their opponents searched for chances on the break.
Jamal Lowe added some fresh impetus into the hosts’ attack when he was brought on for Baker on the right.
But it was Chaplin who had a great chance to give the Blues a lead on 86 minutes, only to head wide when Naismith chipped the ball up to him in the box.
Bennett then fired a free-kick narrowly over deep into stoppage-time, as Pompey had to settle for a share of the spoils.
Pompey (4-2-3-1): Forde; Evans, Burgess, Clarke, Stevens; Rose, M.Doyle (c); Baker (Lowe 78), Roberts (Chaplin 67), Bennett; Naismith
Goals: Roberts 57
Subs not used: O’Brien, Talbot, Whatmough, Linganzi, Kabamba
Plymouth (4-2-3-1): McCormick (c); Threlkeld, Songo’o, Bradley (Sokolik 46), Sawyer; Sarcevic, Fox; Jervis (Smith 68), Carey, Kennedy (Tanner 81); Taylor
Goals: Jervis 12
Booked: Sarcevic, Threlkeld
Subs not used: Dorel, Miller, Donaldson, Garita
Referee: Christopher Sarginson
Yeovil Town 1
Evans, Naismith and Lowe on target
Pompey strengthened their grasp on automatic promotion with a 3-1 victory over Yeovil.
Gareth Evans opened the scoring from the spot, as the Blues finally managed to break their penalty curse.
But an unfortunate own-goal drew the Glovers level after the break and threatened to spoil the party.
Top scorer Kal Naismith restored the advantage, however, and Jamal Lowe came off the bench to net his first goal for the club.
Paul Cook made two changes from the side that won at Hartlepool the previous week.
Lowe dropped to the bench to make way for a fit-again Carl Baker, while Gary Roberts replaced the injured Noel Hunt.
That meant Naismith was employed as a makeshift striker – a role he performed so effectively in the second half at Victoria Park.
Pompey made a bright start in the south coast sunshine and Bevis Mugabi had to be alert to beat Roberts to Evans’ cross.
But it was Yeovil who should have forged ahead moments later, with an unmarked Tom Eaves sending Kevin Dawson’s cross over the bar.
It was generally the hosts looking more threatening, however, and a dangerous low Roberts centre had to be cleared behind by Alex Lacey.
Then, from the resulting corner, Matt Clarke rose highest to meet the ball, only for Liam Shephard to clear from the line.
But the Blues did break the deadlock on 15 minutes – and finally bring an end to their penalty hoodoo.
Roberts did well to nip in and steal the ball from the dithering Mugabi, drawing a clumsy challenge from the centre-back.
Referee Graham Horwood immediately pointed to the spot and EVANS coolly steered his shot into the bottom corner.
They kept pushing forward and Artur Krysiak denied Naismith before Roberts’ cross hit the hapless Mugabi and ricocheted against the inside of the post.
Pompey continued to send some dangerous deliveries into the box that caused the Glovers defence problems.
There was also one at the other end, however, and Mugabi should at least have turned Matty Dolan’s corner on target from just a few yards out.
Yeovil Town 0
Pompey were keen to build on their narrow advantage once the second half got underway, with Naismith and Kyle Bennett proving a nuisance down the left.
Roberts then found Naismith in the box and a glancing header from the hosts’ top scorer was superbly palmed clear by Krysiak.
Instead, the Glovers drew level in bizarre circumstances on 51 minutes. Francois Zoko, Clarke and Stevens were all competing for the ball and the latter two conspired to inadvertently lob it into their own net.
That was the signal for the Blues to camp out in their opponents’ half, with the visitors having to deal with several corners.
Evans and Bennett also had shots blocked, as Pompey – backed by a noisy crowd – tried to restore their advantage.
Stevens then tried to catch Krysiak out at his near post with a low drive, as the Glovers struggled to contain their hosts.
Cook made his first change on 67 minutes, as Conor Chaplin replaced Roberts to give the strikeforce a more conventional look.
But it was the stand-in who fired the Blues back into the lead just seconds later, as Stevens teed-up NAISMITH and Krysiak could not get a strong enough hand to the Scotsman’s shot.
Yeovil boss Darren Way quickly brought on Otis Khan and his effort flew narrowly over the bar, rippling the top of the net in the process.
Baker then made way for Lowe and within two minutes of his introduction, the January signing opened his account for the club.
It was a decent individual effort from LOWE, who bundled his way past a challenge before finding the net from the tightest of angles.
