Taylor 74, Blissett 79
by Rob McNichol
ARE you having a laugh?
Argyle returned to the top of the Sky Bet League Two table for the first time since the turn of the year with a 2-1 victory that, frankly, did not look on for a great deal of Saturday afternoon.
In fact, the final game of the season, at Grimsby Town next Saturday, kicks off at 5.30pm. This week, Argyle left it until about to 4.30pm to start the game. When they got going though, it was most effective.
Crewe started at 3pm, and scored six minutes later, when James Jones beautifully guided home. Argyle laboured for a long while, but Ryan Taylor's equaliser was the catalyst for a comeback completed by substitute Nathan Blissett.
Even more satisfying, on a rare day when Argyle fans everywhere were supporting rivals Exeter City, the Grecians obliged with a 3-1 win at Doncaster, which meant Argyle were back at the summit.
Argyle boss Derek Adams intended to make one change to his team, bringing in Matty Kennedy for Connor Smith, but ended up making two, as Oscar Threlkeld pulled out at a very late stage, with Gary Miller deputising.
The Alex dominated the first 25 minutes of the game, taking a sixth minute lead when Jones superbly controlled a volley after a corner was partially headed away. Chances continued to come for the away side, most notably when George Cooper's cross-cum-shot was clawed away brilliantly by Luke McCormick after it looked like it may looped in.
A more heartstopping moment for the Green Army came when Chris Dagnall appeared at the far post to latch on to a ball across by Callum Ainslie. Unbelievably, Dagnall managed to shoot over the bar from no more than two yards out. He was, however, offside, and even had he converted the simple chance, it would not have counted.
Crewe kept up the pressure, with more than one ball flashing across Argyle's area, and Jakub Sokolik having to time an intervention perfectly when Crewe broke. Had the Czech not checked the run, it was either goal or red card. Fortunately, Jakub's timing was spot on.
Argyle finished the second half much better than they started it, but generated no chances to speak of, other a couple of Carey crosses that found good areas, but no green jerseys.
At half-time, Derek Adams withdrew Jake Jervis, replacing him with Nathan Blissett, and the alteration precipitated a switch to 4-4-2, with Blissett joining Ryan Taylor up front. Five minutes later Bradley had entered the fray, his recovery from injury deemed suitable enough to play 40 minutes. He replaced a visibly limping Yann Songo'o.
Graham Carey, now on the right wing, left two men standing in his wake before firing in a fierce shot that was deflected to safety. Later, he repeated the action, but this time curled the shot high and wide.
The momentum of the game was much more on Argyle's side, but they were succumbing to the old habit of having strikers at a not-far-off 13 feet tall combined, and so striking long all the time, relying on feeding off of scraps. Crewe, defending their lead, seemed not to be overly stretched.
Adams tinkered with diamonds and other combinations in Argyle midfield, before going rogue and simply indicating to Kennedy to stay as far on the left wing as possible.
Within minutes, Kennedy had the ball on the flank, and teased in a head-height cross that Blissett steered goalwards. It took a magnificent save by Ben Garratt to deny the header, which looked destined for the net.
From the corner, taken by Carey and partially headed away, Gary Sawyer took aim, looking to be the unlikely hero. He was not - he rather sliced his shot - but it fell perfectly to Taylor, who steered the ball home.
For the first time, Crewe looked rattled. Not for the first time this season, Argyle had failed to fire for a long time in a game, then suddenly got their act together and scored. And they were not done.
Carey picked up the ball on the left flank and delivered as inch-perfect a cross as a cerntre-forward could ever wish to see. Blissett saw it, headed it, then celebrated it.
By the this point, the Green Army were aware that Exeter were winning at Doncaster, and so the 'we are top of the league' chants began. On the crest of a wave, David Fox whizzed one not far wide.
Suddenly, it seemed to occur to everyone what the magnitude of the situation was, and Argyle sat back and contained. This meant 15 minutes of agony as Crewe got into dangerous areas, forced corners and launched balls into the area, but Argyle held out.
At the full time whistle, after the elation of knowing Argyle had won, the score from the Keepmoat Stadium was read out.
And thus, Home Park rang to the cheers of an Exeter City victory. Who would have thought it?
Argyle (4-2-3-1): 23 Luke McCormick (capt); 2 Gary Miller, 4 Yann Songo'o (15 Sonny Bradley 50), 31 Jakub Sokolik, 3 Gary Sawyer; 7 Antoni Sarcevic, 24 David Fox; 14 Jake Jervis (13 Nathan Blissett half time), 10 Graham Carey, 16 Matty Kennedy (8 Jordan Slew 89); 19 Ryan Taylor. Substitutes (not used): 6 Connor Smith, 9 Jimmy Spencer, 11 Ryan Donaldson, 21 Vincent Dorel (gk).
Crewe Alexandra (4-2-3-1): 1 Ben Garratt; 2 Oliver Turton, 23 Perry Ng, 18 Billy Bingham, 14 Zoumana Bakayogo; 8 James Jones, 21 Ryan Wintle; 25 Callum Ainley (16 Jordan Bowery 67), 11 George Cooper, 24 Callum Cooke; 9 Chris Dagnall (capt). Substitutes (not used): 17 Daniel Udoh, 20 Charlie Kirk, 30 Harry Pickering, 31 Andrew Dawber (gk), 35 Oliver Finney, 36 Tom Lowery.
Booked: Ng 72.
Referee: Trevor Kettle.
Attendance: 13,313 (245 away).