07 Dec 1996
- Written by Tommy Staniforth (The Independent)
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Much more than a place in the FA Cup third round was at stake at Home Park last night. Devon pride was being contested - and it was Plymouth Argyle who came out on top with an eventually comfortable victory in this second-round tie.The most surprising name in the home starting line-up was that of Ronnie Mauge, the midfielder who was released on bail from prison on Wednesday, having spent five days in custody on kidnapping and other charges.
After a delayed kick-off due to traffic problems, Mauge was quickly involved with a tough tackle on the former England winger, Mark Chamberlain. Martin Barlow was finding plenty of space down the right flank for Plymouth, and from his 26th-minute cross that man Mauge sent a volley just too high.
An overdue first goal for Argyle arrived four minutes later, Mickey Evans turning well and shooting home low and true amid a goalmouth scramble following a corner. Within two minutes Mauge had doubled the lead, climbing high to glance in a header from Barlow's left-wing cross.
Against the run of play Exeter pulled back a goal in first-half injury time, Chris Myers' mishit shot falling in the right place for John Sharpe, the brother of Lee of Leeds, to lash the ball past a helpless Bruce Grobbelaar from 20 yards.
After the interval Plymouth once again had most of the attacking play without creating as many chances, although Tony James headed just wide from a cross by Chris Leadbitter and Mick Heathcote saw his shot well saved by Ashley Bayes. Exeter, meanwhile, relied on the pace of their substitute, Leon Braithwaite, to worry the home defence more than they had done in the first half.
Argyle endured a few nervous moments before, 10 minutes from the end, Chris Billy robbed Sharpe and advanced to beat Bayes with a firm low shot from 20 yards. In the last minute Evans raced down the left and set up Adrian Littlejohn to flick in a cheeky fourth goal to complete an emphatic win.
Plymouth Argyle (3-5-2): Grobbelaar; Heathcote, James, Wotton; Billy, Barlow, Mauge, Leadbitter, Williams; Littlejohn, Evans. Substitutes not used: Corazzin, Logan, Illman.
Exeter City (3-5-2): Bayes; J Richardson, Blake, Hare; Chamberlain (McConnell, 30), Myers, Dailly, Bailey, Sharpe; Rowbotham (Braithwaite, 56), Flack. Substitute not used: Rice.
Referee: S Dunn (Bristol).