Vincelot 38, Knight-Percival 50, Wyke 64
ARGYLE are out of the Emirates FA Cup following a cup-tie that defied the pre-conceived narrative.
The Pilgrims won at the same ground three weeks earlier thanks to a resolute defensive display. This time, they played some at-times scintillating football as they took the tie to Bradford, but a failure to strike at the right time cost them.
Romain Vincelot gave Bradford the lead against the run of play, and then saw his volley deflected home by team-mate Nathanial Knight-Percival. Graham Carey got one back for Argyle, but Charlie Wyke's immediate reposte put the game essentially beyond Argyle. That said, they spent the remainder of the game trying to eke a way back into the game, but found Bradford as stubborn as the Pilgrims themselves had been, 21 days previous.
As per usual, the big news before the game was about a goalkeeper, but this time the new was so much more satisfactory. Super, you might say.
Luke McCormick regained his gloves, his place and his captain's armband as his ankle injury was deemed to have diminished enough to be declared fit. Will Mannion, therefore, departed without having graced Home Park, and with a record of one match played, and it being a defeat at Yeovil in the Checkatrade Trophy. Hardly a dream biography, but he goes with our thanks - keep an eye on him; he's got a future.
But in a season which has featured Mannion, Matthews, Cooper, Letheran and te Loeke, we were finally back where we began; with Luke where he belongs.
McCormick apart, manager Derek Adams largely kept faith with the side that came to Bradford and won in Sky Bet League One three weeks earlier. The only other amendment was Graham Carey playing on the right of Argyle's midfield, rather than Lionel Ainsworth.
Recovering duo Ryan Taylor and Oscar Threlkeld, who played 72 and 90 minutes respectively at Yeovil on Tuesday, were both on the bench as their rehabilitation continues.
Argyle looked to have gifted a chance to their hosts just five minutes in, when Aaron Taylor-Sinclair's throw-in to Yann Songo'o was returned to the full-back with no pace, and Alex Gilliead nipped in. His cross, though, was miles beyond his team-mates, who had not reacted as quickly as he had.
Reacting best, though, were Argyle, who directly from this aattack cut a swathe through Bradford with a clinical, flowing move that ended with a Graham Carey cross being only just too hard for Jake Jervis to pounce on.
For those expecting an identical game to the one three weeks earlier, where Argyle had defended, but not been extended, the pattern was far from the same in the early stages. Bradford seemed a little more content to let Argyle have the ball, and the visitors obliged, playing some eye-catching possesion football and taking the game to City in the opening 20 minutes. They did not create a chance to stretch Rouven Sattelmaier in the Bradford goal, but this was certainly no attempt at rope-a-dope.
Perhaps Stuart McCall's plan to foil Derek Adams was to 'Out-Derek' him, by allowing the Pilgrims the ball and hoping to draw a gap within the Greens that they could not engineer in the previous meeting.
Bradford's first chance of note came on 21 minutes, and was a perfect reminder to us all over exactly what our number 23 is all about. Alex Gilliead fired a powerful shot from the edge of the area that looked dangerous enough before it took a deflection. Somehow McCormick read the flight and saved it, but the ball fell straight to Charlie Wyke....and McCormick saved from him, too. It was a tremendous double save, and a timely reminder of why we use the adjective 'Super' quite so often.
The Bradford attack was far from the norm, though, and Argyle resume their control of the game. The game was flowing through David Fox, dictating the pace, and his vision started plenty of Argyle forward movements.
At the front of it all, Jervis, the man whose goal was the difference in the fixture 21 days earlier, and he looked determined to repeat the dose. His first effort was a tricky one, spinning inside the area and shooting over with his left foot after a cross by Joel Grant.
His second was better struck, from just inside the area, and drew a very good save from Sattelmeier.
The third, though, was the best of the bunch, and was a total gift. A long ball forward, down the throat of Bradford right-back Tony McMahon, caused panic. McMahon tried to head back to Sattelmeier, and failed. Jervis nipped in, headed over the stranded goalkeeper...and watched the ball trickle wide.
An Argyle move involving several players, played at double-quick pace, ended in Toumani Diagouraga's shot being charged down. Had it gone in, it would have been the team goal of the season.
This was quite something to behold, as Argyle's smooth passing football wreaked havoc with high-flying Bradford's style.
And then they scored.
McMahon's cross from the right was sweet and inviting. Respondez, s'il vous plait, Bradford's French captain Vincelot, who met it perfectly and headed into the corner of the net.
