Argyle 2 Japan 0
ARGYLE'S young Milk Cup squad will remain in Northern Ireland after a 2-0 win over the Japanese FA.The Pilgrims must now await other results to see who they will meet in the next round of games but it seems likely that they will take their place in the top eight of the Milk Cup draw after winning two of their three opening group games.
But one thing is for sure; this very young Argyle team came of age with this very impressive victory at Castlerock against an International Japanese youth side.
Two superb pieces of finishing in the final 11 minutes, from Alex Fletcher and Jake Miller, was no more than Argyle deserved as they more than matched their technically gifted opponents.
But it is not all about the goals as the Argyle defence restricted their opponents to just one real scoring opportunity in the game when Keisuke Hitaka’s fierce 12 yard drive brought a fine save out of goalkeeper Jordan Stidson and when the Japanese striker latched on to the loose ball central defender Oliver Gardner made a great goaline clearance.
Up to that stage the chances had all fallen to Argyle with the first coming as early as the second minute when the impressive Tyler Tonkin forced his way through the middle of the Japan defence only for ‘keeper Kenta Hayashi to save his final effort.
Miller tried his luck from 20 yards before Fletcher ran across two defenders, turned and forced a fine save out of Hayashi with his low, angled drive.
Fletcher was again in the thick of the action as he forced his way along the left bye-line but his driven cross was crashed, narrowly wide of his own post, but defender Wakaba Shimoguchi.
Argyle continued to push forward and great feet from Ryan Dabbs saw him leave his marker floundering before firing in a cross that the Japan defence had four attempts at clearing before finally succeeding.
The Japanese did not have their first real attempt at goal until the 20th minute when Kazuya Miyata fire over Stidson’s bar from 25 yards.
Argyle replied with great work as Tonkin reeked havoc in the opposition area. Sadly, though, Daniel Rooney could not get any pace on his shot and Hayashi saved with ease.
Yet the Pilgrims could have gone in at the break behind had not Stidson and Gardner combined to keep their clean sheet.
The second half began with Miller swinging in a free kick that Jordan Bentley met with a glancing header that flew just wide of the far post.
The Japanese now enjoyed a short spell in which they regained control in the midfield and only a fine block by the tireless Henry Wilson prevented Yuta Nobe opening the scoring.
The Argyle coaches made changes and that effectively ended the Japanese spell and, with just 11 minutes left, they struck with a goal of real quality.
Substitute Alex Battle, who had done well since his introduction in to the game, combined on the right with Rooney who fired over a cross that found Fletcher, forcing his way in front of his marker, to send a great header into the far corner of the net past a static Hayashi.
There were just two minutes of normal time remaining when Miller picked the ball up in midfield to unleash a terrific drive that flew past a startled Hayashi from fully 30 yards to put the seal on a notable victory.
Argyle: Jordan Stidson, Jordan Bentley, Oliver Gardner, Tyler Tonkin (Joshua Richards 46),Daniel Rooney, Dario Pisano (Alex Battle 22), Alex Fletcher, Jake Miller, Henry Wilson, Jamil Roberts (Jack Calver 46), Ryan Dabbs (Sam Ryan 18). Substitutes (not used): Jason Vincent, Sam Morgan, Michael Cooper.