Jake Cole's goalkeeping heroics secures Plymouth Argyle away draw at Dagenham and Redgridge
IN-FORM goalkeeper Jake Cole was the difference between the sides as Argyle clung on for a goalless draw against Dagenham at Victoria Road last night.
Cole made a series of excellent saves as the Pilgrims were forced to defend desperately for long periods of the League Two clash.
Argyle rarely troubled Cole's counterpart Chris Lewington, but they dug deep and picked up their first point of the season.
The clean sheet also gives them a platform to build on after the 2-0 defeat by Aldershot Town in their League Two season-opener on Saturday.
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Argyle's travelling fans in east London included top British rower Greg Searle, who won a bronze medal in the men's eight at the London Olympics.
Searle's parents were both born in Plymouth and he has been a lifelong supporter of the Pilgrims.
He saw them struggle to put together any attacks, but must have been impressed by their defensive resilience.
Argyle's starting line-up for their third visit to Victoria Road in 16 months showed one change from the defeat by Aldershot.
Luke Young was drafted into the Pilgrims' midfield quartet at the expense of Wolves loanee Johnny Gorman.
Young was deployed wide on the right, with Andres Gurrieri moving across to the left to take over from Gorman.
Argyle's back-up 'keeper Rene Gilmartin was ruled out by injury and he did not travel to east London with the Pilgrims' squad.
That meant Ollie Chenoweth was on the substitutes' bench as cover for Cole.
Argyle, wearing their new yellow and green away strip for the first time, had the support of a noisy travelling Green Army at the start of the match.
Dagenham, who had been beaten 2-0 at Cheltenham Town on Saturday, forced a couple of early corners but they did not lead to a scoring attempt.
Argyle striker Nick Chadwick sent a header high over the crossbar after he was picked out by left-back Onismor Bhasera as both teams took time to settle.
Dagenham had more of the possession in the opening quarter-of-an-hour and put a series of crosses into the Pilgrims' penalty area.
But they were repelled by some strong defending from centre-backs Maxime Blanchard and Darren Purse.
Gurrieri tried an audacious 30-yard dipping shot in the 20th minute but the ball cleared the cross of 'keeper Chris Lewington.
Dagenham were then denied the first goal of the game soon afterwards by a brilliant save from Cole.
Striker Dwight Gayle controlled the ball in stride and unleashed a fierce shot which seemed destined for the top corner of the net.
But Cole stuck out his left glove and not only got a touch to the ball but pushed it away for a corner.
Gayle could not believe it, holding his head in his hands, as Cole was saluted by the Green Army, who were close to the action behind the goal.
Cole came to the rescue again for Argyle in the 27th minute as Dagenham started to dominate.
A long, diagonal cross from left-back Femi Ilesanmi found striker Brian Woodall lurking at the far post, beyond Bhasera.
Woodall got plenty of power in his close range header but Cole parried the ball away and Bhasera hooked it away.
Cole continued to stand between Dagenham and them taking the lead as he made another fine save in the 33rd minute.
Midfielder Abu Ogogo broke into the box, skipping past a couple of challenges, but his low angled shot was clawed away by the busy Argyle 'keeper.
There was not much attacking threat coming from the Pilgrims, with Chadwick and his strike partner Matt Lecointe starved of any decent supply.
Gurrieri did whip in an excellent cross in the 40th minute which was destined for Chadwick, but Dagenham centre-back Scott Doe made a crucial headed clearance.
Lecointe also fired wide from 25 yards shortly before the break but it had been a first half dominated by Dagenham.
Argyle made a substitution at the start of the second period with Lecointe making way for Paris Cowan-Hall in attack.
However, Dagenham remained on top with Argyle struggling to retain possession for any length of time.
The visitors were also inviting trouble by conceding a series of free-kicks in range of their goal.
Midfielder Paul Wotton smashed a shot over the bar in the 55th minute from a rare Pilgrims' attack.
Dagenham had another near miss soon afterwards when substitute Sam Williams broke into the penalty area.
Williams drilled the ball low across the face of goal and midfielder Luke Howell almost got on the end of it.
Had Howell got any sort of touch on the ball he would surely have scored from such close range.
Chadwick was replaced by substitute Warren Feeney in the 60th minute, but still Dagenham came at Argyle.
Williams, only a couple of yards out, narrowly failed to get a touch on a cross from Ogogo.
Then a shot from outside the 18-yard box by Howell deflected off Purse and into the arms of Cole, rather than ending up in the net.
It was one-way traffic and Argyle were incapable of easing the pressure on them.
With the small in stature Cowan-Hall and Feeney up front, the Pilgrims needed to get the ball to their feet but they found that difficult to do.
Blanchard and Purse were standing strong for Argyle, though, making countless tackles and challenges between them.
The visitors' third and final substitution came in the 80th minute when Gorman was sent on for Gurrieri.
Cole then made an excellent low save from Dagenham substitute Danny Green's 20-yard drive as time ticked down.
That was Dagenham's last threat to break the deadlock, but Argyle did have a couple of late chances.
First, Wotton clipped the ball into the penalty area and Nelson got on the end of it but his header was easily saved by Lewington.
Then, deep into stoppage time, Wotton unleashed a 25-yard free-kick which Lewington safely held onto.
Referee Graham Scott, who had an excellent game, blew the final whistle only moments later.
Replay the live commentary from last night in the panel below