Fleetwood 3-0 Plymouth
By David Mitchell
An early strike from David Ball, a second half own goal from Argyle’s Curtis Nelson and a third in added time from Junior Brown gave Fleetwood Town their eighth win of the season.
Town extended their unbeaten run to seven league and cup games. Plymouth Argyle battled well for periods in front of a crowd of 2657 but ended with ten men as captain Darren Purse was sent off for two bookable offences in the second half.
Skipper Steve McNulty made his 150th
start for Town in a side showing one change from last Saturday’s draw at Exeter. Tom Barkhuizen made his first start for four games in an attack depleted by injury. Plymouth, after a draw that was so nearly a win against league leaders Gillingham seven days ago, also made one change. Striker Nick Chadwick came in for injured Rhys Griffiths.
There were anxious moments in the opening seconds as Argyle floated a high ball towards Shaun Beeley. Attempting one of his trademark back passes off the chest, the full back under hit the attempt, forcing Scott Davies into prompt action at the feet of Chadwick. Play immediately went to the opposite end and Town took the lead from their first attack. Following a long throw from Barkhuizen, Barry Nicholson hit a speculative overhead shot and Ball reacted quickly to guide a header past Rene Gilmartin for his fourth goal of the season.
A second could have followed in the 10th
minute. Barkhuizen glided forward from midfield, beating several defenders and setting up Ball to his right. Luke Young made an interception with his boot, creating a tricky ricochet which Durrell Berry cleared off the line. Town were dominating the early play, Purse denying Junior Brown with a last ditch tackle after 13 minutes.
Argyle wasted a chance of their own after quarter of an hour. Jamie Lowry provided for Young who miscued, much to his frustration. A powerful header from Chadwick then forced a corner soon after. Town responded and Curtis Brown denied Ball who had been provided by Jamie McGuire.
The first words from referee Webb were quietly directed towards McNulty and Chadwick after 21 minutes. Three minutes later it was McGuire’s turn.
After the early setback, Plymouth settled and gained a stronger foothold as the half developed. Paris Cowan-Hall almost wrong-footed Davies after 27 minutes and there was further anxiety for the Cod Army on the half hour as a punched clearance from Town’s keeper lacked distance. Both Argyle full-backs, Berry and Onismor Bhasera, attempted a series of crosses as a noticeable breeze produced a swirling delivery. Bhasera became the first name in Mr. Webb’s book after bringing down Barkhuizen.
Davies saved well from Cowan-Hall’s left foot shot and the large contingent of Pilgrims fans raised the volume, sensing an equaliser. They were nearly silenced again in the 37th
minute, however, but Barkhuizen’s header at the back post from Dean Howell’s cross was aimed straight at Gilmartin. McGuire upended Lowry just before half time and Davies kept out Young’s free kick.
The first action after the break saw a booking for Chadwick, for a challenge which left Barry Ferguson clutching his leg. A delightful touch by Ball then gave Nicholson the first chance of the second half, his left footed attempt saved by Gilmartin. Town pushed forward in the first few minutes. The first substitution saw Alex Macdonald replace Warren Feeney for Argyle after 52 minutes and Town sent Curtis Obeng on for Barkhuizen six minutes later. Obeng made an immediate impact, getting the ball into the area. Ball went down under pressure and Nicholson was unable to exploit a chance from the rebound.
The former Preston midfielder was booked soon after, leading to a free kick from a dangerous position, taken by Macdonald. The shot was blocked by Town’s defensive wall. Both sets of fans were aroused just after the hour as tempers became frayed on both sides and Beeley needed treatment after one challenge. Argyle chased the equaliser and Ball lead the attack tirelessly as Town countered.
Damien Johnson returned after a five-match absence following injury, the former Northern Ireland international taking Nicholson’s place in midfield. Town won three corners in quick succession and Johnson showed sureness of touch after his lay-off. Carl Fletcher brought Guy Madjo on for Lowry and his skipper, Purse, was booked for a tussle with McGuire after 74 minutes. The feud continued shortly after, leading to a chat between the referee and both his assistants. As a result, Purse received a second yellow and his marching orders. There was also a swing at McNulty before the centre-back left the pitch.
Town exploited the situation immediately, Obeng swinging the ball in from the right and pressurising Nelson into putting the ball past his keeper to give Town breathing space with ten minutes left. Town looked for more, Brown firing a quick cross from the left into the path of Ball who just failed to control it. The two combined in added time with Ball setting up Brown who swept the ball in for his seventh of the season.
TOWN: Davies, Beeley, McNulty (capt), Mawéné, Howell, Nicholson (Johnson 68), Ferguson, McGuire, Brown, Barkhuizen (Obeng 58), Ball