Plymouth Argyle booked their place in the second round of the Emirates FA Cup on Tuesday with a 3-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday at Home Park.
Goals from Jordon Garrick either side of a Ryan Hardie strike ensured that a thrilling Argyle display was justly rewarded with a trip to Rochdale in the next stage of the tournament.
Plymouth went unchanged from the side that began the emphatic league victory over Accrington Stanley three days prior, with star striker Luke Jephcott still unavailable due to his ties with the Wales under-21 squad.
Darren Moore made three changes to his travelling Wednesday side following Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Gillingham. Jaden Brown, Dennis Adeniran and Saido Berahino came into the starting XI, with the latter posing a real threat to Argyle in the initial running of this fixture.
Story of the match
The visitors saw the first chance squandered within 10 minutes when Albanian Florian Kamberi found space for a half-volley from 12 yards. Kamberi’s strong effort was saved comfortably by Michael Cooper.
Wednesday kicked up a gear and were well on top, chasing down every loose ball with remarkable intensity. The Owls came close to taking the lead two minutes later when a smart delivery from Kamberi found Brown on the edge of the penalty area, but the wing-back’s goal-bound shot was rerouted wide by a crucial touch from Argyle enforcer Dan Scarr.
Against the run of play, it was Argyle who took the lead in the 20th minute when a rapid counterattack was launched following a cheap loss of possession from Brown. Scotsman Hardie beat an incoming challenge and carried the ball along the touchline before feeding Panutche Camara on the corner of the box. Camara played a neat square ball for Garrick, who coolly slotted home beyond glovesman Joe Wildsmith.
Argyle came again soon after, with Garrick now the man looking to create the goal. The Englishman entered the box wide on the left and slipped marauding left-back Conor Grant behind the defence, but Wildsmith was wise to the move and got a strong hand to the low-driven shot.
The Pilgrims doubled their lead nine minutes before the break. Wednesday were caught in possession on the edge of their penalty area by the ubiquitous Camara, who selflessly played in Hardie. The 24-year-old was forced to fight hard for the ball with the retreating defenders, but he came out from the scramble in possession and squeezed the shot in off the post, leaving the onrushing ‘keeper stranded.
The visitors came out for the restart looking revitalised from what was a gruelling end to the first half. Kamberi and his offensive colleagues had the run on the Plymouth backline, but their spirit was not matched by those needed to provide the service. Several half-chances went begging in the opening 20 minutes of the second period, but things just would not click for Wednesday.
Argyle added a third in the most bizarre circumstances just beyond the hour-mark. Visiting ‘keeper Wildsmith hesitated before charging for a wayward pass on the edge of the box and appeared to handle the ball beyond his jurisdiction in a tangle with the sprightly Garrick. Referee Christopher Sarginson blew his whistle and motioned for a free-kick to the hosts but, spurred on by the home crowd, Garrick found his feet and tucked the ball into an empty net for his second of the night. Sarginson looked bemused for a moment but allowed the goal to stand while the Greens celebrated.
Plymouth saw out the game well, slowing the pace down and nullifying a late surge from the Owls, whose flurry of second-half substitutions had introduced a small glimmer amongst the Wednesday attack.
Takeaway from the match
Argyle are back to their best
Following the goalless draw at Hillsborough last week, it was looking like Argyle’s race was run. Ryan Lowe’s side were woeful on the road that day, but in the intervening week appear to have rediscovered their mojo.
It was far from a faultless display tonight, but they took the game to Wednesday before they could settle and reaped the rewards of their intensity with a place in the second round. Plymouth looked like the league leaders that they are again; clinical in attack and resolute in defence.
Man of the match
Jordon Garrick – Plymouth Argyle
Barely a minute went by where Garrick was not an issue for the ailing Wednesday defence. The forward netted twice and could well have assisted, had things gone so swimmingly for his teammates. Garrick put in a well-rounded performance, which his parent club, Swansea City, will no doubt take note of.