Argyle 0 Swindon 3
Swindon Town 3
Richards 16, Anderson 38, Woolery 82
FIRST-HALF goals from Marc Richards and Keshi Anderson, followed by a late strike from substitute Kainye Woolery, condemned a much-changed Argyle to defeat in their opening Checkatrade Trophy game of this year’s competition.
As much as the Pilgrims can be forgiven for having one eye on their Sky Bet League One trip to Oxford United at the weekend, the loss was still a disappointing one for a side that had shown pleasing signs of league revival in recent matches.
On the positive side, Argyle were able to give a needed game to several players who have been frequenting the physio’s room more than the training-ground of late, and they will be a ton better for the run-out. They were also able to rest some key men.
Argyle manager Derek Adams made six changes to the side that had beaten AFC Wimbledon three days earlier to register a first league victory of the campaign, three of whom were surprise, but welcome, returns from injury: Jamie Ness, Antoni Sarcevic and Conor Grant. Another returnee, Niall Canavan, was on a substitutes' bench that included Dan Rooney and Luke Jephcott.
As well as an all-new midfield trio, two-thirds of the strike force was changed, with Alex Fletcher and Joel Grant coming in alongside Ruben Lameiras, but the back four remained the same, meaning that all three of the Pilgrims' Grants lined up together for the first time.
Kyle Letheren made a seasonal debut in goal as Matt Macey was given the night off, presumably falling into the protected species that Adams spoke of before the game, along with Graham Carey, David Fox, Yann Songo'o and Freddie Ladapo.
Swindon's starting line-up included former Argyle favourite Luke McCormick, who was afforded a rich round of applause from a healthy Home Park crowd, but there was no place for another ex-Pilgrim, Toumani Diagouraga.
SuperLuke had his fingers stung by a drive on the run from Fletcher as Argyle started the game well, with Joel Grant particularly prominent.
However, with half their side seeking to refamiliarise themselves with playing football, never mind playing with each other, it was not long before Swindon enjoyed a little period with the whip hand, during which they scored.
A sweet ball into the near post from Jak McCourt on the right found the wily Richards, having stolen a quick yard on his markers, to nod home. It was his fifth goal in 11 appearances against the Pilgrims, for four different clubs.
Joel Grant continued to look the man most likely to for Argyle, but, after Conor Grant had curled a free-kick only just wide of the goal, Lameiras found himself in a golden spot to level the scores.
The ball broke kindly to him in the penalty area, leaving him one-on-one with McCormick, who stayed big and did not commit, and whose presence forced his former team-mate to clatter his shot against the crossbar.
How often has it been the case that a potential game-leveler has been immediately followed by a goal by the side that enjoyed the let-off? Add one more to that number.
Swindon’s next attack saw Anderson run from halfway and score with a little jab to which Letheren got a hand but could not keep the ball out.
Argyle sent on Gregg Wylde for Lameiras at the break but it was Swindon who showed first in the second half, with Ellis Iandolo crossing for Scott Twine to volley the ball on to the top of the Argyle crossbar with a backheel.
Argyle responded down the right and Tafari Moore’s pass into the danger zone fell for Sarcevic, who could not quite get the ball under enough control to trouble McCormick.
The former Argyle ’keeper then denied substitute Wylde, whose fierce shot with a bit of dip and curl on it, was beaten out, before Swindon responded with Anderson and Twine both going close.
Argyle made two more substitutions, which seemed to be more than a nod towards Saturday’s important clash at the Kassam Stadium: Ashley Smith-Brown and Joel Grant off; Canavan and Calum Dyson on, the latter making his Argyle debut.
The die was cast, though. Argyle had, last season, memorably come back from 2-0 down to draw with Chelsea Under-21s – their next opponents in this year’s Trophy, incidentally – but they were unable to stage any sort of comeback this time around.
Indeed, it was Swindon who had the last word, scoring a third goal through substitute Kainye Woolery eight minutes from the end of the game.
Argyle (4-3-3): 21 Kyle Letheren; 22 Tafari Moore, 5 Ryan Edwards, 24 Peter Grant, 23 Ashley Smith-Brown (18 Calum Dyson 65); 7 Antoni Sarcevic, 6 Jamie Ness (capt), 15 Conor Grant; 11 Ruben Lameiras (20 Gregg Wylde half-time), 29 Alex Fletcher, 16 Joel Grant (14 Niall Canavan 65). Substitutes (not used): 17 Lionel Ainsworth, 31 Michael Cooper (gk), 34 Dan Rooney, 35 Luke Jephcott.
Swindon Town (3-5-2): 23 Luke McCormick; 32 Luke Woolfenden. 26 Dion Conroy, 25 Joe Romanski; 2 Kyle Knoyle, 4 Jak McCourt, 16 Martin Smith 24 Scott Twine, 14 Ellis Iandolo; 10 Keshi Anderson, 9 Marc Richards (capt, 22 Kaiyne Woolery 62). Substitutes (not used): 6 Olly Lancashire, 7 Jermaine McGlashan, 11 Steven Alzate, 12 Will Henry (gk), 17 Elijah Adebayo, 31 Matt Taylor.
Referee: Brett Huxtable.
Attendance: 1,906 (135 away).