Portsmouth 2 Plymouth Argyle 1: James keeps Pompey's hopes afloat

Click to follow
The Independent Football

The Dockyard Derby may not rank among the world's great footballing rivalries. In fact, with 10 different nationalities on display among the two starting line-ups, it is fair to assume that most of the players on show would not even have been aware that this is the title given to the game they were taking part in.

As a resident of Devon, the Portsmouth goalkeeper David James will have been in the minority in appreciating the geographical significance of this Cup tie and, had the England international not been at his best, then Plymouth would have been joining another club from the region, Havant & Waterlooville, in making the fourth- round headlines.

James made a string of saves in the second half as Portsmouth hung on to a lead they scarcely deserved, but Portsmouth remain many people's dark horses to win the Cup outright.

"We've got a chance," said the Portsmouth manager, Harry Redknapp, after Saturday's win. "But the big four are still there, that's the problem. You wouldn't bet against them, but I think when everyone's back from the African Nations we'll be strong and capable of giving anyone a game."

Portsmouth will get even stronger today when the Lyons striker Milan Baros arrives at Fratton Park for a medical before signing a loan deal until the end of the season, but it is Redknapp's other transfer window purchase, the £5m signing of Lassana Diarra from Arsenal, which offers the most evidence that Portsmouth are able to take on more illustrious rivals.

The French international scored Portsmouth's equaliser and was easily their most accomplished outfield performer. His goal got Portsmouth back in the game after they had fallen behind to Chris Clark's fifth-minute deflected strike. Diarra's equaliser came in the 34th minute when his low 25-yard shot took a deflection passing Plymouth goalkeeper Luke McCormick.

"Diarra is brilliant," said Portsmouth's Glen Johnson. "I know him from when we were together at Chelsea. It's a shame that he really didn't get given a chance there. He's like a young Claude Makelele with pace. We are happy to have him here."

Portsmouth got their winner on the stroke of half-time after Plymouth failed to clear a Johnson cross. The ball fell to Niko Kranjcar, who slotted the ball past McCormick.

The second half was about survival for Portsmouth, with James keeping Plymouth at bay time and time again. The visitors 6,000 travelling fans gave their defeated side a standing ovation on the final whistle, before departing back down the coast to Devon. James was the only one making that journey who could be entirely satisfied.

Goals: Clark (5) 0-1; Diarra (34) 1-1; Kranjcar (45) 2-1.

Portsmouth (4-4-2): James; Johnson, Pamarot, Distin, Hreidarsson; Lauren (Davis, 67), Diarra, Mendes (Hughes, 90), Kranjcar; Nugent (Mvuemba, 46), Mwaruwari. Substitutes not used: Begovic (gk), Aubey.

Plymouth Argyle (4-4-2): McCormick; Connolly, Timar, Doumbe, Sawyer; Clark (Folly, 82), Nalis, Norris, Halmosi; Fallon, Easter (Jutkiewicz, 75). Substitutes not used: Larrieu (gk), Hodges, Summerfield.

Referee: A Marriner (West Midlands).

Booked: Portsmouth Pamarot; Plymouth Halmosi, Doumbe.

Man of the match: James.

Attendance: 19,612.