VIDEO: Cheltenham Town 3 Plymouth Argyle 3: (Argyle won 5-4 on penalties): Match Report
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.
Debutant Hamza Bencherif then headed the visitors into a 3-1 lead in the 57th minute.
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Nelson was red carded for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity when he fouled Gillespie inside the penalty area.
Argyle 'keeper 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 on Saturday.
Maxime Blanchard made his first start of the season as the centre-back partner to Guy Branston.
There were also recalls for Cole in place of Luke McCormick 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.
Cheltenham were without some key players because of injury, such as centre-back Steve Elliott.
The Robins' starting line-up also showed five changes from their 4-1 defeat away to Bury in League Two at the weekend.
It took Cheltenham only six minutes to open the scoring against Argyle.
Gillespie showed good control of the ball 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 the onrushing keeper Scott Brown into the net.
It was an expertly taken goal by Boco, who also scored for Argyle when they won 3-1 against the Robins in a League Two game at Whaddon Road on August 17.
Then, only 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.
Alessandra's previous two goals this term had come in the 3-2 extra-time defeat at Birmingham City in the League Cup first round on August 6.
Gillespie fired wide for Cheltenham before Bencherif had a 30-yard free-kick easily saved by Brown.
Blackman was proving to be a real attacking threat for the Pilgrims, with Reckord strong in the tackle behind him at left-back.
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 onto 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.
Reid unleashed a fierce shot from a tight angle and Brown parried it away for a corner.
Argyle then extended their lead in the 57th minute when Hourihane's pinpoint free-kick was met by a powerful close range header from 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 a penalty for a foul on Gillespie by Nelson.
Referee Mark Heywood also sent-off Nelson for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity.
Gillespie's spot kick was saved low to his right by Cole but the Cheltenham striker followed up the rebound and slotted the ball into the net at the second attempt.
Bencherif moved into the centre of defence for Argyle as Blanchard switched to right-back.
Morgan was then sent on as a 65th minute substitute for Reid.
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 and Harrison headed over the bar from a good position.
Then, in the 76th minute, substitute Jermaine McGlashan picked out an unmarked Harrison inside the six-yard area with a low cross.
Harrison's first shot was superbly saved by Cole and the Cheltenham striker somehow sliced the rebound wide.
Gillespie fired past the outside of the near post from another McGlashan cross as the Robins piled on the pressure.
However, 10-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, lung-busting run forward before drilling a 20-yard shot narrowly over the bar.
Heywood 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.