Argyle 1 Newport County 0 - ReportArgyle 1
Newport County 0
by Tim Herbert
A SUPER strike from Graham Carey was the slender difference on the score-sheet between Argyle and Newport, but the gulf in quality was vast.
The Pilgrims completely bossed proceedings from the outset, and had numerous chances to open the scoring before Carey did so as half-time approached.
The second half followed a similar pattern, and though a late County rally threatened to spoilt the afternoon, the Pilgrims held on for their fourth win, and third clean sheet, in the opening five games.
Boss Derek Adams made two changes from the side that performed so well in defeating Northampton 2-0 last weekend. Reuben Reid failed to recover from the injury that saw him hobble off early at Sixfields, enabling Ryan Brunt to make his first league start for the Pilgrims this season.
Gregg Wylde also suffered a knock at Northampton but was fit enough for a place on the bench, with Craig Tanner handed the opportunity to provide support to Brunt and in-form forward Jake Jervis.
Goalkeeper James Bittner is struggling with a back problem, allowing young Cory Harvey to join his brother Tyler on the bench. Louis Rooney was also included among the replacements, bumping Josh Simpson out of the match-day squad.
Newport manager Terry Butcher also made two changes, as his team of Exiles set out to gain their first victory of the season following a demoralising 3-2 home defeat at the hands of Leyton Orient seven days ago. Lenell John-Lewis and Aaron Hayden were the duo preferred to Zak Ansah and Regan Poole.
Carl McHugh placed pressure on his role as midfield anchor within 40 seconds of kick-off, earning a deserved yellow card from referee Andy Davies after a poorly-timed challenge on Yan Klukowski.
Argyle then settled into their rhythm with some neat passing across the engine room creating space for Gary Sawyer to surge forward from left-back and skip into the box before unleashing a powerful drive that was well held by Newport custodian Joe day.
Moments later, Sawyer turned provider with a delicious cross for fellow full-back Kelvin Mellor, who was bursting into the box from deep but the eventual diving header was a long way over the crossbar.
The Newport strategy in the early stages was clearly based on containment but Argyle weaved a way past the defensive line with a clever dummy from Hiram Boateng opening space for Carey to rifle in a low shot from 20 yards, but Day was again up to the challenge.
The Pilgrims looked like a team bubbling with confidence in the first 20 minutes and a fabulous passing move ended with a sublime ball over the from Peter Hartley picking out Jake Jervis, who instantly laid off to Carey for another shot that was straight down the throat of a grateful Day.
For all the Argyle dominance, the best save of the opening third was produced by Luke McCormick, diving low to his left to block a vicious strike from Lenell John-Lewis after an excellent touch by the former Grimsby forward briefly caught out Curtis Nelson.
The excellent Mellor was the catalyst for a swift Green response, cutting inside Scott Barrow before feeding a pass to Brunt, who shaved the far post with a powerful low shot on the turn.
Mark Byrne kept McCormick honest with a decent low effort from distance but the general flow continued to favour Argyle, and Mellor again found room in the box after a reverse pass from Carey. Barrow spotted the run, however, and took any sting out of the eventual shot.
The only thing missing from a dominant home performance was that vital first goal and Boateng was next to have a bash, sauntering through the midfield and firing in a low shot that was again comfortably gobbled up by Day.
The inevitable arrived on 42 minutes and it was a screamer from Carey, smashing a thunderous half-volley into the top corner after neat lay-off from Brunt created space for the talismanic midfielder to notch his fourth goal of the season.
While it looked like a fairly innocuous training ground routine, the County defence was caught sleeping and the finish from Carey was right out of the top drawer. Nothing more than Argyle warranted for a terrific first-half display.
Butcher sought to change the pattern by removing the ineffective Scott Boden for a different approach in Aaron Collins but Argyle were still the team moving forward, and a sublime cross from Sawyer eluded the onrushing Brunt by a fraction.
The combination of Boateng and McHugh in midfield was simply too powerful for County to handle, and when the impressive Boateng fed the ball wide for Tanner, his dipping cross was glanced over the bar by Newport defender Kevin Feely.
The Exiles wqere then forced into another change, as Danny Barrow was forced off through injury after colliding with Carey, and he was replaced by Josh Laurent.
An otherwise tepid start to the second period finally came to life with a swift break from Argyle, culminating in Carey slipping the ball wide for Jervis to steer a low shot goalwards that bounced in front of Day, who was extremely fortunate to see his sloppy attempt at a save lead to the ball spooning high over his own bar.
Argyle’s next attempt stemmed from a whipped free-kick to the near post by Carey that flicked off the head of McHugh and on to the roof of the net. Newport, meanwhile, were yet to make a foray into the Argyle penalty area but while the score remained at 1-0, County were always in with a chance.
Adams turned to his replacement midway through the second half, withdrawing Tanner for the direct running of Wylde but the Greens were defending soon after, although the save was easy for McCormick after a John-Lewis header from Byrne’s corner.
Argyle were soon back up the other end for their own corner and when the ball drifted wide for Nelson to chase, his superb cross on the turn fell to Wylde for a low drive that took a couple of deflections before flying into the arms of Day.
The final Newport change saw the introduction of Ansah for Klukowski, but the big chance for a County point fell to John-Lewis, who should have done a lot better than a weak effort straight at McCormick after finding space in the box from a Collins pass.
Newport suddenly had some belief and quick feet from Ansah enabled the sprightly forward room to squeeze out a curling shot from the left channel that McCormick could only watch with relief as it bounced clear off the crossbar.
Argyle (4-2-3-1): 23 Luke McCormick; 2 Kelvin Mellor, 5 Curtis Nelson (capt), 6 Peter Hartley, 3 Gary Sawyer; 20 Hiram Boateng, 4 Carl McHugh; 14 Jake Jervis, 10 Graham Carey; 27 Craig Tanner (11 Gregg Wylde 67); 17 Ryan Brunt. Substitutes (not used): 7 Lee Cox, 15 Tyler Harvey, 16 Ben Purrington, 24 Louis Rooney, 26 Oscar Threlkeld, 30 Cory Harvey (gk).
Booked: McHugh 1.
Newport (3-5-2): 30 Joe Day; 15 Aaron Hayden, 5 Kevin Feely, 3 Scott Barrow; 2 Danny Holmes (4 Josh Laurent 59), 33 Mark Byrne (capt), 8 Yan Klukoswki (9 Zak Ansah 80), 7 Medy Elito, 14 Nana Ofori-Twumasi; 10 Lenell John-Lewis, 19 Scott Boden (39 Aaron Collins half-time). Substitutes (not used): 1 Rhys Taylor (gk), 20 Tom Owen-Evans, 22 Kieran Parselle, 26 Regan Poole.
Referee: Andy Davies.
Attendance: 7,811 (291 away).