Barnet's FA Cup journey was brought to an end yesterday, but Paul Fairclough, their manager, had every reason to be proud of the players who guided the club through to the fourth round of the competition for the first time in their history.
A brave performance from the League Two side saw them dominate their Championship visitors for much of this enjoyable encounter. But two second-half goals - a penalty from the Plymouth Argyle defender Hasney Aljofree, and a late solo goal from the young on-loan Chelsea striker Scott Sinclair - proved enough to seal Plymouth's passage into the next round.
"I am delighted with the result," said the Plymouth manager, Ian Holloway. "Going this far in the Cup hasn't happened to me many times. It was a very tough tie when it came out of the hat. I knew what sort of game it was going to be."
Plymouth had not been as far as the fifth round since 1988. Holloway added: "Just to be in there is a joy and a pleasure. Hopefully we will get what we deserve, and that is a big team."
The first half clearly belonged to Barnet, a team two divisions and 52 places below their opponents. They dominated and though their approach, one that mainly consisted of high balls into their strikers, seemed a little basic, it was clearly effective.
Their high-tempo game was clearly designed to exploit the frailties in the Pilgrims' back-line. And for much of the first half, the Championship side were abysmal and sat back, being forced to repel wave after wave of attacks. "I am consumed with pride," said Fairclough. "The performance was outstanding in the first half and we were unfortunate not to build upon that."
Barnet had already overcome Championship opposition in the form of Colchester United in the third round and Fairclough's words at the interval would have reminded his players about taking the chances when they came. They were guilty of wasting a number of opportunities in the first half.
In the second half, however, Plymouth had regained their composure and were looking to claw themselves back into contention. The hammer blow came after 67 minutes and hit Barnet hard. Plymouth pushed forward and after the winger David Norris charged into the penalty area, he was tripped by the Barnet defender, Joe Devera.
Peter Walton, the referee, had no hesitation in awarding the penalty and after the game Fairclough had no complaints. The defender Aljofree tucked away the spot-kick confidently past the despairing dive of the Barnet goalkeeper Ross Flitney.
With their confidence blown apart, Barnet retreated. And with seven minutes of the match remaining, it was put out of their reach when Plymouth scored a second goal.
The 17-year-old substitute, Sinclair, embarked on a solo run from his own half, surging through the Barnet defence before calmly slotting the ball past Flitney. With that went any hope Barnet had of taking anything from the game.
Holloway, meanwhile, was beaming and reserved special praised for Sinclair, who is on a month-long loan from Jose Mourinho. "I am delighted with the second goal," said Holloway. "It was a joy to behold for any football supporter. He is a wonderful kid and a credit to his profession. I am delighted to have him from Chelsea."Reuse content