AN INJURY-TIME leveller denied Pompey Academy an impressive win over runaway Alliance Youth League leaders Watford.
A late strike from Lewis Horsburgh looked enough to earn Paul Hardyman’s youngsters all three points at Eastleigh.
But the Hornets had a sting in their tails and struck back with seconds left to earn a 2-2 draw which, on the balance of play, they thoroughly deserved.
After dominating much of the play in the second half, the Hertfordshire visitors spared Pompey several times and twice saw efforts come back into play off the woodwork.
Early on, it was the young Blues who looked a class apart from their rivals and several penetrating runs from Bradley Tarbuck opened up the Watford rearguard for Nick Awford and Jack Maloney to go close to an opener.
And on 10 minutes, Liam Triggs sent Tarbuck clear along the line and his cross was met by Awford who buried a header deep into the net to give Pompey the lead.
With the hosts calling the shots, it looked only a matter of time before they doubled their advantage, only for efforts from Josh Warren and Korean Jay Heon Kim to narrowly miss the target.
Suddenly, though, Watford were gifted a lifeline as Pompey’s triallist keeper Lloyd Thomas allowed a long-range shot from Bernard Mensah to escape his grip and the ball spun into the corner of the net.
Early in the second half, Thomas redeemed himself with a full-length diving save to turn Oliver Crowley’s vicious free-kick against a post and behind.
To their credit, Pompey kept plugging away and Tarbuck was desperately close to restoring the lead when he cut in along the edge of the Watford penalty area, only to see his well-struck shot take the slightest of deflections to lift over the crossbar.
Off the bench came Aussie Nick Taresenko. He quickly made himself busy in setting up Horsburgh who side-stepped his marker to ease a shot into the corner of the net for what everyone expected to be the winner for the Fratton hopefuls.
But it was not to be as Pompey finally capitulated under enormous pressure and Cox’s effort crashed into the corner of the net to give Watford a point.
Pompey Academy: Thomas, Triggs, Medway, Awford, Warren, Whatmough, Maloney, Branford, Horsburgh, Kim, Tarbuck. Subs: Close, Taresenko, Chaplin.
Watford ACADEMY: Shotterl, Doherty, Crowley, Hope, Willmore, Russell, Bowling, O’Nien, Garvin, Fillon, Mensah. Subs: Barnumbub, Cumberbach, Jakubiak, Cox, Byers.