REPORT | ARGYLE 3 ACCRINGTON STANLEY 0
Accrington Stanley 0
Argyle cemented their status at the top of Sky Bet League One with a confident, if occasionally fractious, win over Accrington Stanley.
Niall Ennis opened the scoring with a low strike on the run but the afternoon changed numerically when Dan Scarr and Accrington skipper Seamus Conneely were both dismissed after a 50-50 challenge.
The different dimension to the game didn’t adversely impact the Pilgrims and the points were sealed by an emphatic finish from Sam Cosgrove on 63 minutes. Substitute Ryan Hardie provided one final moment of joy, slotting a confident finish into the bottom corner in stoppage time.
Argyle boss Steven Schumacher made four changes from the dramatic midweek win over Sheffield Wednesday, with Jordan Houghton, Ennis, Cosgrove and Brendan Galloway replacing Adam Randell, Finn Azaz, Hardie and Nigel Lonwijk.
Stanley midfielder Ethan Hamilton introduced himself to a sunny Home Park with a booking inside the first minute, as the visitors looked to extend their own run of three consecutive league victories.
Accrington replicated that form with a bright opening to the game and there was a brief flutter of nerves when the experienced Shaun Whalley raced into the right side of the penalty area, but his cutback was blocked by a retreating Houghton.
Argyle awoke from their mild slumber with a powerful run by Galloway winning a free-kick in the central area, which Matt Butcher took quickly and birthday boy Bali Mumba twisted into space for a shot blocked by the Accrington defence.
A minute later, the Greens were in front. Ennis sprung from an engine room shackle and fed the ball wide to Edwards on the left. The Argyle skipper returned the favour back to Ennis, who slid a confident finish past a stranded Lukas Jenson.
The energy of Ennis almost opened the Stanley defence once more on the half-hour but his attempted pass to an onrushing Mumba was intercepted on the stretch by Mo Sangare. Accrington then broke and the lively Hamilton was released in the left channel, firing in a low shot saved by the legs of Mike Cooper, another Pilgrim celebrating his birthday.
Ennis, again, instigated the Argyle response with another powerful burst and a pass wide to Mumba, now operating on the left. He cut inside on his right foot but pulled the low shot wide of the near post.
A full-blooded tackle between Scarr and Conneely left both players rolling in serious pain after a clash of knees. Thankfully, they both clambered to their feet but referee Neil Hair was clearly very unimpressed, dismissing the bemused duo in an incredibly odd decision.
Both players went for the ball with commitment, neither got there, both recovered from the clash, neither looked to go in with malicious intent, both were still sent off. Mercifully for the respective managers, half-time arrived soon after and a chance to rearrange the troops.
Part of that reschedule was Lonwijk replacing Mumba in first-half injury time after he came off worse in a challenge. Randell came on for Butcher at the break and the Greens switched to four at the back.
Lovely play from Lonwijk saw him exchange passes with Sky Bet League One Player of the Month Morgan Whittaker and the low cross forced a scrambled clearance from Stanley. Argyle were then applauding captain Edwards for a superb covering tackle on a surging Whalley.
The added space available to both sides naturally put extra pressure on the defensive units and Argyle, led by the composure of James Wilson and athleticism of Galloway, were doing a fine job of keeping Accrington at bay.
A long-ranger from Hamilton was handled impeccably on the bounce by Cooper before Whittaker had a fizzer from 20 yards deflected inches wide.
The energy of Edwards sparked Argyle into a second goal, as he played a pass into the centre for Houghton and his threaded ball to Lonwijk in the channel was sublime. His reverse pass found Cosgrove, who took a touch before angling a powerful low finish back beyond Jenson and into the bottom corner.
Azaz replaced Whittaker for the final quarter and that was soon followed by Ennis being withdrawn for Hardie. A game of pinball in the Accrington defence then fell to Randell for a snap-shot that flashed wide.
The Pilgrims continued to be the side piling forward, as Cosgrove slipped a pass into space for Edwards to jink inside on his right foot and the shot took a big deflection before cannoning off the bar.
Hardie finished the fun with a calm low finish from a delicious Randell pass over the top and a jubilant Green Army greeted the final whistle. Life is currently marvellous on Planet Pilgrim.
Argyle: 1 Mike Cooper; 5 James Wilson, 6 Dan Scarr, 22 Brendan Galloway; 8 Joe Edwards (capt), 4 Jordan Houghton, 7 Matt Butcher (20 Adam Randell H-T), 17 Bali Mumba (21 Nigel Lonwijk 45); 11 Niall Ennis (9 Ryan Hardie 74), 16 Sam Cosgrove, 19 Morgan Whittaker (18 Finn Azaz 67). Substitutes (not used): 25 Callum Burton (gk), 15 Conor Grant, 44 Will Jenkins Davies.
Booked: Mumba 33, Cosgrove 39, Ennis 68, Galloway 90
Sent-off: Scarr 38
Accrington: 1 Lukas Jenson; 2 Mitch Clark, 4 Ethan Hamilton, 5 Ryan Astley, 6 Liam Coyle, 7 Shaun Whalley (10 Joey Pritchard 60), 8 Tommy Leigh (18 Nathan Delfouneso 77), 11 Sean McConville, 15 Mo Sangare, 28 Seamus Conneely (capt), 34 Doug Tharme. Substitutes (not used): 40 Toby Savin (gk), 17 Jack Nolan, 22 Dan Martin, 35 Bailey Sloane, 50 Baba Fernandes.
Booked: Hamilton 1, Coyle 39, Whalley 56
Sent-off: Conneely 38
Attendance: 15,065 (106 away)
Referee: Neil Hair