Mansfield Town 1
Slew 14, Fox 80
by Rick Cowdery
TIMING has always been a key component of David Fox’s game and the Argyle midfielder found the perfect moment to score his first Pilgrims’ goal.
His strike ten minutes before time was called at the One Call Stadium earned Derek Adams a first win the Emirates FA Cup and Argyle a place in round two of this year’s competition.
The Pilgrims took an early lead at a ground where they have failed to score in two previous attempts with a marvelous solo goal from Jordan Slew, his fourth of the campaign, in three different competitions.
Argyle were well on top for much of the first half and ultimately made life hard for themselves by not making more more of their dominance after they were pegged back by another worth-the-admission-price-alone strike from former Pilgrim Ashley Hemmings just before the hour.
Different competition, same line-up. Pilgrims’ manager Derek Adams had stayed faithful to the same starting 11 for the third consecutive match meaning that Slew, who did not complete his first 90 minutes for Argyle until three weeks ago, started a fifth match in succession.
Home manager Adam Murray, conversely, made four changes to the outfield ten that had lost 2-1 to Stevenage at the One Call last time out, including recalling Hemmings, and re-introduced Danish goalkeeper Brian Jensen. Maybe he had seen that referee Dean Whitehouse had awarded seven penalties in his 12 previous matches this season and knew about the veteran number 12’s record against the Pilgrims from 12 yards.
Mansfield elected to play with a considerable wind in the first half and created the first opening when James Baxendale threaded Matt Green through. However, the tame shot from the negatively nominally determined striker troubled Luke McCormick less than the elements bothered the Argyle goalkeeper’s kicking.
Slew then showed his opposite number just how to finish. After receiving the ball midway inside his own half when Argyle broke on Sonny Bradley’s defensive header away from a Mansfield free-kick, he had several options. He chose the most direct one.
Turning on the afterburners, he left Lee Collins in his slipstream, and powered into the penalty area. If he did not then have one thing on his mind, the fact that his own team-mates had also struggled to keep pace with him probably decided things, and he stroked low shot across Jensen, the ball clipping the post on its way in.
Argyle settled in and largely dictated the tempo of the game. Only rarely did the home side threaten their equilibrium and, when they did, the lively Baxendale was to the fore. One measured shot from the Stags’ striker had McCormick reaching for ball, which was deflected for a corner.
McCormick was called upon just before half-time when the unmarked Hemmings let fly from 25 yards. If the Pilgrims’ captain was having difficulties with his kicking against the headwind, the same could not be said of his anticipation and positioning and he dealt familiarly well with the free shot from the former Green loan player.
The half ended with the home side enjoying a rare ascendant patch and Mitch Rose only narrowly failed to give them parity at the interval when his rising drive from outside the area left McCormick rooted and wrongfooted but rose too high.
McCormick was finally beaten 12 minutes after the break when a ball from the right found its way to him on the left edge of the six-yard box for a sumptuous finish, thumped high into the far corner.
From being in control of affairs, Argyle found themselves momentarily struggling to stay in the tie. Hemmings was having one of those afternoons that his talent makes you feel should come around more often and only McCormick’s fingertips, which turned another long-distance shot against a post, kept the score level.
The Pilgrims switched things around and recovered their composure, although they never enjoyed the same command that they had in the early stages.
They have made a habit, lately, of finding ways to win games, though, and when Jimmy Spencer’s hold-up play allowed Slew to find room on the left, possibilities opened up.
Slew looked up, saw Fox in space, and laid the ball into his path.
Fox, in turn, played Argyle into the second round of the Cup.
Number 23, before you ask.
Mansfield Town (4-1-3-2): 12 Brian Jensen; 2 Rhys Bennett, 5 Krystian Pearce, 4 Lee Collins (32 Danny Rose 87), 3 Mal Benning; 8 Chris Clements; 24 Jamie McGuire, 11 James Baxendale (34 Darius Henderson 81), 23 Ashley Hemmings; 10 Matt Green, 19 Mitch Rose (20 Jack Thomas 73). Substitutes (not used): 1 Scott Shearer (gk), 9 Patrick Hoban, 14 Kevan Hurst, 22 CJ Hamilton.
Argyle (4-2-3-1): 23 Luke McCormick (capt); 2 Gary Miller, 5 Nauris Bulvitis, 15 Sonny Bradley, 16 Ben Purrington; 4 Yann Songo’o, 24 David Fox; 10 Graham Carey, 27 Craig Tanner, ( 11 Ryan Donaldson 61), 8 Jordan Slew (22 David Ijaha 83); 9 Jimmy Spencer. Substitutes (not used): 7 David Goodwillie, 14 Jake Jervis, 19 Karleigh Osborne, 21 Vincent Dorel (gk).
Booked: Spencer 88.
Referee: Dean Whitestone.
Attendance: 2,318 (439 away).