Argyle 1 Stevenage 0 - REPORT
AN injury-time goal from substitute Ruben Lameiras kept Argyle on the road to Wembley, and avoided a midweek drive to the other side of the country.
The Portuguese midfielder rubber-stamped an absolutely dominant performance from the Pilgrims against spirited, but outplayed, opponents. Given the Hertfordshire new town’s links with Arsenal, the fact that a former Tottenham Hotspur player knocked them out of the competition will have only made matter worse.
Argyle manager Derek Adams had selected the identical starting 11 that had performed so well against Sunderland at the Theatre of Greens in their previous Sky Bet League One match. It was also the same line-up that had paved the way for victories over Gillingham, at home, and at Scunthorpe United.
There was a welcome return to the first-team squad for forward Ryan Taylor, whose last previous appearance had come as a substitute against Blackpool at Home Park, two months earlier.
The attack was led by the man who has assumed Taylor’s mantle this season, and there were few early indications that this week’s double award-winning success has lessened the fire in Freddie Ladapo’s belly.
Only a last-ditch tackle from Scott Cuthbert – well-timed and, in the circumstances, brave – denied him from capitalising on David Fox’s first-time through-ball, and such has been the impact that he has made this season, Home Park crackled every time Ladapo received the ball.
Graham Carey has long since had the same effect on the Green Army and the man who preceded Ladapo as Sky Bet League One’s October Player of the Month gave plenty of examples of why that is the case.
With the slightest of modifications to his radar, or a lesser goalkeeper than Seny Dieng, he could have had a hat-trick in the opening half: an early shot that scudded wide; a free-kick which just would not come down quickly enough; and a near-post save from a thumping drive were his three most notable opportunities, and there were others.
With full-backs Tafari Moore and Conor Grant providing attacking support to Carey and Joel Grant out wide, most of the first-half play took place in the Stevenage final third of the field.
Argyle, though, could not find a way through a determined and disciplined defence, and half-time arrived with the equally unwelcome twin outcomes of an upset or a replay still live possibilities.
Argyle increased their attacking prowess early in the second half, although Lameiras’s introduction for Jamie Ness might not have been entirely tactical. The midfielder has scored before this season soon after coming on and he was given the chance to replicate that after Ladapo’s surge down the left, but fluffed his first lines.
The Pilgrims increased their earlier dominance, going down the Stevenage right almost at will. Joel Grant saw a strong drive saved by Dieng before Lameiras flashed a shot across the goal.
Argyle’s attacking urgency increased in direct proportion to the nearness of the end of the game and a midweek trip to Hertfordshire. Carey’s constant cut-ins off the right-hand side often threatened, most notably when he offloaded to Lameiras for a shot that went over.
With the minutes ticking away, the clock was stopped entirely to allow lengthy treatment to opposition midfielder Steve Seddon, who was eventually wheeled away on a stretcher with his leg strapped.
The interruption did not affect the Pilgrims’ eagerness to break the stalemate, nor the flow of the game, nor Stevenage’s resoluteness.
It did add an extra ten minutes to proceedings, just after Macey got down well to keep out a rare opposition shot, from substitute Danny Newton.
Four minutes into the extra time, Carey drove in from his flank for the umpteenth time and cracked off a shot that Dieng saved well.
The ball stayed alive, though, as did the Pilgrims’ keen minds, and the ball was worked to Lameiras and a drive that saved a long drive.
Argyle (4-2-3-1): 1 Matt Macey; 22 Tafari Moore, 4 Yann Songo'o, 14 Niall Canavan, 15 Conor Grant; 8 David Fox (capt), 6 Jamie Ness (11 Ruben Lameiras 55); 10 Graham Carey, 7 Antoni Sarcevic, 16 Joel Grant; 19 Freddie Ladapo. Substitutes (not used): 9 Ryan Taylor, 13 Stuart O’Keefe, 21 Kyle Letheren (gk), 23 Ashley Smith-Brown, 24 Peter Grant, 35 Luke Jephcott.
Booked: Sarcevic 65.
Stevenage (4-2-3-1): 27 Timothy Dieng; 2 Luther Wildin, 5 Scott Cuthbert, 30 Luke Wilkinson, 3 Johnny Hunt; 8 Joel Byrom, 4 Michael Timlin (11 Emmanuel Sonupech 90); 9 Alex Revell (capt), 10 Ben Kennedy (20 Jamal Campbell-Ryce 64), 12 Steve Seddon (19 Danny Newton 81); 28 Kurtis Guthrie. Substitutes (not used): 1 Paul Farman (gk), 7 James Ball, 10 Ben Kennedy, 16 Arthur Iontton, 25 Ronnie Henry.
Booked: Wilkinson 21, Timlin 69, Newton 85.
Referee: Alan Young.
Attendance: 5,719 (130 away).