Plymouth Argyle 1
SUMMER keeps on giving, as the wonderful World Cup and fabulous weather was joined by an enjoyable Devon derby at Plainmoor. A solitary goal from Graham Carey was enough to give Plymouth Argyle the win but it was also a very positive performance from United
Home form will be key for United boss Gary Owers this season and he gave a first outing to the most recent recruits of Ryan Dickson and Kyle Cameron, also adopting a three-man defence and Jamie Reid forming the strike partnership with Brett Williams.
A decent from the Gulls and Dickson snapped into a brisk tackle in midfield to prompt one surge. Keeping with the former Argyle theme, Jason Banton then skipped into a space on the right and his swerving drive from distance proved awkward for Kyle Letheren, who resorted to an unconvincing palm clear.
Next, after comfortably clearing a clever dinked cross from Gary Sawyer, United were back in the ascendancy through Reid picking up a pocket of space 20 yards from goal and his drive was well blocked by the Argyle defence.
Niall Canavan replied with a free header from a Plymouth corner and United’s sleepy defending was given a reprieve when the effort fell wide of the far post. Freddie Ladapo then forced Alex Bass into a smart save following a super ball over the top.
Over to the Popside of the ground and Williams responded with a penalty box effort narrowly off target. As the half progressed, however, the slick and crisp Argyle passing began to exert more pressure, and United needed full levels of concentration to thwart the quick feet of Ruben Lameiras.
No sooner had the Gulls repelled one attacking wave, Argyle came back with more but Bass had Plainmoor purring with a stunning reaction save after a shot deflected off Jean-Yves Koue Niate and the man on loan from Portsmouth produced a one-handed Jordan Pickford impression to keep the scores level.
Contending with a swift Argyle move down the left was the next problem and a fizzing cross from Sawyer deserved better than a skewed header wide from Ladapo at the near-post. Graham Carey weaved a path into the United box before an effort across goal was expertly saved by Bass.
Renewed attacking vigour was the early pattern for United in the second half and a delightful pass from Williams gave Reid the chance to stretch his legs down the right but the resultant corner was easily cleared.
An inevitable flurry of substitutions began on the hour with the withdrawal of Williams and Banton for Ruairi Keating and Josh Gowling, but the flow had certainly turned back in favour of the visitors.
When the opener finally arrived, there was little Bass could have done, as Carey swept the ball home from close range after the first effort had hit the bar. It was a lead that very nearly doubled moments later but Ladapo again had his radar out of sync.
Flowing football from the Pilgrims was great to watch at times and Bass was again on hand to save well from a Carey drive, but the positive for United was a terrific workout for fitness levels. George Essuman and Reid were next to be given a rest, replaced by Jon-Paul Pittman and trialist James Roberts.
Out of nothing, United conjured a rare look at goal and a crisp pass from Roberts picked out Pittman, who instantly flicked the ball to Keating, but his drive was blocked by the sprawling Conor Grant. Pittman was having a real influence and his clever flick initiated a move that ended with a Ben Wynter effort missing the target.
Roberts was also trying his best to make a good impression but it was very difficult for United to penetrate the visiting defence. Owers decided the time was right to give teenage forward Olaf Koszela an opportunity for the closing minutes in place of Dickson.
Dreams of a late United leveller almost came true from a sweeping Roberts’ pass and Wynter’s low cross was met by Keating at the near-post for a poked attempt saved by Letheren. United can take real heart from their display and we move on to the visit of Premier League Cardiff on Friday, when kick-off is at the earlier time of 7pm.
United (3-5-2): 1 Alex Bass; 4 George Essuman (20 James Roberts 71), 15 Jean-Yves Koue Niate, 17 Kyle Cameron; 2 Ben Wynter, 10 Jason Banton (6 Josh Gowling 60), 14 Samir Nabi, 16 Ryan Dickson (11 Olaf Koszela 86), 3 Liam Davis; 19 Jamie Reid (18 Jon-Paul Pittman 71), 9 Brett Williams (7 Ruairi Keating 60). Substitutes (not used): 13 Shaun MacDonald (GK).
Argyle: 21 Kyle Letheren; 2 Joe Riley, 3 Gary Sawyer, 4 Yann Songo’o, 6 Jamie Ness, 10 Graham Carey, 11 Ruben Lameiras, 14 Niall Canavan, 15 Conor Grant, 19 Freddie Ladapo, 25 Scott Wotton. Substitutes: 1 Harry Burgoyne (GK), 5 Ryan Edwards, 8 David Fox, 16 Joel Grant, 17 Lionel Ainsworth, 18 Calum Dyson, 20 Gregg Wylde, 22 Tafari Moore, 23 Ashley Smith-Brown, 24 Peter Grant, 31 Michael Cooper (GK), 32 Cameron Sangster.
Referee: Adam Bromley