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Match Report

 

Posted Sat 20 Feb 10 at 17:06 PM

ARGYLE 1 LEICESTER 1

Argyle 1
Noone 38

Leicester 1
Árnason og 31

CRAIG Noone scored an excellent header to secure a point for Argyle in a game which the Pilgrims dominated.

Leicester arrived at Home Park expecting to build on their play-off pretensions but found the Greens in the sort of mood the Green Army has craved.

Kári Árnason's strange own goal on the half-hour was a blip that Noone rectified within seven minutes and the Pilgrims created the chances to win with plenty of spare in the second-half, but Leicester held on for a fortunate point.

Head coach Paul Mariner made just one change to the Argyle team that battled out a 1-1 draw with Swansea City on Tuesday night. Noone, absent against the Swans because of a family bereavement, returned to the Green wing.

Luke Summerfield was the man sacrificed for Noone and he bumped Bradley Wright-Phillips out of the squad altogether.

Leicester boss Nigel Pearson kept faith with the 11 men that secured a 1-1 draw at Bristol City in midweek in the first part of their Westcountry sojourn. It meant a start for summer signing Paul Gallagher, who played a starring role during a season-long loan at Home Park from Blackburn Rovers last year.

On the bench, Pearson evicted Ryan McGivern and Nicky Adams allowing Robbie Neilson and Alex Bruce to take their places among the substitutes.

The Foxes were first to show as an attacking force, with dangerous left-back Bruno Berner bursting forward to swing over a low cross that narrowly evaded Gallagher's diagonal run to the near-post from his starting-point on the right flank.

Argyle's early momentum had its starting berth in the right full-back position, where Karl Duguid prompted a number of forays forward with a combination of clipped passes into Rory Fallon's chest or channel balls for Jamie Mackie to chase.

The Greens had a very tentative penalty shout on 12 minutes rightly waved away by referee Roger East after Mackie tumbled under a soft challenge from Jack Hobbs following Réda Johnson's flicked header.

Gallagher's familiar class on the ball came to the surface with a delightful instant pass for Martyn Waghorn from a cleared Argyle corner. Waghorn took the ball beautifully in his stride but found his progress halted by a superbly-timed challenge from Duguid.

The Hollywood moment of the first-half arrived on 22 minutes. Réda Johnson controlled the ball in the centre-circle, burst forward, exchanged a quick one-two with Fallon and sent a scuttling shot into the arms of Chris Weale.

Although the eventual effort was tame, Johnson's fabulous intent in driving forward from centre-back was roundly appreciated by the Green Army.

After 26 minutes of calm, Mr East decided to stamp his officious mark by booking Árnason for cleaning the ball with a towel before launching his throw-ins. It seems Mr East was upset the use of a towel had not been agreed with him prior to kick-off, as per Football League rules, and Árnason was left as the unfortunate victim.

East then awarded Argyle a soft free-kick which Carl Fletcher thumped into the Leicester wall. The ball bounced to Noone, who delivered an instant low cross beyond the stranded Weale for Fallon at the back-post, but the Kiwi failed to steer his point-blank effort around the sprawling challenge of Berner.

Leicester countered immediately and Lloyd Dyer was left to attack the isolated Réda Johnson. After weaving one way and then another, the Foxes winger curled a low shot beyond David Stockdale but onto the far post.

The Greens barely had time to complete their sigh of relief when the visitors took a bizarre lead. A routine pump forward from Hobbs was under Árnason's control and he clipped the ball back for Stockdale.

Unfortunately, the Argyle 'keeper had already advanced out of his goal to collect a short back-pass that never came, and both men could only watch in horror as the ball sailed agonizingly into the vacated goal.

The whole passage of play was even more galling for Mariner, who clearly felt there was a foul on Noone before Hobbs had played the initial pass forward. To compound the misery even further, the Pilgrims were now behind in a game where they had looked the better side.

Justice soon arrived in the form of a Green equalizer and it was a sublime goal. A swift break forward started with Mackie laying the ball out to the right-wing for Chris Clark, who took a touch before drifting over a wonderful cross.

The Leicester defence understandably tracked the run into the box from Fallon but their focus on the Kiwi allowed Noone to surge through the middle unchecked, and guide a delicious header into the top corner.