That ensured Pompey could see the game out relatively free of nerves and take another stride towards a place in League One.
Pompey (4-2-3-1): Forde; Evans, Burgess, Clarke, Stevens; Rose, M.Doyle (c); Baker (Lowe 76), Roberts (Chaplin 67), Bennett; Naismith (Kabamba 90)
Goals: Evans 15 (pen), Naismith 68, Lowe 78
Subs not used: O’Brien, Talbot, Whatmough, Linganzi
Yeovil (3-4-3): Krysiak; Mugabi (Smith 57), Lacey, Butcher; Shephard, Dawson (c), Dolan, James; Goodship (Khan 70), Zoko, Eaves (Akpa Akpro 50)
Goals: Stevens 51 (og)
Subs not used: Maddison, Sowunmi, Lawless, Jones
Referee: Graham Horwood
Hartlepool United 0
Naismith and Roberts on target
Pompey moved another step closer to promotion with a 2-0 victory at Hartlepool.
A goal in either half from Kal Naismith and Gary Roberts ensured the Blues registered a fifth win from their past six games.
There were chances at either end of the pitch in an entertaining contest in the north-east, with both sides striking the woodwork.
Paul Cook made three changes from the side that beat Newport on home soil the previous week.
Christian Burgess returned from a one-match to replace Tom Davies at the heart of defence.
And with the injured duo of Carl Baker (hamstring) and Eoin Doyle (groin) both missing, there were returns for Jamal Lowe and Noel Hunt.
There was a breathless start to proceedings, with the ball quickly switching from one end of the pitch to the other.
It was the visitors who were first to threaten with a Naismith corner that was not properly dealt with, forcing Joe Fryer to leave his line and punch clear.
But Hartlepool then broke quickly following another Pompey set-piece, only for Lewis Alessandra’s surging run to eventually break down.
The ball soon found its way out to Liam Donnelly on the right and his cross was glanced wide by Nathan Thomas.
And the action then switched to the opposite end, as Kyle Bennett saw his effort blocked before Naismith dived to meet Enda Stevens’ delivery and send the ball flying narrowly past the post.
But the Blues did break the deadlock on 17 minutes when Stevens found NAISMITH in acres of space to send a smart volley into the back of the net.
The advantage might have been doubled soon after, but a sliding Hunt could not quite reach Gareth Evans’ low cross.
Hunt then tried a snap-shot from the edge of the box, although the ball flew comfortably into Fryer’s arms.
It was the hosts who soon began to dominate possession as they searched for an equaliser without being able to test David Forde.
There were a few shots blocked by the Blues back-line, but Hartlepool were largely guilty of looking for the perfect final pass instead of trying their luck.
The display of one additional minute for stoppages seemed to signal an incident-free end to the first half.
But the players remained on the pitch for a lot longer, with Hunt landing awkwardly after challenging for the ball.
He was treated on the pitch before eventually being stretched down the tunnel and replaced by Roberts.
Hartlepool United 0
Naismith was now leading the line for Pompey, but it was still Hartlepool looking the most likely side to score.
And, shortly after Forde had commandingly punched clear a cross, they had their best chance yet to draw level.
It was a cleanly-struck effort from Thomas that curled around the keeper’s grasp and cannoned back off the post, with Rhys Oates’ follow-up blocked by Matt Clarke.
But Roberts then missed a great opportunity to double the Blues’ advantage, diving to meet Stevens’ cross, but sending the ball over from close range.
The substitute made up for that miss, however, by finding the target on the hour mark and sparking wild scenes of celebration in the away end.
Naismith was the provider, staying calm when his initial effort was cut out and unselfishly slipping a pass through to ROBERTS, who slammed the ball into the roof of the net from a few yards out.
And Naismith almost had another goal of his own soon after, surging forward and sending a low shot against the base of the post.
Conor Chaplin replaced Lowe for the closing stages, as Cook decided to reintroduce a more traditional striker.
There was even a late cameo for Nicke Kabamba, as Pompey saw out the final few moments with ease to secure the points.
Hartlepool (4-1-4-1): Fryer; Donnelly (Magnay 90+2), Walker, Harrison, Deverdics; Featherstone (c); Oates (Rodney 75), Woods, Alessandra, Thomas; Amond
Subs not used: Dudzinski, Bates, Hawkins, Richardson, Rooney
Pompey (4-2-3-1): Forde; Evans, Burgess, Clarke, Stevens; Rose, M.Doyle (c); Lowe (Chaplin 80), Naismith (Kabamba 90), Bennett; Hunt (Roberts 45+5)
Goals: Naismith 17, Roberts 60
Subs not used: O’Brien, Talbot, Whatmough, Linganzi
Referee: Mark Brown
A bit late putting this out there but on the 20th March the first rumours of a proposed takeover at Portsmouth surfaced. The following statement was issued by the PST.
