Bennett and Rose strikes not enough for victory
A couple of impressive Pompey goals were not enough to secure back-to-back away victories, as Plymouth hit a late leveller at Home Park.
The game did not need to be hyped up by any manufactured ‘derby’ label, with both sides contributing to an engrossing contest.
Yann Songo’o gave the hosts a lead, only for Kyle Bennett to haul the visitors level with a fierce strike before the interval.
Danny Rose then came off the bench to net a stunning late strike that only just crossed the line, but there was still time for fellow substitute Connor Smith to ensure a share of the spoils.
Paul Cook made one enforced change from the side that won at Leyton Orient the previous week.
That came at the back, where Matt Clarke’s dead leg saw Tom Davies handed a recall alongside Christian Burgess.
There were a couple of familiar faces in the opposition line-up, with Sonny Bradley and Jake Jervis both starting against their former club.
After a cagey opening, Pompey started to find their feet and look dangerous whenever they broke into the Plymouth half.
A neat passing move between Bennett, Gary Roberts and Carl Baker ended with the latter forcing a save from Luke McCormick at the keeper’s near post.
Conor Chaplin then did well to weave his way into the box and when McCormick failed to claim the ball, Songo’o had to dive on top of it.
But for all their attacking swagger, the Blues were looking extremely frail when defending set-pieces.
A David Fox corner found its way to the feet of Jimmy Spencer at the far post, with Gareth Evans well-placed to make a block.
But the hosts did forge ahead on 20 minutes when Songo’o rose highest to plant Graham Carey’s deep free-kick past David Forde’s grasp and into the net.
Then, when another Carey effort was deflected behind, it took a goal-line clearance from Baker to deny Jordan Slew.
Chaplin thought he had won Pompey a chance to equalise moments later after tumbling over Gary Miller’s trailing leg.
Referee Darren Handley had other ideas, however, instead issuing the striker a yellow card for diving.
There seemed to be another good shout for a spot-kick when Chaplin was shoved by Nauris Bulvitis as he tried to reach Enda Stevens’ cross, but this time there were no appeals.
But Pompey were finally rewarded for their attacking intent with an equaliser five minutes before the break.
Chaplin was the provider, skinning Bulvitis to break into the box and laying the ball off for the impressive BENNETT to fire home.
There was still time for a scare at the other end, though, with Stevens forced to clear Carey’s cross behind following a mix-up between Evans and Davies.
(1 – 1)
Bennett continued to look lively after the restart, narrowly failing to find Baker in the box and then not quite able to get the vital touch when the favour was returned.
But Miller then received the ball in acres of space at the other end, only to see his shot deflected safely into Forde’s arms.
Pompey were looking the more dangerous side, however, and Chaplin dragged his effort inches wide of the post after again breezing past Bulvitis.
More neat passing led to a corner just before the hour mark and after exchanging short passes with Michael Doyle, Roberts’ cross was headed straight at McCormick by Bennett.
It was Roberts who was next to try his luck with a fierce long-range effort that was well saved down to the keeper’s left.
But Plymouth were inches away from retaking the lead on 67 minutes, when Carey struck a superb effort that cannoned back off the crossbar.
The visitors soon made their first substitution, with Rose replacing Amine Linganzi in the centre of midfield.
And the other two soon followed, as Chaplin and Bennett made way for Curtis Main and Milan Lalkovic.
Both of the latter two had the chance to score from the save move on 79 minutes, but Main couldn’t get a clean strike on Evans’ cross.
Lalkovic then completely missed the loose ball and Miller breathed a sigh of relief when his clearance flew inches past his own post.
A Blues goal did arrive on 87 minutes – although it looked like the chance had gone when McCormick made a stunning save to deny Main from close range.
The ball came out to ROSE and he hit a superb 30-yard volley that bounced down off the underside of the crossbar.
Pompey’s players desperately appealed that the ball had crossed the line and the linesman flagged in agreement.
But that was not enough to secure all three points, as just a couple of minutes later, the ball was cut back for Smith to calmly slot home.
Plymouth (4-2-3-1): McCormick (c); Miller, Bulvitis, Bradley, Purrington; Songo’o, Fox; Jervis (Smith 60), Carey, Slew (Donaldson 81); Spencer (Tanner 84)
Goals: Songo’o 20, Smith 89
Booked: Songo’o, Purrington, Slew
Subs not used: Dorel, Bentley, Ijaha, Goodwillie
Pompey (4-2-3-1): Forde; Evans, T.Davies, Burgess, Stevens; Linganzi (Rose 69), Doyle (c); Baker, Roberts, Bennett (Lalkovic 74); Chaplin (Main 72)
Goals: Bennett 40, Rose 87
Booked: Chaplin, Evans
Subs not used: O’Brien, Whatmough, Naismith, Smith
Referee: Darren Handley