Plymouth Argyle can take comfort from untidy victory over Dagenham & Redbridge
A scrappy 2-1 npower League One home win over Dagenham & Redbridge might not sound like a reason for abundant celebrations for Plymouth Argyle, but the Pilgrims will gobble up any crumb of comfort that comes their way right now.
The Devon men went into last night's contest desperately trying to bring an end to a run of four consecutive defeats in all competitions. Not only did they manage to achieve that target, they also came from behind to win a league game at home for the first time since Boxing Day 2007.
They did it the hard way. The Daggers held a deserved half-time lead, and they ought to have added to it after the break. Eventually, though, they crumbled, and goals in the last half-hour from Craig Noone and Rory Patterson gave the Pilgrims three precious points.
In their quest for their first victory since early November, Argyle went into the game with a side which showed one change from the line-up which lost at home to Brentford last Saturday. Chris Clark replaced Yannick Bolasie on the left side of midfield.
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The Daggers had to make a change to their team less than half an hour before kick-off. Goalkeeper Chris Lewington suffered a muscle injury in the pre-match warm-up, so 41-year-old Tony Roberts was promoted from the substitutes' list.
It was an unexpected recall for the former Wales international, who made his Football League debut for Queen's Park Rangers 23 years ago. He combines his duties for Dagenham with coaching Arsenal's Academy goalkeepers.
After an edgy start to the game, Argyle were undone in the ninth minute when they fell behind to a breakaway goal. Midfielder Medy Elito accelerated down the right flank and, after running half the length of the pitch, delivered a fine cross which was converted at the far post by a deft first-time finish from Gavin Tomlin.
Argyle's initial response was encouraging, and they put together a couple of promising moves before they registered their first on-target goal attempt in the 16th minute. Conor Clifford's left-wing corner was met by Rory Fallon, whose header was clutched under the crossbar by Roberts.
There was no sustained sense of purpose and potency from the Pilgrims, however, as their passing moves broke down more often than not. The Daggers posed a threat from time to time, with Tomlin going close twice.
When Green's free-kick reached the former Yeovil Town striker, he came up with a shot which was pushed away by goalkeeper Romain Larrieu. Then he cut inside from the right flank and sent a curling effort off target.
Argyle's play remained disjointed, and there was little to rouse the small Home Park crowd – the attendance of 4,960 was the Pilgrims' lowest home League gate since September 2001 – on a chilly night. A snap-shot from Bradley Wright-Phillips which forced a diving save out of Roberts in the 40th minute prompted a rare round of applause.
The half-time whistle was greeted by loud jeers, rather than cheers or applause. "What a load of rubbish," was heard loud and clear from sections of the home fanbase. It was hard to argue.
Things almost got even worse for the home side in the first minute of the second half. They gave the ball away deep in their territory, and Danny Green's pass set up Kayleden Brown for a low shot into the side-netting.
A minute later, a last-ditch tackle from Argyle right-back Stéphane Zubar thwarted his compatriot Romain Vincelot, just as the French midfielder was about to take aim with a shot.
Then, after Vincelot had been fouled by Réda Johnson, Green sent a curling free-kick too high, before Tomlin had a shot blocked by Argyle left-back, Onismor Bhasera.
The visitors were doing almost all of the attacking and, after one tentative home move broke down, the crowd responded with a chant of: "You're not fit to wear the shirt."
That was a prelude to a change of fortune for the Pilgrims.
Two minutes after Patterson had replaced Fallon, an equaliser arrived in the 62nd minute. Noone dribbled his way into the box from the left, got the benefit of a bounce off defender Will Antwi, and squeezed a low shot past Roberts.
Argyle went in search of another goal and, after a corner produced a scramble in the six-yard box, Kari Arnason sent a shot across goal and wide from point-blank range.
When the Daggers replied, Antwi headed Green's corner over the bar and Vincelot hooked a shot just wide. The visitors looked the likelier scorers for a while, but they fell behind in the 83rd minute.
Seconds after Joe Mason had taken over from Clark, Noone raced down the left wing and sent over a cross which picked out Mason, whose cushioned first-time pass gave Patterson the chance to sweep a crisp shot past Roberts and give the Pilgrims an unlikely lead.
Suddenly, it was all Argyle. Clifford and Wright-Phillips were off-target with shots, as was Arnason with a header, but the home side had done enough. Just.
Plymouth Argyle (4-4-2): Larrieu; Zubar, Nelson, Johnson, Bhasera; Noone, Clifford, Arnason, Clark (Mason 83); Fallon (Patterson 60), Wright-Phillips. Substitutes (not used): Chenoweth (gk), N'Gala, Molyneux, Duguid, Bolasie. Goals: Noone 62, Patterson 83. Booking: Zubar.
Dagenham & Redbridge: (4-4-2): Roberts; Ogogo, Antwi, Arber, Ilesanmi; Green, Palsson, Vincelot, Elito; Tomlin (Savage 88), Brown (Nurse 71). Substitutes (not used): Currie, Bingham, Gain, Pinney. Goal: Tomlin 9. Referee: R East (Wiltshire). Attendance: 4,960.