Plymouth Argyle 4 Leyton Orient 0
Carl Fletcher, Leyton Orient’s new boss, endured a baptism of fire, as his new side’s three-match winning run came to an abrupt halt in South Devon, on Tuesday night – but, in controversial circumstances.
A blatant Zak Rudden handball went unpunished, with Joel Grant netting, before Rudden hit a second, soon after. Callum McFazdean and a Joe Widdowson own goal added insult to injury – all before the interval.
This was after the unchanged O’s – on the back of fine 4-0 Grimsby weekend away win – had seen a James Dayton effort curl inches wide of an upright.
But, Plymouth got their break on 14 minutes when TV replays showed a clear ‘use of the hand’ from Rudden, attempting to control George Cooper’s high cross. With the O’s defence appealing for an infringement, Grant rammed home from inside the six-yard box.
Within three minutes, Rudden was allowed to meet another Cooper cross and netted with an admittedly fine curling effort, completely deceiving Dean Brill.
On 27 minutes – and with the O’s trying to repair some of the early damage – Craig Clay missed an absolute sitter, completely missing a sitter from a find James Brophy cross.
The O’s were effectively dead and buried, on 35 minutes, after McFazdean was allowed too much time and space, from an Antoni Sarcevic, and drilled home past a despairing Brill.
And, with Fletcher probably wondering what he has let himself in for, this contest was turning into a nightmare for the O’s as Widdowson deflected home Brill’s attempted punch out, from Rudden’s cross in first-half stoppage time.
Plymouth – effectively – ‘declared’ after the turnaround, with the game well won.
But, Orient’s punchless attack offered very little in reply and it was Dan Happe – scorer at Grimsby – who went closest, on the hour – at least bringing a save out of the grossly underworked Alex Palmer.
Even with the introduction of ‘super sub’, James Alabi – who missed a sitter four minutes from time – it was an extremely disappointing evening, after such a promising unbeaten run.
Carl Fletcher admitted: “It [the handball] was a shocker from the ref. It’s a little bit disappointing that neither the ref, nor the linesman saw it – probably the only two pairs of eyes in the stadium. These things obviously change games. There was nothing like a decision like that to get the blood boiling. We didn’t even need VAR.”
He added: “We need to be better in certain things. I’m a little bit disappointed, but the lads kept digging in. They were grafting away, all night, and didn’t let their heads drop. It was obviously important not to concede again in the second-half.”
“It was a better second-half performance – and we showed a bit of character. I’ve had three hours [with the players] on the training pitch and there’s a lot of work we need to do.”
[versus Carlisle, kick-off 3pm]
is another tough game. But, hopefully we’ll learn from days like these.
Fletcher revealed: “I came in to the Club last Wednesday. It has been a bit of a whirlwind with these couple of games. It wasn’t about picking the right club to go to, but Orient ticked a lot of boxes. It will be a case of looking to improve and taking one game at a time.”
Opposing boss, Ryan Lowe said: “We gave Orient the strongest respect and we thought they would be up for it – especially with the new manager coming in. Even though it was four-nil, it wasn’t necessarily the best performance of the season – although if people want to say it was, then it’s not a problem.”
Plymouth defender, Niall Canavan concluded: “Orient have a new manager in charge and the system they used in the second half was probably what they had been using under the previous manager. But, the game was really over at three-nil. Teams don’t like coming here and certainly the miles travel take their toll. We know that ourselves.”
He admitted: “I’d be lying if I didn’t think the handball incident wasn’t a handball. It was like something out of ‘Space Jam’ – but he [Zak Rudden] probably, mistimed his jump. But, I’d definitely not want to see VAR brought in at this level.”
Plymouth Argyle: Alex Palmer, Joe Riley, Scott Wootton, Niall Canavan, Gary Sawyer, Callum McFazdean, Antoni Sarcevic, Joe Edwards, George Cooper (Danny Mayor 64), Zak Rudden (Byron Moore 68), Joel Grant (Billy Clarke 76). Subs: Mike Cooper, Josh Grant, Will Aimson, Adam Randall.
Leyton Orient: Dean Brill, Marvin Ektipeta, Josh Coulson (captain), Dan Happe, Joe Widdowson, James Dayton (Louis Dennis 46), Josh Wright, Craig Clay, James Brophy, Dale Gorman (Jordan Maguire-Drew 72), Matt Harrold (James Alabi 64). Subs: Sam Sargeant, Myles Judd, Shadrach Ogie, George Marsh.
Referee: Craig Hicks
Assistants: Mark Derrien, Richard Morris
Fourth Official: Savvas Yianni