REPORT | ARGYLE 3 SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY 0
Sheffield Wednesday 0
Argyle returned to winning ways with a slick 3-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday, three welcome points from three fine examples of confident finishing.
Mustapha Bundu set the tone toward the end of a tight first period, crashing a superb free-kick in off the underside of the bar from 20 yards, and the visitors were in big trouble when Morgan Whittaker steered a lovely second in first-half stoppage time.
The Greens controlled proceedings with a calm assurance after the break and added some gloss to the victory with Ryan Hardie emerging from the bench to fizz a fine strike into the bottom corner.
Argyle manager Steven Schumacher made just two changes from the weekend draw at West Brom, captain Joe Edwards returning for Mickel Miller and a first start for Bundu in place of Hardie.
After a scruffy start to the game, Argyle found some rhythm with a lovely pass from Whittaker to find Azaz, but his shot was comfortable for Wednesday ‘keeper Cameron Dawson. Azaz then combined with Bundu to create room for a delicious curling effort by Whittaker that thundered clear off the post.
The Owls responded with an effort from Josh Windass that ricocheted around the Pilgrim penalty area before being hacked clear, followed by a dangerous low cross from Anthony Musaba that just needed a touch to seriously test Michael Cooper.
Wednesday continued to pose a threat with the penetration of Musaba, this time crossing for Lee Gregory, who thankfully fired his strike over the bar.
A big decision on 42 minutes did little to endear the Green Army to referee James Linington, as a trip on Bundu resulted in just a yellow card for Dominic Iorfa, with Argyle making a fairly convincing case that the Wednesday defender was the last man.
The brief Green grump turned to glee seconds later, as Bundu fired the Pilgrims into a hard-earned lead, lashing a fearsome curling free-kick around the Owls’ wall and in off the crossbar, giving Dawson zero chance.
One became two just three minutes later, as Whittaker pounced on a defensive lapse to race through on goal and slide an accomplished finish beyond the exposed Dawson. A brilliant end to what had been an otherwise combative opening 45 minutes.
Wednesday came out firing at the start of the second period but the Greens calmly weathered the brief pressure to flood forward with a delightful cross from Kelser-Hayden picking out Azaz, who was thwarted by a goal-line clearance.
The experienced Barry Bannan responded with a neat pass for Windass, who fired straight at Cooper, seeking his second successive clean sheet since the return from injury. That ambition was helped by an excellent block from the continually impressive Jordan Houghton.
Argyle decided to turn the screw at the other end, both Azaz and Adam Randell going close before Houghton was given a rest in the engine room, Luke Cundle the readymade replacement, while Hardie came on for Bundu.
Within minutes, the points were sealed with Hardie slotting his sixth league goal of the campaign, expertly guiding a low finish into the corner after Azaz had stolen the ball in midfield and threaded a lovely pass into the path of Argyle’s leading scorer.
A triple substitution for the final ten minutes saw Matt Butcher, Miller and Julio Pleguezuelo introduced for Kesler-Hayden, Azaz and Bali Mumba.
The Greens cruised happily through the remainder of the game and will now take on the long trip east to high-flying Ipswich Town.
Argyle: 1 Michael Cooper; 2 Bali Mumba (14 Mickel Miller 82), 4 Jordan Houghton (28 Luke Cundle 66), 6 Dan Scarr, 8 Joe Edwards (captain), 10 Morgan Whittaker, 15 Mustapha Bundu (9 Ryan Hardie 71), 17 Lewis Gibson, 18 Finn Azaz (5 Julio Pleguezuelo 82), 20 Adam Randell, 29 Kaine Kesler-Hayden (7 Matt Butcher 82). Substitutes (not used): 21 Conor Hazard (gk), 3 Macaulay Gillepshey, 16 Lewis Warrington, 23 Ben Waine.
Booked: Houghton 41, Kesler-Hayden 42
Sheffield Wednesday: 1 Cameron Dawson; 5 Bambo Diaby, 6 Dominic Oorfa, 8 George Byers (22 Jeff Hendrick 77), 9 Lee Gregory (7 Mallik Wilks 64), 10 Barry Bannan (captain) (4 Will Vaulks 77), 11 Josh Windass, 14 Pol Valentin, 21 John Buckley (24 Michael Smith H-T), 23 Akin Famewo, 45 Anthony Musaba (41 Djeidi Gassama 64). Substitutes (not used): 36 Devis Vasquez (gk), 2 Liam Palmer, 17 Di'Shon Bernard, 33 Reece James.
Booked: Iorfa 42
Referee: James Linington
Attendance: 16,225 (1,428)