ARGYLE'S youngsters finished this year’s Northern Ireland Milk Cup with a defeat; but that does not detract from their achievement of finishing eighth out of 20 teams in the Junior Section.The Pilgrims, who had the youngest squad in the tournament, travelled to Ireland with very little expectation but only the 2009 team, who reached the Milk Cup semi-finals, have done better than this side.
Coach Chris Souness took the opportunity to give 13-year-old Michael Cooper his debut in goal for this third place play-off with County Down, while Sam Morgan and Joshua Richards were starting for the first time.
Cooper acquitted himself well, making several fine saves in the second half but the damage had been done in the first period when County Down hit both their goals.
The Irish side began strongly with Luke Fisher curling his 20 yard angled drive around the far post.
Argyle replied with Jake Miller running at the middle of the opposition defence but a combination of the goalkeeper Reece Kane and defender David Cassells smothered his final effort.
Jason Vincent and Miller combined to send Alex Battle racing down the right flank only for his superb driven cross to find goalkeeper Reece Kane saving at the second attempt.
County Down made the initial breakthrough on 17 minutes when Jordan Bentley made a great block only for Keegan Rice to stab the ball past Cooper.
The youngsters were unlucky not to be back on level terms, six minutes later, when Sam Ryan outpaced the Down defence to fire over a great cross, to the far post, that found Battle hitting a spectacular waist-high volley that Kane did well to block with Karl Hamill clearing the loose ball off the line.
Down came back strongly and Cooper did well to push Louis Houston's free kick over his bar but it was only a short reprieve for Argyle as two minutes before the break they found themselves two goals down.
Dylan O’Kane found himself in space on the right flank to hit a 35 yard screamer that flew into the top corner of Cooper’s goal.
Argyle began the second half well with Miller denied by a last-ditch tackle but it was the Irish side who were to have more of the play.
Salou Jallow fired over the bar from 18 yards before Cooper made a fine double save from Rice and Mark Lowry.
Having already used their three fit substitutes, Argyle were forced to play goalkeeper Jordan Stidson as a striker after Fletcher had been floored by Kane.
Argyle never really made an impression on the Down defence despite having plenty of possession and it was only another fine save by Cooper prevented substitute Peter Freeland from scoring.
Argyle: Michael Cooper, Jordan Bentley, Jack Calver, Joshua Richards (Dario Pisaro 40), Oliver Gardner, Jake Miller, Jason Vincent, Henry Wilson, Sam Morgan (Alex Fletcher 29, Jordan Stidson 53), Alex Battle, Sam Ryan (Ryan Dabbs 43).