by Rick Cowdery
LEST Graham Carey’s 13th goal of the season – after a midweek point courtesy of Argyle’s No.13 – leads you to think that this was a fortunate win for the Pilgrims, do not believe it for a moment.
Luck had nothing to do with the important victory: skill, character, discipline and a cussed will simply not to be beaten did.
Derek Adams had endorsed the performance from his side four days earlier which had paved the way to an excellent 1-1 draw at Wycombe Wanderers by selecting the same starting 11.
Nathan Blissett, who scored the Argyle leveller at Adams' Park, 93 seconds after coming on as a substitute, again had to be content with a place on the bench, as did two experienced players returning from injury, Gary Sawyer and Ryan Taylor.
The fullness of the options open to the Pilgrims' manager meant that Craig Tanner, Nauris Bulvitis, Connor Smith and Arnie Garita were not even in the Argyle match-day squad – or, at least, if they were, it was in the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League match-day squad at St Blazey.
Morecambe changed things up after their 1-0 home defeat by Newport County in midweek and recalled five players, including former Pilgrim Lee Molyneux.
Judging from the amount of players that Morecambe committed when they went forward and the commensurate space they left in behind, the visitors had left their bus outside, and Argyle clearly liked that attitude.
More than once in the opening stages, they engineered quick breaks, using the ever-willing Jimmy Spencer as pivot, with the best ending with Jake Jervis obliging Shrimps goalkeeper Barry Roche to make a save.
Carey had already had a couple digs from range – one a left-footed curler form a free-kick on the right, the other a right-footed zinger from a central position – when Matty Kennedy rolled the ball into his path just outside the left-hand side of the penalty-area D.
Without breaking stride, Argyle’s leading scorer added to his tally with a left-footed clip of the ball that took it away from the stranded Roche and into the far corner of the goal.
With Kennedy and Jervis terrorising Morecambe out wide, ably supported by Oscar Threlkeld and Gary Miller, and Carey and Antoni Sarcevic string-pulling in central midfield, life was easy for the Pilgrims, maybe a little too easy, a little too reminiscent of the dominance they had enjoyed against Leyton Orient. We all know what happened then.
Such was Argyle’s supremacy that both full-backs were far enough upfield to come close to adding to Carey’s opener; Miller had a shot that almost surprised Roche, not to mention most of Home Park, while Threlkeld sent a loopy header just over the crossbar.
Spencer, too, had a near-thing that was laced with an element of surprise, sneaking round the back of the Morecambe defence to get a touch on Carey’s free-kick that should not have got anywhere near him. The angle defeated him, though, and his shot riffled the side-netting.
The slimness of the half-time margin did not reflect the Pilgrims’ ascendency, which was better reflected in the stats that do not matter: 62% possession, to 38%, and 13 shots, to one.
The visitors made it two shortly after the break, after which they emerged with some vigour and apparently even greater willingness to get on the front foot.
The adage about no two halves in football being the same seemed to be holding up, with the pattern of the second half assuming a mirror of the first – Morecambe had the ball and possessed a threat; Argyle were reduced to playing on the counter.
The Pilgrims sent on Taylor for Spencer before Morecambe called Luke McCormick into action for the first time, the Argyle goalkeeper having to scramble across his area to claw away a testing free-kick from Michael Rose.
Adams then introduced Jordan Slew from the bench (and Morecambe responded by throwing on Kevin Ellison, his nemesis at the Globe earlier in the season) and Argyle seemed to find a bit extra, but Jervis’s on-target shot brought only a corner.
With helpful goals going in all over the country, the narrowness of the lead was raising anxiety levels throughout Home Park. You could almost see it trickle down from the stands on to the pitch and Yann Songo’o was sent on to help steady the nerves.
His presence was needed as Argyle were obliged to defend a series of late Morecambe corners, from one of which Slew broke and eventually sent a cross to far post, where Jervis could not extricate the ball from beneath his feet to get a shot away.
The anxiety gave way to the full throat of the Green Army, which – together with some savvy play in the corners – saw the Pilgrims home to a valuable, far from lucky, three points.
Argyle (4-3-3): 23 Luke McCormick (capt); 2 Gary Miller, 31 Jakub Sokolik, 15 Sonny Bradley, 8 Oscar Threlkeld; 7 Antoni Sarcevic (4 Yann Songo'o 81), 24 David Fox, 20 Graham Carey; 14 Jake Jervis, 9 Jimmy Spencer (19 Ryan Taylor 61), 16 Matty Kennedy (8 Jordan Slew 67). Substitutes (not used): 3 Gary Sawyer, 11 Ryan Donaldson, 13 Nathan Blissett, 21 Vincent Dorel (gk).
Booked: Kennedy 67.
Morecambe (4-2-3-1): 1 Barry Roche; 19 Michael Duckworth, 5 Ryan Edwards, 16 Alex Whitmore, 14 Luke Conlan; 8 Peter Murphy (capt), 24 Michael Rose; 18 Rhys Turner (27 Luke Jordan 77), 15 Aaron Wildig (11 Kevin Ellison 70), 10 Lee Molyneux; 7 Paul Mullin. Substitutes (not used): 2 Liam Wakefield, 3 Aaron McGowan, 12 Danijel Nizic (gk), 17 Andy Fleming.
Booked: Ellison 88, Whitmore 90.
Referee: Dean Whitehouse.
Attendance: 8,785 (69 away).