ARGYLE stayed on course for qualification for the knock-out stages of the Checkatrade Trophy after second successive perfect penalty shoot-out victory.
The sudden-death Home Park win over Exeter City after the teams were locked at 2-2 following an exhilarating 90 minutes replicated the previous Group D triumph against Chelsea Under-21s.
As with the game with the Premier League Category 1 side, the Pilgrims had to come from behind to force the shoot-out – this time, though, they did it twice, with Ryan Edwards levelling Liam McAlinden’s opener and Nathan Blissett equalising a stunning solo second-half strike from Kyle Edwards.
The spirit of the Pilgrims’ players delighted manager Derek Adams, whose side moved to the top of their group with four points from their two games and a match against Yeovil Town still to come.
“It was an entertaining game,” he said. “I was obviously delighted to win the match, get the two points and move on to four.
“Exeter have come here with nothing to lose because they are doing so well in [League Two]; we had everything to lose and we have been able to win and progress further up the table.
“The players showed very good character because the [first] goal we concede, we’re on the attack and we don’t have enough bodies back at that moment in time to stop the counter-attack. It was a poor goal from our point of view – Exeter will obviously say it was a good goal from theirs because it was a counter-attack.
“We should have done better at the second one, as well, because their attacker gets inside us when he should be outside us.”
Argyle’s first equaliser by Edwards was a header from a corner by man of the match Gregg Wylde, whose crossing all night was a menace to the City defence.
“We work on set-plays quite a bit and had very good delivery from Gregg Wylde and Jake Jervis,” said Derek. “Gregg’s ball in for Ryan Edwards was excellent; it was a well-timed run and very good header. We probably could have scored another couple of goals from set-plays.
“Gregg’s got very good delivery with his left foot and he puts it in a great area for our attacking players in that system. Ryan Edwards has shown already that he’s more than capable of doing that; Nathan Blissett was there, as well; and even Graham Carey, at the back post, had an opportunity.”
Blissett claimed his second goal in successive games to take the game to sudden death, latching on to a sublime ball from substitute Ruben Lameiras.
Derek said: “Ruben was very lively when he came on, running with the ball, and a very good pass into Nathan. Good for him, again, to get another goal, he works ever so hard and he was unfortunate a few times with his head, not to get another couple of others.”
Wylde, who had scored the last of the successful penalties in the shoot-out against Chelsea, stepped up to convert the first one against Exeter, and – after Kyle Letheren had saved from Lloyd James –Jake Jervis, Antoni Sarcevic and Lameiras all netted, leaving Nadir Ciftci to impudently stroke home the winning kick.
“They were excellent penalties,” said Derek. “The players we chose to take them are very capable and they struck them well, and Kyle Letheren made a magnificent save.”