Bournemouth Reserves 2 Pompey Reserves 2

Jack Whatmough made a welcome return to action after a hamstring injury Picture: Colin Farmery
Jack Whatmough made a welcome return to action after a hamstring injury Picture: Colin Farmery

A brilliant Dan Butler free-kick at the death preserved Pompey reserves’ unbeaten start to the season.

As the game entered the 86th minute, it appeared that hosts Bournemouth were set for a 2-1 victory yesterday afternoon in the Final Third Development League (South).

Then referee Lee Rutter adjudged Ben Close had been fouled 25 yards from goal, with joint-first-team coach Alan McLoughlin later admitting the decision was soft.

And up stepped newly-appointed reserve-team skipper Butler to crash home a stunning free-kick.

His curling shot smacked against the inside of the left-hand post on its way into the net, giving keeper Jordan Holmes no chance, as the visitors grabbed a 2-2 draw.

The point was fully deserved for the Blues, who played their part in an entertaining encounter at the Hamworthy Club in Wimborne.

Operating with a 4-3-3 system, with Bradley Tarbuck as the central striker, it was another experienced line-up fielded by McLoughlin.

The match also marked a return to action for Jack Whatmough, following his recent time on the sidelines through a hamstring injury.

His first match since October 4 at York ended on 61 minutes, when James Granger replaced him in a predetermined substitution.

Importantly, the 18-year-old came through the game unscathed, although missed two glorious headed opportunities to mark his comeback with a goal.

Meanwhile, once again, Close caught the eye as part of a midfield three which saw him alongside Nigel Atangana and Nick Awford.

The youngster, who has made four first-team appearances this season, impressed with his strong running, attacking instincts and willingness to get into the Bournemouth penalty area.

He also netted his second goal in the reserves’ four matches so far this season as he continues to develop encouragingly at the Blues.

Pompey came up against a Cherries side relying heavily on development-group players, with their first team in action against West Brom in the Capital One Cup last night.

And among the crowd on an initially sunny afternoon were Andy Awford, chief executive Mark Catlin and club chairman Iain McInnes.

When the match got under way, Alex Wynter had the first attempt on goal when he headed over Close’s left-wing corner on four minutes.

Andy Barcham – with two goals already for the reserves this season – then saw his powerful angled drive deflected for a corner by Jake McCarthy.

Moments later the left winger found himself clean through against Holmes, only for the off-side flag to bring a halt to his goal-scoring opportunity.

Pompey did break the deadlock, though, on 32 minutes through Close.

The 18-year-old exchanged passes with Jack Maloney, before smartly rifling the ball past the exposed Holmes.

Barely 60 seconds later Barcham crashed a right-foot shot from the angle, which was superbly blocked by the flying body of Matt Butcher.

But on 42 minutes the Cherries had their equaliser from Ben Whitfield, despite heroics from Michael Poke.

The Blues’ keeper stopped well from Harrison Gilkes and made it into a double save when he kept out the follow-up effort from Joe Quigley.

But Whitfield was on hand to finish from close range and give the hosts the equaliser before half-time.

However, there was still time for the energetic Nick Awford to slide in and dispossess Holmes to create an opportunity from nothing, which Tarbuck fired over the bar.

After the break, Whatmough had a great opportunity to restore Pompey’s lead on 59 minutes, yet he somehow sent his close-range header wide.

The youngster was still shaking his head when substituted two minutes later as his comeback match ended, with Granger coming on to line up alongside Snorre Nilsen in the centre of defence.

On 60 minutes, Harry Cornick was thwarted from giving the Cherries the lead when his fierce angled drive from the right was finger-tipped wide by Poke.

The hosts did get themselves in front, though, on 66 minutes when a ball down the middle released Aly Coulibaly – and he calmly finished past the Blues keeper.

Close then saw a free-kick brilliantly pushed over by Holmes and another long-range shot fizz over the bar as the visitors pushed in search of a leveller.

Yet, just as thoughts were turning to a Blues defeat, Butler stepped up four minutes from time to net with a stunning free-kick and ensure the reserves’ unbeaten run continued.

POMPEY: Poke, Wynter, Whatmough (61 mins Granger), Nilsen, Butler, Maloney (72 mins Gill), Close, Awford, Atangana (86 mins Rwakarambwe), Barcham, Tarbuck. Sub not used: Bass.