Aldershot Town came within nine minutes of a famous FA Cup victory at Fratton Park, but will still be delighted to have earned a replay against League Two Portsmouth.
Behind to Jed Wallace’s early penalty, Jordan Roberts’ equaliser, on half-time, proved the catalyst for a magnificent second-half resurgence which saw Mark Molesley put the visitors ahead, only for Danny Hollands’ close-range header to leave The Shots contemplating the bittersweet rewards of a draw.
With Joe Oastler initially employed in central midfield and Tom Derry on the right, The Shots had to withstand a strong Portsmouth start. Played in by Westcarr, Wallace cut inside and seemed to have the goal at his mercy before being impeded by Holmes and rather scuffing his shot straight at Smith.
Westcarr himself then pounced on Barker’s slip but allowed Smith to smother his shot. Holman and Molesley had early efforts blocked, but on 15 minutes, Phillips’ challenge on Westcarr was penalised. Wynter played a purposeful ball into the box and, via a deft flick which invited Westcarr to turn sharply, the resulting foul allowed Wallace to score with a confident penalty.
The Shots, though, responded well. First, Holman wriggled to find space for a shot which flew over the bar, and then, after Williams’ strong knock-down, Holman had a shot blocked. Several Shots players nearly connected with Roberts’ free-kick – and then Holmes hit another set-piece straight at Smith – before Scott made a change in midfield, with Sam Hatton replacing Tom Derry.
Devera volleyed a loose, dropping ball over the bar from 20 yards but the visitors’ resurgence gained its reward at the start of injury-time. Holman was sent scampering down the right and worked space to deliver a delicious cross which evaded everybody until Roberts, arriving unmarked beyond the far-post, volleyed in from barely a yard out.
An injured Mark Phillips was immediately replaced by Kieron Forbes but the second-half began with Aldershot Town in the ascendancy. Williams fashioned three half-chances in the opening ten minutes after the break as Portsmouth failed to lift themselves. Holman’s penalty appeals were waved away after a clumsy aerial challenge and Williams, again, hit a snapshot skidding wide of the far-post.
Forbes then robbed a hesitant Close on the edge of the penalty area and cross low to the near-post for Molesley to shoot past an exposed Jones and send the 2500 Shots fans behind that goal into wild celebration.
Portsmouth were struggling for penetration against a resolute Shots defence. Roberts’ low free-kick appeared to be tipped around the post by Jones only for the referee to award a goal-kick. Storey spurned two chances with shots over the bar but the lively Holmes eventually fashioned an equaliser as Portsmouth belatedly asserted themselves.
Substitute Taylor spread the ball across the field to Holmes and his cross, flicked on by Taylor who had continued his run into the box, fell to Hollands, who headed the ball past a wrong-footed Smith.
When Robinson received his second yellow card, for a late challenge on the marauding Roberts, both sides might have settled for a replay. Yet still there were chances for a late victory, as Hatton shot wide and Taylor’s shot was blocked. Holman’s attempted flick at the near-post was intercepted, and the final whistle halted one last Portsmouth counter-attack.
It typified a breathless cup tie, and nobody amongst the crowd was disappointed at the prospect of another instalment, at the Electrical Services Stadium, the week after next.