Battle 6, Sangster 75
ARGYLE’S first steps in the Premier League Cup took them into the group stage of the competition – and home and away games against Aston Villa, Bristol City and Derby County – as goals from Alex Battle and Cameron Sangster secured a revenge-of-sorts victory over the old naval rivals.
Battle opened the scoring at the beginning of a first half dominated by the Pilgrims, who could not turn their superiority into goals and were pegged back shortly after half-time when Haji Mnoga levelled matters.
The Young Pilgrims stuck to their task, however, and won the preliminary round tie when Cameron Sangster brilliantly fired home a loose ball after Pompey’s overworked goalkeeper Alex Bass had saved from Battle.
Argyle were on the front foot from the first whistle and threatened to break through even before Battle slid them ahead in the seventh minute.
The second-year professional showed the predatory finishing that has become his trademark, slotting home past Bass after some intricate passing and a fortunate ricochet that saw the ball land at his quick feet.
The only surprise in a first-half dominated by the Pilgrims was that they did not add to their lead before half-time.
They almost did when Harry Hodges showed great determination and no little skill to make his way down the right hand side and cross to the near post for Klaidi Lolos, who rammed a shot against the foot of the post.
Dan Rooney had sight of goal, too, lifting the ball over Bass but also over the crossbar, and Lolos obliged the Pompey custodian to get down smartly to stop a deflected shot.
The Pilgrims began the second period with the same vigour that they had ended the first, and Lolos, for a third time, nearly doubled the lead, seeing his shot cleared off the line by Matt Casey.
The visitors then broke out from the near constant pressure that they had been under to level the game, Mnoga cutting in off the right-hand side and shooting across Michael Cooper.
The goal naturally boosted Portsmouth and the game opened up as a result. A quick Pompey break ended with Dan Smith bringing the best out of Cooper.
The Pilgrims sent on Aaron Goulty for Lolos, moving captain-for-the-night Alex Fletcher into the centre. Goulty almost made an immediate impact, testing Bass at the near post after Rooney had pulled the ball back from the bye-line.
Bass, currently playing for Torquay in National League South, then made a great save to keep out a fierce shot from Battle. However, the ball broke to Sangster, who showed fantastic composure and not a little technique to send a first-time left-foot shot curling past the prone custodian.
There was still plenty of work to be done for the Pilgrims as Portsmouth declined to go without a fight. They pushed their giant defender Casey up front to supplement the attack and chucked the ball in at every opportunity, stretching Argyle’s defensive capabilities to, but not past, their limit.
Argyle (4-3-3): 1 Mike Cooper; 2 Harry Hodges, 5 Mike Peck, 6 Tom Purrington, 3 Rio Garside; 10 Dan Rooney, 4 Adam Randell, 8 Cameron Sangster; 11 Alex Fletcher (capt), 9 Klaidi Lolos (14 Aaron Goulty 66), 7 Alex Battle (17 Jordan Bentley 90). Substitutes (not used): 15 Jude Boyd, 16 Reuben Collum, 31 Harry Townsend (gk).
Portsmouth (4-3-3): 1 Alex Bass; 4 Haji Mnoga (16 Harry Kavanagh 55), 5 Matthew Casey, 6 Joe Dandy, 2 Josh Flint; 7 Freddie Read, 12 Dion Donohue (capt, 14 James Whiting 62), 15 Bradley Lethbridge; 11 Stan Bridgman, 9 Leon Maloney (8 Oscar Johnson 68), 10 Dan Smith. Substitutes (not used): 3 Alfie Stanley, 13 Leon Pitman (gk).
Referee: Steve Annis.