Vital victory for Plymouth Argyle as they move off the bottom of League Two
PLYMOUTH ARGYLE 2 BARNET 1
PLYMOUTH Argyle moved off the bottom of League Two with a vital victory over relegation rivals Barnet at Home Park on Saturday.
The Pilgrims had to come from behind to pick up maximum points and boost their chances of winning their fight for Football League survival.
Barnet took the lead, against the run of play, in the 21st minute when their top scorer Jake Hyde capitalised on sloppy defending.
Captain Conor Hourihane equalised for Argyle before half-time with an excellent 25-yard strike.
Then, three minutes after the interval, on-loan Ipswich Town striker Ronan Murray fired the home side into the lead.
Barnet had a lot of the possession after that but could not get on level terms.
Argyle goalkeeper Jake Cole made one superb save from Bees' substitute Iffy Allen as the Pilgrims held on for the win.
With AFC Wimbledon losing 2-1 at Cheltenham Town, the Pilgrims moved up to 23rd position in League Two.
Argyle were roared on by their second highest attendance of the season – 8,210 – which was boosted by a series of cut-price ticket offers.
While it was not a classic match, there was no doubting the importance of the result for the Pilgrims.
Argyle's starting line-up showed one change from the 1-1 draw away to Wimbledon on Tuesday.
Andres Gurrieri was recalled at the expense of on-loan Reading striker Gozie Ugwu.
It was Gurrieri's first start since the 1-1 draw at Devon rivals Exeter City on December 15, when he was taken off at half-time.
The Argentine had made two substitute appearances in the intervening period for the Pilgrims.
Gurrieri was part of a central midfield trio which also included Lee Cox and Hourihane in a 4-3-3 formation.
Reuben Reid led the Argyle attack, with Jason Banton and Murray either side of him.
Barnet included two former Pilgrims' players in their team – goalkeeper Graham Stack and centre-back Bondz N'Gala.
Argyle had the first chance of the contest in the fifth minute when left-back Onismor Bhasera cut into the penalty area and fired wide of the far post.
Reid had a tame shot easily saved by Stack and, soon afterwards, the striker fired wide from a good position inside the 18-yard area.
Despite Argyle's early promise, it was Barnet who opened the scoring in the 21st minute.
Left-back Elliot Johnson sent a low cross into the penalty area and Hyde darted in front of centre-back Guy Branston to stab the ball past Cole.
It came completely against the run of play and Argyle could not come up with any immediate response.
Gurrieri did have a chance when he smashed the ball over the bar from inside the penalty area before Hourihane came up with a superb equaliser in the 36th minute.
The midfielder dragged the ball back onto his left foot and then fired home from 25 yards.
It was Hourihane's fifth goal of the season and was a timely boost for the Pilgrims, who had not scored in their previous three home games.
Cox had a first-time shot from 18 yards saved by Stack as it remained 1-1 until half-time.
Argyle were soon in the lead at the start of the second period as Murray scored in the 48th minute.
Hourihane latched onto a long pass forward from Branston and then cut the ball inside to the onrushing Bhasera.
His low cross caused panic in the Barnet penalty area and eventually Murray shot past Stack for the first goal of his loan spell from Ipswich.
Play became scrappy after that with Argyle unable to create much in the way of chances.
Branston had a header saved by Stack after a corner from Banton in the 65th minute, and later Cole safely held onto a 20-yarder from Dani Lopez at the other end of the pitch.
Barnet almost equalised in the 79th minute but Cole came to Argyle's rescue.
Lopez curled the ball deep to the far post and Allen got in behind Bhasera but his close range shot was superbly saved.
Luke Young, Paris Cowan-Hall and Ugwu were all sent on as substitutes for Argyle in the closing stages as they clung to their slender lead.
Cowan-Hall fired over the bar in stoppage time before referee Dean Whitestone blew the final whistle and Argyle could celebrate a crucial victory.
ARGYLE: Jake Cole; Maxime Blanchard, Anthony Charles, Guy Branston, Onismor Bhasera; Andres Gurrieri (Paris Cowan-Hall 85 mins), Lee Cox (Luke Young 82 mins), Conor Hourihane; Ronan Murray, Reuben Reid (Gozie Ugwu 85 mins), Jason Banton.
Substitutes (not used): Nick Chadwick, Ollie Chenoweth (gk), Paul Wotton, Jamie Richards.
BARNET: Graham Stack; Barry Fuller, David Stephens, Bondz N'Gala, Elliot Johnson; Clovis Kamdjo (Curtis Weston 54 mins); Andy Yiadom (Iffy Allen 76 mins), Mark Byrne, Edgar Davids, Dani Lopez, Jake Hyde (Luke Gambin h/t).
Substitutes (not used): Jordan Brown, Chiro N'Toko, Dillon Barnes (gk), Dominic Vose.
REFEREE: Dean Whitestone (Northamptonshire)
ATTENDANCE: 8,210 (151 away)
GOALS – Argyle: Hourihane 36 mins, Murray 48 mins; Barnet: Hyde 21 mins