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Plymouth Argyle 1 v 4 Leeds United
FA Cup
Tuesday, 6th February 2024 Kick-off 19:45
Fringe players impress but Leeds need the big guns to overcome Plymouth
Wednesday, 7th Feb 2024 22:24 by Tim Whelan

Daniel Farke was full of praise for a couple of younger players who took their chance to shine, but he needed to bring a couple of our main players off the bench before we finally saw off Plymouth Argyle.

Our manager made five changes from the starting eleven who began the game at Bristol City on Friday, while putting several of his key players on the bench just in case things didn’t quite go to plan. Four of the incoming players had played numerous games in the league this season, but one who has been limited to brief cameos off the bench so far has been Matteo Joseph.

But Farke singled him out for praise after the match, as well as the lesser spotted Gelhardt, who also impressed after coming on towards the end of normal time. The manager told the media “Mateo had to wait a long time for a start. Did really well to create a chance in the first half, hit the crossbar. Good performance, linked the play. Invested a lot, Joffy had a good impact in the second half. Used their chances to shine. Would have been better with goals.”

The game was played in terrible conditions throughout, and at first it looked as though the swirling wind and incessant pouring rain might be a ‘leveller’, as Plymouth had more of the early possession. But Leeds began to take control around the middle of the first half, and went close with two shots that were deflected up onto the woodwork.

First Byram’s long ball through the middle found Joseph one on one with a defender. Joseph turned his man inside out to make space for a shot which Hazard turned onto the bar, a touch the officials didn’t spot as they wrongly gave a goal kick. Then Kamara feigned as if he was going to shoot, but slipped the ball inside for Piroe. The Dutchman did take a shot, but a slight deflection off a defender’s leg took it upwards to crash back off the bar.

But as half time approached Argyle began to create a few chances of their own. Mesiler had to get down to save a shot from Edwards, and Sorinola should have done better than to shoot well wide when a clever pull-back found him free inside the box. The same player was then denied when Rodon put his body on the line to make a last-ditch block.

So overall you would have to say the first half was pretty even, but Leeds stepped up the pace in the early part of the second period. Piroe cut inside into a good position for a left foot shot, but sent it too close to Hazard, then Joseph produced a neat turn just outside the area but shot just wide.

The pressure was growing, and the goal finally arrived in the 66th minute Byram stole the ball from a defender who dallied for two long on the right flank. A couple of passes later it was with Gnonto on the edge of the area, and his nifty footwork made space for him to hammer a low shot past Hazard into the corner of the net.

Leeds didn’t let up after going in front, and kept up the pressure in the search for a second goal. A couple of times Anthony tried to repeat his goal form the first time by cutting in from the left to shoot, but Argyle were wise to him now, and were quick to get into position to prevent another right foot shot. Farke made the first of his changes to freshen things up, as Gnonto was replaced by Gelhardt and Kamara by Gray.

But just when it seemed likely that Leeds would comfortably see the game out, Plymouth grabbed an equaliser against the run of play in the 78th minute, from a free kick that was swung into the area from just inside our half. I don’t know if we were trying to play their forward line offside, but it didn’t work, as two of them were onside when the ball came through to them behind our defence.

When Phillips played the ball across the face of goal it seemed to take a lucky deflection off Galloway, but the TV replay shows he hid intentionally angle his chest to guide the ball into the net, so we’ll give him that one. Farke responded by sending his big guns on, as Bamford and Rutter came on for Anthony and Joseph. That meant we had no wingers on the field, until Summerville replaced Byram on 90 minutes.

The changes nearly worked, and we came very close to snatching a win as the four minutes additional time began. Rutter and Summerville combined to give Firpo the chance to get to the byline, and after his cross found Gelhardt the shot came crashing back off the post. That was the third time we had troubled the woodwork, but it meant that the dreaded extra time would be added to our hectic schedule.

But thankfully it was Plymouth who tired more quickly, having spent most of the evening chasing after the ball. Seven minutes in Summerville was given far too much space on the left, so as he cut inside he had picked up too much momentum for the challenging defender to be effective. The Dutchman just went past him and curled his shot into the far corner of the net.

This time there was no comeback from the home side, and Leeds sealed the tie with two further goals in the second period of additional time. Roberts was caught in possession by Bamford just inside the Plymouth half, and his through ball set Summerville racing towards the penalty area. He cut inside and played the ball to Rutter, who seemed to scuff his shot, but somehow it crept past Hazard’s dive and into the corner of the net.

And the fourth and final goal arrived with three minutes left. We had hardly looked threatening from any of our corners up to that point, but finally Gruev produced one that swirled in the wind, and then bounced into the net via the heads of two defenders. This tie had been hard work for most of the two games, but all’s well that ends well, and as Gruev picked up his man of the match award he emphasised that Leeds are taking the FA Cup seriously.

"I think we deserve it and we saw the quality. We are really looking to playing against a big Premier League club. They didn't get any chances but they scored off a set piece. We really wanted to get though to the next round. It's going to be a big game against Chelsea or Villa. Aston Villa are doing so great and Chelsea are such a big club."

And we now know that we will be travelling to Stamford Bridge in the fifth round, and that it will be live on ITV4, which is nice. It will be tough, because Chelsea are having a real go at the cups this season as their last chance to win a trophy, but it will be another big chance for the squad to showcase their talents, and it will be a good indicator as to how well equipped we are for the Premier League. I can’t wait.


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