Plymouth Argyle hold nerve to claim points in fight for survival
THERE is still a lot of football to be played before Argyle find out whether they will escape relegation from the Football League or not this season.
Their nerve-shredding victory over Morecambe at Home Park on Saturday has, however, raised hopes they can stay up.
It was not pretty, far from it, but picking up maximum points was the one and only objective for new manager John Sheridan.
It ended a sequence of three successive defeats, and was their first win in seven games, since a 2-0 victory over York City at Home Park on December 8.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
Argyle had seemed set for a convincing victory as they raced into a 2-0 lead inside 16 minutes, but Morecambe had other ideas.
They finished the first half strongly, without much end product to their play, and then dominated the second period, creating some clearcut chances.
Morecambe finally reduced the deficit in the 80th minute with a superb 30-yard strike from substitute Ryan Williams.
He had only been on the pitch for a matter of moments before crashing the ball past Argyle keeper Rene Gilmartin.
Morecambe should have equalised three minutes later but another of their substitutes, Jack Redshaw, missed what can only be described as a sitter.
Argyle's defence was totally absent as a cross from the right found Redshaw only six yards out and unmarked.
All he had to do was steer the ball past Gilmartin and into the net. It seemed a simple task.
Had Redshaw done that, Morecambe would have been level at 2-2 and with the momentum well and truly behind them.
Instead, he somehow sent the ball well wide of the near post and out of play for a goal kick.
Had a centre-back done the same, he would have been praised for an excellent piece of defending, but in this case it was an incredible miss.
There was still time for Morecambe to turn their supremacy into a second goal, but right-back Andrew Parrish was sent-off in the 85th minute.
Parrish was red-carded by referee Tim Robinson for a second bookable offence, and it was a reckless one as well.
He slid into Argyle left-back Onismor Bhasera, boot raised, close to the touchline and almost on the halfway line.
Robinson had no other option but to dismiss Parrish, who had been booked in the first half for a foul on Pilgrims midfielder Jamie Lowry.
Morecambe still pushed for an equaliser but Argyle played out the rest of the match without further alarms.
Nevertheless, the final whistle was greeted with relief from the Green Army.
It had been a close call for the Pilgrims. Had they not won, after leading 2-0, the damage to their morale could have been devastating.
Now they must use this win as a platform to build on for the rest of the season.
The Green Army can probably expect more matches of this sort from their side, with results not performances the prime concern of Sheridan.
His first match as manager saw Guy Branston and Ronan Murray make debuts for Argyle.
Branston, a no-nonsense centre-back signed as a free agent on Friday, put in a resilient defensive display.
His aerial power when the Pilgrims were defending corners was especially useful.
Murray, signed on loan from Ipswich Town until the end of the season, set up Argyle's second goal and almost scored late on.
He did not see much of the ball after half-time as Morecambe piled on the pressure.
But he showed an ability to drift out into wide positions and create scoring chances, either for himself or his team-mates, which offered encouragement for the future.
There was an early setback for Argyle when striker Warren Feeney hobbled out of the action.
Feeney suffered an ankle injury and was replaced by 17-year-old striker Tyler Harvey in the eighth minute.
The Pilgrims did not let that disrupt them, though, as they took the lead soon afterwards.
Morecambe midfielder Gary McDonald miscontrolled the ball on the edge of the penalty area and Argyle captain Conor Hourihane nicked it away from him.
Then, with his weaker right foot, the midfielder fired a low shot past keeper Barry Roche and into the net.
Argyle went 2-0 up in the 16th minute after some positive attacking play from Murray.
He broke clear and sent in a low left-wing cross which Paris Cowan-Hall got on the end of and guided into the far corner of the net.
Cowan-Hall made an excellent run across his marker and was rewarded with his fifth goal of the season in all competitions.
Argyle had trailed Morecambe 2-0 when they played them at the Globe Arena in September before eventually winning 3-2.
This time, the roles were reversed and the visitors soon made it clear they had no intention of returning to Lancashire without a fight.
Hourihane made an excellent block of a goal-bound shot from Kevin Ellison in the 28th minute as Morecambe started to take the game to Argyle.
They did not create much else before half-time, but it was a different story after the break.
Striker Jordan Burrow headed over the crossbar from close range following a pinpoint cross from left-back Robbie Threlfall.
Ellison sent a rising 20-yard drive over the bar while midfielder Andrew Fleming and striker Lewis Alessandra shot wide from distance.
There was then a nervy moment for Argyle in the 69th minute when a free-kick from Williams was beaten away by Gilmartin.
The ball was pushed out in front of him by Gilmartin and the Pilgrims were fortunate none of the Morecambe players could pounce on it.
Paul Wotton was sent on as a 78th minute substitute for Lowry as Argyle went to a 4-5-1 formation for the closing stages.
Soon afterwards, Williams fired high to the left of Gilmartin and into the net to give the Shrimps fresh hope of picking up at least a point.
However, Redshaw's woeful finish from in front of the goal followed by Parrish's red card, proved costly for them.
Murray almost made it 3-1 to Argyle in the 88th minute when his 20-yard shot rebounded off the base of the left post.
Morecambe could not come up with any other chances and Sheridan's first match as Pilgrims boss ended in the win he would have been so desperate for. There is much for him to work on, but it was a positive start and exactly what Argyle needed.