Report: Argyle 1 Portsmouth 1Argyle 1
by CHRIS PARSONS
THE first league Dockyard Derby since 1992 finished honours even, live in front of the Sky Sports cameras.
Argyle started the brightest and deservedly took the lead when Conor Hourihane pounced on a Yassin Moutaoukil mistake to fire the Pilgrims in front.
A short period of consolidation followed before Jed Wallace equalised for the visitors to set up an all to play for second half.
After the break, both sides showed glimpses of attacking flair as Reuben Reid and Tyler Harvey both went close for the Pilgrims.
In the end, neither side could find the finishing blow and the Pilgrims will now travel to Hartlepool United in search of their first win in six Sky Bet league 2 matches.
Argyle manager John Sheridan opted to prevail with the 3-5-2 formation - trialed at Bideford and then tested in battle at Swindon on Tuesday evening – but decided on two personnel changes from that Johnstone's Paint Trophy exit.
The first came in goal where Luke McCormick was preferred to Jake Cole whilst Andre Blackman, the Pilgrims goalscorer at the County Ground, was rested in favour of Durrell Berry.
Despite the defeat to Swindon, Argyle has shown some good glimpses of play and looked set to carry on that form when Rommy Boco drilled narrowly wide within the opening two minutes.
Moments later, a deep Houirhane free-kick from the left eluded the Pompey defence and allowed Neal Trotman the room to steer a header just off target.
Portsmouth had scored seven times in their previous three fixtures and bared their teeth for the first time after ten minutes when a defensive mix up although John Marquis a free shot at goal from ten yards. Luckily for the Pilgrims, his shot was high and wide.
With five in the midfield, Argyle were keeping the ball nicely. When they did decide to go forward, Reid’s hold-up play was both intelligent and effective.
In fact, it was through Reid’s dogged hard work that Argyle took the lead when fantastic strength and guile saw him hold off his man in the middle for enough time to allow Boco to overlap him.
Boco took one touch and then delivered to the back post where Moutaoukil, with time and space, miscued a seemingly routine chest back to Pompey ‘keeper Trevor Carson. Sensing the danger, in swept Hourihane, who latched onto the loose ball to swipe home with an expertly taken half-volley at the near post.
With their noses in front, the Pilgrims slowed down the tempo of the game, utilising their extra man in the middle to keep possession and control the game.
But they did occasionally lose it, and when Hourihane gave the ball away in the final third, Argyle had McCormick to thank for a wonderful acrobatic save to deny Thery Racon.
That effort seemed to spur the visitors on and after a slow build up, they found themselves level as Moutaoukil’s cross was only partially cleared by Trotman, allowing Wallace to curl one in from the edge of the box.
Moments before the break, Reid carved out another Argyle chance and this time chose himself as the benefactor, keeping hold of the ball before sending a low drive inches wide of Carson’s left-hand post.
The second half sprang quickly into life just a minute after the restart, a wonderful Trotman last-ditch tackle stopped Marquis from finishing Portsmouth’s swift counter-attack from the edge of the box.
Argyle hit back just before the hour mark, though, when good one touch football between Jamie Reckord and Hourihane enabled the Irishman to flash a low ball across the six yard box which neither defence nor attack could latch on to.
Lewis Alessandra was introduced to the action soon after and made his first impact on the game when to latched on to Maxime Blanchard’s clearance and embarked on a run to the by line before cutting back for Reid.
Reid won the battle with Moutaoukil to reach the ball first but off balance, his shot was over the bar.
Argyle were now again beginning to enjoy the best of the chances with Carson saving another Reid effort from the edge of the box after a passing interchange inspired by substitute Harvey.
Luke Young was the next to threaten Carson when his free-kick, from a similar position to the one he converted against Exeter, was eagerly plucked from the air by the Pompey ‘keeper.
Carson was beginning to look like the visitors’ man-of-the-match and he again came to his side’s resuce with a good diving save from Harvey, after the youngster had bene put through by Alessandra.
Argyle (3-5-2): 23 Luke McCormick; 4 Maxime Blanchard, 16 Neal Trotman, 17 Curtis Nelson; 2 Durrell Berry, 6 Conor Hourihane (capt), 8 Romuald Boco (18 Tyler Harvey 73), 14 Luke Young, 28 Jamie Reckord; 9 Reuben Reid, 19 Paul Hayes (7 Lewis Alessandra 65). Substitutes (not used): 1 Jake Cole, 3 Andre Blackman, 5 Guy Branston, 20 Hamza Bencherif, 27 Andres Gurrieri.
Portsmouth (4-4-2): 40 Trevor Carson (gk); 2 Yassin Moutaouakil, 3 Bondz N'Gala, 6 Sonny Bradley, 5 Joe Devera; 35 Jed Wallace, 13 Johnny Ertl, 31 Thery Racon, 11 Ricky Holmes; 23 Patrick Agyemang, 32 John Marquis. Substitutes (not used): 1 Phil Smith, 7 Andy Barcham, 8 Romain Padovani, 15 Gavin Mahon, 20 Shaun Cooper, 21 Ashley Harris, 36 Jack Whatmough.
Booked: Marquis 62
Referee: Stephen Martin.
Attendance: 8,742 (1,405 away)