Exeter City 1
Exeter won 3-0 on penalties
Boco (Argyle, missed) 0-0
Gosling (Exeter, scored) 0-1
Lavery (missed) 0-1
Reid (scored) 0-2
Wotton (saved) 0-2
Nichols (scored) 0-3
by RICK COWDERY
HOLDERS Argyle suffered sudden death in the Edenvale Turf Ltd. Devon Challenge Cup on Tuesday night, knocked out of this year’s competition by their fiercest rivals in a penalty shoot-out.
The quarter-final tie ended 1-1 after 90 minutes, with almost everything of note happening in the last ten of those as the mini Devon Expressway Derby proved as hard-fought as any Football League affair.
The Pilgrims, who won a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy shoot-out at Cheltenham earlier in the campaign, reverted to type in the decider, failing to convert any of their kicks taken by Rommy Boco, Caolan Lavery and – shock! – Paul Wotton.
Jake Gosling and substitute Jamie Reid scored for City before Tom Nichols delivered the coup de grace.
Lavery, Argyle’s loan signing from Sheffield Wednesday, had headed the Pilgrims level in the second minute of injury-time, after Matt Jay had nipped in to score the opener for Exeter with eight minutes remaining.
That followed a penalty miss by, ironically, Nichols after Aaron Dawson had been brought down by Andre Blackman.
Argyle needed to show the defensive rigidity which has been a hallmark of their season so far in an opening during which the visitors had plenty of possession in the Pilgrims’ half.
For the main part, though, it was huff without the puff to blow down an Argyle back four which housed the uncompromising figures of Wotton and Guy Branston.
Indeed, the Pilgrims countered the early flow well enough to be the ones to fashion the game’s first nearly moment, when Hamza Bencherif floated a header from a corner back across the goal and just wide of the post.
That was the signal for things to even out, but Exeter responded with a free-kick from Gosling, their 2012 FA Cup nemesis, that thwacked back off Jake Cole’s post.
Clear cut chances remained at a premium early in the second half as the two teams continued to cancel each other our. When Argyle did get the sniff of an opportunity, from a deflected corner, Branston’s first-time volley flew just wide.
Branston remained at the centre of things, with referee Adam Bromley obliged to speak to him and Nichols at length after the pair clashed. A handshake, rather than a card of any colour, was the eventual outcome.
Both sides then came close to handing their opponents the lead. First, Cole dived athletically to keep out a wayward header from team-mate Jamie Richards. Then a six-yard box clearance from a City defender hit one of his colleagues on the backside before rebounding for a corner.
With ten minutes to go, Blackman nudged Dawson off the ball to give away an undisputed penalty which Nichols put the wrong side of the post.
Argyle’s reprieve was short-lived, however, as Jay walked through the Argyle back line after being slipped the perfect pass and kept his cool to chip the ball delicately over Cole.
It looked like being enough, but there were plenty of dramatic twists to come.
Argyle (4-4-2): 1 Jake Cole; 2 Ben Purrington, 15 Paul Wotton (c), 5 Guy Branston, 4 Jamie Richards; 7 Isaac Vassell (14 Josh Hutchinson 90), 6 Kieran Asumadu-Sakyi (11 Solomon Wheatley 65), 10 Hamza Bencherif, 3 Andre Blackman (17 Ethan Stark 87); 8 Rommy Boco, 9 Caolan Lavery. Substitutes (not used): 19 Aaron Bentley, 23 Andrew Hannah (gk).
Exeter City (4-4-2): 1 Christy Pym; 15 Jordan Moore-Taylor (C), 5 Pat Baldwin, 26 Jordan Tillson, 16 Aaron Dawson; 14 Tommy Doherty, 24 Jacob Jagger-Cane, 21 Jake Gosling, 27 Matt Jay; 20 Tom Nichols, 22 Jimmy Keohane (18 Jamie Reid 62). Substitutes (not used): 7 George Rigg, 23 Jacob Wannell, 31 Elliott Chamberlain, 33 James Hamon (gk).
Referee: Adam Bromley.