Bradford 3 Argyle 1: Match report
ARGYLE are out of the Emirates FA Cup following a cup-tie that defied the pre-conceived narrative.
The Pilgrims won at the same ground three weeks earlier thanks to a resolute defensive display. This time, they played some at-times scintillating football as they took the tie to Bradford, but a failure to strike at the right time cost them.
Romain Vincelot gave Bradford the lead against the run of play, and then saw his volley deflected home by team-mate Nathanial Knight-Percival. Graham Carey got one back for Argyle, but Charlie Wyke's immediate reposte put the game essentially beyond Argyle. That said, they spent the remainder of the game trying to eke a way back into the game, but found Bradford as stubborn as the Pilgrims themselves had been, 21 days previous.
As per usual, the big news before the game was about a goalkeeper, but this time the new was so much more satisfactory. Super, you might say.
Luke McCormick regained his gloves, his place and his captain's armband as his ankle injury was deemed to have diminished enough to be declared fit. Will Mannion, therefore, departed without having graced Home Park, and with a record of one match played, and it being a defeat at Yeovil in the Checkatrade Trophy. Hardly a dream biography, but he goes with our thanks - keep an eye on him; he's got a future.
But in a season which has featured Mannion, Matthews, Cooper, Letheran and te Loeke, we were finally back where we began; with Luke where he belongs.
McCormick apart, manager Derek Adams largely kept faith with the side that came to Bradford and won in Sky Bet League One three weeks earlier. The only other amendment was Graham Carey playing on the right of Argyle's midfield, rather than Lionel Ainsworth.
Recovering duo Ryan Taylor and Oscar Threlkeld, who played 72 and 90 minutes respectively at Yeovil on Tuesday, were both on the bench as their rehabilitation continues.
Argyle looked to have gifted a chance to their hosts just five minutes in, when Aaron Taylor-Sinclair's throw-in to Yann Songo'o was returned to the full-back with no pace, and Alex Gilliead nipped in. His cross, though, was miles beyond his team-mates, who had not reacted as quickly as he had.
Reacting best, though, were Argyle, who directly from this aattack cut a swathe through Bradford with a clinical, flowing move that ended with a Graham Carey cross being only just too hard for Jake Jervis to pounce on.
For those expecting an identical game to the one three weeks earlier, where Argyle had defended, but not been extended, the pattern was far from the same in the early stages. Bradford seemed a little more content to let Argyle have the ball, and the visitors obliged, playing some eye-catching possesion football and taking the game to City in the opening 20 minutes. They did not create a chance to stretch Rouven Sattelmaier in the Bradford goal, but this was certainly no attempt at rope-a-dope.
Perhaps Stuart McCall's plan to foil Derek Adams was to 'Out-Derek' him, by allowing the Pilgrims the ball and hoping to draw a gap within the Greens that they could not engineer in the previous meeting.
Bradford's first chance of note came on 21 minutes, and was a perfect reminder to us all over exactly what our number 23 is all about. Alex Gilliead fired a powerful shot from the edge of the area that looked dangerous enough before it took a deflection. Somehow McCormick read the flight and saved it, but the ball fell straight to Charlie Wyke....and McCormick saved from him, too. It was a tremendous double save, and a timely reminder of why we use the adjective 'Super' quite so often.
The Bradford attack was far from the norm, though, and Argyle resume their control of the game. The game was flowing through David Fox, dictating the pace, and his vision started plenty of Argyle forward movements.
At the front of it all, Jervis, the man whose goal was the difference in the fixture 21 days earlier, and he looked determined to repeat the dose. His first effort was a tricky one, spinning inside the area and shooting over with his left foot after a cross by Joel Grant.
His second was better struck, from just inside the area, and drew a very good save from Sattelmeier.
The third, though, was the best of the bunch, and was a total gift. A long ball forward, down the throat of Bradford right-back Tony McMahon, caused panic. McMahon tried to head back to Sattelmeier, and failed. Jervis nipped in, headed over the stranded goalkeeper...and watched the ball trickle wide.
An Argyle move involving several players, played at double-quick pace, ended in Toumani Diagouraga's shot being charged down. Had it gone in, it would have been the team goal of the season.
This was quite something to behold, as Argyle's smooth passing football wreaked havoc with high-flying Bradford's style.
And then they scored.
Read the full match report here.