The goal rather knocked the stuffing out of Argyle, temporarily, and Bradford smelled blood. Left-back Tyrell Robinson, showing a keen urge to overlap, got forward to good effect. First his excellent run a cross was well-dealt with by Argyle, then Robinson decided to try his luck from long range, and it took a good piece of goalkeeping by McCormick to save and hold, low to his left.
By the time the fourth official's board indicated a solitary minute of stoppage time, Argyle had shaken their malaise. Fox and Diagouraga helped the ball to Grant, who played the ball into Carey, and went for the return. Beating two men, Grant scythed into the box and cross for Jervis, who got something on the ball with a raised foot, but it was not enough to turn it into the unguarded net.
Prior to the fixture, more than one Bantams fan sarcastically put the question to members of Argyle staff "are you going to actually attack this time?" Typically this was met with smile and an acknowledgement of who actually won that game. "Yeah, but we dominated the game..." Bantams would retort, mournfully.
So when Bradford doubled their lead on 50 minutes, making Argyle's task of staying in the competition a monumental one, it was tempting to revisit our earlier correspondants, and ask how they now felt about the nature of dominating games versus scoring goals.
Bradford's equaliser had an element of fortune about it. McMahon's corner was well headed by Songo'o, but rammed into the mass of bodies by Vincelot. The ball struck at least one unknowing player and spun in to the corner. Given the City players' reaction, congratulating Nathanial Knight-Percival, one assumes his was the most significant of any deflections the ball took.
It felt exceedingly cruel on Argyle, who had looked like they were proving a point by coming to Yorkshire and playing the football that last time they did not, only to fall to two goals. However, as we acknowledged last time that we deserved our win, so one had to concede that an Argyle failure to convert chances had been their undoing.
At that point, anyway. Argyle got themselves back into the game via a tried and tested pairing. Carey's direct ball into the right channel was specifically for Jervis, who timed his run well, collected it, and cut across the pitch. He teed up Carey, who Bradford had neglected to track. Via a deflection of it's own, Carey shot flew across Sattelmaier, and into the corner.
For a minute.
Bradford's next foray forward saw Gilliead shoot straight at McCormick, who let the ball squirm through his fingers, allowing Wyke to tap home from a yard out. As tremendous had Luke's earlier double save been, so this was distinctly preventable. The skipper knew it, too, as he raised a hand to accept culpability. Given his historical record of saving us, we feel obliged to acknowledge, and move on.
Back came Argyle, though. Songo'o headed over; Edwards headed at Sattlemeier; Diagouraga curled wide; Carey's free-kick was blocked; Grant shot just wide; Taylor, just on as a substitute, swung at air. The action was virtually all at one end, but Argyle could not break through.
Bradford broke, and looked like they might inflict a painful fourth, but Robinson's shot was saved by McCormick, with his legs.
Adams introduced Lionel Ainsworth and Antoni Sarcevic, with Jervis finishing up as a right-back. Still the chances came. Ainsworth's deflected cross deceived everybody, before Carey's shot from range ws palmed away. From the resultant throw-in, Taylor's shot on the turn fell into Sattlemeier's hands.
McCormick made another amazing double save from Wyke, then subsitute Dom Poleon, before Law shot narrowly wide, as Argyle left understandable gaps.
Unfortunately, if you are a Pilgrim, the gap next to ball 57 in Monday's draw will be filled by the name of Bradford City, not Plymouth Argyle.
And there was (Sky Bet League) One. Onwards.
Bradford (4-4-2): 12 Rouven Sattelmaier; 29 Tony McMahon, 22 Nathanial Knight-Percival, 5 Matthew Kilgallon, 35 Tyrell Robinson; 17 Alex Gilliead, 4 Jake Reeves (18 Luke Hendrie 66), 6 Romain Vincelot (capt), 7 Nicky Law; 10 Paul Taylor (11 Dominic Poleon 78), 9 Charlie Wyke. Substitutes (not used): 2 Adam Thompson, 14 Shay McCartan, 23 Lukas Raeder (gk), 27 Jordan Gibson, 34 Omari Patrick.
Argyle (4-3-3): 23 Luke McCormick (capt); 3 Gary Sawyer (capt) (8 Lionel Ainsworth 78), 5 Ryan Edwards, 15 Sonny Bradley, 17 Aaron Taylor-Sinclair; 32 Toumani Diagouraga, 4 Yann Songo'o (19 Ryan Taylor 66), 24 David Fox; 10 Graham Carey, 14 Jake Jervis, 16 Joel Grant (7 Antoni Sarcevic 80). Substitutes (not used): 2 Gary Miller, 9 Nadir Ciftci, 18 Oscar Threlkeld, 39 Max Childs (gk).
Referee: Tony Harrington.
Attendance: 4,957 (298 away).