United 2 Plymouth 1. Full time report
Deane Smalley’s first half double gave United another three points as they continued their 100 percent start to the season with a 2-1 win over Plymouth this afternoon. Smalley’s brace helped put United top of the early League Two table, with the U’s full value for their win despite Robbie Williams’s second half consolation for the visitors.
The U’s were forced into one change with Lee Cox struggling with a groin problem that is likely to keep him out for two weeks, which made selection easier and the same side at kick-off that did so well in the second half against Southend in midweek. Tom Craddock, who scored two goals in that half, picked up where he left off and drifted inside in the second minute to power a shot over the bar, but it was generally a cagey opening ten minutes as the two sides probed for openings. Argyle’s 4-1-4-1 shape certainly presented an interesting test for United in their opening 4-4-2 formation, and when they sprang forward on 12 minutes they did get the ball in the net, only for Paris Cowan-Hall to be flagged offside.
However United gradually began to impose their own style on their visitors with Jake Forster-Caskey and Adam Chapman working hard and knitting play together as a youthful midfield duo of immense promise. To their left Sean Rigg had the beating of his full back all day and on 20 minutes it was Rigg’s persistence that paved the way for the opener.
It appeared that he had lost out in a tussle for the ball but Rigg got the better of Curtis Nelson and tucked the ball inside for Craddock’s whose ball picked out Smalley. The striker had enough time to take a touch before burying the ball beyond Jake Cole to make it 1-0.
The former Chesterfield forward’s day got even better three minutes later as the now rampant Yellows doubled their lead. This time the elusive Potter stormed forwards in the middle of the pitch with Argyle’s defence conspicuous by its absence. As a defender finally committed to come forward to meet Potter he slipped the ball to his right from where Smalley again took a touch then thumped the ball joyfully beneath Cole to make it 2-0. Incredibly he had now scored as many goals in three minutes as he managed all last season, and there looks to be plenty more to come from a forward full of confidence and goals.
Damian Batt somehow burst through the middle of the gaping Plymouth defence on 29 before drilling a left footed shot wide from the edge of the area, and after half an hour it seemed Plymouth’s best chance would be an abandonment as the heavens opened and the floodlights flickered out as the rain began to pour.
Smalley will never have a better chance for a hat-trick than his 35th minute shot which came back off Cole’s legs after Craddock had caused yet more problems for the creaking Plymouth back line, and that proved to be his last chance of the game as he was replaced at half time by James Constable, with Simon Heslop also coming on at the interval in place of the excellent Forster-Caskey.
It was all about containment for the second half , although Craddock could have scored with another flashing drive on 66 minutes which just cleared the bar and Rigg tested Cole’s handling with a 25 yard piledriver soon after.
Plymouth though had lifted their game in the second half and clawed their way back in after 75 minutes as Robbie Williams smashed home a 20 yard free kick, just as he did the last time the teams met last season. Take That indeed. The first goal Plymouth have scored this season and the first United have conceded.
375 minutes before you concede the first goal of the season is probably fair enough, even if it did make the game unnecessarily tense for the closing stages.
Don’t let that goal against dominate your thoughts too much. Pittman was only denied by a fine save from Cole and Rigg had a header go just over and were worthy winners over the 90 minutes. They will certainly be among the early pace setters once the table starts to take meaningful shape.
A mean defence, a hard working midfield and strikers all sharing the goals around is a good recipe for any side, and United now go looking for a little cup glory as they travel to Leeds in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday night.
Clarke, Batt, Raynes, Wright, Capaldi, Chapman, Forster-Caskey (Heslop 46), Potter, Smalley (Constable 46), Rigg, Craddock (Pittman 67)
McGinty, Heslop, Constable, Pittman, Brown, Evans, Marsh
Fifty/50 winner: 237904
Report by Chris Williams