Plymouth Argyle 2 Oxford United 2
The teams in second and third in Sky Bet League 2 were left with a point apiece as they fought out an enthralling 2-2 draw at Plymouth this afternoon. United were twice in front thanks to an own goal from Peter Hartley and a Kemar Roofe goal, but two headers from two corners by Curtis Nelson and Craig Tanner meant both teams had to settle for a point at Home Park.
On a pudding of a pitch both sides tried to zip the ball around in the opening exchanges but it was two set pieces that gave us two goals in three minutes as the game came to life.
The breakthrough came on ten minutes as United’s set-piece excellence again gave them an early edge. Chris Maguire, back in the side on the left wing, sent in a perfectly flighted corner that cut out keeper Luke McCormick and was about to be powered home by Chey Dunkley until centre-half Peter Hartley saved him the bother by getting his body in front and deflecting the ball into his own net.
The brilliant away fans celebrated happily but their joy was short lived as Argyle bounced straight back to score a copycat corner equaliser. Jervis corner from the left, Nelson left in a space the size of Trafalgar Square, and a thumping header to make it 1-1.
Injuries had affected both sides, with Benji Buchel out with a rib injury and Joe Skarz missing his first league game of the season. Sam Slocombe, back between the sticks for Buchel, made an excellent double save from Gregg Wylde as Argyle ran free midway through the first half, while Jordan Evans, in at left back, looked very assured in Skarz’s usual place.
United soaked up a little pressure after that but are always capable of breaking out at speed and on 35 minutes they were in front again thanks to an excellently taken goal. Plymouth’s back line were left with the unenviable sight of Maguire, Hylton, Bowery and Roofe all bearing down on them as United committed men to the counter. Bowery came in from the left and was entitled to shoot but instead squared the ball for Roofe, who took one touch to control and one to smash it past the helpless McCormick, who could only stand and admire as the ball flew into the corner for Roofe’s 22nd of the season.
Now it was Plymouth’s turn to show off their defensive qualities as the U’s took control until the break. Bowery snapped a shot over the top on 39 and Jonjoe Kenny fired wide seconds before the break when his first goal was there for the taking, but United had been ruthless and were good value for their half-time lead.
Sub ref Brett Huxtable, on at half time when original ref James Adcock limped off with a calf injury, had a quick decision to make as soon as Liam Sercombe was tripped inside the box in the first minute of the second half but United were let off the hook a minute later when Reuben Reid smacked a header against the bar and then had his follow up hooked off the line in acrobatic style by the alert Kenny.
Plymouth's problem became whether to commit men forward too early: three times Bowery was left one-on-one with a backtracking defender as United stretched the game and controlled the second half. The excellent Hylton almost found a third goal when he cut in from the left and had a shot blocked, and then on 73 he might easily have sealed the win when he ran clear of the defence and had only McCormick to beat but delayed his shot and allowed Nelson to recover and get a tackle in. Hylton was convinced he was fouled but it proved a crucial moment because within a minute Plymouth were on level terms again, as Tanner rose to power another straightforward header past Slocombe from another corner.
Back came the U's, Hylton firing a shot against the bar after a sharp turn.
Honours even and two good sides with little to choose between them. It's going to take a good team to catch either of them on this form.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Darrell Fisher, stats by Opta
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