The PST board are aware that an article in ‘The News’ today will create significant interest.
A club such as OURS, with its incredible fan base, is bound to attract interest from possible buyers, and it is our duty to listen to any serious and credible offer for the football club.
If there is a serious and credible offer, our shareholders will decide the outcome.
The 3 PST Directors of Portsmouth Community Football Club will be fully involved in discussions. We understand how much owning your club means and retaining an ownership stake will be central to any discussions we enter in to.
We are in the process of finding a date for a shareholders meeting which will give you an opportunity to hear more information on any prospective bid to purchase the club, and a full opportunity to air your views.
A date for this meeting will be communicated in due course.
Later this was followed up by an official statement from Portmouth Football Club
Since the club’s exit from administration in 2013, the board of directors and staff have worked tirelessly to restore our fans’ faith in the club and – as club custodians – have continually striven to improve both on and off-field performance.
A cornerstone of this work has been our openness and transparency with shareholders and supporters alike, while at the same time also respecting the confidentiality and commercial sensitivity of business agreements and contracts.
We would like to assure all shareholders and supporters that we have a robust process in place to deal with any potential offers of investment.
If we reach a point where such an offer of investment into the club is made, then ultimately it will be for all our shareholders – of which the PST is the single largest – to decide whether such new investment would be in the club’s best interest.
We believe this to be the true definition of a fan-owned club, allowing those supporters who have invested to have the final say on the future direction of the club.
We will make no further comment at this stage and assure all fans that, as always, we continue to work in the best interests of Portsmouth Football Club.
Which basically told us nothing.
Many an article has surfaced since then relating to Mr Michael Eisner and he appears on the surface to be the real deal. Unlike previous potential owners who have had many skeletons in their closets this guy seems whiter than white having been CEO of both Disney and Paramount during his career. The man is also insanely rich. The stories soon moved beyond rumours to facts including three tweets from Mr Eisner himself relating to the club.
It remains to be seen whether a deal will be done but in my opinion the club needs it to progress. The “fan owned” idea is great and can only take us so far. Some believe we can stay fan owned and make the Premier League, I believe that is impossible and an opinion backed up by most realists and those with proper knowledge of the club. Attendances of 16000+ give us a good basis but with no outside income it limits us to mid-table League One. In addition Fratton Park is falling down and there is a real possibility of parts of it closing in years to come.
My small share stake will give me a vote, my understanding is that 75% of the vote is required to allow a sale to go through, the PST hold a stake of approx 48% which gived them the power of veto.
On March 23rd the Club issued the following statement announcing a period of “exclusivity” meaning we will not negotiate a sale with anyone else in the meantime.
Portsmouth Community Football Club would like to advise all shareholders and supporters that it has entered into an Exclusivity Agreement with Michael D. Eisner and his Tornante Group to allow for a period of discussions and negotiations to take place regarding a possible purchase of the club.
The agreement is simply to ensure that during this period, which will be 70 days, the club will not engage in discussions with any other potential bidder and is standard practice in these situations.
We thought it best to explain this in a Q&A format, that we hope our fans will find useful:
Q: Is this a done deal then?
A: No, it is not. Put simply, this now enables the club to exclusively enter into a period of negotiation and due diligence with Mr Eisner and his Tornante Group to establish the detailed terms he proposes.
Q: Due diligence – what does that entail?
A: Mr Eisner and Tornante will be reviewing our business and financial information, and equally we will be checking out their own respective financial and business credentials.
Q: What form will the negotiations take?
A: The Board and Mr Eisner will look to negotiate the terms of what would effectively be the best and final offer they wish to make for the club; at which point we will advise all shareholders – both Presidents and those with the PST – on the terms of the offer. Shareholders will then be asked by the club and the PST to vote to either accept or reject the offer.
Q: Who will be leading the negotiations?
A: The Board have retained Trevor Birch to advise them during the negotiating process and he will liaise with all of the stakeholders in the club. Trevor is a managing director of global corporate advisory firm Duff and Phelps, and has unique experience of dealing not only with potential investors at a variety of clubs, but also possesses an insight specifically into PCFC, its community ethos and intricacies of the current fan ownership model.
