Elburton Villa 2 Argyle 4
Elburton Villa 2
Hulme 25, Mann 89
Nelson 7, Brunt pen 28, 57, Jervis 58
RYAN Brunt netted twice as Argyle got back on the bike for their first time since their play-off disappointment nine weeks previously with a comfortable victory over South West Peninsula opposition.
Brunt, who has clearly worked hard on more than his tan during the summer, converted a 28th-minute penalty to put Derek Adams’ side ahead for the second time in the match after Pilgrims’ skipper and Aaron Hulme had traded headers.
He increased the margin before the hour and, in the very next attack, his strike partner Jake Jervis opened his Argyle account with the goal of the game and put the victory in the bag long before Elburton substitute Robbie Mann netted a last-minute consolation.
Scotland had thoughtfully sent down its dreichest weather to welcome Argyle’s newest adopted son of Caledonia, who cannot have overseen many July games wearing his full bench jacket, even in his previous Highlands workplace. Still, at least it gave the players an earlier than usual opportunity to reacquaint themselves with playing under floodlights.
Adams threw all five of his summer signings into the dreary gloaming, using a 4-4-2 formation preferred, but rarely used, by his predecessor, who found it difficult to squeeze the division’s best back five into a four-man defensive unit. The Scottish solution was to move Carl McHugh into a central midfield role, leaving Peter Hartley and captain Nelson in the heart of defence, with Gary Sawyer at left-back in his homecoming game and Kelvin Mellor on the opposite flank.
In the absence of injured Reuben Reid, Brunt was paired up front with new man Jervis, while McHugh’s three midfield colleagues were also all wearing the Green for the first time: fellow Irishman Graham Carey alongside; Gregg Wylde on the left; and Josh Simpson on the right.
New and old combined sweetly in the sixth minute, with Carey providing the delivery from a left-wing corner which Nelson powered home the new regime’s first goal.
However, any thoughts that Argyle – match-ready, but understandably not yet at the peak of their match-fitness – might run away with things were put in check by a game Elburton side that equalised midway through the first half when Hulme headed home Sam Carter’s delivery from close range.
Parity prevailed for three minutes, with Brunt equalising from the penalty spot after Jervis had nipped in to toe the ball away from John Styring, whose lunge for a ball that was no longer there resulted in illegal contact with the Argyle forward.
Still the Pilgrims did not have matters their own way, with goalkeeper James Bittner – starting in place of the injured Luke McCormick – as busy as any man on the lush Haye Road surface.
Brunt claimed his second for an unchanged Pilgrims side 12 minutes after the break, muscling away Lee Rundle before drilling a shot low to goalkeeper Ryan Rickard’s right, and, before you could say ‘Played, Brunty’, Jervis had made it 4-1 with a goal all of his own making, an incisive run followed by a precise shot.
Brunt departed soon afterwards, allowing the eye-catching Carey to move up front before he, too, was replaced, by Tyler Harvey.
The threat of an unseasonal abandonment looked more likely to deprive the Pilgrims of a handsome start to their latest new era as the mists descended and the game dwindled to its conclusion amid the usual round of pre-season friendly substitutions.
Elburton Villa (4-4-2): 1 Ryan Rickard (20 Jason Peters 62); 2 Dom Bryant (16 Sam McGowan 70), 6 John Styring, 17 Lee Rundle (15 John Winters 75), 3 Patrick Kendall (21 Pete Stryring 75); 11 Sam Carter (22 Ash Menhennick 75), 4 Jordan Rundle (12 Ben Douglas half-time), 8 Tom Cole (capt, 5 Lee Coxon 60), 7 Matt Slinger (19 Andy Parker 60); 10 Zac Wheeler (14 Robbie Mann 70), 9 Aaron Hulme (18 Jacob Smale 60).
Argyle (4-4-2): 21 James Bittner (23 Cory Harvey 82); 2 Kevin Mellor, 5 Curtis Nelson (capt), 6 Peter Hartley (19 Aaron Bentley 75), 3 Gary Sawyer; 8 Josh Simpson (25 Ryan Lane 82), 4 Carl McHugh, 10 Graham Carey (15 Tyler Harvey 75), 11 Gregg Wylde (22 Callum Hall 75); 14 Jake Jervis (24 Louis Rooney 77), 17 Ryan Brunt (16 Ben Purrington 60)
Referee: Adam Hopkins.