Argyle celebrate opening day win


Argyle 1 
Azaz 45 

Barnsley 0 

A top-class finish from Finn Azaz on the stroke of half-time gave Argyle three deserved points on the opening day of a new season at Home Park. 

The Greens created the large bulk of chances against the visitors from Barnsley and the perfect way to commence another nine months of footballing drama. 

Argyle manager Steven Schumacher named three debutants in his first selection of the new campaign, Bali Mumba, Matt Butcher and Azaz. The bench also included summer recruits Morgan Whittaker and Nigel Lonwijk. 

Barnsley dropped down from the Championship last term, with former Cheltenham boss Michael Duff now at the helm, and both teams were greeted by a wonderful wall of noise from the Green Army. 

After some gentle sparring in the early stages, Ryan Hardie forced his way into space and a threaded pass inside the left full-back almost reached the run of Azaz. The Greens recycled for a free-kick from the right delivered by Azaz. 

The deep cross to the far post found a Joe Edwards nod back to James Wilson. His shot was blocked and fell back to Edwards, who rifled a half-volley on the swivel against the Barnsley bar. 

At the other end, Dan Scarr and Macaulay Gillesphey stifled the Barnsley response by crowding out Devante Cole in the penalty area. Hardie, meanwhile, was proving a constant menace with his willing runs in the channel. 

The Pilgrims continued to control possession and a dart from midfield by Adam Randell won a corner on 25 minutes. The cross from Danny Mayor was punched to the edge of the box by Brad Collins and Randell returned with a first-time volley sent scuttling wide.  

Mayor then won the ball in midfield, drove forward and slipped a pass to his right for Azaz to shoot first time with his left-foot but the growing Argyle pressure was thwarted by the legs of Collins. 

The Tykes replied with a delicious cross by Nicky Cadden and Jack Aitchison thundered his volley against the bar. The rebound for Josh Benson looked like a certain goal until Gillesphey arrived with an amazing goal-line block. 

An entertaining half continued with a thrilling run from Edwards, dancing past three men before his final shot was blocked. The rebound from Mumba also struck a Barnsley leg before Mayor scooped a shot into the arms of a grateful Collins. 

Hardie then got the wrong side of Robbie Cundy but the big defender recovered to make a great challenge. The goal was coming and Azaz delivered, brilliantly steering a low Mumba cross into the roof of the net for a superb opening strike of the season. 

The Tykes conjured the first big chance of the second period, Aitchison racing clear for a low effort and Mike Cooper reminded everyone of his quality, producing an outstanding save with his feet. 

Captain Edwards fired into the side-netting, as Argyle sought to rediscover their attacking impetus. Mumba read the same script with a weaving run and cross for Edwards, but his instinctive left-foot flick flew well wide. 

Duff introduced new signing James Norwood and Luke Thomas for Cole and Benson on the hour, but Argyle kept piling forward. Gillesphey slipped a sumptuous pass into the channel, Mayor reversed the cross for Edwards, who lashed narrowly over. 

Lovely wing-play from Mumba prompted a kerfuffle for the Barnsley defence at the near post, followed, a few minutes later, by an Azaz cross volleyed off target by the lively Mumba.  

The first Argyle changes arrived on 78 minutes, Niall Ennis and Whittaker replacing Hardie and Azaz. Whittaker made his Home Park intro with a fizzed left-foot drive into the arms of Collins. 

After all the frenetic play of a typical opening day, Argyle survived a late scare, Gillesphey clearing off the line for his second goal-saving intervention to secure three well-earned points to start the 2022/23 campaign in Sky Bet League One. 

Argyle: 1 Mike Cooper; 5 James Wilson, 6, Dan Scarr, 3 Macaulay Gillesphey; 8 Joe Edwards (c), 20 Adam Randell, 7 Matt Butcher, 17 Bali Mumba; 18 Finn Azaz (19 Morgan Whittaker 78), 9 Ryan Hardie (11 Niall Ennis 78), 10 Danny Mayor (31 Luke Jephcott 90). Substitutes: 25 Callum Burton (gk), 21 Nigel Lonwijk, 22 Brendan Galloway, 42 Jack Endacott. 


Barnsley: 40 Brad Collins; 2 Jordan Williams, 4 Callum Styles, 5 Liam Kitching, 6 Mads Andersen (c), 7 Nicky Cadden, 10 Josh Benson (16 Luke Thomas 61), 24 Robbie Cundy (21 Conor McCarthy H-T), 27 Jack Aitchison (19 Aiden Marsh 71), 44 Devante Cole (9 James Norwood 61), 48 Luca Connell (33 Matthew Wolfe 78). Substitutes: 1 Jack Walton (gk), 15 Jasper Moon.   

Booked: Cadden 10, Styles 44 

Attendance: 14,624 (932 away) 

Referee: Charles Breakspear