There was an awful gloom as we all trudged away from the Abax Stadium on Monday as it felt that we'd blown any chance of automatic promotion but of course that wasn't actually true. Having slept on it I realized that we had a small but still realistic chance of going through and this hope was fanned by a few articles on ALS pointing out that we'd managed some spectacular rallies in our final games in very recent seasons. Most people would expect Barnsley to give Blackpool a good hiding today but who knows? Any points dropped there would be like manna from heaven. Portsmouth have certainly got under my skin and I haven't seen us beat them for a very long time but I'll not be at the game and such runs of form have to end sometime. I can see us beating both Fleetwood and Southend and I got my ticket for the latter yesterday so let's hope it's a classic day. I just checked on the play-off system and if it comes to that, fourth place play fifth place while third play sixth. So, the most likely scenario is us v Charlton and then if we win, Portsmouth again in the final. Anyway, I don't know about any fitness problems or team news at this early hour so que sera, sera. It'll have to be SAFSEE for me this afternoon and I've a feeling it's going to be a draw so my match prediction is 1-1.
When I got the team-news the only change I noticed was Flanagan in for Dunne. I got SAFSEE on and there was a great atmosphere brewing. After five minutes a Morgan bicycle kick came off the bar and that was the first real chance of the game. Soon McGeady was yellow-carded for a foul on Naylor and Portsmouth then won the first corner of the match with commentator Gary Bennett saying we were losing too many balls in the air. We were back up the other end straightaway and after we'd won a free-kick Power took it and Flanagan nodded it down into the corner to put us ahead. Nice switch, Jack. Honeyman was booked for a foul on Thompson and with only twelve minutes gone it was clearly going to be a long physical battle. I had serious doubts whether we'd finish with twenty-two men on the field. Thompson was booked himself within a few minutes but the resultant free-kick came to nothing. Bennett said Wyke was letting defender Burgess know he was there but he reiterated that Portsmouth's Lowe and Vaughan were still getting the better of Flanagan and Ozturk.
Next thing in the twentieth minute news came through that Blackpool were one-up against Barnsley, which was excellent news. McLaughlin turned a Close shot round the post to keep us ahead and Catts booted away the corner but Portsmouth were immediately back again and Lowe equalized from close range after a Vaughan header came back off the bar. “Sloppy defending” was Bennett's assessment. A flare was thrown down onto our fans from the Portsmouth section and we had to wait best part of five minutes till the smoke cleared and we could recommence. Elsewhere Charlton went ahead against Gillingham. Power gave us the jitters when he lost the ball near our box but we escaped. We were definitely on the back foot for a while and every Portsmouth corner made me nervous. It didn't last long and we started to get the better of it as half-time approached culminating in a Catts volley that went well over. Barnsley equalized against Blackpool three minutes before the break and then Charlton got their second. Unsurprisingly there were five minutes of stoppage-time and the first event in it was Close being booked for fouling McGeady so we were 2-2 on cards. McGillivray made a great save when he got a foot to a Wyke effort after good work by Catts and Morgan. It remained 1-1 at the break and there was loud applause but it was still anybody's game.
A draw was no good to anyone really so I expected more blood and thunder as we kicked off again. The first ten minutes or so were scrappy and then Maguire started to warm up and no doubt was soon to come on. It was actually Portsmouth who made the first change as Hawkins replaced Vaughan, who received less than a warm ovation from our fans. The commentary team said that one moment of quality would win it and I just hoped it was us who could produce it. Our fans were still in good voice and there was a great roar as Maguire came on for Honeyman with half an hour remaining. Next thing Barnsley took the lead, which was a bummer, and then Evans replaced Curtis, which also wasn't good news as it was his introduction in the Checkatrade Final that seemed to tip the balance against us. Anyway, Morgan was subbed by Grigg with about twenty minutes to go. Neither team had produced much at all so far this half and the time was slipping away alarmingly quickly as Portsmouth won the first corner of the half with fourteen minutes on the clock. Both sets of fans were doing their best to raise their sides. A good Power shot was palmed over for a corner and that was our best effort this half but the corner was cleared. Ten minutes to go and I had to get up to pace around and as I did so I accidentally knocked something off a shelf. It turned out to have been a dice and the number on top was 2, which I of course took as a good omen. Almost at once a Grigg effort hit the post. We were really putting some pressure on and with a minute to go we won a corner but with Wyke hitting the deck it went for a goal-kick. O'Nien hobbled off as Matthews came on and three minutes of stoppage-time were announced. We won a corner after Maguire should've shot but despite piling on the pressure, we couldn't make the breakthrough and it ended 1-1. There was a bit of a ruckus among the players as the teams went off but there was still a lot of applause coming from somewhere.
With Barnsley winning it'd take a miracle for us to overtake them so it's almost certainly the play-offs for us now.