Report | Argyle 2 AFC Wimbledon 0
Hardie 29, Broom 61
AFC Wimbledon 0
Goals from Ryan Hardie and Ryan Broom saw Argyle cruise past AFC Wimbledon and back into the Sky Bet League One play-off places on Tuesday night.
Scottish striker Hardie coolly placed the Greens into the lead in the first half after great work from Danny Mayor, before Broom made sure of the result on the hour, clinically converting a swift counter-attack in front of the Devonport End.
Argyle manager Steven Schumacher made just one change from the side that saw off Morecambe a few days earlier, with Niall Ennis coming in for Luke Jephcott to partner 16-goal leading marksman Hardie. Meanwhile, Dons manager Mark Robinson made two changes to the side that were edged out at Wigan on the weekend, with defenders Daniel Csoka and Cheye Alexander in for Paul Osew and Paul Kalambayi.
Argyle knew that, with Wycombe Wanderers and Sheffield Wednesday not playing, a win would elevate them back into the all-important play-off places, but it was the visitors who fashioned the first clear opportunity – one they really should have converted.
Full-back Lee Brown, who scored a free-kick against Argyle earlier in the season for Portsmouth, found enough room on the left flank to hang a tantalising cross into the box. Waiting was target man Sam Cosgrove, who got between two Green shirts to leap highest and direct a firm header straight onto the foot of the near post.
Argyle responded, and intricate link-up play between Joe Edwards, Broom and Ennis saw the latter smartly evade his marker before unleashing a cross-shot that was deflected narrowly beyond both Hardie’s run and the far post.
Edwards was again involved in the next attack of note, feeding off the space created by Danny Mayor’s mazy run to deliver a cross that bounced to Hardie on the penalty spot, but his goalbound effort ricocheted over Nik Tzanev’s crossbar.
No more than simmering for the opening 20 minutes, Argyle came to the boil. Down the left, where the Greens were so deadly against Morecambe in the previous fixture, Conor Grant and Mayor combined, with the Argyle no.10 curling another a delicious in-swinger towards Ennis, with Dons stopper Tzanev grateful to see the offside flag raised. Moments later, Ennis fed Hardie with a low ball into the box, but the striker’s uncharacteristically poor touch offered defender Will Nightingale an opportunity to get across and block the shot.
Hardie would offer Dons defenders no such reprieve on 29 minutes, firing home his 17th of the season to put Argyle in front.
With the Greens enjoying the lion’s share of possession, Mayor drifted into the right channel and caressed a superb through ball into the box with the outside of his foot. Hardie’s anticipation was equal to the pass, allowing him to cut inside and apply the finish through Tzanev’s legs. It was the difference at the interval.
AFC Wimbledon introduced Kalambayi for Jack Rudoni at half-time in an attempt to change tides, but Argyle were immediately on the front foot, seeing a flurry of chances come and go in the opening five minutes of the second term.
First, Hardie broke down the left and hooked a cross into the box that evaded both Kalambayi and Csoka before Broom’s full-blooded volley only connected with thin air. Then, a quick break from a Wimbledon set play also saw Mike Cooper – making his 100th competitive appearance - nearly send Hardie in behind with a rocket of a long throw, but Nightingale did well to close down the route to goal. Finally, from a corner, Grant expertly picked out Edwards on the edge of the box, but the Argyle skipper’s first-time effort was blocked.
Just before the hour, Cooper was called into action to make his first meaningful save of the match, as Wimbledon turned the Argyle defence and Cosgrove scampered into the box. From a tight angle, the striker opted for power over placement, but the Argyle centurion swatted it away at the near post.
Cosgrove’s missed chance would prove costly on 61 minutes, as the Greens broke to devastating effect. A measured ball over the top from Macaulay Gillesphey saw Ennis leave substitute Anthony Hartigan trailing in his wake. Drawing two defenders towards him in the box, Ennis looked up and laid the ball on a plate for the onrushing Broom, who swept home at the far post.
With a two-goal cushion secured and a hefty fixture schedule looming in March, Argyle boss Schumacher was able to shuffle the deck, withdrawing the excellent Mayor for Panutche Camara, before giving January deadline day Steven Sessegnon a long-awaited home debut in place of Grant. In the final change, Hardie made way for Jordon Garrick.
Result assured, the Greens retained possession and offered Wimbledon no sniff of a reprieve, but there was still room for one more brilliantly constructed move, which saw Gillesphey gallop through the parting Dons defence to slide Ennis into the channel. Ennis crossed towards Garrick at the far post, but the delivery fizzed inches too high for the substitute to add a third.
Summing up the Dons’ night, Ayoub Assal saw a snapshot from a corner strike the post with the final kick of the game.
Argyle (3-5-2): 1 Mike Cooper (gk); 5 James Wilson, 2 James Bolton, 3 Macaulay Gillesphey; 8 Joe Edwards (capt), 7 Ryan Broom, 4 Jordan Houghton, 10 Danny Mayor (28 Panutche Camara 67), 15 Conor Grant (17 Steven Sessegnon 75); 11 Niall Ennis, 9 Ryan Hardie (85 Jordon Garrick). Substitutes (not used): 25 Callum Burton (gk), 20 Adam Randell, 31, Luke Jephcott, 33 Romoney Crichlow.
Booked: Mayor 32, Sessegnon 90
AFC Wimbledon (4-2-3-1): 1 Nik Tzanev (gk), 7 Cheye Alexander, 5 Will Nightingale, 3 Daniel Csoka, 55 Lee Brown; 4 Alex Woodyard (capt), 6 George Marsh (8 Anthony Hartigan 57); 10 Ayoub Assal, 12 Jack Rudoni (30 Paul Kalambayi half-time), 21 Luke McCormick (17 Terry Ablade 67); 9 Sam Cosgrove. Substitutes (not used): 51 Nathan Broome (gk), 11 Ethan Chislett, 16 Dapo Mebude, 18 Nesta Guinness-Walker.
Attendance: 11, 247 (247 away)
Referee: Sam Allison