REPORT | ARGYLE 2 FOREST GREEN ROVERS 0
Forest Green Rovers 0
A special moment for James Bolton set Argyle on the way to an efficient three points against struggling Forest Green Rovers at a packed Home Park.
Bolton has endured a torrid time with injuries in his Pilgrim career but banished all those bad memories with a terrific early header to set the tone for Argyle, and victory was sealed by Bali Mumba also notching a tidy header early in the second half.
Argyle manager Steven Schumacher made five changes from the defeat at Barnsley, with Bolton making his first Sky Bet League One start in almost a year. Joe Edwards, Danny Mayor, Niall Ennis and Jordan Houghton also returned to the side.
While dreams of promotion were top of the Pilgrim agenda, Rovers desperately needed points to begin the climb away from the bottom and Duncan Ferguson’s men made the brighter start, winning an early corner but no danger to goalkeeper Callum Burton.
On eight minutes, Argyle showed how it should be done, as a delightful corner from Houghton at the other end found Bolton rising highest to plan a fine header beyond visiting custodian Lewis Thomas.
Despite that early setback, Rovers settled into a defensive shape that began to frustrate the Pilgrims, with clear opportunities sparse in the extreme. Mayor was the man to inject some fresh pace, darting forward for a drive that deflected on to the post with Thomas rooted to the spot.
Argyle ratcheted up the tempo again as the half drew to a close in glorious sunshine at Home Park, with Edwards battling into space down the right and the ball fell to Finn Azaz for a half-volleyed cross that was headed into the arms of Thomas by Mumba.
A satisfactory first period concluded with the Pilgrims continuing to prod and probe for spaces behind a disciplined Forest Green defence, but a score that remained in the balance going into the second half.
Callum Wright replaced Edwards at the interval and a welcome cushion arrived for the Pilgrims within two minutes of the restart. James Wilson drove forward from the back three and his delightful clipped cross was perfect for Mumba to steer an accomplished header back across Thomas and inside the far corner.
Rovers had no choice but to emerge from their defensive shell, with former Pilgrim Jordon Garrick coming on to replace Charlie Savage. Corey O’Keeffe, meanwhile, left his mark with two hefty challenges on Bolton and Wright, the second of which resulting in a deserved booking.
Argyle continued to be the side in the ascendancy, Azaz drilling a low cross from the right that was controlled by Ennis, who then swivelled for a volley over sent over the bar.
While the pattern of the game remained relatively comfortable for the Pilgrims, there was no doubt Forest Green were committing more men forward and one break down the left led to a cross headed clear by the ideally positioned Bolton.
Garrick did create room for a 20-yard drive on 69 minutes, which flew narrowly over. Argyle responded with fresh legs from the bench, Jay Matete and Ben Waine replacing Houghton and Ennis
The changes had no impact on the flow of the game, as Argyle’s dominance of possession was evidenced by a delightful move involving Azaz, Mumba and Mayor that ended with a scruffy challenge in the box, but penalty enquiries were hastily dismissed.
Ryan Hardie and Saxon Earley for Mayor and Mumba were the final Pilgrim changes and Argyle managed the remainder of the game with admirable efficiency. Next up is the long trip to Accrington Stanley on Tuesday night.
Argyle: 25 Callum Burton, 2 James Bolton, 3 Macaulay Gillesphey, 4 Jordan Houghton (28 Jay Matete 70), 5 James Wilson, 7 Matt Butcher, 8 Joe Edwards (capt) (26 Callum Wright H-T), 10 Danny Mayor (9 Ryan Hardie 86), 11 Niall Ennis (23 Ben Waine 70), 17 Bali Mumba (24 Saxon Earley 89), 18 Finn Azaz. Substitutes: 32 Adam Parkes (gk), 6 Dan Scarr.
Forest Green Rovers: 24 Lewis Thomas, 2 Corey O’Keeffe (21 Amadou Bakayoko 86), 3 Dom Bernard, 4 Dylan McGeouch (capt) (30 Tyreece Omotoye 79), 12 Jamie Robson, 17 Kyle McAllister (20 Sean O’Brien 86), 22 Udoha Godwin-Malife, 23 Brandon Cooper, 25 Myles Peart-Harris, 27 Harvey Bunker, 48 Charlie Savage (11 Jordon Garrick 59). Substitutes: 31 Ross Doohan (gk), 34 Zach McKenzie.
Booked: O’Keeffe 60
Attendance: 16,307 (269 away)
Referee: Benjamin Speedie