Plymouth Argyle boost survival hopes with Southend win
SOUTHEND UNITED...0 PLYMOUTH ARGYLE...2
STRIKER Reuben Reid ended his goalscoring drought for Argyle as they came up with a crucial win against Southend at Roots Hall.
The result gave a massive boost to the Pilgrims' chances of escaping relegation from the Football League.
They have picked up seven points from their last three matches and confidence among the players will be rising.
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Argyle produced a very workmanlike performance and were rewarded with a clean sheet.
They took the lead in the 57th minute with a penalty from substitute Paul Wotton after a foul on midfielder Joe Bryan.
Reid then made it 2-0 to the Pilgrims in the 75th minute with a fine close range finish.
It was his first goal in 11 games of his loan spell from League One outfit Yeovil Town and must have been a huge weight off his shoulders.
The visitors saw out the rest of the match without any scares as they picked up their fourth away win in League Two this season.
Argyle's starting line-up showed two changes from the 2-1 win against Fleetwood Town at Home Park on Saturday.
Anthony Charles returned from a groin injury to partner Guy Branston at centre-back.
Wotton, who scored a penalty against Fleetwood, made way for Charles, who had missed two matches.
Paris Cowan-Hall also replaced Andres Gurrieri on the right of midfield for the Pilgrims.
Southend will play in the final of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy at Wembley next month, when Crewe Alexandra will be the opposition.
But the Blues' focus last night was on trying to stay in the race for a play-off place.
Southend were playing their third successive home game in eight days, and had picked up only one point from the previous two.
The Blues had the first chance of the contest when on-loan Southampton midfielder Ben Reeves sliced a shot wide.
Apart from that, though, it was a scrappy start with both sides struggling to get the ball under any control.
Argyle threatened for the first time when Cowan-Hall sent a looping header wide of the far post after a free-kick taken by Bryan.
Southend looked to exploit the pace of on-loan Watford striker Britt Assombalonga whenever they could.
Argyle had another chance in the 24th minute when Reid set up Jason Banton for a shooting opportunity.
Banton had scored five goals in his previous nine games for the Pilgrims but lacked composure on this occasion and dragged the ball well wide from 18 yards out.
Southend went close to taking the lead in the 28th minute when centre-back Ryan Cresswell headed narrowly wide.
It came when midfielder Kevan Hurst aimed a free-kick deep to the far post and Cresswell soared above the Pilgrims' defence.
Cresswell got a good connection on his header but could not direct his header on target.
Soon afterwards, Assombalonga darted in behind Branston but was forced to rush his shot by the covering Charles and crashed the ball over the bar.
Argyle then almost broke the deadlock in the 36th minute after a dreadful mistake by Southend centre-back Bilel Mohsni.
Mohsni gave away possession and Reid quickly moved the ball to Banton, who cut inside right-back Sean Clohessy and got away a shot.
The ball beat goalkeeper Daniel Bentley and was destined for the empty net when Cowan-Hall touched it in.
That was a costly intervention, though, because Cowan-Hall was immediately flagged for offside.
Argyle were then forced into a 38th minute substitution after Charles suffered a recurrence of his groin injury and was replaced by Wotton.
Assombalonga then had a good chance for the Blues when he was picked out by a cross from Hurst and sent his header over the bar from a central position.
That was the last scoring opportunity of the first half as it remained goal-less until the break.
The powerful Assombalonga turned away from Wotton early in the second period but fired wide of the near post.
Argyle were very sloppy after the interval and almost conceded the first goal of the game in the 52nd minute.
Striker Freddy Eastwood curled a 20-yard free-kick around the defensive wall and into the side netting.
Many of the Southend supporters inside Roots Hall thought the ball had gone into the net, but their celebrations were premature.
Then, against the run of play, Argyle took the lead with a penalty from Wotton in the 57th minute.
Bryan sped into the Southend penalty area and was tripped by Mohsni, leaving referee James Linington with a simple decision to make.
Wotton wasted no time in collecting the ball and placing it on the spot.
Usually, the 35-year-old opts for power when it comes to taking penalties but, on this occasion, he tucked it low into the bottom left corner of the net.
Soon after play restarted, Southend had their own appeals for a penalty waved away by Linington.
Argyle 'keeper Jake Cole kicked away a low shot from Assombalonga and Southend were adamant the ball struck the hand of Branston.
Southend made a double substitution in the 62nd minute, with Barry Corr and Gavin Tomlin sent on for Eastwood and Assombalonga.
Tomlin almost equalised with his first touch of the ball as his curling 20-yard shot was brilliantly pushed away for a corner by Cole.
It had been a couple of important saves for the visitors from Cole as Southend tried to get back on level terms.
The Blues had a lot of the possession but Argyle tried to hit them on the break with the speed of Banton and Bryan.
On one occasion, Bryan had a good shooting opportunity inside the penalty area but drilled the ball across the ace of goal.
Argyle's counter attacking threat paid off when Reid made it 2-0 in the 75th minute.
Reid showed good composure to cut inside Cresswell and then curl the ball low into the net for his first goal for the Pilgrims.
Argyle made a double substitution in the 79th minute with Banton and Cowan-Hall making way for Gurrieri and Ronan Murray.
Banton looked as though he had picked up an injury as he slowly made his way off the pitch.
Reid's goal had knocked the stuffing out of Southend and they could not come with any response as Argyle secured a vital victory.
The Pilgrims showed good professionalism to see the closing minutes without any scares.
PLYMOUTH ARGYLE (4-4-1-1)
1 Jake Cole 7
4 Maxime Blanchard 7
26 Anthony Charles 6
5 Guy Branston 6
14 Onismor Bhasera 6
7 Paris Cowan-Hall 6
10 Lee Cox 8
6 Conor Hourihane 7
18 Joe Bryan 7
19 Jason Banton 7
24 Reuben Reid 7
8 Luke Young
9 Nick Chadwick
15 Paul Wotton (for Charles 38 mins) 7
20 Rene Gilmartin
27 Andres Gurrieri (for Banton 79 mins)
28 Ronan Murray (for Cowan-Hall 79 mins)
29 Tyler Harvey
SOUTHEND UNITED (4-4-2)
Daniel Bentley; Sean Clohessy, Bilel Mohsni, Ryan Cresswell, Anthony Straker; Kevan Hurst, Tamika Mkandawire, Marc Laird, Ben Reeves; Freddy Eastwood (Barry Corr 62 mins), Britt Assombalonga (Gavin Tomlin 62 mins).
Substitutes (not used): Paul Smith (gk), Michael Spillane, Ryan Leonard, John Spicer, Seedy Njie.
REFEREE: James Linington (Isle of Wight) 7
GOALS – Southend: None; Argyle: Wotton (pen) 57 mins, Reid 75 mins
YELLOW CARDS – Southend: None; Argyle: None
MATCH RATING: 2 out of 5
ARGYLE STAR MAN – Lee Cox: Very industrious performance in the centre of midfield
NEXT MATCH: Saturday, away to Chesterfield, League Two (3pm)