ARGYLE'S youngsters were bowed out of the Milk Cup with their heads held high after a cruel penalty shootout defeat to County Tyrone.Once again Argyle were up against a side that were physically more advanced than themselves but they can rightly argue that they were the better side for most of the game.
Argyle coach Chris Souness refused to be downhearted after the final whistle.
He said: “We are not disappointed as we controlled most of the game.
"We did what we had to during the game and we learnt from that and sure, it is always disappointing to lose in a penalty shoot-out but the real aims and objectives have been met.
"We’ve grown throughout the tournament, we’ve achieved things that we probably didn’t think we were going to and we played today with a lot of credit and a lot of style.
"To be fair the opposition were a good side as well so good luck to them in the final.”
The Pilgrims also had to deal with going a goal down in the opening minute when usually reliable goalkeeper Jordan Stidson spilled a left wing cross leaving Joshua Graham to steer the ball home from close range.
Argyle came back strongly to put their opponents under pressure in front of a large crowd at Parker Avenue, Portrush but good crosses by Alex Fletcher and Jake Miller failed to find someone providing the vital touch.
Tyrone replied with Emmett McNab denied by the legs of Stidson as he cut in along the left bye-line but it was not long before play soon returned to the Tyrone end of the pitch.
Miller whipped in a left wing free kick but Dario Pisano misdirected his far post header although the ball did find its way to Fletcher who was fouled on the angle of the box for Miller to curl his effort around the wall only for Tom McDermott to save.
Fletcher then fired a fine effort narrowly wide from 20 yards as Argyle kept up the pressure without really testing McDermott.
That all changed on 21 minutes when Argyle forced four consecutive corners, and, from the third, McDermott pulled out the save of the game to deflect Fletcher’s powerful far post header over the bar.
Argyle went close again, two minutes later, when Stidson’s free kick, from inside the Argyle half, was headed on by Daniel Rooney to Fletcher but his first time effort was saved by McDermott.
It was only a short reprieve for Tyrone as, on the stroke of half time, Tyler Tonkin fired over a right wing cross that Pisano missed but Daniel Rooney was free at the far post to lash a great shot back across goal and into the roof of the net.
Argyle were unlucky not to take the lead early in the second half when Miller’s corner was met by Rooney and his effort was headed against the woodwork by Oliver Gardner.
Substitute Jason Vincent and Tonkin both fired wide of the mark before Tyrone began to enjoy their best spell of the game but Jack Calver was on hand to clear one effort off his line.
Argyle replied with Vincent firing just wide before the final whistle signalled the dreaded penalty shoot-out.
The first six spot-kicks were all converted until McDermott saved Jamil Roberts effort, leaving Naoise Martin to make it 4-3 in Tyrone’s favour.
That left Jordan Bentley to keep Argyle in the shoot-out and although he converted his first effort the referee harshly ordered a retake, stating he had not blown the whistle.
Unfortunately, the Argyle defender fired his second effort over the bar to leave Tyrone to contest tomorrow’s final against South Coast Strikers whilst Argyle with contest the third and fourth place match against County Down.
Argyle: Jordan Stidson, Jordan Bentley, Jack Calver, Oliver Gardner, Tyler Tonkin, Daniel Rooney (Jamil Roberts 46), Dario Pisano (Jason Vincent 38), Alex Fletcher (Alex Battle 38), Jake Miller, Henry Wilson, Ryan Dabbs (Sam Ryan 54). Substitutes not used: Michael Cooper, Joshua Richards, Sam Morgan.