Peter Hartley’s header snatches Plymouth a place at Wembley
Defender Peter Hartley snatched a dramatic late winner as Plymouth booked their place in the Sky Bet League Two play-off final with a 1-0 second-leg win over Portsmouth at Home Park.
Hartley rose to head home Graham Carey’s corner in the second minute of time added on to seal a 3-2 aggregate victory.
Portsmouth started brightly and winger Kyle Bennett cut in from the left wing and let fly with a right-foot shot that ran down the outside of the side-netting.
Pompey forward Marc McNulty spun on the ball 30 yards out and tried his luck with an audacious effort that also flew high and wide.
The first flashpoint of the game came when Argyle defensive midfielder Carl McHugh was booked for a foul on Gareth Evans, who limped off to be replaced by Adam McGurk after 31 minutes.
For the second time in the half, Jake Jervis was put in on goal but his shot on the run was deflected for a corner.
Home goalkeeper Luke McCormick had to be quick off his line to field a through ball bound for McGurk as he skipped through the middle of Argyle’s back four.
Bennett continued to be a threat down the left but when he cut inside again after 37 minutes his shot flew well wide from the edge of the box.
The final chance of the half fell to Jervis as home skipper Curtis Nelson nodded down Kelvin Mellor’s free-kick from the halfway line. The ball bounced invitingly across the face of goal but Jervis hit the ball on the rise and it flew over the crossbar.
Striker Gary Roberts caused panic as he broke into the Argyle penalty area at the start of the second half and Hartley had to scramble the ball away.
McGurk’s 25-yard shot on the run was gathered by McCormick as Portsmouth started the second half in the ascendancy, with Ben Davies sending a 20-yard free-kick skimming inches wide.
Plymouth responded with Jervis firing just wide from the right as he latched on to Gregg Wylde’s far-post cross and targetman Jamille Matt smashed a thumping rising drive just over.
Matt then powered a header just wide from Carey’s near-post corner in the 65th minute and and 10 minutes later substitute Ben Close cleared Carey’s header off the line.
In the 88th minute a measured header from Jervis came back off the post from substitute Craig Tanner’s cross and another Matt header was scooped over the bar to earn the corner from which Hartley snatched the winner.