REPORT | ACCRINGTON STANLEY 1 ARGYLE 4
Accrington Stanley 1
Hamilton o.g. 23
Argyle returned to the top of Sky Bet League One with an accomplished and clinical 4-1 victory at Accrington Stanley.
An own goal from Ethan Hamilton broke the deadlock and Jordan Houghton doubled the Pilgrim lead before half-time.
Tommy Leigh did briefly flutter some Green nerves with a goal immediately after the restart but the game was decided by a stunner from Ryan Broom and a close-range Ryan Hardie header.
Argyle boss Ryan Lowe made three changes from the FA Cup draw at Sheffield Wednesday, with Luke Jephcott and Brendan Galloway on international duty, and Danny Mayor unwell. Jordon Garrick, Macaulay Gillesphey and Broom were the readymade replacements.
Before any thoughts of football, both captains laid Poppy wreaths on the pitch and everyone inside the Wham Stadium paid their respects to all those who have given their lives in armed conflict.
We shall remember them.
After a quiet start in the Lancashire sun, a trio of defensive headers from Dan Scarr, James Wilson and Gillesphey repelled a mild aerial bombardment from the hosts, including three successive corners.
Argyle settled into their passing rhythm by neatly working the ball wide for a dipping Gillesphey cross and Hardie’s steered half-volley flashed narrowly wide of the top corner.
Wilson then took his chance to stride forward and rifle a fine 30-yard drive that needed pushing wide by goalkeeper Toby Savin. The subsequent corner prompted a swift Accrington break and the low cross from Harry Pell thankfully fizzed away to safety.
Gradually, the intensity of Pilgrim pressing was having an impact and the reward came in bizarre circumstances. Scarr clipped a pass down the line for Conor Grant to send a lofted cross toward Joe Edwards, who applied enough pressure on Hamilton for the Accrington defender to deflect a looping clearance beyond the reach of Savin.
Accrington responded to the unfortunate setback with a period of territorial control but, again, Argyle did a fine job of protecting the danger area and the gloves of Mike Cooper remained blissfully clean.
A surging run and cross from Panutche Camara nearly found the near-post run of Garrick, with the Greens continuing to look the more potent in attacking areas. Broom then came equally close with a deeper delivery for the advancing Edwards.
A quick exchange of home passes presented Cooper with his first major intervention, racing off his line to thwart Lewis Mansell in the right channel. The Greens came back with a floated cross from Grant that fell to Scarr, but the shot was sliced off target.
Wilson emerged with a brilliant weaving 40-yard run and the final pass only just eluded Garrick. Grant was next, with a deflected low shot that was tipped wide by Savin.
Argyle would not be denied, however, as Garrick showed great strength from a short corner to release Houghton in the left channel and the midfield quarterback expertly rolled a calm finish into the far corner.
The second period opened with a fightback from Accrington and a low cross by Pell scuttled into the path of Leigh for a controlled finish past the stranded Cooper. While the goal was defensively frustrating, Argyle quelled home enthusiasm with a period of calm possession.
Stanley broke that spell with a superb flowing move down the right and Scarr was the Pilgrim hero with a brilliant challenge to deny Leigh before Mansell glanced a header inches wide.
The Greens rediscovered some impetus with a Gillesphey pass through the middle for Broom, who was unlucky not to win a foul from an untidy challenge. No matter, Broom won the ball back moments later and cut inside for a sensational 25-yard drive into the top corner.
It was a truly wonderful goal and Broom nearly added his second, stabbing an Edwards’ cross into the arms of Savin. Adam Randell for Camara was the first Argyle change on 69 minutes.
Hardie forced Savin into a palm over the bar before then finding Broom from a rapid counter, who was somehow denied a penalty after what appeared a blatant shove in the box.
Once again, Broom ignored the frustration, as he superbly dug out a perfect cross for Hardie to nod in the contest-killing goal.
Another great performance from Argyle, who welcome Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup replay on Tuesday evening.
Accrington Stanley (3-5-2): 40 Toby Savin (gk); 2 Harvey Rodgers (11 Sean McConville 69), 5 Ross Sykes, 12 Michael Nottingham, 38 Yaboah Amankwah, 4 Ethan Hamilton; 16 Liam Coyle, 28 Seamus Conneely (capt), 8 Harry Pell (41 Jovan Malcolm 77); 18 Tommy Leigh, 26 Lewis Mansell (14 Joel Mumbongo 67). Substitutes: 1 James Trafford (gk), 7 John O’Sullivan, 15 Archie Procter, 25 Jack Nolan.
Booked: Leigh 54, Conneely 71
Argyle (3-5-2): 1 Mike Cooper (gk); 5 James Wilson, 6 Dan Scarr, 3 Macaulay Gillesphey; 8 Joe Edwards (capt), 28 Panutche Camara (20 Adam Randell 69), 4 Jordan Houghton, 7 Ryan Broom (44 Will Jenkins-Davies 90), 15 Conor Grant; 9 Ryan Hardie, 14 Jordon Garrick (18 Kieran Agard 80). Substitutes: 25 Callum Burton (gk), 27 Ryan Law, 37 Brandon Pursall, 42 Rhys Shirley.
Booked: Garrick 79
Attendance: 3,130 (705 away)
Referee: David Rock