Q: Will there be an opportunity for Mr Eisner to explain in person his vision and plans for the club’s future to shareholders?
A: Yes, the intention would be for Mr Eisner to explain his future strategy and plans for the club to all shareholders.
As all our supporters are aware, on the pitch we now enter the final, crucial phase of the season.
We can assure all fans that in the background we will now discreetly and privately engage in this next stage of discussions, while our focus will remain on supporting the football staff and players until the end of the season.
The next few weeks will probably be rife with rumours and opinions (often stated as facts) but little will be made public.
Here’s hoping for the best!
Newport County 1
Bennett and Naismith on target at Fratton Park
Pompey got their promotion charge back on track as they returned to winning ways against struggling Newport.
Kyle Bennett opened the scoring late in the first half before Kal Naismith headed in a second after the interval.
It appeared that the Blues were cruising towards three points, but Alex Samuel netted for the visitors to ensure a nervy finale.
Paul Cook – in his 100th match in charge – made two changes from the side beaten at Stevenage the previous week.
Bennett and Naismith had both recovered from injury to take their place in the starting 11, with Noel Hunt dropping to the bench and Christian Burgess serving a one-match ban.
There was a minute’s silence before kick-off in tribute to those affected by the recent attack in London.
Pompey soon started to dominate once the action got underway, but struggled to create too many clear-cut chances.
The best ones fell to Eoin Doyle, but twice he just failed to get on the end of teasing deliveries from Naismith.
And the on-loan Irishman was then unable to beat County keeper Joe Day from an acute angle after being slipped through by Carl Baker.
But the striker was forced off midway through the first half after picking up an injury and replaced by Conor Chaplin.
There had not been much for David Forde to worry about and when former Blues striker Ryan Bird cut the ball across the face of goal, Tom Davies and Michael Doyle combined to scramble it clear.
But it was still Pompey causing the most problems, even if Day was not exactly being over-worked between the sticks.
Bennett and Matt Clarke both had shots charged down, while a number of corners were comfortably dealt with.
The Blues did break the deadlock just before the break, however, and it was a goal that was extremely easy on the eye.
Baker intercepted the ball from Bird and slipped a superb pass through the Newport defence for BENNETT, who neatly slotted home.
Newport County 0
After seeing off some Newport pressure early in the second half, the hosts went in search of another goal.
Chaplin was never really going to trouble Day with an audacious attempt from wide on the left, while Baker’s effort rose over the crossbar.
Naismith then hit a cleanly-struck free-kick straight into the keeper’s arms, as the Blues started to take control.
They almost doubled their advantage on 58 minutes, but Chaplin – who wanted the pass played earlier – could not quite convert Gareth Evans’ low cross.
But Pompey did strengthen their lead just seconds later, as Bennett found Chaplin, who neatly chipped the ball up for an unmarked NAISMITH to head into the net.
Their attacking intent did not end there, though, and Naismith saw a corner deflected into the side netting, while his second attempt was just too high for Clarke at the far post.
It was not quite one-way traffic and Naismith eventually hacked the ball clear after a County corner caused some problems.
Bennett received hearty applause from the Fratton faithful when he made way for Jamal Lowe on 71 minutes.
But it was the visiting support almost cheering when Marlon Jackson sent the ball curling towards goal, only for Forde to make a fine save.
Newport did reduce their deficit moments later, though, with Samuel rising to convert Sean Rigg’s cross from the right.
And they come close to equalising on 78 minutes as the hosts started to get sloppy, with Forde coming off his line to deny Jackson.
County’s confidence had risen and Jack Whatmough replaced Naismith as Pompey tried to shore things up.
The nerves were starting to grow inside Fratton Park and Evans did well to take the ball off the foot of Samuel as he shaped to shoot.
But the Blues saw out the closing stages with relative ease to seal a valuable victory in the battle for promotion.
Pompey (4-2-3-1): Forde; Evans, T.Davies, Clarke, Stevens; Rose, M.Doyle (c); Baker, Bennett (Lowe 71), Naismith (Whatmough 83); E.Doyle (Chaplin 25)
Goals: Bennett 42, Naismith 59
Subs not used: O’Brien, Talbot, Linganzi, Hunt
Newport (4-2-3-1): Day; Pipe, Jones (Randall 71), Demetriou, Butler; Labadie (c), Bennett; Samuel, Rigg, Owen-Evans (Myrie-Williams 46); Bird (Jackson 46)
Goals: Samuel 75
Booked: Rigg, Labadie, Myrie-Williams
Subs not used: Bittner, Barnum-Bobb, Nelson, Gordon
Referee: Tim Robinson
An afternoon to forget for Blues
Pompey’s promotion charge received a set-back as they collapsed to defeat at Stevenage.
