Argyle 3 Exeter 0 - Report
Kennedy 14, Taylor 45, Jervis pen 90
by Rob McNichol
YOU will always remember where you were when Kennedy scored.
New Argyle signing Matty Kennedy scored the first and made the second for fellow home debutant Ryan Taylor as Argyle cruised past local rivals - and promotion contenders - Exeter City. Jake Jervis added a late third from the spot, but the game was well won by then.
It seemed to be rather against the script. Exeter's hot recent form - 12 games unbeaten, you know - seemed to get some people rather giddy. National bookmakers made visitors City the favourites, for reasons known only to them, for the match. They must not have the Sky Bet League Two table available to them.
Local media seemed to suggest that Exeter's irresistible form would be too much for Derek Adams' men who had, incidentally, only lost three of their previous 12 games, two of which were against Premier League Liverpool.
Even Exeter's players allowed adrenaline to get to them a little. Jack Stacey hastily deleted a tweet that indicated "we're coming for you" in the aftermath of Exeter's demolition job of Crewe Alexandra.
They came, but they were seen off.
Argyle's win lifts them 12 points clear of City, with a game in hand. Fourth placed Luton, who lie below the dotted promotion line, are 11 back, having also played a game more than the Pilgrims.
And, if you care to look up, Argyle, having played a game fewer than Doncaster, are only three points behind the leaders.
They say that in a derby game you make sure you win by any form or fashion. Exeter manager Paul Tisdale certainly knows about the former, even if some may query what he knows about the latter. Whatever the opinion of the City boss's sartorial selections, the men he has been selecting for his Grecians team have produced some sterling form. From staring at the abyss of the relegation zone, to fourth in the lead City's 12-game unbeaten run leading to this match added more than the usual spice to the local derby atmosphere.
Then, of course, there was Reuben Reid. Scorer of 50 goals for the Pilgrims - 10% of them against Exeter - Reid now plays on the red and white side of the divide, and was recalled to City's starting line-up for this game, having sat out the previous match because of illness. Star man Ollie Watkins, who this week picked up the Sky Bet League Two Player of the Month award, recovered sufficiently from a knock to take his place, too.
Derek Adams named the same Argyle line-up as had begun the 1-0 win at Cambridge seven days previous, making just one change on the bench, where Jimmy Spencer returned from a lengthy injury lay-off.
The standard derby-day feeling out process dominated the early proceedings. Yann Songo'o took a fearful whack in the head from one of a pair of early Exeter corners that went nowhere, but Songo'o shrugged it off, as Argyle did to Exeter's first flurries.
Reid got a smattering of boos, as one would expect having, as Derek Adams put it in midweek, 'crossed the divide', but he nearly further angered those who formerly adored him by charging down a Luke McCormick kick-out, only for the ball to trickle harmlessly wide.
Reid had played more than 80 games for Argyle at Home Park, but the Pilgrims' line-up included four man making their first home starts for their new club. Jakub Sokolik, Ryan Taylor, Antoni Sarcevic and Matty Kennedy had all made their Argyle debuts away from Devon, but now were making their home bows. Kennedy, in particular, did it in style.
A move began with Sokolik playing a ball into Graham Carey's feet at a perfect weight; Carey took it in as Ryan Harley flailed a leg in vain. The Irishman then played an even more impressive throughball, bisecting the Exeter defence, and expertly picking out Kennedy's run. Kennedy had to wait for the ball to sit just right for him, but any fear that the Scotsman had waited to long were soon dismissed. Kennedy clipped over the oncoming Christy Pym, and Argyle had the lead.
In truth, the 14th minute goal was Argyle's first real attack, but it put them on the front foot in more than just the scoreline. Exeter, not used to trailing, had to retreat. Taylor and Carey combined, with the striker curling at goal, only to see Pym, who appeared to dived past the ball, improvise and push the ball away. From the half-cleared corner, Fox volleyed not very far over the bar.
