(Published in The Galleon, available to read online here)
A weakened Portsmouth side were beaten in the controversial EFL Trophy by Yeovil Town in a seven-goal thriller. A Michael Smith hat-trick wasn’t enough for the away side, as goals from Bevis Mugabi, Izale McLeod and two strikes from Tom Eaves ensured victory for the Glovers.
A boycott due to the inclusion of Premier League B Teams in this year’s competition led to an attendance of just 1,534. This made for a quiet atmosphere inside Huish Park, although the travelling Blues supporters cheered their team on until the end.
It was the home team who made the better start, with McLeod finding himself one-on-one with goalkeeper Liam O’Brien. However, the former Pompey striker’s shot hit the post and the ball was cleared to safety.
Despite a strong start from the home side, it was Portsmouth who struck first blood with just 10 minutes on the clock. Kal Naismith crossed into Smith, and the latter’s looping header beat Jonny Maddison in the Yeovil goal.
The Glovers’ response was swift, and they were back on level terms almost immediately. A powerful Matty Dolan free kick was deflected into the back of the net by the head of Mugabi; it was no doubt a memorable first goal for the ex-Southampton defender.
The Yeovil onslaught continued and O’Brien had to palm away an Eaves effort from distance. However, the travelling keeper was helpless when the same player expertly controlled a long ball over the top, and finished well into the bottom corner to make it 2 – 1.
That lead was extended further when Yeovil worked the ball well in the penalty area and eventually set up McLeod to chip the ball over O’Brien and put the Glovers ahead 3 – 1 with less than 30 minutes on the clock.
However, the home side were given a warning to not take their foot off the gas when Smith held off two Glovers defenders in the box, turned and fired past Maddison to reduce the deficit and make the score 3 – 2.
There was still more first-half action to come just five minutes before the interval; Eaves showed good control again, drove forward and unleashed a 20-yard effort to score Yeovil’s fourth goal of the evening.
“It could have been five for Darren Way’s men had O’Brien been caught out by Dolan’s shot with the outside of his left foot, but the second-choice shot-stopper did well to gather the ball”
After giving themselves work to do thanks to their first half performance, Pompey came out in the second period with all guns blazing. Smith continued to be a handful and headed just over within seconds of the restart.
Down the other end, Eaves unleashed a powerful shot that sailed over the bar. Pompey replied when Ben Close found time and space to shoot, but the midfielder saw his effort blocked.
However, in-form Smith couldn’t be thwarted and the striker completed his hat-trick after heading home a fantastic diagonal ball from Adam May.
Paul Cook’s men then started to dominate with 35 minutes still left to play, and Kyle Bennett almost fashioned an equaliser with a curling effort that didn’t quite have enough dip on it to find the top corner.
It was then Smith who almost got Pompey’s, and his, fourth goal of the game, but he couldn’t make the most of the space he found and blasted his shot wide. He was then replaced by Noel Hunt, and received applause from both sets of fans for his impressive performance as he left the field.
The away side were perhaps a shade lucky to finish the match with all eleven men. Eaves was clearly brought down when through on goal, but the referee didn’t consider the incident to be worthy of giving a foul, let alone a red card.
“On a night which saw many supporters boycott the EFL Trophy and many teams fielding second-string sides, this game was at least a good advert for the competition’s entertainment value”
The closest Portsmouth came to an equaliser was when Maddison gathered a corner after a slight scramble, with the small away following claiming that the ball had crossed the line in the melee.
Darren Way’s men were able to weather the Pompey storm and see out the win. On a night which saw many supporters boycott the EFL Trophy and many teams fielding second-string sides, this game was at least a good advert for the competition’s entertainment value.
The result sees Yeovil go top of the Southern Section Group A, with Portsmouth currently sitting bottom. Paul Cook’s men will next play Reading Academy at Fratton Park in early October, while the Glovers will travel to Bristol Rovers.