AFC Wimbledon showed fighting spirit in abundance to claim a place in the EFL Cup at the eighth time of asking.
Whatever the name of this competition – it's now called the Carabao Cup – Wimbledon's attempts to make progress in it since getting back into the Football League had been in vain.
However, a fine header tonight from Joe Pigott and an own goal from Anton Walkes secured a 2-1 victory for the Dons with Neal Ardley's men coming from behind to win it.
Neal Ardley made five changes to his starting line-up after the draw against Coventry with Scott Wagstaff, Tyler Garratt, James Hanson, Rod McDonald and Anthony Wordsworth all coming in for their full debuts. Ben Purrington, Will Nightingale and Kwesi Appiah all had to settle for places on the bench with Andy Barcham and Liam Trotter missing out on the squad altogether. Pompey manager Kenny Jacket also shuffled his pack by making six changes to the side that earned victory against Blackpool on Saturday.
Wimbledon made a bright start and a fine move down the left ended with a lovely cross by Mitch Pinnock that Joe Pigott headed just wide. The Dons continued to have the better of it in the opening 15 minutes and another good chance resulted from the early pressure. Pinnock curled in a free-kick from 35 yards out and when it was only half cleared it fell nicely for Scott Wagstaff, but he volleyed wide. Wagstaff was everywhere in the opening exchanges, the experienced midfielder joining in the attack at every opportunity. Wagstaff showed good movement to latch onto a James Hanson flick-on and he did everything right with a deft lob over Pompey keeper Luke McGee, but it was cleared off the line. The chances kept on coming for Wimbledon and Wagstaff had yet another opportunity when he headed over the crossbar after getting on the end of a cross from Pinnock.
Following a first 20 minutes dominated by Wimbledon, Portsmouth squandered the best opportunity so far when David Wheeler was left unmarked in the area, but he headed wide from close-range. That did nothing to change the pattern of this match with Wimbledon continuing to pour forward. The Dons fashioned another half chance when Pigott headed on a long throw into the path of Pinnock, but he volleyed just wide. At the other end, chances had been few and far between for Portsmouth and that was helped by a composed introduction from Rod McDonald, who showed good defensive awareness on a few occasions in the first-half to nullify Portsmouth. Jamal Lowe attempted to do it all on his own in the 39th minute when he drove across the area, but Tom King watched his shot flash wide.
As we approached half-time, there had been plenty of positive signs for Wimbledon. The midfield play of new boys Scott Wagstaff and Anthony Wordsworth had complemented Tom Soares in the centre of the park, offering a platform to mount attacking moves.
The second-half started with Portsmouth grabbing the initiative and it was 1-0 to the hosts in the 49th minute through a goal that was very simple in its execution. A corner was swung in towards the back post and Christian Burgess rose highest to head home emphatically. Far from feeling sorry for themselves, Neal Ardley's men responded well and there was almost an equaliser to celebrate just a minute later. Pinnock almost got on the end of a through ball when any touch would have sent it into the net and appeals for a penalty fell on deaf ears, before Hanson's follow-up was blocked.
Just after the hour came another near miss for Wimbledon with Wordsworth shooting just wide of the target from outside the area. Wordsworth was certainly showing plenty of attacking intent and it needed Pompey keeper Luke McGee to make a fine save when he reacted well to stop a fierce drive from Word. Neal Ardley made a change in the 66th minute with Kwesi Appiah introduced for Mitch Pinnock. Wimbledon continued to pile forward in search of an equaliser and it deservedly arrived in the 76th minute. It was a lovely goal in its execution with the impressive Wagstaff sending over a superb cross that Joe Pigott met with an emphatic header to leave McGee with no chance.
Following the equaliser, there was no let-up from Wimbledon and it was almost 2-1 when substitute Toby Sibbick sent over a great cross that Appiah so nearly managed to touch home. Tom Soares almost found the key to the door when he tried his luck with an opportunistic effort from outside the area, but McGee got down well to save. In a frantic finale with both sides really going for it, Conor Chaplin so nearly made it 2-1 to Pompey, but he failed to get a touch at the near post. However, Wimbledon did find the cutting edge at the other end, thanks to a helping hand from the hosts. A fine cross was swung in from the right by Tom Soares and though Pigott just failed to get there, Anton Walkes could only head the ball into his own net. Though Portsmouth desperately attempted to get back into it, there was no way back, and Wimbledon marched into the second round of the Carabao Cup.
AFC Wimbledon: Tom King, Tennai Watson (Toby Sibbick), Deji Oshilaja, Scott Wagstaff, Mitchell Pinnock (Kwesi Appiah), Tyler Garratt, James Hanson, Tom Soares, Rod McDonald, Joe Pigott (Anthony Hartigan), Anthony Wordsworth.