Co. Fermanagh 0
Plymouth Argyle 2
By Steven Boucher
Travel issues caused a 15-minute delay to this fixture, meaning the first whistle coincided perfectly with the heavens opening. But, despite the downpour the Chimney Corner pitch held up very well. Plymouth were looking to build on their opening day victory over English counterparts Charlton, while Fermanagh sought to bounce back from a 3-0 defeat to St Mirren.
From the beginning both teams sought to use the large pitch, spreading the ball wide regularly. And this width lead to the opening goal just 4 minutes in, as Plymouth winger Oliver Evans won a free kick near the corner flag. Unfortunately for Fermanagh, the dangerous cross into the 6-yard box ricocheted off a defender for an own goal, giving Plymouth the early lead.
The English side took confidence from this, and played some excellent football, their coach James Bradley audibly calling for patience in the build-up play. Chances came and went for James Sharpe, Billy Devlin and Joe Mwaro. Fermanagh in blue sat deep, and struggled to find passes to their attack, but a quick break up the left saw a cross land to Nicky Milligan open in the box – his shot agonizingly being blocked on the line by Tobias MacClean.
Argyle dominated possession, with a 3-man defense happy to spread wide, and captain Jacob Turner in midfield dropping in to play the deep playmaker role, while their pacy wide men and forwards were willing and dynamic runners. Evans again was involved with his low shot being well saved by Tadgh Kernaghan in the Fermanagh goal – a keeper who was in the wars today, regularly putting his body on the line for his team.
And the pattern continued for the rest of the half, with Plymouth moving the ball well, but Fermanagh holding strong, their defense playing a good offside trap, with tough tackling from John Ritchie and captain Oscar Timlin organizing his defense well. The Lakesiders almost caught Plymouth off guard when Kelan Boyle found himself alone in their half from a clearance, but as he sought to break away unencumbered on goal, Argyle captain Turner showed his quality chasing him down and fairly winning the ball.
Plymouth came out early for the second half, chomping at the bit, the halftime message presumably asking for more of the same. And they continued to have the possession and more dangerous opportunities, Jared Rendle unable to convert a quick-fire pair of chances. The men in blue started to look long for the towering Daniel Gawley, who put himself about well without ever having a clear cut chance. The healthy contingent of travelling Fermanagh fans were giving them plenty of encouragement.
Both teams made plentiful substitutions, upsetting the flow of the game somewhat, Fermanagh emptying their bench to maximize their energy and verve. But Plymouth managed to control the pace of the game, with good possession passing, and drawing regular fouls. A late chance looked to come from a free kick for Fermanagh, though – a cross from the left somehow evaded everyone and landed in the grateful arms of keeper Leo McCormick.
And, just as had happened the day before, Fermanagh were unlucky to concede a late late goal in the final minute of time. Plymouth played an excellent move from right to left and back into the middle, where Rendle made no mistake with a powerful strike past Sean McDermott in Fermanagh’s goal.
Fermanagh manager Chris McDowell felt his team equipped themselves very well – “For effort and heart and desire they’re brilliant. They’re a good bunch of boys and they’re learning. We were holding out, but we had to go for it, and when you get caught the other teams in this competition are ruthless.”
Plymouth manager was pleased with the impact of some of his younger players coming off the bench today. “They showed energy when they came on to the pitch. They showed they really wanted to make an impact from the bench, which is exactly what we’re looking for.” He did feel overall, despite the victory, there is more to come from his team. “Happy with the result, that’s 2 wins out of 2 for us now. I think the performance could be better, and that’s what we’ll be looking to do over the next few days.”