Despite hitting the woodwork twice, goals from Jack King and Matt Godden meant they deservedly trailed at the break.
Jobi McAnuff then wrapped things up in the opening seconds of the second half, while a red card for Christian Burgess and missed Conor Chaplin penalty served to perfectly sum up the Blues’ afternoon.
Paul Cook made two enforced changes from the side that beat Grimsby on home soil earlier in the week.
Kyle Bennett and Kal Naismith both went off injured against the Mariners, so in came Tom Davies and Noel Hunt in a switch to a 3-5-2 system.
The visitors won an early corner and Carl Baker’s delivery was headed clear, with Davies receiving a bloody nose that forced him to change into a numberless shirt.
Enda Stevens then cut the ball across the face of goal and Gareth Evans charged in to send a fierce shot thudding against the crossbar.
But it was the hosts who then started to take control and they almost broke the deadlock on 12 minutes.
David Forde dived to his right to palm clear Steven Schumacher’s well-struck free-kick and then keep out Josh McQuoid’s follow-up.
The ball again fell to McQuoid, though, and his effort had to be hacked from the line by Matt Clarke, with referee Michael Salisbury ignoring pleas from the home fans that it had crossed.
But it was only a brief respite for the Blues and when an ambitious attempt from former Fratton trainee Luke Wilkinson cannoned back off the crossbar, the ball fell kindly for King to nod home.
Pompey tried to hit back and when Stevens’ cut-back evaded both Baker and Eoin Doyle, a shot from Evans flew wildly out of the ground.
Boro were looking full of vigour, however, and after Tom Pett surged through the centre, his strike had to be saved by Forde.
And they did double their advantage on 28 minutes when McAnuff found Godden in acres of space at the back post to fire into the net.
That finally seemed to spark Pompey into life and they did finish the first half strongly, without being able to find a goal.
Baker went closest with a fine free-kick that struck the underside of the bar and hit Stevenage keeper Chris Day, only to ricochet to safety.
Another Baker set-piece on 37 minutes then just evaded the leaping Davies and landed safely into Day’s arms.
Pompey would have wanted to build on that positive play just before the interval, but instead found themselves further behind within seconds of the restart.
Godden took advantage of some dithering defending to barge into a shooting position and although Forde did well to deny him, the keeper was powerless to prevent McAnuff from converting the loose ball.
The Blues tried desperately to find a route back into the contest, although their hurried play led to some sloppy moments.
They had a chance to reduce the deficit when Baker’s corner hit a defender in a crowded box and flew narrowly past the post.
But Stevenage were still looking a real threat on the counter-attack and when McAnuff picked out Godden, Davies had to get a block in.
Cook made a double substitution on 64 minutes, with Nicke Kabamba – making his senior debut – and Gary Roberts replacing Hunt and Baker.
A low delivery by Stevens then had to be cut out before it leave the lurking Eoin Doyle with a simple tap-in.
Chaplin came on for Eoin Doyle as Cook made his final throw of the dice, but the afternoon soon got worse for the Blues.
Burgess was booked for a foul and having already been carded for an earlier indiscretion, he received his marching orders.
But there was still time for more misfortune to befall Pompey as they missed an excellent opportunity to grab a consolation.
A penalty was awarded when Fraser Franks tripped Chaplin in the box, but the substitute hit his penalty down the middle and straight into Day’s arms.
That failed to dampen the noise emanating from the away end, though, as the Pompey fans kept cheering on their side despite a disappointing display.
Stevenage (4-2-3-1): Day; Franks, Wilkinson, King (c), Ntlhe (Gorman 74); Pett, Lee; McQuoid (Hinds 67), Schumacher, McAnuff (Loft 88); Godden
Goals: King 16, Godden 28, McAnuff 46
Booked: Wilkinson, Pett, Gorman, Franks
Subs not used: Preston, Johnson, Tonge, McKee
Pompey (3-5-2): Forde; T.Davies, Burgess, Clarke; Evans, Baker (Roberts 64), M.Doyle (c), Rose, Stevens; Hunt (Kabamba 64), E.Doyle (Chaplin 73)
Sent off: Burgess (two yellow cards)
Booked: Stevens, Baker
Subs not used: O’Brien, Talbot, Linganzi, Lowe
Referee: Michael Salisbury