Coventry City recorded their first win since returning to League One, with Amadou Bakayoko’s first-half penalty proving the difference against 10-man Plymouth Argyle.
Returning to the Ricoh for the first time since the opening day, almost 10,000 Sky Blues supporters took to their seats hoping to see Mark Robins’ side win their first game of the new campaign.
Derek Adams’ Plymouth held a deep defensive line in the game’s opening 15 minutes, resulting in chances coming at a premium. Though the Pilgrims’ resilience held strong, City showcased phases of fluid interplay, just lacking the final touch, epitomised by Tom Bayliss as the teenager fired just wide after some promising build-up, inside 10 minutes.
Faced with a packed defence, City used the wings to their advantage, as the Sky Blues’ full-backs continually started attacks from deep-lying positions. Mason and Hiwula combined neatly throughout the first 45 minutes, and Dujon Sterling’s whipped delivery across the face of goal, reached Hiwula at the far post on 26 minutes, with the former Fleetwood striker firing over the bar.
City’s patient approach brought the best chance of the opening half hour, ignited by a trademark Bayliss run, after intercepting a Plymouth attack. Playing the ball to Abu Ogogo out on the right-flank, the 28-year-old checked his run, before playing a reverse pass to Tony Andreu.
In behind the Pilgrims’ backline, the Frenchman latched on to Ogogo’s through ball and forced Argyle keeper Matt Macey to make a sharp save down to his left, with a stinging right-footed drive.
Minutes later and it was Ogogo and Bayliss who teamed up again, though roles were reversed as a delicate pass from the former Shrewsbury captain led Bayliss to send his finessed finish just wide of the post.
Though Plymouth did threaten to create chances through the talismanic Graham Carey, as the wideman combined with full-back Ashley Smith-Brown to create a goalmouth scramble, the Sky Blue support were soon in full song as City took the lead, with just five minutes before the interval.
Once again, down the left flank, Jordy Hiwula’s composure and balance in possession saw Carey rush to stop City’s number 11 in the box, and after a brief pause the referee pointed to the spot. For the side who conceded the most penalties in the EFL last season, it was a familiar feeling.
Amadou Bakayoko was the man who placed the ball down, and from 12 yards the 22-year-old coolly slotted the ball into the left-hand corner. Just out of reach for the outstretched Macey, Bakayoko was precision personified as he opened his account for the Sky Blues, and sent his team 1-0 up, before half-time.
As the game resumed for the 2nd half, and with their side behind, it was Argyle who started the brighter. Striker Freddie Ladapo fired over the bar, before ex-Sky Blue Ruben Lameiras was denied a goalscoring return to the Ricoh, as Liam O’Brien produced a fine save to deny the Portuguese’s deflected 20-yard effort.
Despite the visitors’ strong start, their difficult day was sent into turmoil as captain Jamie Ness was sent off for his second bookable offence before the hour mark.
Encouraged by their opponent’s downfall, City pushed for a second. A lofted ball towards an on-running Bakayoko saw City’s goal scorer lead the line, before laying the ball off for Bayliss, whose curling effort went out for a corner.
The resultant set piece, delivered at the near post, dazzled the Argyle back four and it was Dominic Hyam who appeared to be the unlikely man to profit, as his swivelled turn and shot whistled just wide of Macey’s goal.
Given their man advantage, City repeatedly found success with fast-paced counter attacks. Highlighted by the work of Mason and Hiwula, new signing Luke Thomas showed impressive signs, as his jinking right-wing run was narrowly cut out to deny Biamou a clear chance.
Mark Robins’ substitutes succeeded in revitalising the game for City, as Jordan Shipley’s sharp shooting, coming off the left-wing, forced Macey into action, once more. Combining with the lively Thomas, City strived to double their lead.
Inches away from securing all three points, the blossoming chemistry between Shipley and Thomas saw the Derby loanee send the City academy graduate clear of the Pilgrim’s defence with a deft pass, only for the 20-year-old to fire off target.
Sharp wing play from Thomas down the right-flank, almost brought a fairy-tale end to the 19-year-old’s City debut, as he danced between defenders before his shot was comfortably collected by the Plymouth keeper – but Mark Robins’ side held firm for all three points.
Goals: Amadou Bakayoko
Yellows: Jamie Ness
Reds: Jamie Ness
Sky Blues XI: Liam O’Brien (GK), Dujon Sterling, Jordan Willis, Dominic Hyam, Brandon Mason, Michael Doyle (C), Abu Ogogo, Tom Bayliss, Tony Andreu (Thomas [73’]), Jordy Hiwula (Shipley [80’]), Amadou Bakayoko (Biamou [73’]).
Subs: Lee Burge (GK), Jack Grimmer, Jordon Thompson, Luke Thomas, Jordan Shipley, Max Biamou, Jordan Ponticelli.
Plymouth Argyle XI: Matt Macey (GK), Tafari Moore, Scott Wootton, Niall Canavan, Ashley Smith-Brown, Yann Songo’o (Fox [70’]), Jamie Ness (C), Conor Grant (Lameiras [45’]), Graham Carey, Freddie Ladapo, Joel Grant (Taylor [53’]).
Subs: Kyle Letheren (GK), Gary Sawyer, Ryan Edwards, David Fox, Ryan Taylor, Ruben Lameiras, Gregg Wylde.