Plymouth Parkway came to the AJN Stadium looking every bit like a Southern League Football Club in waiting. Their bus, parked in the car park, would be the envy of most clubs at that higher level.
As the match started Plymouth immediately showed themselves to be a threat, with quick, decisive attacks. A long shot from Ryan Guppy was followed by Teigan Rosenquest dribbling past several Keynsham players but shooting wide. In between Adey Harvey was brought down on the edge of the penalty area but his resulting free kick went over the bar.
It took the Devon side just 11 minutes to make their breakthrough when a defence splitting pass put Rosenquestclean through on goal and in trying to thwart his advance, Ash Clark in the home goal brought him down in the penalty area. As the home fans feared that Ash would be shown the red card, referee Graham Pearce consulted his assistant and decided a penalty and a yellow card was sufficient punishment. To Plymouth’s credit not one of their players nor one of their officials seemed to ask for Ash to be sent off or questioned the eventual yellow card. It was a pleasant change from what might have been expected.
Adam Carter took the resulting spot kick and Ash Clark diving to his right almost got to his powerful shot, but it was just too good and Plymouth were one up.
For the remainder of the first half Keynsham competed well against what was clearly the best side to have visited the AJN Stadium this season. Craig Wilson was lively for the home side and had several attempts on goal thwarted. Plymouth on the other hand had Rosenquest as their dangerman and Keynsham’s defence struggled to cope with him. Their top scorer Adam Carter was always a threat in the centre of their attack. But it was not all Plymouth. Jamie Noble gave Plymouth’s defence much to think about with his probing attacks on the wing and Matt Long had a fierce low shot go just wide when it seemed that Kyle Moore in the Plymouth goal was beaten.
Just when the home supporters were looking forward to their half-time cuppa and a single goal deficit against a strong visiting team not being too bad, Plymouth doubled their advantage. Michael Williams dribbled past several Keynsham defenders and slipped the ball through to Carter who prodded the ball under the diving Ash Clark.
It had been a good, competitive first half with no excessive diving from players and appealing for free kicks from either side. The second half was not to follow in the same mode however.
It took Plymouth just four minutes to secure their victory. A defensive mistake gave Michael Williams the ball to the left of the goal on the edge of the penalty area and he made no mistake with his shot beating Ash Clark at the far post. Game over? Well, some of the Keynsham supporters remembered how Keynsham overturned a 3-0 deficit at Bolitho Park earlier in the season to secure a draw, but this was not to be tonight. Just one minute later Adey Harvey got his marching order for seeming to aim a punch at Rosenquest after a minor scuffle following a tackle which resulted in a Plymouth free kick.
With Keynsham down to 10 men and no doubt with a difficult 4th Round FA Vase match on Saturday away to Woodbridge Town in mind, Plymouth played the ball around in a very professional way to minimise their efforts but protect the three points that would take them to the top of the table. Apart from when Craig Duff hit a post it did not look like the visitors would take advantage of their extra player to increase their goal difference.
With 10 minutes to go, it got drastically worse for Keynsham. Another what seemed to be just a minor scuffle between players led to George Rooke being sent off for receiving his second yellow card and Mike Grist being sent to the sin bin for something he must have said to the referee. Down to eight players Keynsham fought bravely on but once again Plymouth seemed keen just to save their energy and hold onto their lead rather than go for the jugular.
Mike Grist returned to play as stoppage time started but most of the 147 crowd were relieved when the referee blew for full time with just three goals conceded.
I can’t remember the last time I saw a team reduced to eight players, but this was not a dirty match which made it all the more surprising. Generally, Keynsham held their own against a team which if it does not win promotion to the Southern League this season, then there is no justice. Many clubs might envy Plymouth’s resources but you still have to make the most use of them and foster a good team spirit which on this appearance seems to have been achieved. We can only wish Plymouth the best for the rest of the season and hope they progress up the National League System so we don’t have to play them again next season!
Star man: Teigan Rosenquest (Plymouth Parkway).
Report by Mike Slucutt.