Ryan Hardie scores against Blackburn


Argyle 3
Azaz 27
Hardie 77
Cundle 81

Blackburn Rovers 0

After two last-gasp Championship defeats, Argyle were clinical and ruthless in their defeat of a lively Blackburn Rovers at Home Park.

The visitors showed their potential prowess in a bright start but the Greens struck a decisive opener, as a deflected effort from Finn Azaz flew into the net on 27 minutes.

An entertaining game remained in the balance until Ryan Hardie poached a match-winning second and the gloss was added by a lovely lob from substitute Luke Cundle.

Argyle boss Steven Schumacher made one change from the starting 11 that took the field against Birmingham City last weekend, with Dan Scarr replaced in defence by Julio Pleguezuelo.

Rovers arrived at Home Park fresh from a battling 1-0 win at Watford on Sunday, followed by a brutal 8-0 demolition of Harrogate Town in the Carabao Cup, and both sides were sharp and incisive with their early passing.

The first chance fell to Morgan Whittaker, latching on to a delightful threaded pass from Jordan Houghton, but Harry Pickering made the recovery tackle.

Rovers replied with a glorious opening for Ryan Hedges, who scuffed his shot wide with the goal gaping. Blackburn continued to threaten with a sweeping move, culminating in Sammie Szmodics steering over from 20 yards.

Sam Gallagher then planted a header on target but, thankfully, down the centre for Conor Hazard to tip over.

The Greens changed the pattern with a swift counter, Hardie racing into the left channel for a strike deflected over the bar. Adam Randell took up the initiative, sliding a lovely pass into the opposite channel for Hardie, who fired wide of the near post.

Gradually, Argyle were gaining a foothold, with Aynsley Pears forced into his first save from a Bali Mumba back-post header. The next Pilgrim attempt hit the back of the net.

The ball was moved wide for Hardie, shifting it inside to Whittaker, who did the same for Azaz, and he had a pop from just outside the box, with a hefty deflection off Adam Wharton completely wrong-footing Pears for a welcome opener.

Naturally buoyed by the goal, Argyle were now in full ascendancy, Azaz forcing a corner and combinations working perfectly all over the pitch, with Whittaker forcing a smart stop from Pears at the near post.

A dipping effort from Whittaker prompted another decent Pears’ save and a half of two halves concluded with a terrific block tackle from Pleguezuelo ensuring the 1-0 lead stayed in place at the interval.

Hardie was first to prosper after the restart, with a move started by a precision pass from Lewis Gibson. The Argyle number nine forced Pears into a parry before firing the rebound over. The Rovers riposte was a Hayden Carter header drifting wide from a corner.

The Pilgrims were turning the screw, Houghton breaking up play yet again and feeding Randell for a curling effort sent inches over but Blackburn came back with a fluid counter. Thankfully, Szmodics hooked the final shot past the post.

After a succession of home corners, Argyle’s first two changes came on the hour, Cundle and Callum Wright replacing Azaz and Randell, but the focus was immediately on Kaine Kesler-Hayden with a superb goal-saving interception from a low cross.

Argyle were still asking questions at the other end, Mumba fizzing over a cross volleyed over by Hardie from a tight angle. Another top tackle from Kesler-Hayden preceded the introduction of Mickel Miller for Mumba.

The crucial second goal arrived on 77 minutes, Callum Wright forcing a low save from Pears and Hardie, enjoying a tremendous start to the Championship campaign, was in the right place to slide the ball into the waiting net.

The job was done with a sumptuous goal from Cundle. Hazard pumped the ball forward, Pears didn’t deal with his attempted clearance and Cundle, following up from his cracker in the Carabao Cup loss to Crystal Palace, guided a delicious lob into the empty net.

Ben Waine and Scarr replaced Hardie and Joe Edwards for the late procession to maximum points, as Argyle enjoyed the closing minutes, basking in the Home Park sunshine with a splendid victory.

Argyle: 21 Conor Hazard; 2 Bali Mumba (14 Mickel Miller 71), 4 Jordan Houghton, 5 Julio Pleguezuelo, 8 Joe Edwards (capt) (6 Dan Scarr 82), 9 Ryan Hardie (23 Ben Waine 82), 10 Morgan Whittaker, 17 Lewis Gibson, 18 Finn Azaz (11 Callum Wright 61), 20 Adam Randell (28 Luke Cundle 61), 29 Kaine Kesler-Hayden. Substitutes (not used): 25 Callum Burton (gk), 7 Matt Butcher, 16 Lewis Warrington, 19 Tyreik Wright.

Booked: Whittaker 36, Hardie 41

Blackburn: 1 Aynsley Pears, 2 Callum Brittain, 3 Harry Pickering, 5 Dominic Hyam, 8 Sammie Szmodics, 9 Sam Gallagher (20 Harry Leonard 62), 17 Hayden Carter, 19 Ryan Hedges (37 Tom Bloxham 79), 23 Adam Wharton, 24 Andy Moran (10 Tyrhys Dolan 62), 27 Lewis Travis (capt) (30 Jake Garrett 79). Substitutes (not used): 12 Leopold Wahlstedt (gk), 6 Sondre Tronstad, 15 Patrick Gamble, 16 Scott Wharton, 22 Zak Gilsenan.

Booked: Pickering 88

Referee: Stephen Martin

Attendance: 16,067 (1,148 away)