A BEAUTY from Graham Carey and Joel Grant’s late header was enough to win the game for Plymouth Argyle but an enjoyable Devon derby that again saw some enterprising work from the Gulls.
United hit the woodwork on three occasions and goalkeeper Ryan Clarke also saved a Jake Jervis penalty in a decent game eventually won by superior finishing from Argyle.
A depleted defence was the main worry for United manager Kevin Nicholson before the game, as he sought to plug the gaps left by knocks to Liam Davis, Josh Gowling and Myles Anderson. The interesting trial inclusion on the bench was former Plymouth Argyle and New Zealand striker Rory Fallon.
The Pilgrims arrived at Plainmoor with a powerful-looking squad ready to take on the rigours of League 1 after an excellent campaign took them to promotion back in the spring.
The early highlight was a fantastic showing from both sets of supporters and Bristow’s Bench, in particular, looked magnificent with very few seats and fans enjoying the football while drenched in late evening sun.
On the pitch, Argyle were first to show with a fierce snap-shot from midfield linchpin David Fox that had Ryan Clarke diving full-length as it whistled narrowly past the upright.
United responded through a Plymouth-born lad, as a delicious corner from Luke Young was flicked on at the near post to find Sean McGinty stooping low at the far post for a header that bobbled into the side-netting.
The makeshift home defence had Sam Chaney operating as an emergency left-back and Yan Klukowski dropping into centre-back, although it was actually right-back Ryan Higgins who was almost caught out following a loose clearance, but Jake Jervis fired over from 12 yards.
Argyle were enjoying the majority of possession without really hurting the Gulls and the threat at the other end largely centred around crafty wing-work from Jake Gosling.
The game lulled into a very quiet spell midway through the first period, prompting Carey to grab proceedings in delightful fashion exchanging passes on the edge of the box before curling a wonderful left-footer into the top corner from 20 yards.
It was a magical goal from Argyle’s major attacking threat from last season and absolutely no chance for Clarke as the ball smashed against the inside of the post before crossing the line.
United responded with a weaving run from the quick feet of Gosling and then his low cross was well defended at the near post. The ball soon found a way back to Gosling and, this time, his fizzing drive toward the bottom corner forced Luke McCormick into a fine save down to his right.
The half ended with both sides probing and playing attractive football, but advantage Argyle.
The second period, however, opened with a thrilling bang from the Yellows, as confident possession football steadily grew the pressure on Argyle’s defence.
A sustained spell in the Green half culminated in the ball falling to Jamie Reid on the left edge of the area and his delightful shot across goal cannoned away off the far post.
From the next attack, a long ball over the top picked out new signing James Gray and his sublime first touch set himself immediately for a left-volley that bounced clear off the bar.
The entertainment continued with an incisive Argyle break and a low cross from Gregg Wylde for Carey to shoot, but he was somehow denied by a combination of Clarke and McGinty.
Moments later, the ball was back in the United box and Jervis felled for a clear penalty. The same Pilgrim grabbed responsibility for the spot-kick but Clarke read his penalty perfectly, producing a super save low to his left.
The clever play continued for United at the other end and a sharp lay-off from Ruairi Keating was perfect for Reid to rifle another sweet strike inches past the post from distance. It was the final act for Reid and Keating, withdrawn for Yemi Odubade and Fallon.
A quiet 10 minutes led to the lively Gray coming off for Will Hancox, while the visitors also started to ring the changes but it was one of the starters who went close, as a cross from the left picked out Ruben Lameiras for an acrobatic volley sent narrowly over.
The Gulls suddenly sprung back into life with a swift passing move on the left and a precision pass from Young picked out Odubade, who went very close with a low drive back across the exposed McCormick.
A decent game of football concluded with a soft goal from a set-piece and a cushioned header from Grant completed the Argyle win.
United (4-4-2: 1 Ryan Clarke; 23 Ryan Higgins, 18 Yan Klukowski, 5 Sean McGinty, 7 Sam Chaney; 4 Damon Lathrope, 8 Luke Young, 11 Jake Gosling, 19 Jamie Reid (Yemi Odubade 62); 10 Ruairi Keating (Rory Fallon 62), 17 James Gray (2 Will Hancox 73). Substitutes (not used): 20 Neal Osborn (GK), 25 Tallan Mitchell, Harry Bell.
Plymouth Argyle Squad: 23 Luke McCormick (GK), 2 Gary Miller, 3 Gary Sawyer, 4 Yann Songo’o, 5 Ryan Edwards, 7 Antoni Sarcevic, 10 Graham Carey, 11 Ruben Lameiras, 14 Jake Jervis, 21 Gregg Wylde, 24 David Fox. Substitutes: 1 Robbert Te Loeke (GK), 8 Lionel Ainsworth, 15 Sonny Bradley, 16 Joel Grant, 17 Aaron Taylor-Sinclair, 19 Ryan Taylor, 20 Jakub Sokolik, 26 Jordan Bentley, 27 Alex Fletcher, 28 Cameron Sangster.
Referee: Adam Bromley
Attendance: 1,780 (850 away)