In what has been a season full of highs and lows for Paul Cook’s men, securing a play-off position on Saturday was like music to the ears for the Fratton Faithful after two losses in four days the previous week raised questions.
While there have been moments of utmost joy throughout the campaign, such as reaching the FA Cup fourth round for the first time since 2010, plus beating table-toppers Northampton Town away from home, fans have been left frustrated time after time following last-minute goals conceded and vital points dropped.
When you’re going for promotion, every game is a big one and a simple defeat can leave you falling behind in an instant. Furthermore, with so many teams in the mix for those automatic spots this season, dropped points seem more than what they are when the likes of Oxford United, Bristol Rovers, Accrington Stanley and Plymouth Argyle are all winning.
Therefore, I have decided to look at all those points dropped and goals conceded in the last 10 minutes of games this season for the Blues, in order to work out how good it could have been if we just sat tight.
The most recent heartbreak was most probably the worst of them all after Plymouth came to town just two weeks ago. In a gruelling match that would see fifth play sixth, Portsmouth took the lead through on-loan striker Michael Smith on 36 minutes, an advantage that would last until just six minutes from time.
Up popped Jamille Matt to head home an equaliser for Argyle and it was only one-way traffic from that point as the visitors pushed for a winner. It was another sorry sight for the Blues after Gregg Wylde netted just three minutes later, handing Plymouth all three points, and at the time, were just two points off second-placed Oxford. This would surely have been a victory that saw Portsmouth back in the race for automatic promotion, particularly after the Pilgrims lost in the week to already relegated Dagenham and Redbridge.
The South-Coast outfit have also been subject to conceding last-minute equalisers throughout the course of the campaign, with Exeter netting in the 90th minute back in March to earn a 1-1 draw and Carlisle scoring a 95th minute penalty before the turn of the year ensuring the points were shared once again.
There was even a fear on Saturday that Wycombe, who lie two places below Pompey, were going to come from 2-0 down to secure a draw after pulling one back five minutes after conceding and still 20 minutes from time. Luckily for the 16,000 inside Fratton Park, the Blues held on for a vital three points.
One match which really hurt Portsmouth; and even caught the eye of the wider League Two community, was that draw against Morecambe back in February. It was a cold Tuesday night and we looked to be holding on for all three points after Gareth Evans’ 40th minute goal.
Dominant in possession and having had seven corners throughout the game made it seem as though the Blues were dominating, but when Morecambe were handed a 95th minute corner, I think every Portsmouth fan in the country knew what was coming next. What wasn’t expected, however, was the manner in which an equaliser was conceded.
Shrimps goalkeeper Barry Roche came up for what was surely to be the last chance of the game and when the ball fell to him, he simply headed home to earn a draw. This was extremely typical of Portsmouth and every fan knew it. Another two points dropped and hopes of automatic promotion slowly start to fade.
However, it must also be noted that it isn’t just in the league where Portsmouth have been liable in conceding late goals. An 88th minute equaliser at Portman Road in the third round of the FA Cup saw Portsmouth require extra-time, an additional game that was not really desire given the club’s already packed fixture list. Having said that, a 2-1 victory over the Championship side in the return game was much welcomed at Fratton Park.
The tie in the next round was also extremely nerve-racking for Blues fans after we took the lead against Bournemouth. Even though we all acknowledged it would take an enormous effort to beat the Cherries, being in front gave the Fratton Faithful the hope that it was possible. Bu, yet again, after holding on for so long, it was heartbreaking to concede the winner in the 83rd minute, despite a valiant display from the boys in blue.
Going ahead into the play-offs, it is vital that the mental strength of the Portsmouth players is strong. With so much at stake and thousands of expectant fans, last-minute goals are far from desired and it is about time that our luck changed.
It’s hard to think that, without the goals conceded in the last 10 minutes of games this season, Portsmouth would be lying two points clear of second with a game in hand, but it is an aspect we cannot change and can correct with promotion via the play-offs come the end of May.