Carlisle United 0
Jephcott 33, 49, Hardie 75
WHATEVER Luke Jephcott wished for on New Year’s Eve, it cannot have been as dream-laden as his last week.
Two more goals to take care of Carlisle at Brunton Park followed the pair that he scored on his seasonal debut at Scunthorpe the previous weekend – four goals in two games as Argyle climbed to fifth in Sky Bet League Two after scoring three goals away from home for the second Saturday in a row. The numbers are beginning to stack up.
An afternoon witnessed by an incredible 567 of the Green Army nearly 400 miles from home was made complete when new signing Ryan Hardie scored on his Pilgrim debut just four minutes after coming on as substitute.
Jephcott again led the Pilgrims’ line after the previous week's fine 3-1 win at Scunthorpe United as Argyle manager Ryan Lowe opted for an unchanged starting line-up.
Jephcott was partnered by his fellow scorer against the Iron, Byron Moore, with new signing Hardie, who joined the Pilgrims on loan from Blackpool on Friday, starting life as a Pilgrim on the substitutes' bench.
Fellow loan player Tyreeq Bakinson continued in central midfield after having joined the Pilgrims from Bristol City the week previously.
Carlisle's starting line-up included two former Pilgrims: forward Nathan Thomas, who made 24 appearances between 2013-15 after being released by Sunderland, and defender Gethin Jones, who was loaned from Everton at the back end of the 2014-15 season and played seven times.
Argyle were obliged by their hosts to play initially into the teeth of a strong wind, probably not a bad thing for a team that loves to move the ball quickly on the deck, and they were soon showing that familiar style so beloved of the Green Army: part swagger, part poise, all action.
Carlisle were more pegged back by the Pilgrims’ gusto than Argyle were by the gusting winds, as Antoni Sarcevic and Danny Mayor drove through the centre and George Cooper and Joe Edwards looked to feed Jephcott’s predatory appetite from out wide.
The Pilgrims spent more time in their opponents’ penalty area than their own as, many, many miles from Home Park, the game took on the shape and feel of a home game.
One passage of play sent the United defence spinning as Mayor, Cooper, Sarcevic and Edwards successively tried to find space for a shot.
Sarcevic dinked in Jephcott, who dropped a shoulder with the skill of a player of much greater experience, to make space for a shot that Carlisle goalkeeper Adam Collin needed to get down smartly to keep out.
Mayor then drove in from 30 yards out, eating up the yards and bearing down on goal until, at the very last minute, Elliot Watt, who had tracked him all the way, pulled off a brave and well-timed last-ditch tackle.
Jephcott was buzzing around the penalty area like a fly on a dung-heap, and, for the Carlisle players, just as annoying. The overworked home defence survived a shout for a penalty after Jephcott was sent tumbling, and survived something potentially worse, when he just could not quite connect with Cooper’s driven cross.
A goal did not look long in coming and so it proved, as Argyle broke swiftly to turn defence into attack in a trice. Moore was sent away down the right-hand side, slipped his marker easily, and methodically picked out Jephcott, who had again instinctively found the perfect spot to turn the ball in.
The goal obliged Carlisle, who had drawn their three previous home games 0-0, to at least try to come at Argyle a bit more, but that played even further into the Pilgrims’ lust for goals.
Sarcevic had a shot beaten out by Collin, with Moore firing the loose ball over, before Cooper was played in by Mayor for a shot that was blocked.
Just as they had at Scunthorpe seven days earlier, Argyle doubled their margin early in the second half, with Jephcott’s dream year showing no signs of ending.
He again found himself in the right place at the perfect time – with such regularity, that cannot be pure coincidence – to steer home Bakinson’s perceptive switch-pass that wrong-footed the entire United back line.
It says plenty for Argyle’s dominance of proceedings that the first meaningful contribution by Pilgrims’ goalkeeper Alex Palmer came on the hour, when his alertness, positioning and athleticism combined to keep out a decent shot from Carlisle’s other Jones, Mike.
Hardie was introduced in the 71st minute, following which referee Martin Coy upset the Green Army by failing to agree with their opinion that the ball had crossed the line after Edwards’ cross had taken a couple of deflections.
The controversy did not last long, only the time it took for Hardie to announce himself to his new team-mates and their ever increasingly happy supporters by stroking the ball home after Mayor’s promptings.
And that, to all intents and purpose was that, as the Pilgrims completed a third successive win on the road.
Travelling well, Pilgrims.
Carlisle United (4-3-3): 1 Adam Collin (capt); 6 Aaron Hayden, 17 Byron Webster, 5 Jonathan Mellish, 14 Gethin Jones; 19 Jack Bridge (10 Stefan Scougall half-time), 8 Mike Jones, 11 Harry McKirdy, 12 Elliot Watt; 9 Hallam Hope, 7 Nathan Thomas (25 Ryan Loft 52). Substitutes (not used): 3 Jack Iredale, 15 Taylor Charters, 22 Louis Gray (gk), 24 Olufela Olomola, 33 Max Hunt.
Sent off: Hayden 90.
Booked: Hayden 84.
Argyle (3-5-2): 24 Alex Palmer; 5 Scott Wootton, 6 Niall Canavan, 3 Gary Sawyer (capt); 8 Joe Edwards (2 Joe Riley 88), 7 Antoni Sarcevic (15 Conor Grant 79), 14 Tyreeq Bakinson, 10 Danny Mayor, 32 George Cooper (18 Ryan Hardie 71); 17 Byron Moore, 31 Luke Jephcott. Substitutes (not used): 1 Mike Cooper (gk), 16 Joel Grant, 19 Klaidi Lolos, 20 Adam Randell.
Booked: Bakinson 74.
Referee: Martin Coy.
Attendance: 4,212 (567 away).