MVV Maastricht 1
MVV MAASTRICHT made early dominance pay as an early goal beat an Argyle side whose increasingly strong performance was only missing a goal.
The home side, on a synthetic surface they are used to, monopolised the ball for the opening dozen or so minutes, during which they scored via Dean Koolhof.
However, Argyle used the rest of the first half to get themselves into the game, and in the second period had more than enough chances to level the score line.
Koolhof’s seventh minute opener was particularly galling for goalkeeper Michael Cooper, who made a superb reaction save to deny Lars Reck from close range, only to see the ball fall to Koolhof, who stroked home.
Koolhof was at the heart of most of Maastricht’s good work, but although he instigated a few dangerous moments, on the whole MVV were a little too content to keep the ball at a slow pace, rather than try to kill Argyle off while they had the chance.
The Pilgrims lifted the proverbial gloves, took the barrage of haymakers, and when they realise how little damage was being done, started to look for a combination or two of their own.
At the break, Argyle will have been content, not at the scoreline, but at how they had played themselves into the game and won back a share of possession. They had not, though, created any chances of note.
That changed in the second period. Manager Derek Adams brought on two full-backs at half-time, but kept the pair that had started the game on the field, too. With Ashley Smith-Brown and Tafari Moore playing in front of Gary Sawyer and Joe Riley respectively, Argyle stemmed the flow of cross-field passes that had looked like hurting them, and made inroads into the MVV area.
Moore had the best chance, pushing into the area seemingly with sheer dragging just wide at the second shooting attempt.
A short time later, Moore fell between two stools when neither convincingly shooting or squaring to Gregg Wylde, instead playing a ball that was neither fish nor foul. David Fox saw a shot in the area well blocked, while Graham Carey and Ryan Taylor also had shots on target saved.
The return of Taylor, playing 75 minutes against Feyenoord followed by a full 90 two days later, might be the highlight of a very fruitful week. He was excellent against a robust Maastricht back line, and showed no signs of tiring as the game, in humid conditions, drew to a close.
MVV, naturally, had chances to extend their advantage, calling on Cooper to save smartly at his near post from Joeri Schroijen, while Riley booted a Golpek effort off the line.
Three competitive games and plenty of testing training sessions under the blazing Dutch sun, as well as the hours of living in each others’ pockets for six days, will have completed Derek’s preparations for the new season in a satisfactory manner.
Now, to Blighty. To Walsall. To another season.
Can’t wait. Can you?
ARGYLE (4-3-3): 31 Michael Cooper; 2 Joe Riley (20 Gregg Wylde 75), 5 Ryan Edwards, 25 Scott Wootton, 23 Ashley Smith-Brown (16 Joel Grant 80); 32 Cameron Sangster (3 Gary Sawyer half-time), 8 David Fox (capt, 4 Yann Songo’o 85) 6 Jamie Ness; 10 Graham Carey (18 Calum Dyson 85), 9 Ryan Taylor, 11 Ruben Lameiras (22 Tafari Moore half-time).