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