Plymouth Argyle v Exeter City

Match report: Plymouth 3 Exeter City 0

Two goals in the first half from Harvey and Reid, and a follow-up by Nelson in the second saw Argyle the victors in the much-anticipated Devon derby. 

Exeter City were unable to get on the score sheet as a composed Argyle took the full sum of the points at Home Park this afternoon. 

The game also saw the appearance of new signing Graham Cummins in his first competitive fixture for City. Following the lifting of the transfer embargo yesterday, Paul Tisdale didn’t hesitate in completing his first piece of business. Striker Cummins started amongst the substitutes on the away trip to Plymouth and appeared for the second-half, making a distinct impact in the final third. 

The much-anticipated away derby also saw City’s own Liam Sercombe return to the line-up, with youngster Jordan Tillson making another competitive start for the club.  A further change, to the Grecian side that was defeated by Bournemouth mid-week, saw Matt Oakley replace Arron Davies in the centre of the park. 

Meanwhile, the Pilgrims made one change to the side that went the distance with Leyton Orient on Tuesday. Injured Lee Cox made way for youngster Tyler Harvey, while striker Reuben Reid started up top for the home side following his hard-battled brace in Argyle’s mid-week cup game.

Very early in the half, both sides sought to express their purpose. An early strike from the home side saw Ollie Norburn send a blistering shot, from the edge of Exeter’s box, just over the bar. 

At the other end of the pitch, a long ball from Tillson found Tom Nichols in the middle of the opposition half.  The striker found Sercombe with a neat lay off, whose quick feet saw him find space. He let one fly, but he was just off-target over Luke McCormick’s right-hand corner. 

However, the home side soon demonstrated their speed and prowess in attack. Although Lewis Alessandra watched his high-powered attempt at goal disappear into the stand behind Pym’s net, this was the beginning of the home side’s assault on the Grecian’s defence.

The first of the home side’s goals occurred in the fourteenth minute. Exeter skipper Scot Bennett brought down Jason Banton on the left-hand corner of his area, conceding a free kick in an incredibly dangerous position. Tyler Harvey stepped up with confidence and his well-directed, composed shot sailed past the wall and into Christy Pym’s top right-hand corner. An excellent shot that Pym or the defensive wall could do nothing about.  

A period of intense pressure followed. Most notably, a skilful exchange between Harvey and Reid confirmed the home side’s desire to go further ahead. Harvey lay off a superb ball to Reid, who was charging straight into the Grecian’s box, and promptly gave it back inside. Harvey could only manage to put it wide of the upright. It was a wasted chance, and City must have felt fortunate to escape an increase to the margin.

The resulting pressure that followed the goal saw City’s defensive capabilities being tested. Tillson did well to deal with the speed of Alessandra and Pat Baldwin, in a repeat of Tuesday night’s performance, put in some sterling work.

Exeter also made some attacking movements into Argyle’s final third, but were lacking the composure to complete. A neat 1-2 between Danny Butterfield and Sercombe resulted in a low, driving cross into the box, but Nichols couldn’t connect. 

The Pilgrims extended their lead in the thirty-sixth minute with a clinical goal from striker Reid. A clearly buoyed and lively Harvey played a grounded pass to Reid, who was waiting in centre of the Grecian’s box. The striker hit an excellent right-footed shot, driving low and to the left of Pym. 

It was Bennett who received the first official caution of the game during the closing minutes of the half. Bennett received his yellow for a shoulder barge on Reid in a near-identical position to the earlier goal. The result saw Harvey flick up the ball and hit it on the volley. However, the shot ploughed straight into the wall and was easily cleared by City’s lines.

The visitors saw out the half, looking slightly livelier than they had done earlier, but not developing anything in the opposition box. 

Half time: Plymouth Argyle 2 Exeter City 0

The opening of the second half saw two changes from City, with Butterfield and Tillson giving way for David Wheeler and new-signing Cummins. 

The Grecian’s looked far brighter in the second half, and the game became far more open at times. Within the opening minutes of the half, both Wheeler and Cummins had made their presence known. 

Seven minutes into the half, Wheeler’s left-footed shot from outside Argyle’s box slid just wide of the right-hand upright. In the fifty-fifth minute, Cummins superbly worked himself into space right in the centre of Plymouth’s penalty area. But McCormick saved his left-footed shot, reaching high into the top centre of his net.   

Argyle also had their share of opportunities on goal. The sixtieth minute saw Alessandra shooting high and over the bar, and Pym expertly save Banton’s right-footed effort from the centre of the box. 

Exeter’s efforts in the opening minutes clearly encouraged a response from the Pilgrims. A tactical substitution in the 70th minute saw goal scorer Reid give way to fellow attacking forward Marvin Morgan, and River Allen replace Harvey shortly after. 

The second half also saw the intensity of the game increase; it truly began to feel like a derby. There was some fierce tackling on display and this resulted in a spattering of cards for both sides.

For Exeter, Oakley received a caution for a foul on Anthony O’Connor and Nichols for a strong challenge, also on O’Connor. However, it was Nichols who came off far worse from this altercation, having to be subbed off for Ollie Watkins shortly after, being unable to shake off an ankle injury. 

Meanwhile, Plymouth received three cautions, all for rather tasty challenges. Oliver Norburn was shown the yellow in the fifty-third minute for a challenge on Nichols, McHugh for a challenge on Wheeler and Morgan for bringing down Matt Oakley. 

However, a Grecian resurge was not to be.  In the 82nd minute, as Exeter’s defensive lines were scrabbling to clear a loose ball within their 6 yard box, a poised and opportunistic Curtis Nelson picked up the ball and slotted it into the top left corner. The third goal, so late in the game, all but finalising the result.

Yet, Exeter continued to battle until the final whistle. In the fourth minute of added time, debutant Cummins came close to nabbing a consolation goal for the visitors. His left-footed shot, from the left hand side of Argyle’s box, going just high and wide of McCormick’s net.

Full-time: Plymouth Argyle 3 Exeter City 0

Plymouth Argyle: McCormick; Mellor, Nelson (c), Hartley, McHugh; O’Connor; Alessandra, Harvey (Allen 76), Norburn, Banton (Thomas 83); Reid (Morgan 70) 
Unused Subs: Bittner, Purrington, Blizzard, Smalley, 
Goals: Harvey (14), Reid (36), Nelson (82).

Exeter City: Pym; Butterfield (Wheeler 45), Tillson (Cummins 45), Bennett (c), Baldwin, Woodman; Sercombe, Oakley, Grimes; Keohane, Nichols (Watkins 73).
Unused Subs: Hamon, Davies, Dawson, Jay. 

Attendance: 11,418 (943 away)
Referee: Roger East