Peterborough United 2
Sawyer og 5, Morias 47
OPENING-DAY games tend to be exciting. Matches with Peterborough United tend to be action-packed. It was not much of a surprise, then, that Argyle’s return to Sky bet League One began with a rip-roaring game against the Posh, although Argyle would fall narrowly short in a 2-1 defeat.
An early opener from Leo Da Silva Lopes, with a kind deflection off the calf of Gary Sawyer, gave the Posh the lead and the Greens an immediate challenge. A strong Peterborough side doubled their lead shortly after half time thanks to Junior Morias, but the match was far from dead. Substitute Gregg Wylde made it 2-1 15 minutes from time and dominated the late stages, but Argyle gallantly fell to their first defeat since April Fools Day.
After an intriguing pre-season of impressive showings from new signings, manager Derek Adams had one of his more difficult team selection decisions to make. Ryan Edwards and Joel Grant were the new boys to get the nod, as Lionel Ainsworth, Ruben Lameiras and Aaron Taylor-Sinclair, Gregg Wylde and Robert TeLoeke patiently taking their place on the bench.
The hosts, meanwhile, had some new firepower of their own to show off. Cultured central midfielder Michael Doughty, experienced centre back Steven Taylor and striker Jack Marriott were fresh threats for the Posh, in particular – the latter netting for Luton Town during Argyle’s previous season opener.
An attack-focused line-up from the Posh, lining up with three narrow defenders, immediately allowed Argyle an opportunity out wide. Jake Jervis was released down the right flank by a clever-cross field ball, and his cross only missed the stretching Ryan Taylor thanks to Jack Baldwin’s last-ditch flick behind. Jervis caused more trouble with his resulting corner, but Ryan Edwards’ downward header drifted wide.
But United’s own width helped them make the breakthrough moments later. Good work in the middle by Marcus Maddison allowed him to play in Da Silva Lopes on the right wing. His cross hit the first man, Gary Sawyer, but not enough of him; the deflection took the ball inside the near post, where a scrambling Luke McCormick could only help it into the net.
Jervis tried to immediately respond with a near-post shot of his own, but goalkeeper Jonathan Bond was on hand to turn it behind.
An early reshuffle was needed by Adams, as Taylor appeared to twist his ankle on the way down from an aerial challenge. Ainsworth made his competitive bow for the Pilgrims as his replacement, with Jervis moving into the central striking position.
As Argyle continued to reorganise themselves, an uncleared free-kick suddenly left Gwion Edwards with a yard of space, but he could only drag an effort wide. Graham Carey was then somewhat harshly booked for a challenge on Anthony Grant. Lopes received the same treatment shortly after, as referee John Busby laid a rather strict precedent for the remaining hour of the game.
Carey showed this season’s first glimpse of his swashbuckling best shortly after, bursting into the box and stirring Bond into a good save. From the corner, Carey’s cross was headed into the path of Jervis, whose acrobatic flick floated over.
The Irish talisman dropped deeper moments later to cross into a crowded area. Joel Grant’s shot was blocked from close range, but the ball fell to Antoni Sarcevic. His effort looked destined for the net with Bond out of position, but the ‘keeper produced an outstanding stop to keep his side in front.
A goal down at the break for Argyle, then, and some thinking to do after Taylor’s departure reduced the Greens’ ability to keep the ball high up the field. Getting those first balls won more often, or finding a way to win more of the subsequent scraps, was in order.
Any masterplan laid out by Adams, however, was nullified less than two minutes after the restart, as Marriott continued his habit of dealing out opening-day doldrums to Argyle. The striker challenged for ball with the advancing Sonny Bradley; Sonny reached the ball first and went to ground, but Mr Busby saw no wrongdoing in the challenge. Marriott advanced forward, squared a simple ball to Junior Morias, and Argyle were suddenly 2-0 behind.
A quick response was vital, and almost came to fruition. Lionel Ainsworth covered an immense amount of ground to block a pass out of Peterborough’s back line. That created a two-on-one situation, with Ainsworth slipping through Grant. Bond, though, continued his superb day between the Posh sticks, tipping Grant’s effort wide.
The Argyle pressure continued, but Bond’s confidence only grew stronger. The hosts failed to clear a corner which eventually fell to substitute Gregg Wylde. The Scot produced another shot that deserved to find the net, only for the shot-stopper to throw out an arm and tip it over.
Doughty and Maddison then spurned chances to kill the game, but it was Peterborough’s efforts to get a third that proved to provide Argyle with a way back into the match. Another United attack was thwarted in midfield, allowing Carey to launch his own counter. Final substitute Ruben Lameiras was played through, and he teed up Gregg Wylde for the simplest of finishes to half the deficit.
The expected Argyle onslaught – and Peterborough retreat – ensued. Possession and intent belonged to the visitors in totality as we headed into six additional minutes. A well-crafted move saw Lameiras’ cross-cum-shot blocked to safety, which is the closest the Greens would come to evening things up.
Argyle will have to pick themselves up from an opening-day defeat in a feisty match against strong opposition. To be fair, though, we did a pretty good job of that last season…
Peterborough United (3-5-2): 1 Jonathan Bond, 5 Ryan Tafazolli, 6 Jack Baldwin (capt), 7 Gwion Edwards, 11 Marcus Maddison, (10 Danny Lloyd 80) 14 Jack Marriott, 16 Junior Morias (19 Idris Kanu 68), 18 Leo Da Silva Lopes (17 Alex Penny, 87), 20 Michael Doughty, 27 Steven Taylor, 42 Anthony Grant. Substitutes (not used): 24 Josh Tibbetts (gk), 3 Andrew Hughes, 8 Chris Forrester, 23 Callum Chettle.
Booked: Lopes 28, Grant 66.
Argyle (4-2-3-1):23 Luke McCormick (capt); 3 Gary Sawyer, 5 Ryan Edwards, 15 Sonny Bradley, 18 Oscar Threlkeld; 24 David Fox, 7 Antoni Sarcevic; 16 Joel Grant (21 Gregg Wylde 59), 10 Graham Carey, 14 Jake Jervis (11 Ruben Lameiras 70); 19 Ryan Taylor (8 Lionel Ainsworth 22). Substitutes (not used): 1 Robert Te Loeke (gk), 2 Gary Miller, 4 Yann Songo’o, 17 Aaron Taylor-Sinclair.
Booked: Carey 26, Fox 49.
Referee: John Busby.
Attendance: 7,622 (1,303 away).