REPORT | SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY 1 ARGYLE 0
Sheffield Wednesday 1
In a game blighted by stoppages, an early goal from Callum Paterson was eventually enough to earn Sheffield Wednesday the spoils in a combative top-of-the-table clash.
Paterson struck inside seven minutes of a first half that saw Argyle lose Dan Scarr and goalkeeper Mike Cooper to injury. The Pilgrims gave everything in a frenetic second period but there was no way through a stubborn home defence.
Argyle manager Steven Schumacher handed a first league start to Ben Waine and the atmosphere inside Hillsborough was rocking before kick-off, with an incredible 3,700 Pilgrims enjoying the South Yorkshire hospitality.
Unfortunately for Argyle, the Wednesday welcome turned sour when a cross flashed low into the penalty area was turned beyond Cooper by an alert Paterson.
The Greens settled with a nice interchange between Macaulay Gillesphey and Finn Azaz, culminating in an attempted pass to Waine that was just about cut out by the home defence. Argyle were then disrupted by the enforced removal of Scarr on 14 minutes, Nigel Lonwijk taking his place in defence.
The Owls immediately sought to turn the screw and a driven volley through a crowded box from Will Vaulks was brilliantly blocked by Cooper. This save was followed by one of similar quality at the other end, Cameron Dawson parrying clear a free-kick from Tyreik Wright.
In general, however, Wednesday were creating the better chances. Paterson and George Byers both had shots blocked before Cooper landed awkwardly after punching a clearance. After lengthy treatment, the Argyle goalkeeper was deemed unable to continue, with Callum Burton the replacement.
Burton was soon called into action, racing off his line to clear with Josh Windass lurking dangerously and, after such a disruptive opening half for Argyle’s defensive unit, the half-time whistle provided Schumacher with the opportunity to rejuvenate his troops.
The interval saw Waine and Joe Edwards withdrawn for Ryan Hardie and Sam Cosgrove, but the Owls were first to threaten. Liam Palmer surged into the left channel and his driven cross grazed the near post before flashing away to safety.
The temperature of the game raised a few more notches with some combative midfield exchanges involving Houghton and Jay Metete against their Wednesday counterparts, but referee John Busby did a solid job in calming the situation.
While clear-cut chances remained absent for Argyle, the second-half tempo was much better, moving the ball with purpose through midfield, although it was a more industrial ball over the top from Azaz that released Hardie for a left-foot half-volley fired too high to trouble Dawson.
Marvin Johnson emulated the wayward volley technique, lashing his effort wide after a Lonwijk clearance had fallen into his path but the Pilgrims were soon back in the ascendancy, Bali Mumba superbly twisting into space on the edge of the box for a scuttling effort sent inches wide.
Callum Wright replaced Tyreik Wright for the final 20 minutes but it was a pair of home substitutes, Mallik Wilks and Lee Gregory, who pinched the ball in midfield. Thankfully, the latter’s driven cross was bravely blocked by James Wilson.
Argyle’s race was apparently run from the next attack, Wilks finding space on the left and cutting back to George Byers, who rolled it into the empty net. An age seemed to pass before the offside flag was risen, presumably against Gregory, as he was standing in the eyeline of Burton.
It was a massive reprieve for the Pilgrims and the first attempt to take advantage saw Cosgrove head wide from a Houghton free-kick. The big striker then had another glimpse, flicking the ball wide after a low cross from Hardie.
Cosgrove was getting closer. His next effort was an audacious left-footer from 25 yards that skimmed the roof of the net and the Green Army were given a major lift when the fourth official unveiled ten minutes of stoppage time.
Frustratingly for Argyle, however, the home side did a good job of keeping the ball away from their defensive third and Wednesday held on for the win.
Sheffield Wednesday: 25 Cameron Dawson; 2 Liam Palmer, 4 Will Vaulks, 6 Dom Iorfa, 10 Barry Bannan (capt) (8 Dennis Adeniran 76), 11 Josh Windass (7 Mallik Wilks 74), 13 Callum Paterson (32 Jack Hunt 58), 14 George Byers, 18 Marvin Johnson, 24 Michael Smith (9 Lee Gregory 74), 44 Aden Flint. Substitutes (not used): 31 David Stockdale (gk), 3 Jaden Brown, 17 Fisayo Dele-Bashiru.
Booked: Byers 45, Paterson 54
Argyle: 1 Mike Cooper (25 Callum Burton 34); 3 Macaulay Gillepshey, 4 Jordan Houghton, 5 James Wilson, 6 Dan Scarr (21 Nigel Lonwijk 14), 8 Joe Edwards (capt) (9 Ryan Hardie H-T), 17 Bali Mumba, 18 Finn Azaz, 23 Ben Waine (16 Sam Cosgrove H-T), 28 Jay Matete, 29 Tyreik Wright (26 Callum Wright. 74). Substitutes (not used): 20 Adam Randell, 24 Saxon Earley.
Booked: Edwards 30, Houghton 77
Attendance: 33,442 (3,700 away)
Referee: John Busby