Swansea City 2
James 13, McBurnie 20
by Rick Cowdery
ARGYLE limped out of the Checkatrade Trophy on a sodden night in South Wales, beaten, but not disgraced, by Swansea City’s emerging talent.
Their misery was compounded by a first-half red card for one of their own future hopes, Jordan Bentley, called up from the apprentice ranks for his full debut.
First-half goals from Daniel James and Oli McBurnie saw the Premier League side through to the knock-out stages of the Trophy, along with AFC Wimbledon, who had defeated the Pilgrims the previous month to set up the winner-takes-all contest at the Liberty.
Argyle manager Derek Adams had followed his previous Checkatrade Trophy policy and tweaked his line-up within the rules of the revamped competition.
In keeping with the EFL’s desire to see the tournament as a proving ground for young talent, apprentice Bentley replaced Gary Miller at right-back in an otherwise familiar looking defence; Vincent Dorel, the go-to Checkatrade goalkeeper, was behind them.
Otherwise, only Graham Carey and Jordan Slew retained their place from the side that had progressed to the second round of the Emirates FA Cup four days earlier. David Fox, the winning goalscorer at the One Call Stadium, was among those demoted to the substitutes’ bench to allow call-ups for David Ijaha, Jake Jervis, David Goodwillie and Ryan Donaldson.
Graham Carey captained the side for the first time against opposition who reached deep into their Academy for the bulk of their squad. The shirt numbers probably told you all you needed to know: three in the 60s; four in the 50s; six in the 40s. Even the relatively experienced Jack Cork wore 24.
Argyle started as brightly as the megawatt lights which cut through a grim night in South Wales to make it as if daylight in the Liberty, with Goodwillie prominent and teeing up Jarvis for a little flick that sent the ball marginally the wrong side of the post.
From barely being able to get the ball out of their half for ten minutes, City youngsters responded with two goals inside seven minutes, both strikes of quality.
First, James showed close control on the left flank before he dropped his shoulder and sped past Bentley before placing a low left-foot shot across Dorel. He had obviously seen Slew’s opener at Mansfield.
Then McBurnie, a Scotland Under-21 striker who played in Sky Bet League Two for Newport and Bristol Rovers last season, cut in from the same left wing before curling a long-range shot past Dorel.
Argyle responded with heart to the double setback. Slew worked the ball in from the left and, when City failed to clear, Goodwillie’s snap shot took the loose ball over the crossbar.
A couple of Carey corners caused consternation in the home side’s defence, with Sonny Bradley heading one goalwards before it was cleared, and another zipping across the face of the goal for the want of a touch.
The half ended on a sad note when young Bentley was shown a second yellow card by referee Brendan Malone and dismissed in time added on to the first 45 minutes. It was difficult to take issue with the official.
The second half was eight minutes old when Argyle’s small, but noisy, following were given their first sight of Karleigh Osborne in a first-team game. The good news that defender, who has been beset by injury since his summer move from Bristol City, is back was tempered by the worry that he replaced a clearly hurting Ben Purrington.
With their only previously fit left-back injured and their starting right-back off the field, the reshaped Argyle back four saw Ryan Donaldson filling in at right-back and Sonny Bradley at left-back.
The ten-men Pilgrims stuck to their task well against the odds and while they were not exactly in damage limitation mode, you felt that they would be content to be tight and try to spring something trough the ever-willing Goodwillie or, when he came on, Craig Tanner.
There was a poignant moment 12 minutes from time, when Swansea introduced substitute Alex Bray, the young midfielder whose debut on loan to Argyle two seasons ago ended in agony when he damaged his ligaments at Luton within minutes of coming off the bench.
It was good to see him rehabilitated and good that the Green Army remembered him.
Swansea City (4-2-3-1): 13 Kristoffer Norfeldt; 26 Kyle Naughton, 61 Joe Rodon, 57 Keston Davies (capt), 47 Tyler Reid; 24 Jack Cork, 63 Ryan Blair; 54 Alex Samuel (43 Alex Bray 78), 48 George Byersm (49 Tom Holland 87), 51 Daniel James; 62 Oliver McBurnie. Substitutes (not used): 36 Botti Biabi, 37 Tom Dyson, 44 Tom Plezier, 45 Gregor Zabret (gk), 55 Brandon Cooper.
Argyle (4-3-3): 21 Vincent Dorel (25 Marc McCallum 85); 29 Jordan Bentley, 5 Nauris Bulvitis, 15 Sonny Bradley, 16 Ben Purrington (19 Karleigh Osborne 53); 22 David Ijaha, 11 Ryan Donaldson; 14 Jake Jervis, 10 Graham Carey (capt), 8 Jordan Slew (27 Craig Tanner 74); 7 David Goodwillie. Substitutes (not used): 4 Yann Songo’o, 9 Jimmy Spencer, 24 David Fox.
Sent off: Bentley 45.
Booked: Bentley 31.
Referee: Brendan Malone.