Dorchester Town 1
by CHRIS PARSONS
IN a terrible case of history repeating itself, Argyle bowed out of the FA Cup at the first round stage to Dorchester Town of the Blue Square Conference South.
Jake Gosling’s goal, just four minutes after the interval, handed the Magpies an away tie with either Luton or Nuneaton Town in the second round and condemned Argyle to first round defeat for the third season running.
Having looked to be, on paper at least, a thrilling clash, the game took an ugly turn after just nine minutes when referee Lee Collins showed Conor Hourihane a second yellow card for taking a free-kick before he had blown his whistle.
From that moment on, Dorchester, with the hostile home crowd on their side, were in the box seat and despite late pressure, held on for their day in the sun in front of the ESPN cameras.
But those wishing to draw comparisons between this game at the sell-out Avenue Stadium and that dreadful evening in Stourbridge last season would have a hard job.
Yes, both games were away against non-league opposition and both were shown live on ESPN.
And, yes, the Pilgrims were reduced to ten men in both games but at Stourbridge, it was just.
This was not. It was cruel.
Argyle manager Carl Fletcher had opted for five changes to the side that had slipped to defeat at Rotherham.
Firstly, Rene Gilmartin replaced Jake Cole between the sticks, allowing the former Watford ‘keeper to make his second start for the Pilgrims.
With Alex MacDonald unavailable for the FA Cup, Joe Lennox was handed the right wing role, whilst in the centre of midfield, the returning Hourihane was preferred to Luke Young.
Onismor Bhasera made his first start since returning from international duty with Zimbabwe in October, replacing Paris Cowan-Hall on the left side of midfield.
The last change came in attack where fit-again striker Rhys Griffiths was selected to lead the line, ahead of Guy Madjo.
The atmosphere before kick-off in a full to capacity Avenue Stadium was electric with the much clichéd ‘romance of the cup’ demonstrated by the noise coming from both sets of supporters and the drizzle that, added with wet weather overnight, moistened the pitch nicely for a full-blooded, traditional FA Cup first round meeting.
But before either side could think about threatening, the game took an utterly bizarre turn with the sending off of Hourihane.
Having picked up an unlucky early booking for a foul on Jon Choprena-Garcia, Hourihane was shown his second yellow and subsequent red card after nine minutes for taking a free-kick too quickly after Lennox had been fouled on the right hand corner of the area.
It was decision that was to change the course of the match and as Hourihane left the pitch, he born a look of a man who could not be consoled.
Nonetheless, the decision had been made and the Pilgrims were forced to dig in, defending in numbers as the Magpies understandably pressed.
But it was not until the 26th minute of the game that the first genuine goalscoring chance materialised and, somewhat against the run of play, it fell for Bhasera who, having been played in by Rhys Griffiths, held off his man and fired a thunderous drive into the side netting.
Just a minute later, it was the home side who threatened, when Charlie Clough’s powerful header rebounded off the bottom of the post and away to safety.
A lull in the game followed before Jamie Lowry forced Jason Matthews into his first save of the evening, as he lashed a swerving half-volley goalwards from 30 yards.
The Pilgrims held on to possession for the remainder of the half with Lennox and Durrell Berry in particular completing their fair share of the running.
That was why it came as such a blow when Dorchester went ahead just a few minutes into the second-half, when Gosling fired Magpies skipper Mark Jerymn’s cut-back into the roof of the net.
Understandably, Dorchester’s goal inspired them to look for more but shots from Garcia and Nicholls did not even bother the crowd behind the goal, let alone Gilmartin.
With Luke Young having replaced Joe Lennox, Fletcher opted for a further tactical change with just over 20 minutes to go and brought on Warren Feeney in place of Lowry to form a 4-3-2 formation.
The change almost reaped immediate rewards but sadly, Rhys Griffiths was unlucky not to get his head to a well-delivered Luke Young free-kick after the second-half substitute had been fouled by Clough.
Paris Cowan-Hall was then introduced at the expense of Rhys Griffiths and the Pilgrims began to set about their opponents, forcing Matthews into a top save from Bhasera’s cross-turned-shot.
Come the final few minutes, Argyle threw all they could forward but Dorchester, to their credit, hung on for a day to remember in Dorset’s county town.
Dorchester Town (4-5-1): 1 Jason Matthews; 2 Mark Jerymn (capt), 5 Nathan Walker, 4 Charlie Clough, 3 Jake Smeeton; 10 Jon Choprena-Garcia, 8 Ashley Nicholls, 7 Jake Gosling, 6 Jamie Gleeson (15 Jamie Symes 86), 11 Neil Martin; 9 Ben Watson. Substitutes (not used): 12 Arran Pugh, 14 Nick Crittenden, 16 Sam Malsom, 17 Jamie Reid, 18 Jordan Chiedozie, GK Alan Walker-Harris.
Booked: Smeeton 28, Nicholls 34, Clough 67.
Argyle (4-5-1): 20 Rene Gilmartin; 2 Durrell Berry, 17 Curtis Nelson, 4 Maxime Blanchard (capt), 33 Scott Griffiths; 19 Joe Lennox (8 Luke Young 58), 6 Conor Hourihane, 27 Andres Gurrieri, 16 Jamie Lowry (11 Warren Feeney 67), 14 Onismor Bhasera; 10 Rhys Griffiths (7 Paris Cowan-Hall 74). Substitutes (not used): 1 Jake Cole (gk), 18 Guy Madjo, 23 Jamie Richards, 29 Tyler Harvey.
Booked: Hourihane 4, Lennox 14, Lowry 63, Blanchard 69
Sent-off: Hourihane 9.
Referee: Lee Collins.