Plymouth 2 Pompey 2 – Neil Allen’s match report

Kyle Bennett netted his first goal of the season in yesterday's 2-2 draw at Plymouth    Picture: Joe Pepler

Kyle Bennett netted his first goal of the season in yesterday's 2-2 draw at Plymouth Picture: Joe Pepler

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A grand fanfare trumpeted the arrival of the Dockyard Derby, number 100 it was proclaimed.

Not that such clumsy historical embellishment was required to amplify the importance of Saturday’s Home Park encounter.

In the present age, the occasion of Plymouth meeting Pompey is one of genuine substance.

Certainly the attachment of a trivial tag line and gushing PR hyperbole is not necessary to artificially inflate interest.

The sides remain fierce promotion competitors, they retain the mantles of clubs attracting the highest attendances in League Two.

Managers Paul Cook and Derek Adams are cut from entirely different cloth, previous encounters rendering them barely able to deliver a civil exchange.

Tellingly, during his post-match address, Adams elected to criticise Pompey’s boss for his in-game behaviour.

‘Paul Cook and his staff are very vocal on the touchline. They like to put pressure on individuals in the game.

‘That’s their nature and sometimes it benefits them. I have seen that since I have come to England.

‘It’s something they do week in, week out. You have to try to deal with that the best way you can.’

As for the supporters, the biggest crowd of Argyle’s season yielded five arrests, eight incidents of pitch invasion and criminal damage to executive boxes.

In addition, referee Darren Handley retrieved an object from the pitch which had been hurled in the direction of Kyle Bennett following his leveller.

Yet beneath the hype and commotion, a match took place – and with it another intriguing contest between two modern-day rivals.

Forget the frivolous embroidering applied by others, Saturday produced a riveting and highly compelling game of football.

The roller coaster finale topped off a drama-fuelled contest in which there were moral victories aplenty amid the honourable draw.

Irrespective of club persuasion, it represented an enjoyable League Two romp between warring factions with a massive say in this season’s promotion issues.

Granted, eight points presently separate the competitors, yet they will be in closer proximity for the return leg in April.

Pompey felt they warranted a Home Park victory as well, a belief not merely constructed upon having edged into the lead on 87th minutes.

Cook’s men made light of their hosts’ record of nine wins and one draw in the previous 10 league fixtures during an encouraging start to the campaign.

The Blues were largely the better side throughout, dampening a home crowd who barely contested the sound dominance of the 1,592 travelling faithful.

In Bennett and Conor Chaplin, the visitors possessed players fleet of foot and swift in action which persistently tormented the Pilgrims in the final third.

Bennett often cut inside from the left flank to create different attacking angles, with the hosts barely able to lay a glove on his change of pace.

As for the impish Chaplin, he produced an outstanding all-round display of attacking prowess to maintain his promising development.

Poor Nauris Bulvitis was wrong-footed time and time again, most notably for the equaliser and then the penalty that never was.

He endured a torrid afternoon as his limitations in dealing with challenges posed on the floor were alarmingly exposed.

Central defensive partner Sonny Bradley fared little better, although bafflingly was chosen as the sponsors’ man of the match.

All that was needed from Pompey was the killer touch, albeit crucially it was defensive issues which deprived them of all three points.

Cook lost Matt Clarke to a thigh problem in the build-up, prompting the winning side at Leyton Orient to be changed against his wishes.

Tom Davies was called upon to deputise, lining-up alongside Christian Burgess in the centre of defence, while Jack Whatmough was named on the bench.

Otherwise Pompey retained the same squad which triumphed 1-0 at Brisbane Road a week earlier as they embarked on a successive away trip.

However, they found themselves behind on 20 minutes as the Pilgrims’ utilised their set-piece ability.

Bradley had netted twice from dead-ball situations the previous game at Stevenage and when Graham Carey delivered, it was Yann Songo’o who this time netted.

The midfielder registered his maiden Plymouth goal with a stooping header to break the deadlock in disappointing fashion in Pompey’s eyes.

Yet there were strong appeals for a visiting penalty when Chaplin wrong-footed the hapless Bulvitis before twisting past the outside of Gary Miller inside the box.

The striker fell to the floor, earning himself a yellow card for diving rather than the expectant spot kick, much to the Blues’ disgust.

Moments later, Chaplin was on the floor again, this time Bradley appearing to use both hands to push him in the lower back as he attempted to meet Enda Stevens’ left-wing cross.

The equaliser did arrive on 40 minutes, when Chaplin beat Bulvitis on the left-hand side of the penalty area and squared for Bennett to rifle home right-footed from inside the box.

It was the resurgent winger’s first goal of the campaign and ensured the match was even at half-time.

Cook’s men posed all the questions after the break, although the outstanding Carey did strike their bar with a magnificent run and shot, David Forde claiming the most crucial of slight touches.

Then came the late drama.

Danny Rose had replaced Amine Linganzi in the 69th minute, and when Curtis Main’s goal attempt was hacked into his direction he pounced.

The midfielder chested the ball down on his chest and, once it had bounced, sent in a 25-yard right-foot drive against the underside of the crossbar.

Pompey appealed for it having crossed the line – and the linesman agreed, leading to jubilant away fans spilling onto the side of the pitch.

The goal was timed at 87 minutes, but two minutes later Connor Smith levelled.

Ben Purrington pulled the ball back from the left and the substitute raced in to place a shot past Forde.

So 2-2 was the final score in an absorbing fixture between two ongoing evenly-matched sides in a game of football – not a Dockyard Derby.

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