Scunthorpe United 1
Van Veen 65
Jephcott 12, Moore 50, Jephcott 56
IF eyebrows had been raised when Argyle manager Ryan Lowe recalled teenage striker Luke Jephcott from his loan spell at Truro City, they did not stay that way for long at the Sands Venue Stadium as Argyle smoothed their way to victory over the Iron and an eighth Sky Bet League Two win from their last 11 matches.
Less than 12 minutes, in fact – the time that it took the Argyle Academy product to score his first Pilgrims’ goal, in his fourth start, a marvellous piece of predatory skill.
His second followed 44 minutes later, another goal-grabber’s two-yard special, sniffing out the ball after a mistake from the Scunthorpe goalkeeper.
In between the two special strikes, his forward partner, Byron Moore scored a quite magnificent goal which would have graced any footballing stage in the world at any level.
Pilgrims manager Ryan Lowe had handed Jephcott his first start for more than a year, the Welsh youth international having been recalled from a highly successful loan spell at BetVictor Southern League Truro City only the day before.
The Argyle Academy product was one of four changes to the Pilgrims' starting 11 from that had played against Swindon at Home Park on New Year’s Day, with all three of the Pilgrims’ Grants – Josh, Connor and Joel – giving way and on-loan Bristol City midfielder Tyreeq Bakinson making his Pilgrims’ debut in the centre of midfield.
Joel Grant dropped to the substitutes’ bench as Jephcott, 19, was partnered by Moore, taking the place of the injured Dom Telford; Joe Edwards switched to the right wing-back position vacated by Moore, allowing Bakinson – the 1,108th player to represent Argyle – to take the central midfield role.
Captain Gary Sawyer returned at left centre-back following the expiry of Josh Grant's loan from Chelsea, while Danny Mayor, who had been ill over the holiday period, replaced Conor Grant in central midfield.
Argyle started very well and got better, so it was no surprise when Jephcott gave them the lead.
The beginnings were with Mayor and Moore in the left-hand corner, working the ball between them before George Cooper arrived to whip in a lovely low cross that curled away from Scunthorpe goalkeeper Jake Eastwood.
The rest was pure goalscoring instinct, the sort that you can hone, but never teach – positioning, awareness, sensing the opportunity, carpe diem. With a run towards the ball, Jephcott earned a yard ahead of the defence, and put the advancing Eastwood in no-man’s land between ball and goal. A flick of the foot did the rest.
Bakinson, with his long levers and green boots, was immediately endearing to team-mates and supporters alike. A young man, just starting out on what looks like being a long and productive career, he was not afraid to bark out instructions to his new and senior team-mates – when he was not constantly breaking the hearts of Scunthorpe’s midfielders and winning the ball.
Argyle were spot on in every department, as and when they needed to be. Palmer’s first save – an easy dive to keep out a long-range grubber from Lee Novak – came as many of the home crowd were already queuing for their half-time Bovril.
Scunthorpe’s biggest threat, Abo Eisa, was handled well by Edwards. On a rare occasion that he managed to escape the terrier-like attentions of Argyle’s No.8, Sawyer was back to clear the danger.
Argyle, springing forward at every opportunity, had relatively little defending to do for most of the first half but you felt that anything that Scunthorpe did muster could be handled by Niall Canavan on his own. For some reason, the former Iron always seems to enjoy playing against his old club.
The half ended with the Cooper-Jephcott combination so nearly bringing about the second goal that Argyle’s first-half enterprise deserved, the young forward cleverly pulling back off his marker to make space for a glancing header that drifted wide.
The second half began with Scunthorpe defender Kgosi Ntlhe finding space for a header inside the Argyle penalty area, but that half-chance was immediately firmly dispatched into the shadows by Moore’s sensational strike for the Argyle second.
It was not just the finish that was jaw-dropping – the whole move was superb, Mayor breaking out of defence to send Cooper away on the left. Cooper spurned the opportunity to run into the acre of space in front of him, instead pinging a wonderful cross to the far post, reading the run of Moore, who had read the intentions of Cooper, and smacked the delivery home on the volley. Outstanding.
A third – Jephcott’s second – was not long in following. Mayor’s shot was too much for Eastwood, who spilled the ball. As he looked to pouch it at the second attempt, Jephcott, his poacher’s radar working perfectly, flew in to tuck the ball in.
Argyle’s virtually untroubled afternoon was then given its only jolt when substitute Kevin van Veen got the jump on the back line to steer the ball past Palmer and bring Argyle’s margin back to just the two goals.
It inevitably led to some pressure from the home side, but Argyle dealt with that to the extent that Palmer had only one save of note to make and the Pilgrims had opportunities themselves to replicate the previous season’s 4-1 winning score at the same venue.
A sweet move ended with Edwards booming a shot narrowly over from a tight angle and substitute Conor Grant sizzled one on target that Eastwood this time held.
No matter. Three goals, four wins from the last five matches, sixth place in League Two.
Tne numbers are looking good, Pilgrims.
Scunthorpe United (4-2-3-1): 25 Jake Eastwood; 3 Kgosi Ntlhe, 26 Harrison McGahey, 23 Rory McArdle (capt), 28 Junior Brown; 22 Levi Sutton (10 Kevin van Veen 57), 14 James Perch; 20 Alex Gilliead (7 Ryan Colclough 77), 4 Matt Lund, 30 Abo Eisa; 17 Lee Novak. Substitutes (not used): 1 Rory Watson (gk), 2 Jordan Clarke, 32 Jacob Bedeau, 33 Jamie Proctor, 45 John McAtee.
Booked: Ntlhe 60.
Argyle (3-5-2): 24 Alex Palmer (gk); 5 Scott Wootton, 6 Niall Canavan, 3 Gary Sawyer (capt); 8 Joe Edwards, 7 Antoni Sarcevic, 14 Tyreeq Bakinson, 10 Danny Mayor, 32 George Cooper 915 Conor Grant 84); 17 Byron Moore (16 Joel Grant 72), 31 Luke Jephcott (18 Billy Clarke 79). Substitutes (not used): 1 Mike Cooper (gk), 2 Joe Riley, 20 Adam Randell, 39 Zak Rudden.
Booked: Sarcevic 21, G Cooper 45.
Referee: Paul Marsden.
Attendance: 3,450 (400 away est.).