CARL Fletcher was nothing but proud after seeing his brave side ousted from the Capital One Cup by Championship side Burnley.The underdog Pilgrims held the Lancashire side to a 1-1 draw after extra-time in Tuesday’s second-round tie at Turf Moor before losing a penalty shoot-out 3-2.
It was their third long away trip in eight days, yet they gave their hosts – their superiors by two divisions – a real run for their money, Robbie Williams equalising Charlie Austin’s 37th-minute strike with a last-minute penalty.
“The lads did really well to come to a Championship side away,” said Fletch, “especially after the amount of miles we have had to do in the last few weeks, and perform the way they did.
“I was really pleased. They should be proud of their efforts.
“For us to lose is very disappointing because we could have won it in normal time, or even extra-time, but the lads should take a lot of credit for the way they performed.
“They are all disappointed, but they shouldn’t be for the way they performed and the way they conducted themselves.
“It is tough when you come away to a team that is above you – they are going to have a lot of possession – but they all stuck together and there was a real belief there amongst the squad, so lots and lots of positives.
“You come to a big club like this and sometimes you get a bit nervous, but we settled into the game and got better and better as it went on.
“The key thing for us was not to panic when we went a goal down.
“I think it was [Burnley’s] only meaningful attempt. My goalie had nothing to do in the whole game, really, in terms of saves.
“It was important we didn’t lose our heads then, and we spoke about it at half-time, saying that, if we could stay in the game, maybe we could change things up in the last ten minutes – which we did, and we got a reward with the penalty.”
Fletch handed a first start of the season to Cornish teenager Jared Sims in a midfield that also included fellow youngsters Conor Hourihane, Luke Young and Johnny Gorman.
Fletch said: “I’m very lucky. I’ve got some good players.
“They are all technically good with the football and it was pleasing that, at the times we had to pass it and keep it, we did. They should take that on with confidence.
“They are the kind of players that I like. I know you have got to have a good mix, but someone who is big and strong and who can kick [the ball] really far is not my cup of tea.”
Argyle were without veteran centre-back Darren Purse, through injury, and Fletch also chose to rest another senior pro, Paul Wotton.
“He’s just really old, so he had a bit of a rest,” joked Carl.
“He’s had a lot of games in the last few weeks and a lot of miles, so we felt it was best to leave him back in Plymouth.”