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Mauge magic; Ronnie strikes as Pilgrims progress; Darlington 0, Plymouth 1.

Tough guy Ronnie Mauge used his head to give Neil Warnock's Pilgrims the playoff promotion progress they deserved!

His 64th-minute nodded winner sent Argyle's 33,000 fanatical fans into a Mexican wave of sheer delight at Wembley.

The winning move was simple - a Chris Leadbitter corner on the right went straight out to Mark Patterson, who floated over a superb cross as midfielder Mauge raced into the penalty area.

The 26-year-old Londoner left Darlington's defence for dead as he rose to beat keeper Paul Newell hands down.

It was repayment in full to Warnock, who made Mauge his first signing after taking over at Plymouth last summer.

And it was the perfect reward for the Argyle faithful who outnumbered Darlington's fans by three to one in the near-43,500 record Division Three play-off crowd.

Argyle's promotion makes it four Wembley wins for play-off king Warnock, who has done it with Notts County twice, Huddersfield and now Plymouth.

In the first half alone, leading scorer Adrian Littlejohn could have put the Pilgrims ahead on no less than three occasions.

First, the pounds 200,000 ex-Sheffield United man won the ball in the middle and outpaced his marker, only to tap the ball too far ahead allowing keeper Newell to smother at his feet.

Minutes later, Littlejohn again moved through before being stopped by young Mattie Appleby.

Then the 25-year-old striker watched in agony as his powerfully struck cross-goal effort whistled wide of the far post.

Twin striker Evans was also in the thick of it and he was unlucky in the 30th minute, when he pounced on a half-chance and rammed a fierce snap-shot over the bar.

But Argyle had their own anxious moment as highly rated Newcastle reject Appleby missed a sitter.

The 24-year-old showed just why a host of Premier League clubs are watching him as he carved out a chance which Steve Gaughan was unable to convert.

And after Argyle's defence hastily cleared, back came the ball to Appleby, who turned in a trice to send his shot just over.

Match-winner Mauge said afterwards: "The goal was a setpiece move which we have worked on week in, week out - and it came off today.

"Overall it was a tremendous performance. The boss told us not to get carried away with the occasion, and he knows all about play-offs. All his teams work hard, and thats what we did."

Warnock said: "It's the fourth time I've been involved in the play-offs - and it's hard work.

"But it has been a great day for the fans. Now we have to plan for the future."
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Sutton, Lindsay
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 26, 1996
Words:434
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