Purrington 39, Battle 72
Bristol City 2
Eisa 55, Richards 82
ARGYLE chalked up a third draw – scoring their first goals in doing so – in the group stage of this year’s Premier League Under-23 Cup after allowing their Westcountry cousins to twice come from behind.
Tom Purrington gave the Pilgrims a half-time lead before the first of two defensive blunders let in Mo Eisa to level ten minutes after the break.
Alex Battle put Argyle ahead again midway through the second period, only for Tom Richards to capitalise on further frailty at the back and square proceedings in the final ten minutes.
The draw leaves the Pilgrims third in the four-team group, a point ahead of City, with just one game to come – the visit of seemingly imperious Premier League Cup-holders Aston Villa to Home Park in two weeks’ time.
The Pilgrims went into their fifth game in the league section of the competition still looking for their first goal – both their previous points had come from 0-0 draws – but showed no initial symptoms of goal-shyness.
Indeed, they came within an ace of taking an early lead when a cross by Luke Jephcott, one of seven players in the Argyle line-up with first-team experience, found Alex Battle well positioned, but his header went wide.
At the other end, Jordan Bentley, back from a loan spell at Truro City, helped maintain parity with a couple of important blocks.
Alex Fletcher, leading the side as well as leading the line, showed a good appetite and was unlucky not to gain reward for his endeavour when he forged an opening for himself and cracked off a shot that clattered against the crossbar.
City’s side included Eisa, leading Sky Bet League Two scorer with Cheltenham Town last season, and Hakeeeb Adelakun, who the Green Army know all about from his exploits with Scunthorpe United, but the Pilgrims continued to carve out the best opportunities.
Two came the way of Purrington, a glanced header from Adam Randell’s delivery that skipped wide followed by a drive on the run after being played in by Fletcher.
The deserved breakthrough for player and team came soon afterwards, Purrington’s run to the near post timed perfectly to connect with Jephcott’s cross and give City goalkeeper Buse no chance.
As good value as Argyle were for their half-time lead, they held it for less than 10 minutes of the second period.
Eisa’s equaliser came from nothing, the result of defensive indecisiveness as defender Michael Peck and goalkeeper Mike Cooper failed to deal with a long ball over the top with the outcome that Eisa was able to walk the ball into an unguarded goal.
The goal ignited Bristol in general, and Eisa, in particular, and the Pilgrims’ defence was given more of an examination than it had been in the first 45 minutes.
They passed the test to provide the platform for Battle to restore the lead, shooting home amid a crowded penalty area following a corner.
Battle continued to take the fight to the visitors and nearly grabbed an audacious second when his long-range snapshot clunked the woodwork.
However, another defensive error allowed City back into the game. This time, Bentley faltered fatally, and Richards stole into smash the ball home from close range.
Argyle (4-3-3): 1 Mike Cooper; 2 Harry Hodges, 5 Mike Peck, 6 Jordan Bentley, 3 Ryan Law; 10 Tom Purrington, 4 Adam Randell, 8 Dan Rooney (12 Rio Garside 75); 7 Alex Battle, 9 Alex Fletcher (capt), 11 Luke Jephcott. Substitutes (not used): 13 Harry Townsend (gk), 14 Aaron Goulty, 15 Isaac Burdon, 16 Ollie Tomlinson.
Bristol City (4-3-3): 1 Will Buse; 2 Chris Turner-Williams, 5 Harvey Smith (capt), 6 Jayden Ali, 3 Barney Soady (16 Callum Pearson 63); 4 Marley Watkins, 7 Tom Richards, 8 Liam Walsh; 10 Ricardo Rees (15 Ryley Towler half-time), 9 Mo Eisa, 11 Hakeeb Adelakun. Substitutes (not used): 12 Sam Pearson, 13 Aaron Sainsbury (gk), 14 Sam Bell.
Booked: Watkins 43.
Referee: Adrian Quelch.