Youngsters Pay Penalty
Argyle 3 Middlesbrough 3 (Middlesbrough won 5-3 on penalties)
EVEN a brace of goals from second-half substitute Jacob Evans could not prevent Argyle from losing their SuoerCupNI Bowl semi-final at Parker Avenue, Portrush, as Middlesbrough triumphed
in a penalty shoot-out.
Again, the Young Pilgrims could be proud of themselves as, for the second time in their last three games, they pushed a Category One Academy side to the wire.
The Pilgrims even had the perfect start as they took a second-minute lead when Rubin Wilson fired home after great combination play between Aaron Goulty and Reuben Collum.
Middlesbrough hit back four minutes later as Hayden Hackney made the most of indecision in the Argyle defence to fire home at the far post.
A second followed 10 minutes later, when Jordan Duffey made a great save but the ball fell kindly for full-back Cain Sykes to give his side the lead.
The second half was just a minute old when Isaac Fletcher made it 3-1 but that was the signal for Argyle to show their resilience as they came back at their opponents.
Free-kick specialist Rio Garside found Evans (pictured above) to volley home from six yards and Garside was unlucky to see his first-time strike from 20 yards saved by Bobby Jones.
The game was in the first minute of stoppage time when substitute Keiran Rowe bravely went in for a loose ball only to be clattered by Jones, and Evans calmly slotted the ball home to send the game to penalties.
Evans and Matthew Roberts had converted their spot-kicks to make it 2-2 but the impressive Garside saw Jones save his effort.
Rowe had converted his but, with the score at 4-3, Harry Green stepped up to send goalkeeper Jordan Duffey the wrong way and earn his side through to the final.
Argyle will now travel to Castlerock for the Bowl third-fourth place play-off on Friday, with an 11am kick-off, to take on American side First Choice Soccer, who lost 1-0 to Southampton.
Argyle coach Phil Stokes said: "Obviously a disappointing way to lose but the lads were terrific today, especially in the second half when they showed a lot of character to come back from 3-1 down.
"We have now drawn against Middlesbrough and Rangers who are both Academy One sides, and that is fantastic. The lads have had a little bit of an up-and-downer in the last three games and they are going to be gutted again, but that's football and we have a chance to put it right tomorrow and get a positive result."
Argyle: Jordan Duffey, Jake Cribb, Reuben Collum, Oliver Tomlinson (Jacob Evans half-time), Isaac Burdon (capt), Mike Peck (Keiran Rowe half-time), Rio Garside, Aaron Goulty, Joe Seery (Matthew Roberts 47), Harry Lampier, Rubin Wilson.