Argyle 5 Hartlepool 0 - Match ReportArgyle 5
Harvey 6, 25, Rooney 58, 85, Nelson 61
by Haden Tye
QUARTER to eight, Thursday night, Fratton Park.
That is when Argyle will next be in action, thanks to a 5-0 thumping of Hartlepool, and ten-man Portsmouth losing 2-1 to Sky Bet League 2 champions Northampton. Five goals, fifth place, and the play-offs to look forward to.
A very-much rested Argyle side cruised past Hartlepool, with academy graduates Tyler Harvey and Louis Rooney both scoring two, in a truly entertaining afternoon at Home Park in front of a crowd of more than 10,000.
It was a brilliant afternoon, in particularly for Rooney, who made his first ever appearance for Argyle and hit a strike so good that he probably could not have dreamed it up. Rooney also scored a header, whilst Harvey will also be delighted with his performance, as he grabbed a first-half brace. Curtis Nelson scored Argyle's fifth with a header from a corner, meaning all of Argyle's goal-scorers were academy graduates.
Derek Adams now has many selection dilemmas to make in the week, before the Pilgrims travel to Portsmouth, as it was a hugely impressive performance all-round from Argyle.
Argyle began the day with the knowledge that unless they bettered Portsmouth's result, then Home Park would host Thursday night's first-leg, and the second-leg would be at Fratton Park. If Argyle were to better Portsmouth's score however, then they would travel to Fratton Park on Thursday night, and host the second-leg on Sunday.
Hartlepool had little to play for, with the 16th place they occupied before kick-off being the highest they could possibly finish, and 18th the worst, if both Notts County and Yeovil overtook them. Nevertheless, Hartlepool's fans continued the tradition of fancy dress for their last away game of the season, dressing as stormtroopers. Two seasons ago, the Pools fans traveled to Home Park as Thunderbirds to see a 1-1 draw.
Derek Adams fielded a largely rested side, with seven changes; three of whom were Argyle academy graduates of 20 years of age or younger. That brought the average age of Argyle's starting eleven down to just under 22 and a half. Louis Rooney, 19; Ben Purrington, 19 and Tyler Harvey, 20 all started for the Pilgrims, with Adams' side boasting another two academy graduates, in Curtis Nelson and Gary Sawyer, of different vintages.
Adams opted for a 4-2-3-1 that he has deployed regularly this season. Vincent Dorel, 24, got his first opportunity in the Argyle goal since his arrival in March. From left to right, Argyle's defence consisted of Sawyer, Nelson, Jordon Forster and Kelvin Mellor. Purrington and Hiram Boateng sat in front of the back four. In front of Argyle's youthful holding midfielders, Adams opted for Gregg Wylde on the left, Craig Tanner on the right, and Harvey behind Louis Rooney.
Rooney, was to take to the pitch for Argyle's first team for the first time in his career, despite being an unused substitute on 22 occasions this season. It was Harvey's first start since the Pilgrims FA Cup game against AFC Fylde, on November 8, 2014, and his first league start since September 16, 2014 against Wycombe.
However, Harvey took little time to get into the action, firing Argyle ahead after just six minutes. Harvey controlled on the edge of the box and rifled a powerful effort into the bottom left hand corner from outside the box. The 20-year-old looked confident, as he played a brilliant through ball down the right to Wylde, whose cross deflected back of the Argyle's wingers' leg for a Hartlepool goal kick.
Hartlepool offered little threat to the Argyle goal, but had a half chance when former Pilgrim Nathan Thomas dragged a left-footed effort into the welcoming hands of Dorel.
Harvey continued to look at home playing in behind the striker, and fed a lovely pass down the right to Tanner, who danced past the left-back and into the box but pulled his shot wide of the right-hand post.
Argyle then offered a threat from the other wing, as Wylde crossed low and hard from the left, and Rob Jones failed to clear. The ball fell to Rooney, who shot from close-range however had his angle closed down by Trevor Carson in the Hartlepool net.
