Carey 16, Fox 40, Taylor 45, Lameiras 67
AFC Wimbledon 2
Taylor 37, 59
ARGYLE’S fine run of results continued with victory from a game that just about had it all: a Graham Carey special; a rare David Fox goal; a Remi Matthews’ penalty save; six goals; and, most importantly, another three points which saw the Pilgrims progress to within one win of the play-off positions.
Despite their superiority throughout, and never being headed, Argyle managed to keep the game interesting until midway through the second half by allowing Wimbledon two goals from long-time Pilgrims’ nemesis Lyle Taylor, who also missed a penalty.
Taylor’s first came after man-of-the-match Carey had given the Pilgrims the lead. A Fox volley and a poached third from Ryan Taylor then ensured Argyle led 3-1 at the interval.
The margin was reduced to one after the break when Taylor seized on hesitancy in the Argyle defence, before Ruben Lameiras added Argyle’s fourth.
Although the scoring finished with that strike, there was more goalmouth drama still as Matthews kept out a Taylor penalty.
Argyle manager Derek Adams had selected the same starting 11 for the third consecutive match, since centre-back Zak Vyner recovered from a cold that had ruled out his participation in a 2-1 victory at Oldham Athletic.
Subsequent wins against promotion contenders Shrewsbury, away, on Saturday, and Blackburn, in their previous home match, suggest that the Pilgrims went into the match as the best team in the division, and you cannot better the best.
Wimbledon, beaten 3-1 at home by Northampton Town three days previously to register a third successive defeat, called up former Pilgrim Jimmy Abdou from the substitutes’ bench to bolster their midfield.
A feature of Argyle’s recent superlative form has been to get off to a quick start and they kept that up pleasing habit, with Taylor’s presence forcing a free-kick that Carey cracked against the post after curling a shot around the defensive wall.
Wimbledon responded in kind as Taylor’s namesake angled a shot from wide on the right-hand side of the Argyle penalty area which scudded across Remi Matthews and thudded off the frame of the goal.
The pre-match thinking around Home Park was that Wimbledon’s attitude would be that attack was the best mode of defence and they did not disappoint that theory, taking the game to the Pilgrims early onwith Joe Pigott inches away from connecting with a free-kick from the right.
The Green Machine’s response was to up a gear and inject some pace into their play. Immediately, Taylor beat goalkeeper George Long with a header that was deemed to have been from an offside position before Carey pulled out a fine save from the increasingly busy custodian.
The breakthrough was not long in coming, though. As well as hitting double-figures this season, Carey has assisted 13 goals and, for the opener, he did both, blocking an attempted Wimbledon clearance; cushioning the dropping ball without losing his balance; and driving in on goal before placing the ball between Long and his near post.
The Carey Show continued when, after strolling across to the opposite, left, flank, he sent in a shot from such a tight angle and with so much power that Long did exceptionally well to beat the ball out.
Wimbledon looked on the ropes but found a punch from somewhere. Captain Barrie Fuller made ground down the right and found Taylor, who got wrong side of Sonny Bradley and slashed the ball past Matthews.
Taylor, who, judging from the disapprobation that came his way from the Devonport end, had clearly upset Argyle supporters, did not enjoy his moment for long as the Pilgrims quickly reasserted their authority.
The goal came from possibly the most unexpected source. Fox has brought many great qualities to Argyle since his arrival, but a prolific stream of goals is not one of them. His only other Pilgrims’ strike had come 67 games previously, in an FA Cup tie at Mansfield and the net-bursting volley from 20 yards that followed a defensive clearance was his first EFL goal for two years.
Mind you, seeing the, frankly, weird victory dance that followed the goal, it is probably something of a relief that he does not score more regularly. The jig was brought to a quick end by team-mates who, obviously delighted to have witnessed a rare occurrence, engulfed the veteran midfielder.
This time, the Pilgrims made Wimbledon’s chances of pegging them back that much harder by increasing the lead before half-time. Fox, again, was involved, and slightly unlucky, having waited so long for his Argyle debut goal, not to score his second within five minutes.
Long, still performing heroics, beat out his low driven free-kick that made a nonsense of Wimbledon’s defensive wall, but Taylor was on hand to tuck home the loose ball. For the second home game in succession, his acute sense of what was happening around him made the finish a formality.
Taylor started the second half by beating Long for the third time, heading home a Fox free-kick from the left but he was again deprived by a linesman’s flag that, unlike his earlier ruled-out effort, looked ill-judged.
From a position of major superiority, Argyle suddenly played their way into one of some vulnerability as Gary Sawyer and Bradley played themselves into trouble in their own penalty area and allowed Taylor to nip in and score.
Shaken, the Pilgrims’ defence was prey for Taylor, who hounded Sawyer into another rushed piece of defending and crossed into the area, where the ball was deflected into the net by an Argyle boot. The linesman, though, had ruled the final ball had been provided from behind the bye-line.
Argyle took a breath and restored the two-goal advantage, Lameiras showing great composure when, after latching on to Antoni Sarcevic’s long ball from defence, showed great composure to round Long and clip the ball home.
The pendulum swung back to the Barn Park end which Wimbledon were attacking and Taylor was given a chance to complete a hat-trick when Sarcevic tussled with Darius Charles and referee Brett Huxtable awarded penalty.
The cheers which greeted Matthews’ fine save of an average kick were louder than that for any of the Pilgrims’ four goals; arguably, they were louder than all four combined.
That killed off Wimbledon’s resolve, but not Argyle’s persistence and Lameirascame close to adding what would have been the goal of the game when his shot at the end of a mesmerising run narrowly cleared the crossbar.
November suddenly seems a long time ago indeed.
Argyle (4-3-3): 34 Remi Matthews; 18 Oscar Threlkeld, 22 Zak Vyner, 15 Sonny Bradley, 3 Gary Sawyer (capt, 17 Aaron Taylor-Sinclair64); 7 Antoni Sarcevic (14 Moses Makasi76), 24 David Fox (4 Yann Songo'o 55), 6 Jamie Ness; 10 Graham Carey, 19 Ryan Taylor, 11 Ruben Lameiras. Substitutes (not used): 8 Lionel Ainsworth, 9 Simon Church, 16 Joel Grant, 25 Kyle Letheren (gk).
Booked: Ness 27, Sarcevic 71, Makasi 87.
AFC Wimbledon (4-3-3): 1 George Long; 2 Barry Fuller (capt), 4 AdedejiOshilaja, 32 Darius Charles, 23 Callum Kennedy; 8 NadjimAbdou (18 Dean Parrett 76), 19 Tom Soares, 11 Harry Forrester, 14 Liam Trotter; 39 Joe Pigott (10 Cody McDonald 76), 33 Lyle Taylor. Substitutes (not used): 3 Jon Meades, 6 Paul Robinson,7 George Francomb, 21 EgliKaja, 24 Joe McDonnell (gk).
Booked: Forrester 62, Kennedy 74.
Referee: Brett Huxtable.
Attendance: 10,671 (246 away).