An unfortunate own-goal from Harrison Holgate gifted Plymouth Argyle all three points on Saturday as Fleetwood Town were beaten 1-0 at Home Park.
The fortunate deflection in the first half was enough to move Plymouth within reach of the playoffs as resilient defending down the other end kept a spirited Fleetwood at bay.
Ryan Lowe fielded an unchanged Argyle side from Tuesday’s away win over Accrington Stanley. The Pilgrims set up in a 5-3-2 formation, with Connor Grant and Byron Moore acting as attacking-minded wing-backs. Free-scoring Welshman Luke Jephcott began in a front-line pairing with Niall Ennis, who has prised his way into the line-up following a move from Wolverhampton Wanderers in January.
Fleetwood also went unchanged from their midweek victory. Irishman Paddy Madden lined up alongside Northern Irishman Kyle Vassell up front, each of whom found the net in Tuesday’s 3-1 win against Doncaster Rovers. 28-year-old Alex Cairns made his 10th appearance of the campaign between the sticks. Simon Grayson also saw value in wing-backs, opting for a 5-3-2 formation.
Story of the match
The opening exchanges played out remarkably evenly. While Plymouth enjoyed the majority of the possession, the visitors were far more productive with the ball and enjoyed the first sight on goal.
On the 10-minute mark, midfielder Dan Batty fired a beautiful ball through to Madden, who in turn looked up and aimed a pass towards an unmarked Vassell at the back post. As the ball crossed the penalty spot, a heroic sliding challenge from Will Aimson guided it into the relieved hands of goalkeeper Michael Cooper.
Argyle took the lead just a single minute later. Patient build-up play set the ball wide on the right for Moore to launch a teasing cross in towards the far post. With green shirts lurking to turn it in, the ball took a cruel deflection off a retreating Holgate and ricocheted beyond his bemused ‘keeper and into the bottom-left corner.
The Cod Army pressed on despite the setback and had the ball in the net 15 minutes later. A wayward back-pass fell to the feet of captain Madden, who laid a neat ball off for strike partner Vassell. The 28-year-old drilled home a luscious finish across the goalkeeper, but the linesman on the far side had raised his flag for offside and the goal was ruled out.
Fleetwood came agonisingly close with five minutes left of the half. The ever-present Madden played Callum Camps in behind, but, as he shaped up to shoot from close-range, Tyrese Fornah slid in and stole the ball from the Northern Irishman’s feet. Still with work to do, Argyle defender Aimson poked the ball behind for a corner, which eventually came to nothing.
Town looked rushed in their movement early in the second half as they sought to make amends for their deficit. The far-calmer Argyle stroked the ball around well and found themselves enjoying a great deal of possession deep in the visitors’ final third.
Ten minutes into the half, Fleetwood boss Grayson was awarded a yellow card by referee Thomas Bramall after he caught a stray ball which was adjudged to have still been in play.
Argyle nearly doubled their lead just past the hour mark. Sublime play from captain Danny Mayor sent Grant to the races on the left flank, and he cut a sharp ball back to Panutche Camara. Bissau-Guinean Camara seemed to overrun the delivery as he failed to open up enough on the strike and dragged his effort wide.
The Pilgrims squandered several late chances to seal the tie as a flurry of second-half substitutes instilled a new lease of life in what had become a stale attack. Adam Lewis was presented with a clear path to goal after a dangerous cross from Moore eluded the awaiting green shirts and found the youngster on the edge of the penalty area. He snatched at the opportunity and shanked his volley well wide of the post, much to the dismay of an animated Lowe on the sideline.
Takeaway from the match
Plymouth Argyle were the better side for much of the tie, but misfiring forwards could well have cost them. All three points were won by a unfortunate own-goal from Holgate, and Ryan Lowe’s side should must go back to the drawing board if they want to fire themselves out of sight of physical teams.
Man of the match
Paddy Madden – Fleetwood Town
While Madden could not find the net on the day, he was unfortunate to be on the losing side. A commanding display from the captain, he asked many questions of the defence with a sumptuous arsenal of passes.