Portsmouth win 5-3 on penalties
DIFFERENT season, same outcome, as United exited the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy after a penalty shoot-out at Plainmoor.
Tom Cruise was the unlucky Gull 12 months ago but this time it was captain Lee Mansell who had to shoulder the burden, as his spot-kick flew over the bar and Portsmouth slotted five confident spot-kicks to progress.
It was perhaps deserved after 90 fairly turgid minutes that had the visitors just ahead on the limited chances created, but United can be pleased with another clean sheet in a determined defensive display.
JPT rules allow up to five changes from the previous but United boss Alan Knill restricted himself to just four alterations from the side held to a 0-0 draw by Hartlepool on Saturday.
Mansell, Kevin Nicholson and Karl Hawley all dropped down to the bench, and were replaced by Cruise, Damon Lathrope and Elliot Benyon. The other switch saw Courtney Cameron replace Billy Bodin, who was away on international duty.
Another JPT stipulation is just five subs, rather than the normal seven, with Daniel Sullivan and goalkeeper Conor Thompson completing the quintet of replacements.
Portsmouth manager Guy Whittingham made two changes, both in attack, with David Connolly suspended and Patrick Agyemang out of the squad. Ryan Bird and Jed Wallace came in as two new forward options.
On a beautiful evening in South Devon, the Gulls started in confident fashion, Jordan Chapell earning an early free-kick 25 yards from goal but Ben Harding’s whipped effort deflected wide off a Pompey head.
Andy Barcham was the man to offer a swift riposte for the visitors, cutting inside from the left wing to float a curling shot toward the far corner, which goalkeeper Martin Rice comfortably plucked out of the sky.
The Gulls were the side playing with a slightly better tempo in the opening 15 minutes, with Cruise and Cameron combining nicely down the left, although Sonny Bradley did force Rice into another easy save when he climbed highest from a free-kick.
Pompey’s next attack saw Bradley again win a header from a corner and the loose ball was rifled goalwards by Wallace, but he was denied by Lathrope hacking clear from the goal-line.
The game then descended into a scrappy affair, as both sides struggled to make an impression in attacking areas. The positive for United was further evidence of the blossoming defensive partnership between Krystian Pearce and captain for the night, Aaron Downes.
A sleepy encounter briefly threatened to wake up when Barcham cushioned a cross at the back-post and saw his instinctive effort deflected narrowly over by the defensive boot of United right-back Dale Tonge.
A poor first touch from Bird after a dinked pass over the top allowed Rice to rush from his line and gobble up the ball in the final act of a sedate first period in the late summer sunshine.
Pompey started the second half with marginally better purpose in their forward play and United were again thankful to Downes for an excellent cover tackle preventing Bird from unleashing a shot on goal.
Just 13 minutes after the restart, Knill opted for his first change of the evening, introducing the young legs of Dan Sullivan to replace Jordan Chapell and hopefully inject some freshness in United’s attack.
At the other end, Pearce was having an awesome night, showing superb pace and strength when placed under pressure, as well as admirable composure in possession. Credit also to Lathrope, who was enjoying a decent game as the extra screen to United’s back four.
Chances, however, remained an extreme rarity and Pompey sought to rectify that problem by removing Bird for former Oxford striker Tom Craddock.
The Gulls finally won their first corner of the night on 70 minutes but, such was the nature of proceedings, the visitors cleared with ease. Portsmouth then turned back to the bench, replacing captain Johannes Ertl with Romain Padovani.
A brief murmur of excitement crept around Plainmoor when Bradley slipped with the ball at his feet on the edge of the penalty area but the ex-Aldershot defender recovered quickly enough to sweep clear of the fast-approaching Benyon.
Pompey then constructed the best move of the night with a beautifully worked corner routine but the final cross inside from the right channel was pulled back too far for the onrushing attackers.
Moments later, Barcham skipped in behind the Yellow defence and was able to evade the onrushing Rice, but the angle was very tight and Cruise was positioned to clear off the line. Portsmouth were suddenly piling on the pressure and Rice needed his best save of the night to palm over a Bradley header.
The mini-siege seemed to have a galvanising effect on United, as Cameron showed impressive speed in a burst down the right and Lathrope then fed the ball to Dan Sullivan, who evaded his man to fire in a shot across that forced namesake John Sullivan into his first meaningful save of the night.
Harding was next to have a crack, with more good work from Dan Sullivan the catalyst, but the former Northampton midfielder was unlucky to see his long-range drive flash a foot wide.
It was clear neither side fancied penalties and Craddock was next to test Rice with a low shot well held by the Yellow custodian. Unfortunately, it was too little too late and for the second year in a row, United’s JPT fate would be decided by penalties.
Knill showed his hand early by bringing on Mansell and Hawley for Lathrope and Cameron, but Pompey would take the first penalty in front of the Family Stand end of the ground.
Sonny Bradley was first to step forward and he sent Rice the wrong way with a confident side-footer. Karl Hawley made it 1-1 with a strike straight down the middle.
Jed Wallace smashed the next penalty into the bottom left corner and Callum Ball followed suit by placing the ball in the same place.
Ricky Holmes was next on the list and he also placed the ball in the same corner, leaving Lee Mansell to stride forward for his first touch of the night but the club captain fired over the bar.
Advantage Portsmouth and Tom Craddock made it 4-2 with another assured penalty. Dale Tonge had to score and he steered a beauty into the top corner.
Yassin Moutaouakil was given the responsibility of striking the winning spot-kick and a cheeky dink down the middle was enough for a 5-3 shoot-out victory for the visitors.
United [4-4-2]: 13 Martin Rice; 2 Dale Tonge, 5 Krystian Pearce, 4 Aaron Downes [capt], 3 Kevin Nicholson; 11 Courtney Cameron [9 Karl Hawley 90], 6 Damon Lathrope [7 Lee Mansell 90], 8 Ben Harding, 12 Jordan Chapell [31 Daniel Sullivan 58]; 16 Callum Ball, 26 Elliot Benyon. Substitutes [not used]: 3 Kevin Nicholson, 33 Conor Thompson [GK].
Portsmouth [4-4-2]: 25 John Sullivan; 2 Yassin Moutaouakil, 5 Joe Devera, 6 Sonny Bradley, 4 Danny East; 11 Ricky Holmes, 13 Johannes Ertl [capt] [8 Romain Padovani 71], 16 Simon Ferry, 7 Andy Barcham; 18 Ryan Bird [10 Tom Craddock 67], 35 Jed Wallace. Substitutes [not used]: 1 Phil Smith [GK], 3 Bondz N’Gala, 34 Dan Butler.
Referee: Keith Hill
Attendance: 1,951 [372 away]