Hollands hat-trick not enough for victory
Danny Hollands hit a hat-trick, but Plymouth struck at the death to deny Pompey a final day victory.
The midfielder’s first two arrived during a hectic period late in the first half, which saw the visitors hit back to equalise on both occasions, first through Reuben Reid and then Conor Hourihane.
But Hollands headed the Blues back into the lead after the break and it looked to be enough for the win, until Hourihane popped up to score again in the closing stages.
Andy Awford made two changes from the side that drew at Bury the previous week.
Teenage defenders Adam Webster and Jack Whatmough both returned to the defence, with Johnny Ertl and Bondz N’Gala making way.
Before kick-off there were a host of presentations – including the handing over of a cheque for almost £13,000 from The News for sales of the Sports Mail this season.
There were also the traditional Player of the Season awards, with Ricky Holmes, Trevor Carson and Jed Wallace all being honoured by various supporters groups.
And the big prize – The News/Sports Mail trophy – was given to Holmes for his consistent displays throughout the 2013/14 campaign.
It was Pompey who were first to threaten once the match got underway and Jake Cole had to be at his best to deny Ryan Taylor after the striker had met Hollands’ cross.
Max Blanchard then intercepted Holmes’ ball into the box to deny Taylor a simple close-range finish before Danny East flashed an effort narrowly wide from distance.
A game with little riding on it played in glorious sunshine meant that there was an unsurprising lack of urgency from both sides as the game reached a lull midway through the first half.
But it was still the Blues creating the best chances and Whatmough headed inches wide from Holmes’ corner on 29 minutes.
And the hosts were ahead moments later when Taylor swung in a superb cross from the left that HOLLANDS converted from close range.
That sparked a flurry of goals, as the Pilgrims twice netted either side of another Pompey goal.
Reid’s equaliser was an impressive one, as he collected Luke Young’s pass, swivelled sharply and flashed home a powerful strike.
But HOLLANDS soon grabbed his second of the afternoon, stabbing home from inside a crowded penalty area after Holmes had sent the ball into the danger zone.
Plymouth hit back again, however, with Hourihane drilling a free-kick into the bottom corner after Ben Chorley had been penalised for a trip on Reid.
Hollands might then have completed his hat-trick just before the interval, but could only fire straight into the arms of Cole from 20 yards out.
Half Time: Pompey 2 Plymouth 2
But the midfielder did net his third of the afternoon within two minutes of the restart.
Fogden had already skied over from the edge of the box, before HOLLANDS rose to head home another fine cross from Holmes.
Plymouth tried to hit back and Hourihane had a couple of decent chances, hitting a free-kick straight at Carson and then firing a shot over from close range.
But the Blues were not done going forward themselves, with Holmes a particular threat down the left.
Hollands had his sights set on a fourth and struck the side netting from an acute angle, while Wallace hit a ferocious volley inches over the bar.
At the other end, Reid burst through on goal, but never looked confident and dragged his effort wide.
Awford made his first substitution on 75 minutes, with Ertl replacing East in the centre of midfield.
Carson then had to get down quickly to snaffle Nathan Thomas’ drive from distance as Plymouth looked to salvage a point.
A second change soon followed as Wallace made way for Aston Villa loanee Michael Drennan wide on the right.
Pompey were keeping possession well as they tried to see out the final few minutes and Drennan was inches away from making sure of victory as he tried to connect with Holmes’ superb cross.
But instead it was the visitors celebrating a late goal, as Hourihane was in the right place to fire home after the Blues had struggled to clear their lines.
It was a slightly sour way to end the campaign, but the majority of fans remained to cheer the players and staff back onto the pitch for a lap of thanks.
Pompey (4-2-3-1): Carson; Webster, Chorley (c), Whatmough, Shorey; East (Ertl 75), Hollands; Wallace (Drennan 78), Fogden, Holmes; Taylor
Goals: Hollands 31, 37, 47
Subs not used: Smith, Devera, N’Gala, Close, Agyemang
Plymouth (3-4-1-2): Cole; Blanchard, Trotman (Wotton 86), Nelson; Berry, Harvey (Showunmi 63), Young, Hourihane (c); Banton (Thomas 52); Alessandra, Reid
Goals: Reid 35, Hourihane 41, 89
Booked: Trotman, Berry
Subs not used: Dawson, Boco, Blizzard, Gurrieri
Referee: Stuart Atwell
Attendance: 18,026 (1,594 away fans)