Fox actually appeared to be on a one-man crusade to double Argyle's lead. Not only were his ball-retention skills to the fore, but he popped up numerous times in attacking positions. His first touch from a flicked Carey ball through was sublime, but he could not shift the ball out from under his feet. Before Exeter had cleared properly, Fox had another effort deflected wide, then Exeter huffed and puffed to clear the corner, allowed Fox another crack. This one was on target, but gathered by Pym.
For the first time since falling behind, Exeter had a short spell where they looked threatening, just before the first 45 minutes was up. However, Ryan Harley wasted their best chance, choosing to try to blast it through the trees rather than chip onto the fairway.
Argyle capitalised. Kennedy was involved again, popping up centrally, and released Taylor, who peeled away from an inattentive City backline. Taylor was perilously close to being offside, but the well-positioned assistant referee kept his flag down - and Taylor kept his cool. The corner of the net could not have been found more perfectly. Argyle had a 2-0 lead to take into half-time.
Just. City rattled the bar before the first-time injury-time spell had concluded. David Wheeler, who had scored in Exeter's previous seven matches, thought he had made it eight, but his header came back off of the crossbar. The ball was a little reluctant to leave the area, but eventually Argyle smuggled it away, and a cheer met the half-time whistle which duly followed.
Exeter began the second half like a team suddenly realising they had an unbeaten run to protect, a promotion to go for, and a Devon derby to save. Watkins' deflected shot wrong-footed McCormick, but went wide of the post. From the corner, a ball fell to Troy Brown, who somehow did not score from close range. Watkins, among others, had a shy as Argyle struggled to clear, but eventually defensive bodies prevailed, and the Green Army could breathe out for the first time in 30 seconds.
Argyle were back on the offensive with a smooth passing move that concluded when Sarcevic shot well over, having been played in by Carey. Exeter's response was another corner that found Brown, but he seemed to not decide on whether to head, chest or volley the ball, and ended up merely shovelling it wide.
Reid nearly announced himself in the grand manner, but headed wide from a good position, and was substituted shortly after. Off, too, went Wheeler, not able to extend his impressive goalscoring run. On in their stead were forwards Robbie Simpson and Liam McAlinden, as Exeter knew they had to try to gain a foothold, somehow.
They never did.
Stacey had a mini-altercation with Adams, who stopped the City full-back from taking a throw. Stacey comically got stroppy, when in fact all Derek was doing was indicating a substitute was about to be made. Hashtag overreaction.
Into second half injury time, substitute Jake Jervis bore down on Pym, who launched himself at the Argyle forward rather too forcefully for the referee's liking. A penalty was given, and Jervis dispatched with vigour.
Devon, it seems, is still green. And, as Derek likes to say, it always will be.
Argyle (4-1-4-1): 23 Luke McCormick (capt); 18 Oscar Threlkeld, 31 Jakub Sokolik, 15 Sonny Bradley, 3 Gary Sawyer; 4 Yann Songo'o; 10 Graham Carey (8 Jordan Slew 89), 24 David Fox (11 Ryan Donaldson 79), 7 Antoni Sarcevic, 16 Matty Kennedy (14 Jake Jervis 81); 19 Ryan Taylor. Substitutes (not used): 5 Nauris Bulvitis, 9 Jimmy Spencer, 21 Vincent Dorel (gk), 27 Craig Tanner.
Bookings: Carey 75, Donaldson 81.
Exeter City (4-4-1-1): 30 Christy Pym; 28 Jack Stacey, 29 Troy Brown, 15 Jordan Moore-Taylor, 3 Craig Woodman; 11 David Wheeler (8 Robbie Simpson 71) 25 Jake Taylor, 4 Lloyd James, 7 Ryan Harley; 14 Ollie Watkins; 33 Reuben Reid (19 Liam McAlinden 70). Substitutes (not used): 1 Bobby Olejnik (gk), 6 Jordan Tillson, 16 Matt Oakley, 29 Luke Croll, 31 Pierce Sweeney.
Bookings: Woodman 60, Brown 74, Pym 90, Simpson 90.
Referee: Simon Hooper.
Attendance: 14,671 (1,533 away)
This game will be available to watch on PAFCTV.co.uk from Monday. All home fixtures, and select away games, can be watch on an individual basis, or by subscription.