Soccer

Ryan Hardie on target again as Plymouth power past Blackburn

Ryan Hardie scored yet again for Plymouth (Robbie Stephenson/PA)
Ryan Hardie scored yet again for Plymouth (Robbie Stephenson/PA) Ryan Hardie scored yet again for Plymouth (Robbie Stephenson/PA)

Ryan Hardie scored before turning provider as Plymouth comfortably beat Blackburn 3-0 at Home Park.

Promoted Argyle’s top-scorer took his tally to four goals in five Sky Bet Championship games in the 77th minute when Rovers goalkeeper Aynsley Pears failed to hold Callum Wright’s shot to let Hardie sweep home from close range.

In the 80th minute Scottish striker Hardie was instrumental in Argyle’s third goal, winning an aerial ball as Pears headed out Argyle keeper Conor Hazard’s clearance.

The ball fell to on-loan Wolves midfielder Luke Cundle, on as a second-half substitute, and he deftly lobbed the ball over Pears.

The game turned on its head in the 27th minute when Finn Azaz’s deflected shot from outside the penalty area wrongfooted Pears.

Midfielder Azaz, on loan from Aston Villa, latched on to a pass by playmaker Morgan Whittaker 20 yards out and his first-time effort appeared to spin off Adam Wharton and go past helpless Pears.

Rovers will have rued missing opportunities after dominating until that point.

Ryan Hedges had the best opportunity to open the scoring for Rovers in the sixth minute after latching on to an incisive pass from striker Sam Gallagher.

Hedges was one-on-one with Hazard but sidefooted wide of the Argyle keeper and the goal from 12 yards out.

In a rare counter-attack, Hardie fired over from range after being teed up by midfielder Adam Randell in the 11th minute.

A minute later Gallagher – who hails from Crediton in Devon – looked set to score with a thumping header from a Hedges cross but Hazard acrobatically turned the ball over his bar.

Argyle finally got a foothold in the match in the 22nd minute with another effective break.

Whittaker put Hardie away down the right and his far-post cross was brilliantly headed downwards and goalwards by incoming winger Bali Mumba.

Pears was equal to the effort at the foot of the post, just managing to turn the ball around for a corner.

Azaz’s goal gave Argyle confidence and Pears had to again turn the ball around his post in the 34th minute following a mazy run and shot by Whittaker down the right and along the byline.

Impressive livewire Rovers forward Sammie Szmodics caught hold of a loose ball yards out and brought a smart save from Hazard.

Again Argyle countered, with Whittaker’s deft strike again turned around his post by a diving Pears at full stretch.

Randell’s measured curling shot in the 54th minute went just over before skipper Joe Edwards went close with a similar effort on the hour, ahead of a spate of substitutions.

Hedges was unlucky not to get on the end of a cross in the 63rd minute.

Rovers went in search of a leveller with Hayden Carter coming the closest to scoring as his deflected shot spun up on to the top of the bar in the 70th minute.