Wotton 25 (pen)
Fleetwood Town 1
by CHRIS PARSONS
PAUL Wotton’s 65th goal for Plymouth Argyle could prove to be one of the most important of his career as his first-half penalty propelled Argyle to victory over Fleetwood Town.
A wise man once wrote, “when Wottsy hits ‘em, they stay hit” and that was exactly what happened when he dispatched his 25th minute spot-kick after Conor Hourihane had gone down under challenge from Jon Parkin.
Jason Banton, the Pilgrims’ star of recent weeks added the second with an unstoppable 25 yard strike as the Pilgrims coasted into half-time two goals to the good.
The second-half was still looking comfortable until David Ball pulled one back for the visitors with 15 minutes still to play.
As you might expect, the closing quarter of an hour was tense. But after Paul McKenna’s late sending off, Argyle held on to secure a valuable three points.
The Pilgrims may not have scored against Bradford on Tuesday evening, but Argyle manager John Sheridan was impressed enough to stick with the same personnel.
The 4-5-1/4-3-3 system prevailed, too, allowing Jason Banton a free role behind lone striker Reuben Reid.
However, there was one change on the bench where the fit-again Rene Gilmartin replaced Ollie Chenoweth as reserve custodian.
Fleetwood had won 3-0 at Accrington Stanley on Tuesday night, but still opted for changes with Paul McKenna and Ryan Crowther replacing Gareth Evans and Anthony Barry for the Cod Army’s first-ever game at Home Park.
The visitors’ form was apparent from the off as David Ball sent a crashing volley just wide of Jake Cole’s upright in the first five minutes.
But Argyle soon found their feet when a period of possession in the final third led to Andres Gurrieri’s 30 yard drive deflecting narrowly over.
Fleetwood again worried Cole when Jon Parkin’s speculative effort from range forced him into a good low save but just moments later it was Argyle who were ahead.
Gurrieri had looked a menace in the opening exchanges and when he slid in a pass for Banton, the on-loan winger saw his effort from just inside the area forced behind via an all important Jamie McGuire touch.
In came the corner, only for Parkin, who had been the reds’ hat-trick hero in mid-week, to floor Conor Hourihane at the far post.
Referee Trevor Kettle was in little doubt and pointed straight to the spot. Banton picked up the ball ready to take the kick but after intervention from the bench, Wotton elected as the designated man.
The Home Park crowd roared as the man-and-boy Pilgrim stepped up and he did not disappoint, hammering his hometown club in front with a trademark net-ripping spot-kick.
Inevitably, in the few minutes following the goal, the tempo dropped a bit and both sides were forced to feed off hastily cleared long balls.
Banton had looked visibly disappointed to be taken off penalty duties but six minutes before half-time, he made amends and in spectacular style.
Using wisdom beyond his both years and experience, he dispossessed McKenna, made a beeline for goal and then unleashed a thunderous effort into the top left-hand corner from the edge of the D.
Argyle were now purring but still had some defending to do before the half was out and had Cole to thank for a tremendous reaction save from Junior Brown.
Attacking an in-swinging Ryan Crowther cross, Brown’s late arrival in the box caught the Argyle unawares allowing the midfielder to chest the ball goalwards just five yards from goal.
But Cole, who looked already committed, just managed to stick out a leg to deflect the ball away and maintain his side’s two goal lead.
Fleetwood had obviously been given a rocket at half-time and emerged from the break with renewed vigour.
First they forced Guy Branston into a hasty scrambled clearance before Cole again came to the rescue from a long range Crowther effort.
But Banton was still the main man for Argyle as time and time again he caused problems down the left flank.
But as the half went on, Fleetwood began to turn on the pressure and probably should have pulled one back when an unmarked McGuire nodded Alan Goodall’s cross wide of the goal.
Paris Cowan-Hall and Nick Chadwick were added to the action with 20 minutes remaining as Argyle looked to maintain their advantage but they had barely had a touch when David Ball capitalised on Branston’s miscued headed clearance to reduce the arrears.
The pressure and nerves were now building around the ground as Fleetwood piled bodies forward and causing Argyle to retreat further and further towards their own goal.
But with five minutes remaining, the game changed once more when McKenna picked up his second yellow card for a foul on Cowan-Hall.
The dismissal came just at the right time for Argyle and the worst time for Fleetwood, who were now not quite so gun-ho in the sorties forward.
Handbags in injury time just should probably have resulted in a red card for Parkin, who having just been booked, decided to push Banton to the floor with play at a halt.
Referee Kettle gave him a last warning, though, as four nervy minutes of stoppage time ensued.
John Sheridan had said that this was a must win match. Job done.
1 Jake Cole; 4 Maxime Blanchard, 15 Paul Wotton, 5 Guy Branston, 14 Onsimor Bhasera; 27 Andres Gurrieri (7 Paris Cowan-Hall 72), 10 Lee Cox, 19 Jason Banton, 6 Conor Hourihane (capt), 18 Joe Bryan; 24 Reuben Reid (9 Nick Chadwick 72). Substitutes (not used):
2 Durrell Berry, 8 Luke Young, 20 Rene Gilmartin, 28 Ronan Murray, 29 Tyler Harvey.
Fleetwood Town (4-4-2):
1 Scott Davies; 2 Shaun Beeley, 6 Nathan Pond, 25 Robert Atkinson, 13 Alan Goodall (5 Jean-Michel Fontaine 89); 12 Junior Brown, 18 Jamie McGuire (11 Barry Nicholson 70), 24 Ryan Crowther (32 Gareth Evans 68), 37 Paul McKenna; 26 David Ball, 9 Jon Parkin. Substitutes (not used):
4 Anthony Barry, 10 Jamille Matt, 15 Conor McLaughlin, 33 David Lucas (gk).
McKenna 45, Parkin 88
6,776 (62 away)