Argyle finish what they started at Cheltenham with shoot-out win
Cheltenham Town 3 Plymouth Argyle 3 (Plymouth won 5-4 on penalties)
Plymouth Argyle moved into the second round of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy with a penalty shoot-out triumph after a pulsating tie at Whaddon Road last night.
The Pilgrims came out on top despite having right-back Curtis Nelson sent off in the 60th minute.
Cheltenham took an early lead through striker Steven Gillespie but Argyle were soon 2-1 up with goals from midfield pair Rommy Boco and Lewis Alessandra.
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Debutant Hamza Bencherif then headed the visitors into a 3-1 lead in the 57th minute.
Nelson was shown a red card for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity when he fouled Gillespie inside the penalty area. Argyle goalkeeper Jake Cole saved Gillespie's spot kick but the striker scored from the rebound.
Centre-back Jason Taylor then equalised for Cheltenham in the 67th minute after a goalmouth scramble.
With no extra time played in the JPT, the tie went to penalties as it ended in a 3-3 draw.
It was 4-4 in the shoot-out when Terry Gornell's spot-kick was saved by Cole, and striker Marvin Morgan then stepped up to send the Pilgrims into round two.
Argyle's two new signings, on-loan Wolves left-back Jamie Reckord and Bencherif, were both included in the starting line-up. They were among five changes from the 2-1 defeat away to Morecambe in League Two last Saturday.
Maxime Blanchard made his first start of the season as the centre-back partner to Guy Branston. There were also recalls for Cole and Andre Blackman, who was deployed on the left of midfield.
Reckord, 21, was starting the fourth loan spell of his career after signing for Argyle on Monday. The former England youth international had previously been borrowed by Northampton Town, Scunthorpe United and Coventry City
Bencherif had signed a short-term contract with Argyle on Monday after a trial period. The Algerian, released by Notts County at the end of last season, was paired in the centre of midfield with captain Conor Hourihane.
It took Cheltenham six minutes to open the scoring against Argyle. Gillespie showed good control as he cut inside Nelson and fired past Cole from a narrow angle.
Argyle drew level in the 16th minute, though, with a fine finish from Boco.
Playing behind lone striker Reuben Reid in a 4-4-1-1 formation, Boco broke clear of the Cheltenham defence and lobbed the ball over Scott Brown and into the net.
Then, moments after Boco's equaliser, the Pilgrims took the lead with a third goal of the season from Alessandra.
Blackman made an excellent break into the box and played the ball across the six-yard area to Alessandra. His first shot was blocked, but the summer signing from Morecambe scored with his follow-up attempt.
Gillespie fired wide for Cheltenham before Bencherif had a 30-yard free-kick easily saved by Brown. There was a yellow card for Cheltenham right-back Keith Lowe in the 34th minute for a cynical trip on the lively Blackman.
Striker Byron Harrison had a chance for the Robins shortly before the break with a flicked header which cleared the bar after a cross from left-back Sido Jombati.
Then, in stoppage time, Cole made a superb low save to push away a Gillespie shot for a corner and keep the score at 2-1 to Argyle. It had been a good first half performance from Argyle, with the 6ft 3in Bencherif an imposing presence in midfield.
On-loan Rotherham United midfielder David Noble made his debut for Cheltenham as a substitute for Russell Penn at the start of the second period.
The Robins started strongly after the interval and forced Argyle on to the defensive.
The Pilgrims did have a good chance in the 53rd minute, though, when a good pass from Boco picked out Reid inside the Cheltenham penalty area.
Argyle extended their lead in the 57th minute when Hourihane's pin-point free-kick was met a powerful close range header by Bencherif.
The goal came while Reckord was off the pitch receiving treatment after he had been fouled by Noble.
Cheltenham were thrown a lifeline on the hour mark when they were awarded the penalty from which Gillespie scored and which earned Nelson his red card.
Cheltenham drew level at 3-3 soon afterwards when a deflected shot from Taylor in a goalmouth scramble after a corner ended up in the net.
The Robins were now in the ascendancy but, as the home side piled on the pressure, ten-man Argyle almost regained the lead on a counter attack when Morgan's shot was saved by Brown.
Cheltenham continued to push forward and had a couple of late chances but Argyle almost snatched victory with the last kick of the match.
Blackman made a surging run forward before drilling a 20-yard shot narrowly over the bar. The referee blew for full-time immediately afterwards, bringing to an end a pulsating cup tie and setting up the penalty shoot-out.
The first eight penalties were all successfully taken – with Boco, Alessandra, Hourihane and Reckord on target for Argyle. Then, after Cole saved from Taylor, it was Morgan who settled the outcome of the tie with a cool finish.
Cheltenham Town (4-4-2): Brown; Lowe, Taylor, Inniss, Jombati; Vincent (McGlashan 69), Deering, Penn (Noble h-t), Kotwica; Gillespie (Gornell 83), Harrison. Substitutes (not used): Cureton, Rivers (gk).
Goals: Gillespie 6, 61, Taylor 67.
Plymouth Argyle (4-4-1-1): Cole; Nelson, Blanchard, Branston, Reckord; Alessandra, Bencherif, Hourihane, Blackman; Boco; Reid (Morgan 65). Substitutes (not used): Young, Harvey, McCormick (gk), Gurrieri.
Goals: Boco 16, Alessandra 17, Bencherif 57.
Sent off: Nelson.
Referee: M Heywood (Cheshire).