What we learnt from Pompey’s win at Hartlepool

Conor Chaplin comes on to replace Michael Smith at Victoria Park. Picture: Joe Pepler
Conor Chaplin comes on to replace Michael Smith at Victoria Park. Picture: Joe Pepler

Sports writer David Brawn discusses some of the main talking points after Pompey’s 2-0 win at Hartlepool.

Sparks will fly

Expect fireworks when Pompey and Plymouth clash to win a place at Wembley.

After beating Hartlepool 2-0 on Saturday, Paul Cook’s side will definitely face the Pilgrims over two legs.

Cook has spoken of a hostile atmosphere ahead for both games.

Plymouth won 2-1 at Fratton Park last month to massively dent Pompey’s automatic promotion hopes.

That was a smash-and-grab victory for Derek Adams’ side.

They had been outplayed for large parts of the contest and could easily been two or three goals down.

That defeat was a bitter pill for Pompey to take and one of only two losses in their past eight matches.

But it’s not as if Plymouth are coming into the play-offs without their own sense of anguish.

They were top of the table for a long time and looked good for automatic promotion.

In the past few months they have collapsed to fall out of the top three.

The tie has all the ingredients to be a really a heated affair, with both clubs desperate to grasp their second shot at promotion.

Cook was disappointed at Victoria Park on Saturday when other results went against his side.

In the build-up to the match the Blues boss had spoken of retaining the belief that automatic promotion could be achieved.

But Accrington, Oxford and Bristol Rovers all won to end any hope of that going into Saturday’s home clash with Northampton.

So now it is time to focus on the play-offs and if Pompey match Plymouth’s result on Saturday, it will guarantee the second leg will take place at a packed Fratton Park.

That should be an occasion to look forward to in the race to get to Wembley.

Brian Murphy seized his chance with both hands

Blues keeper Brian Murphy made his first Pompey start since January.

He made some good saves against Hartlepool on Saturday and looked a safe pair of hands.

The recent injury to Paul Jones had continued Pompey’s keeper troubles this season.

Ryan Fulton has also been hit by injury after making an impressive start to his Blues loan spell.

That gave Jones the opportunity to return to the first team which he took before being ruled out for rest of the season.

But now his absence has presented the latest chance to Murphy.

And he certainly grabbed it with a good performance at Victoria Park.

Pompey’s attacking talent made the difference

Excellent goals from Kal Naismith and Conor Chaplin proved decisive at Victoria Park.

The duo netted in the second half as Pompey won their final away match of regular season in League Two.

Naismith has had a difficult campaign but will hopefully be able to take some confidence from his quality back-heel flick goal.

And Chaplin once again showed his class and composure in front of when he slid the ball home from Enda Stevens’ cross.

Hartlepool created chances themselves but did not have the same level of quality with their finishing.

Cook was without Kyle Bennett and Marc McNulty on Saturday so he needed other players to step up.

In addition, the Blues will now have to manage without striker Michael Smith, who completed his Fratton loan spell on Saturday.

That means Cook will have to change his plan of attack for Saturday’s match with Northampton.

So there is another big chance for players to step up and stake their claim for the play-offs.