THE Pilgrims’ Johnstone’s Paint Trophy progress might have been achieved at Home Park, where they stunned Sky Bet League 1 pacesetters Swindon Town with a 3-2 second-round victory...
...but it was fashioned long ago in Greater Manchester.
Two first-half goals from Lewi Alessandra and another by his former Oldham Athletic team-mate Deane Smalley – who played together at the apex of a 3-5-2 formation – set Argyle on their way to the competition’s last 16, despite a strong second-half showing by the Wiltshire visitors.
“I’ve known Smalley since I was 13-14 years old, so we know each other quite well,” said Lewi. “We came through the Oldham youth team together. Smalley was always a right-winger and I was always up front but I think maybe his physical attributes have changed a little bit since back then, which has led him to play up front. He’s a very good aerial threat.
“I enjoyed playing with him – he’s got some good attributes. I think he’s had a tough start here – similar to myself – so I’m glad for him to get the goal. He took it well.”
Lewi scored five of his 12 goals last season in cup competitions and is now two from three in knockout games this time around – three behind leading scorer Reuben Reid, who started the Swindon match on the substitutes’ bench.
“I could be similar to Rubes, the chances I have had,” said Lewi. “I know I’m not going to score every chance I get – I’d probably be playing higher if that was the case – but I know I should have scored more, so it’s nice to get two goals when I get the chance to play up front.”
Lewi’s second goal, in the final minute of the first half, proved crucial as Swindon responded to adversity by scoring through a Michael Smith penalty – following Kelvin Mellor’s foul on George Barker – and substitute Ben Gladwin’s deflected shot.
Lewi said: “The way [Swindon] play leans towards a counter. We got our chances early on and it’s a good job we took them in the end, because we knew they’d come on strong when you’re tired, the way they play. Especially after the pen; it gives them a lift.”
The visitors were denied from completing their comeback and taking the game to a penalty shoot-out by a fantastic save by Luke McCormick from Gladwin’s header, with Swindon’s on-loan former Pilgrim Jack Stephens hitting the rebound against the frame of the goal.
Since admitting fault for conceding the goal which cost Argyle defeat at Accrington Stanley, Luke has shown magnificent form in the League 2 game against Shrewsbury and the cup-tie against Swindon.
Lewi said: “We knew it was going to be tough and [Swindon] did cause us problems and it’s a great save from Luke – and the post! – at the end.
“That’s Luke for you – that’s the reason why everyone treats him as highly as they do. I think the gaffer mentioned that he blamed himself for the Accy goal and, by Luke’s standards, you’d expect him to save those. On Saturday, and now, he’s been excellent.
“[Swindon] are a very good side – they are going well in League 1; everyone knows how good a footballing side they are – so it is very pleasing. At the end of the day, it is a cup competition and, even if we’d been horrific, I suppose the main thing would have been going through. Obviously you want to play well and win games but, with cup competitions, you know the be all and end all is to get through to the next round.”