Plymouth Argyle 1-1 Bristol Rovers: Gas pay the penalty in EFL Trophy opener

A point on the board at least but Bristol Rovers’ luck ran out when it came to spot-kicks
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Bristol Rovers opened their EFL Trophy campaign with a defeat on penalties to Plymouth Argyle after a 1-1 draw.

Ryan Loft opened the scoring like he did against Shrewsbury but Ryan Hardie equalised from the spot after Trevor Clarke was adjudged to have fouled in the box.

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Harvey Greenslade and Antony Evans missed their spot kicks which the Pilgrims punished as Niall Ennis scored the decisive penalty for the bonus point.

First-team manager Joey Barton wasn’t at Home Park with right-hand man Andy Mangan in his place to oversee duties in Devon on Tuesday evening.

The visitors controlled possession in the opening stages of the match as wing-back Lewis Gordon tested the hosts defence.

On-loan Swansea City loanee Morgan Whittaker was the danger-man for Plymouth and he tested the three-man defence with a shot that Luca Hoole had to throw himself behind.

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Rovers played a possession game that racked up the chances with Ryan Hardie spurning a shot after making space for himself.

Plymouth rattled the crossbar after Macaulay Gillesphey found Joe Edwards with a perfect cross but the midfielders header bounced out and away from the goal line.

Edwards followed it up moments later as he just miscalculated Will Jenkins-Davies’s cross in a golden chance for the hosts.

A well-worked free-kick almost resulted in a Rovers goul as Paul Coutts’ long ball found Luca Hoole but the Wales Under-21 defender directed it wide of the upright.

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As the first-half closed out in stoppage time, Rovers had their best chance as Hoole drove a shot that Callum Barton dived down to save.

Rovers went in front in the opening moments of the second-half which was no ore than they deserved. Using his power and strength, Loft barged the Plymouth defender off the ball, burst into the box and fired it through the goalkeepers legs.

After drifting in from the right wing, Saunders shot left his boot and it sailed just over the bar in a livelier start from the Gas.

Before the hour mark, Plymouth got back on level terms through a gift. Trevor Clarke was adjudged to have fouled Whittaker. Hardie sent Jaakkola the wrong way to drive home the equaliser.

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They then missed the chance to take the lead as Nigel Lonwijk’s free-header went abegging after being well found. Whittaker was a man on a mission and he had to same fate of Lonwijk after heading over from Hardie’s cross, before later dragging a shot wide.

The recently introduced Aaron Collins forced the goalkeeper to save with his legs which was the first part of a manic minute. From Collins’ effort Plymouth broke away and Jordan Houghton had a shot saved by Anssi Jaakola after a blistering counter-attack.

Neither team could find a further goal though Plymouth looked likelier to add a second, but instead they went to the lottery of penalties.

Aaron Collins found the net with his penalty but substitute Finn Azaz levelled things up. Evans’ penalty was then sent side but Adam Randell failed to make the advantage count.

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Greenslade then stepped forward for the third but Burton guessed right to save and Gillesphey gave Plymouth the advantage. Luke McCormick was able to score his penalty as did Ryan Jones but after Joe Houghton scored, all Ennis needed to do was strike home, which he did so expertly.

Plymouth Argyle (3-4-2-1): Callum Burton, Nigel Lonwijk, Oscar Halls, Macaulay Gillesphey, Joe Edwards (Bali Mumba, 46), Joe Houghton, Adam Randell, Jack Endacott, Morgan Whittaker(Fred Issaka, 82), Will Jenkins-Davies (Finn Azaz, 66), Ryan Hardie (Niall Ennis, 74)

Goal: Ryan Hardie penalty 59’

Yellow Cards: Morgan Whittaker 3

Bristol Rovers (3-5-2): Anssi Jaakkola, Luca Hoole (Harvey Greenslade, 78), Glenn Whelan, Trevor Clarke (Ryan Jones, 71), Harvey Saunders, Paul Coutts (Antony Evans, 62), Jordan Rossiter, Jerry Lawrence (Luke McCormick, 62), Lewis Gordon, Ryan Loft, John Marquis (Aaron Collins, 62)

Goal: Ryan Loft 50’

Yellow Cards: Harvey Saunders 60’

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