Final Third Development League - Argyle 2 Newport 1

Argyle 2
Morgan 45, 81

Newport County 1
Howe 20

by Alex Wood

MARVIN Morgan’s brace either side of half-time was enough to ensure all three points in Argyle’s latest fixture in the Final Third Development League against table-toppers Newport County.

The Exiles arrived at Home Park for Tuesday’s match on the back of an impressive three-game unbeaten run, while the Pilgrims were still searching for their first win in the competition.

Despite taking the lead in the 20th minute through Rene Howe, the visitors ultimately failed to capitalise on their dominance and convert their chances - of which there were a few - into goals. Argyle, comparatively, struggled to create many chances throughout the ninety minutes but came from behind to finish the victors.

As referee Robert Dabbs got play underway, the visitors started the brighter. The first real chance of the game came in the fifth minute, when Newport County’s striker Joe Parker peeled away from the advances of Tom Moxham on the edge of the box, but his rushed shot was dragged wide.

Newport went close to opening the scoring again only minutes later. Wide-man Aaron Collins whipped his second corner of the game into a crowded six-yard box and the Argyle defence only just managed to clear the loose ball amidst a sea of amber and yellow shirts. As Newport looked to recover possession, left-back Callum Hall broke free on the left flank and managed to square the ball to teammate Marvin Morgan. With defender Kieran Parselle breathing down his neck, Morgan delayed before pulling the trigger, but his shot was blocked.

Midfielder Jason Banton was forced to depart the field of play in the ninth minute and was replaced by Jamil Roberts, just as the Pilgrims started to settle on the ball and enjoy a brief spell of possession.

In the face of Argyle’s somewhat tentative approach play, however, the Exiles were often quick to counter. Midfielder Yan Klukowski went close to breaking the deadlock with a wayward shot that flew narrowly wide of the post before Parker broke free and lofted a shot over the onrushing James Bittner. Much to the relief of the home side, the ball travelled over the bar.

The first goal of the game came in the 20th minute. Collins, who was proving a real handful on the right side, sent over an inviting cross that striker Howe met with a firm header into the centre of the goal to make it 1-0 to the visitors.

With the one goal advantage, Newport looked both comfortable and assured in possession and the Pilgrims struggled to contain County’s quick passing and movement.

New signing Ryan Brunt, who was making his first start in the green and white, went close to levelling the tie on a couple of occasions. His first effort was a rather tame shot that was smothered by goalkeeper Lenny Pidgeley, while his second, a stooping header, had beaten the Newport number one but rattled back off the upright.

Despite a few half-chances, Exiles ‘keeper Pidgeley was as much a bystander in the game as the few fans that were sat watching on from the Grandstand.

That all changed moments before half-time. With Newport seemingly cruising to a deserved 1-0 lead at the break, Morgan popped up on the edge of the box to level the tie at 1-1.

It was an eye-catching goal by the Argyle forward, who managed to curl the ball around Parselle and a stranded Pidgeley from at least 20 yards. Newport barely had time to kick before the half-time whistle sounded, and the smattering of Pilgrims who had turned out had been treated for their efforts.

As play resumed in the second half, Argyle certainly looked the sharper of the two sides. Morgan thought he had scored again after shrugging off one defender and beating the goalkeeper, but his dinked shot was denied by the quick-thinking of Max Porter who had recovered well.

Newport, however, responded well. With half an hour left to play, Klukowski nearly doubled their lead with a fine effort from outside of the box that shook the post. As the ball bounced back into the box, Parselle darted in front of Aaron Bentley to meet the rebound but his attempt was blocked by Moxham.

Collins and Parker, who had both proved lively in the first half, continued to menace the Argyle defence, forcing Bittner to make a string of saves. The duo threatened again minutes later, breaking through the middle, but were halted by the expertly timed tackles of Bentley and Moxham.

Despite sustained County pressure, it was the Pilgrims who scored next. With ten minutes left on the clock, Thomas made a trademark surge down the flank before squaring it across the face of goal. The intended target, substitute Louis Rooney, failed to connect; however, Morgan pounced on the loose ball and fired into the bottom corner to give Argyle a 2-1 lead.

As the referee blew the final whistle, Argyle breathed a huge sigh of relief. Whilst the home side failed to match their Welsh counterparts in terms of possession, completed passes and attempts on target, the Pilgrims beat their opponents with the single most important statistic in football; goals scored.

Argyle (4-4-2): 1 James Bittner; 2 Mason Hughes, 5 Aaron Bentley, 4 Tom Moxham, 3 Callum Hall; 7 Ryan Lane, 6 Ollie Norburn, 8 Jason Banton (14 Jamil Roberts 9) 11 Nathan Thomas; 9 Ryan Brunt (17 Louis Rooney 64), 10 Marvin Morgan. Substitutes (unused): 15 Jason Vincent, 16 Liam Knowles.

Newport (3-5-2): 1 Lenny Pidgeley; 2 Aidan O’Kelly, 3 Kieran Parselle, 4 Max Porter, 5 Mike Flynn; 6 Regan Poole, 8 Yan Klukowski, 9 Rene Howe (12 Nyall Grey 64), 10 Joe Parker; 11 Robbie Willmott (16 Lewis Bamford 58), 20 Aaron Collins. Substitutes (unused): 14 Spencer Woods, 15 Corey Shephard, 17 Jake Keating.