Plymouth Argyle (Home) – Papa Johns’ Trophy

Jun 28, 2023 | 2023 A Season in Review

The Memorial Stadium Tuesday 10th January 2023

Bristol Rovers 0

Plymouth Argyle 2

Waine (23), Hardie (32)

Referee: Darren Drysdale Attendance: 3,742

What a strange competition the EFL Trophy, or to give it the correct title of Papa Johns Trophy has become; boycotted by a huge number of football supporters and yet, when it reaches the latter stages suddenly many seem to forget why they are doing just that.

The evening’s attendance of 3,74s reflects that as Rovers have played to gates of under 1,000 in this season’s competition and many fans have publicly stated their dislike of it and say they will never attend a match while Premier League U-21 sides are allowed to participate.

A few of them obviously changed their minds for this game, as did the manager. In the knockout stages, after a particularly physical game against Crystal Palace U-21’s Joe Barton said he would play his youth team in the next game. He didn’t, Rovers won through to the knockout stages and promptly beat Colchester United and MK Dons in the knockout stages.

That took them through to this tie, the quarter final and Barton was building it up big time, saying he wanted to take the fans for a day out at Wembley. Why, then, did he choose to make six changes to his starting lineup? Mind you, Argyle boss Steven Schumacher made eight, so maybe neither boss wants a Wembley managerial appearance on their CV!

Argyle, of course, beat Rovers on penalties in the group stage, after a 2-2 draw at Home Park and the sides had also played out a 2-2 draw in the league at The Mem.

The visitors started brightly and Ryan Hardie dragged a shot wide of the target early on. Having dominated the opening exchanges they took a 23rd minute lead through Ben Waine.

When Matt Butcher’s cross came into the box Waine was on hand to guide his header past goalkeeper Anssi Jaakkola. The goalscorer then squandered a chance to double the lead when he took a pass from Ryan Hardie but he managed to slice his shot wide of the target with only Jaakkola to beat.

However, Argyle didn’t have too long to wait for a second goal and it arrived with 32 minutes on the clock when Macaulay Gillesphey picked out Hardie’s run into the box and the striker who sidefooted a shot into the net just inside the far post.

That, unfortunately, was the end of the scoring for the night. Barton replaced Lewis Gordon with Harvey Saunders at the start of the second half and there was an improved performance from his side, though they failed to find the back of the net.

Luke McCormick saw a 58th minute chance parried away by Callum Burton and Joe Edwards completed the clearance before John Marquis could reach the loose ball.

There were appeals for a penalty following a foul, inside the box, on the lively Saunders and McCormick fired a shot over the bar before Ryan Loft hit a shot past Burton’s right hand post in the closing stages.

Following a positive build up to the game, it was Argyle who came out on top and Rovers’ only chance of a Wembley appearance this season now rests on them reaching the League One play off final which, at the time of writing, will probably be a tall order!

Bristol Rovers: Jaakkola, Gibbons, Hoole, Thomas, Connolly, Gordon (Saunders, 46), Whelan, Evans, McCormick, Loft, Marquis.

Substitutes: Belshaw, Finley, Coutts, Collins, Coburn, Sinclair.

Plymouth Argyle: Burton, Bolton (Halls, 82), Gillesphey, Butcher, Edwards, Hardie (Ennis, 82), Lonwijk, Waine (Issaka, 89), Wright, Matete, Endacott.

Substitutes: Cooper, Mumba, Randell, Roberts.


Former Rovers player Mark Hughes is a member of the Plymouth Argyle management team

Yellow cards were issued to Ryan Loft and Bobby Thomas

Glenn Whelan was skipper

One substitute used

Six added minutes

(photos courtesy of JMP)

Keith Brookman