Carson could do little to stop Argyle's next attack from the left, however. Wylde burst down the wing and past the defender to loft a ball to the far right-hand side of the box, which was met by the oncoming Harvey, who connected with the ball enough to steer it into the right hand side of the Hartlepool net.
Argyle controlled the best part of the first-half possession, but an ex-Pilgrim offered the biggest threat for the Pools. Firstly, Thomas struck a shot from the right of Argyle's box, and felt he should have had a penalty, but the referee was far from convinced. Then, Thomas forced a save from Dorel, when he curled a left-footed effort which was comfortably palmed away by the Argyle keeper.
A nice exchange down the left between Harvey, Tanner and Sawyer saw Argyle's left back play the ball back to a confident Harvey in the Hartlepool box. The youngster hit a shot with the outside of his boot but it was comfortably caught by Carson in the Pools goal.
After the break, Boateng curled a low left-footed shot from outside the box but it went wide of the left-hand post, although most of the crowds attention at the time was with the Hartlepool stormtroopers, who were doing the conga. Yes, really.
A determined Thomas nearly gave them something to dance and shout about too, as he cut inside and hit a powerful drive that was palmed away by Dorel in the Argyle goal.
Then Rooney announced himself.
With a strike that his namesake Wayne would have been proud of, Rooney volleyed from outside the Hartlepool box over a helpless Carson, and into the top left corner of the Hartlepool goal. A definite candidate for goal of the season, it was a goal that the youngster will never forget. In front of the Devonport End, it was a truly magical moment for the youngster.
Just two minutes later, on the stroke of the hour mark, Nelson extended Argyle's lead. This time it was Harvey with the assist, as his lofted corner was met by the unmarked Argyle captain at the back post.
Jake Gray nearly pulled back a consolation for the Pools when he stormed into the Argyle box, but he dragged his shot wide, with Dorel hardly troubled. Adams in the Argyle dugout was visibly untroubled too, as minutes later he introduced Jordan Bentley, who turned 17 a week ago, in to the Argyle defence in the place of Nelson.
Gray troubled again from a similar position, but could only hit the side-netting, much to the surprise of several of the stormtroopers behind the goal that thought they had pulled one back. The Pools continued to press forcing a save out of Dorel, although Argyle had the points all wrapped up.
Argyle weren't done with four though. Some good work from Wylde saw him nutmeg a Hartlepool player, and cut the ball back to Carey. Argyle's player of the season hit a shot that was deflected off of Argyle's player of the match, Harvey, and fell to Rooney, who headed home his second.
In injury time, Carey skipped past two defenders into the box but curled a right footed shot wide, with an opportunity he should have scored from - not that it mattered.
It will matter in five days time however, when Argyle will head to Fratton Park in search of a victory.
Two games to go. Or, hopefully, three.
Argyle (4-2-3-1): 21 Vincent Dorel; 2 Kelvin Mellor, 5 Curtis Nelson (capt) (29 Jordan Bentley 66), 28 Jordon Forster, 3 Gary Sawyer; 20 Hiram Boateng (10 Graham Carey 78), 16 Ben Purrington; 27 Craig Tanner, 15 Tyler Harvey, 11 Gregg Wylde (19 Jamille Matt 85); 24 Louis Rooney. Substitutes (not used): 14 Jake Jervis, 23 Luke McCormick (gk).
Hartlepool United (4-4-1-1): 1 Trevor Carson; 2 Carl Magnay (30 Jake Gray half-time), 26 Adam Jackson, 29 Rob Jones (19 Jordan Richards half-time), 20 Dan Jones; 18 Lewis Hawkins, 14 Michael Woods, 16 Nicky Featherstone, 33 Luke James; 7 Nathan Thomas (8 Brad Walker 71); 10 Billy Paynter (capt). Substitutes (not used): 9 Rakish Bingham, 13 Adam Bartlett (gk), 15 Rhys Oates, 28 Josh Laurent.
Referee: Darren Deadman.
Attendance: 10,019 (521 away).