Yeovil Town 2
Hayter 21, Madden 24
ARGYLE surrendered their unbeaten pre-season run in their final game before the new Sky Bet League 2 campaign kicks off next Saturday, but not without a considerable fight.
After bossing the opening sparring, they were decked by a quick one-two midway through the first half, when Yeovil’s highly productive strike force of James Hayter and Paddy Madden turned the game’s tide with a goal apiece.
The Pilgrims, though, picked themselves up and bounced off the ropes to reduce the arrears shortly after the interval – against, remember, opposition from two leagues above them – through substitute Tyler Harvey.
Yeovil had arrived at Home Park late for the game, after being sucked into M5 tailbacks caused by an accident involving a horsebox, and similarly took their time getting into the game.
Indeed, the Pilgrims might have taken the lead four times in the opening ten minutes, had it not been for an alertness by opposition goalkeeper Marek Stech that few of his colleagues apparently shared.
The Glovers’ gloveman got a paw on Reuben Reid’s drive from 12 yards to turn the ball around the post before producing a double save, blocking Curtis Nelson’s close-in shot after having beaten out Conor Hourihane’s 25-yard drive into his path.
Another drilled grubber by Hourihane from even further out had the Czech Under-21 international stopper scrambling across his goal to complete a fine quartet of saves.
Argyle maintained the momentum, and Marvin Morgan came close to his first Home Park goal when he took the ball past Marek and squeezed out a shot from the impossibly acute angle of virtually on the bye-line which dribbled across the goal.
Suddenly, from this position of strength, Argyle were two goals behind. Madden supplied Hayter with a cross which the senior striking partner headed back past Jake Cole; before the scorer repaid the compliment by teeing up last season’s leading League 1 scorer for a thumping low drive.
The double-quick double strike was a perfect illustration of manager John Sheridan’s warning earlier in pre-season, that the stronger sides would ruthlessly expose any defensive weakness in a manner that the likes of Elburton, Tiverton and Bath had been unable to. Quod erat demonstrandum.
Argyle bounced back with some gusto, Reid’s long-ranger asking another question of Stech before, as the interval approached, Nelson headed Luke Young’s corner over the crossbar.
Cole, Morgan and left-back newbie Andre Blackman were all withdrawn at half-time in favour of Luke McCormick, Harvey and Ben Purrington. The latter two had needed a bit of physio in the first 45 minutes, while Cole and McCormick have played one half each of tall five pre-season games.
The change of personnel heralded a similarly bright start to the second half as the Pilgrims had showed an hour earlier but, this time, they made it count.
Harvey had already put Stech on his backside after twisting to make space for a shot inside the penalty area, when Young picked him out with a low cross from the right that the teenage striker guided part the previously impassable Czech.
The momentum was with Argyle’s, whose character could again not be called into question.
Stech completed a hat-trick of saves from a third Hourihane low drive from outside the penalty area before blocking a close-range effort by Reid, who was eye-catching against his parent club.
Also noteworthy was the Pilgrims’ desire, which saw them continue to press in the oppressingly close weather, even when the traditional raft of second-half substitutions naturally disrupted the natural flow of the game.
Testimony to their attacking mentality was that McCormick was a virtual spectator, but had to be on his toes to come out of his goalmouth and thwart Madden in the final ten minutes.
So that is that. Now for the serious stuff.
Argyle (4-4-2): 1 Jake Cole (23 Luke McCormick half-time); 2 Durrell Berry, 4 Paul Wotton (14 Maxime Blanchard 60), 5 Curtis Nelson (17 Jamie Richards 85), 3 Andre Blackman (15 Ben Purrington half-time); 8 Luke Young (16 Isaac Vassell 57), 6 Conor Hourihane (c), 11 Dominic Blizzard, 7 Lewis Alessandra; 9 Reuben Reid (19 Ryan Lane 75), 10 Marvin Morgan (18 Tyler Harvey half-time).
Yeovil Town (4-3-3): 1 Marek Stech; 2 Luke Ayling (14 Ryan Burge 81), 5 Byron Webster, 6 Dan Seaborne, 4 Alan Tate; 7 Kevin Dawson, 3 Joe Edwards, 8 Ed Upson (20 Billy Clifford 25), 10 Sam Foley (11 Joel Grant 75); 9 James Hayter, 17 Paddy Madden (13 Keiffer Moore 84). Substitutes (not used): 12 Gareth Stewart (gk), 15 Lewis Young, 18 Nana Twumasi, 22 Joey Jones.
Referee: Paul Rees.
Attendance: 2,492 (114 away).