Argyle survived a minor scare moments before half-time when Réda (Beckenbauer) Johnson tried to dribble out of defence but was slyly robbed by Gallagher who dragged his subsequent low shot narrowly wide.

Gallagher was also involved in the first incursion of the second period, skipping past Chris Barker to arrow a low cross to the near-post for Matt Oakley, but he was thwarted by a well-timed Árnason challenge.

Within a minute, a long throw found Gallagher in space in the box but Barker prevented his powerful volley from threatening Stockdale by launching himself bravely in front of the ball.

As Argyle settled into their rhythm once again, Leicester found themselves pegged back by a succession of set-pieces. Although nothing came from the sequence, it was pleasing to see the Greens patiently applying pressure on the visitors.

Leicester responded with a slick passing move involving Waghorn, Gallagher and Andy King. The final episode of a wonderfully orchestrated opportunity fell to Waghorn, who dragged a bobbled shot inches past Stockdale's far post.

Fallon's afternoon came to an end moments later, as he was replaced, not by the usual alternative of Kenny Cooper, but Joe Mason, who slotted into a central striking role alongside Mackie.

Mason took just two minutes to make an impression, darting inside his marker to glance a header narrowly past the post after another Réda Johnson flick from an Árnason throw.

If that was an escape for Leicester, Argyle soon had their own moment of luck, when a Gallagher corner evaded everyone, including the stranded Stockdale, to drift harmlessly wide.

The platform for Argyle's stirring performance came from the excellent midfield partnership of Fletcher and Damien Johnson, which allowed Noone, in particular, to attack the Foxes defence with the penetration that makes him such a crowd favourite.

A fine Pilgrim display almost fell to the softest of goals. Gallagher's innocuous cross found Berner completely unmarked in the six-yard box, but the Swiss defender somehow planted an easy header wide.

Cooper's delayed arrival came on 76 minutes, with Clark finally given an opportunity to rest his tiring legs and lungs. The American slotted in up front and Mason drifted wide into the position vacated by Clark.

Noone then had a chance to steal all the plaudits with a curling free-kick that Weale struggled to fend off. The rebound fell to Árnason in an impossibly tight position and Leicester escaped.

Argyle were now pounding the Foxes and Mason rifled a stunning half-volley from distance that Weale did brilliantly to tip onto the crossbar.

Stockdale and Árnason were back to their old tricks with five minutes to go. The goalkeeper found himself in an awkward position after sweeping up a long ball forward but Árnason was on hand to head clear Dyer's pump at the vacated goal in a very welcome reversal of first-half fortunes.

The final Green wave saw Cooper's header excellently blocked by Weale and then Flecther's return drive was miraculously cleared off the line by the head of Hobbs, and then air-kicked a decent chance in the penalty area.

It was a frustrating end to a fine afternoon of football from the Pilgrims. Mariner's men played with a confidence that ignored the differing league positions of the two teams and, on the balance of play, will go down as two points dropped.

Argyle (4-4-2): 21 David Stockdale; 2 Karl Duguid, 11 Kári Árnason, 22 Réda Johnson, 15 Chris Barker; 6 Chris Clark (33 Kenny Cooper 76), 4 Carl Fletcher (capt), 7 Damien Johnson, 17 Craig Noone; 8 Jamie Mackie, 14 Rory Fallon (32 Joe Mason, 61). Substitutes (not used): 1 Romain Larrieu (gk), 18 Gary Sawyer, 20 Luke Summerfield, 25 Alan Judge, 36 Yala Bolasie.

Booked: Árnason 26

Leicester City (4-5-1): 1 Chris Weale; 4 Michael Morrison, 25 Jack Hobbs, 6 Wayne Brown, 15 Bruno Berner; 24 Paul Gallagher (7 Nolberto Solano 83), 8 Matt Oakley, 10 Andy King, 19 Richie Wellens, 11 Lloyd Dyer; 18 Martyn Waghorn (22 Yann Kermorgant 67). Substitutes (not used): 2 Robbie Neilson, 9 Steve Howard, 14 Conrad Logan (gk), 17 Dany N'Guessan, 33 Alex Bruce.

Booked: Brown 54, Gallagher 78

Referee: Roger East (Wiltshire).

Attendance: 11,581 (1,339 away).

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