McFadzean 59, Telford 62
Leyton Orient 0
A DOMINANT display, capped by two second-half goals, saw Argyle past Leyton Orient and into the second round of the Carabao Cup for only the third time in a decade.
The Greens were beginning to look frustrated by their inability to convert a number of goalscoring opportunities before Callum McFadzean struck on the hour. Just moments later, Dom Telford had also netted his first in Pilgrim colours, putting any faint hopes of an Orient fightback to bed.
The Pilgrims entered their encounter with Orient hoping to reach the second round in consecutive years, having defeated Championship side Bristol City at this stage last season. However, taking the long view, the Greens’ record in the Carabao Cup in recent times has been somewhat uninspiring.
Prior to their victory at Ashton Gate last season, Argyle had not advanced to the second round since the 2012-13 season. Included in Argyle’s string of first-round losses was a 2014-15 defeat on penalties to tonight’s opponents – in which Pilgrims’ skipper Gary Sawyer played for Orient.
Manager Ryan Lowe had made it clear that he wanted to take cup competitions as seriously as possible this season, and his selection certainly reflected that. Rather than make wholesale changes, the Pilgrims’ boss opted for a conservative five, with Mike Cooper, Josh Grant, Conor Grant, Ryan Taylor and Telford all making their first starts of the season. A changed side, sure, but all of those could consider themselves unfortunate not to have been a part of a starting eleven in Sky Bet League Two so far.
Argyle certainly started like a side hell-bent on improving their Carabao Cup record, and an opening spell of persistent pressure very nearly resulted in a goal when Sawyer’s left-wing cross was met by Taylor’s head from eight yards. The Pilgrims’ forward, leaning backwards, headed over. The face he pulled when hauling himself off the Home Park turf suggests he knew he could have done better.
The Greens continued to probe a stretched Orient defence as the game entered its infancy, with Joe Riley’s right-wing cross-shot zipping narrowly over the bar, before Danny Mayor shook off the cobwebs with a mazy run and cross that rolled enticingly along the six-yard line.
Perhaps it played on the midfield maestro’s mind when he danced through the defence and on to the goal-line moments later. Instead of pulling it back to the six-yard line, as he did earlier, he rolled his next pass along the goalmouth. Orient ‘keeper, Dean Brill, forced it clear, only for Telford to mop the ball up on the edge of the area. Taking one touch to steady himself, and another to shoot, the former Bury striker was a whisker away from finding the top corner.
For all of the Pilgrims’ territorial dominance, Orient’s defensive line recovered after a shaky start, and as Conor Grant’s right-footed cross was shinned wide by roving wing-back McFadzean from the edge of the box, it looked like Argyle might be in for a longer game of cat-and-mouse than their early glut of opportunities implied.
As the clock ticked on to 45 minutes, former Orient man Sawyer thought he had given Argyle a hard-earned lead. From Conor Grant’s delicious out-swinging corner, the Pilgrims’ skipper headed sweetly towards the top corner. With Brill beaten, Myles Judd headed the ball out from under his own crossbar.
The second-half began unchanged, and so did the Argyle line of assault. Mayor was invited to advance down the left channel by a number of backpedalling Orient legs, before unleashing a fierce drive that was blocked by Marvin Ekpiteta. From the rebound, McFadzean curled one wide with his right foot. Orient’s response was a breakaway effort from Lee Angol, their most dangerous looking player, that fizzed away from Cooper from a tight angle. It somehow looked not far away, while also going out for a throw-in.
The Home Park crowd thought they had a penalty moments later, as McFadzean, once again fed in by Mayor, went down under a challenge inside the box. Referee Antony Coggins evidently deemed it a legal shoulder-to-shoulder challenge and signalled for a goal kick. The manner in which he did so, however, led many in the stands to assume he had given a spot-kick.
It mattered not, shortly later, as McFadzean finally converted from one of his numerous entries into the final third. Another foray down the left forced the ball to the feet of Taylor, who held it up, laid it back to McFadzean to slot home his third of the season. It is hard to believe that the Pilgrims’ wing-back had only netted four times in his career before moving to Devon.
The assist was to be Taylor’s last contribution on his return to fitness from medium-term injury, replaced by Byron Moore on the hour. Taylor could barely have zipped up his training top in the dugout before Argyle had doubled their advantage. Telford latched on to a loose ball in the Orient half and set off rapidly towards the goal. Leaving Ekpiteta trailing haplessly in his wake, the diminutive forward opened his Argyle account in style, driving a left-footed strike in off the far post from the edge of the area.
His work done, Mayor was withdrawn to hand academy graduate Adam Randell his first competitive minutes of the campaign, having impressed in pre-season. You get the sense that Mayor was frustrated that another dangerous performance had not resulted in his first competitive goal for Argyle – but I would wager it is not far off.
Playing with the confidence that a two-goal cushion brings, the Pilgrims thought they had added a third through substitute Byron Moore, capping a slick team move engineered by Jose Baxter and Joe Riley, but the assistant referee flagged for offside as Moore struck.
It mattered not.
Argyle (3-5-2): 1 Mike Cooper (gk); 25 Josh Grant, 6 Niall Canavan, 3 Gary Sawyer (capt); 8 Joe Edwards (14 Jose Baxter 61), 2 Joe Riley, 15 Conor Grant, 10 Danny Mayor (20 Adam Randell 73), 21 Callum McFadzean, 11 Dom Telford, 9 Ryan Taylor (17 Byron Moore 61). Substitutes (not used): 24 Alex Palmer (gk), 5 Scott Wootton, 7 Antoni Sarcevic, 19 Klaidi Lolos.
Booked: Josh Grant 84
Leyton Orient (3-5-2): 1 Dean Brill (gk); 15 Daniel Happe, 6 Josh Coulson (capt), 5 Marvin Ekpiteta; 14 Myles Judd, 8 Craig Clay, 4 Dale Gorman (16 James Brophy 68), 44 Josh Wright, 3 Joe Widdowson, 17 Louis Dennis (9 Conor Wilkinson 68), 19 Lee Angol. Substitutes (not used): 2 Sam Ling, 10 Jordan Maguire-Drew, 12 Sam Sargeant (gk), 18 Matt Harrold, 27 James Alabi.
Referee: Antony Coggins
Attendance: 5,573 (205 away)