IN an extraordinary start to the EFL Youth Alliance season, Argyle triumphed over Oxford with nine men, two penalty saves and some heroic performances.
After a tough pre-season for the young Pilgrims and a couple of heavy defeats, Academy Director Kevin Hodges and his coaching staff placed a lot of emphasis on defensive organistion in the build up to this curtain-raiser on a steamy day at Langsford Park.
Argyle had the added challenge of six players out through injury and a side packed with first-year apprentices, and even younger, but produced a sensational display in a game described by club photographer Dave Rowntree (a man who has followed Argyle for over four decades) as ‘one of the best I have ever seen’.
The first chance fell to Argyle’s Jeremiah Medine, pressurising the Oxford defence and squaring a pass for Rubin Wilson, who fired over from a good position. The front two combined again on 15 minutes with a far better result.
Medine’s threaded pass was perfect for the run of Wilson, who kept his composure to fire an excellent finish into the bottom corner. The drama began to really unfold on 26 minutes, when Alfie Wotton was dismissed for deliberate handball.
The Pilgrim defender was robbed by an Oxford forward on the sideline and in his desperate attempt to get back in position, Wotton blocked the eventual shot with his hand. The red card came out but goalkeeper Tyler Coombes opened his incredible afternoon with a superb save from the subsequent penalty.
Argyle ignored the numerical disadvantage to score a brilliant second goal on 36 minutes, when a quick free-kick was fed to Jude Boyd, who skipped past two challenges before rifling an emphatic finish into the roof of the net.
Oxford did have chances at the other end but the defensive preparations were paying dividend for Argyle, who opened the second period with Medine bundled over in the box and Wilson calmly converting the spot-kick for a 3-0 lead.
The visitors were then awarded a second penalty but, again, Coombes was up to the task, producing an even better save to keep his goal intact. The ten men became nine when Ali Mansaray was shown a red card for dissent.
Despite having two players off the pitch and searing heat, the young Pilgrims continued to defend valiantly and scored a fourth goal, as Medine superbly flicked the ball over his marker and then lobbed the onrushing goalkeeper for a sublime finish.
Oxford grabbed a late consolation but nothing could diminish a fabulous performance from Argyle and a great start to the season.
Argyle: Tyler Coombes; Angel Wariuh (Alfie Hudd 48), Reuben Collum, Ali Mansaray, Isaac Burdon, Alfie Wotton, Jude Boyd, Charlie Elkington (Oscar Larrieu 68), Mackenzie Toms, Rubin Wilson, Jeremiah Medine (Ollie Haste 85). Substitutes (not used): Morgan Coxhead.