Dagenham & Redbridge 0
by RICK COWDERY
TWO sides that, a week earlier, had seen a nine-goal difference in fortunes could not find one between them in a grinding afternoon at Home Park.
In the end, this was one for the anoraks, rather than the expectant, among a handsome crowd of nearly 8,000, the majority of which had hoped to see the Pilgrims pull further away from the npower League 2 relegation zone.
A club record-equalling fourth successive home draw was achieved, at least in part, by the first time the Pilgrims had succeeded in keeping three league clean sheets in a row in four years.
Returns could easily have been greater. Argyle hit the post twice in the same second-half minute, having earlier in the game, seen Nick Chadwick and Conor Hourihane spurn good goalscoring opportunities.
Argyle manager Carl Fletcher had made two changes to the Pilgrims' line-up that had recorded the largest away victory for more than eight and half years at Accrington seven days earlier.
Jake Cole had recovered from a training-ground elbow injury to resume in goal in place of Romain Larrieu, whose testimonial dinner - 'Le Grand Ball', naturally - was scheduled for later in the day.
The other change to the 4-0 winning side was at left-back, where Robbie Williams earned a first start in 11 games instead of Onismor Bhasera, who was on African Cup of nations qualifying duty with Zimbabwe.
Dagenham & Redbridge showed three changes from the side that started the 5-0 home thrashing by Cheltenham the previous week, with manage John Still have brought in two loan players.
Goalkeeper Chris Lewington was unavailable, having been sent off in the final minute of the tanking, and was replaced by 18-year-old Watford custodian Jonathan Bond.
In the outfield, Ben Reeves, an attacking midfielder borrowed from Southampton, was preferred to Medy Elito, while former Pilgrim Damien McCrory came in for Oluwafemi Ilesanmi at left-back.
Argyle's front pairing of Alex MacDonald and Chadwick, who had proved so effective at the Crown Ground in their last outing, were again quickly to the fore.
MacDonald pressurised the Daggers' back four into a mistake that allowed Paul Bignot to break forward and pick out Chadwick with a low cross that deserved a better fate than to be smacked over the crossbar.
The early flow of the game was not helped by rather a lot of whistle from referee Dean Whitestone, whose previous included sending off a Pilgrim in two of the three previous matches he had officiated Argyle.
There was no whistle - rightly, as it turned out - when MacDonald was played clear by Bignot's blocked interception, only to be tackled bravely and precisely at the last by Dagger's captain Mark Arber.
The visitors were not without their moments in a largely holding first-half operation and twice in quick succession came close to making some capital down the Argyle right: first when McCrory's curling cross found Nurse for a header that Williams' presence ensured was off target; then when Brian Woodall's ball from the bye-line split the Argyle defence but found no takers.
MacDonald, though, continued to catch the eye, not least of all with his strength-assisted scuttling runs, and he all but gifted the Pilgrims the lead ten minutes before half-time when he teed up Hourihane.
However, the young Irish midfielder spurned the invitation to repeat his strike against the same opposition in the earlier away fixture between the two sides and lifted the ball over the crossbar.
The Pilgrims began the second half - attacking the Devonport end - with intent and Hourihane's drive from the edge of the penalty area forced young Bond into an uncertain block.
After that fleeting excitement, the game settled back down into an attritional rut with neither side making any real headway.
The extent to which a disciplined Dagenham & Redbridge were prepared to soak up Argyle's advances was seen when Williams was allowed to advance, unchallenged all the way to within sight of a left-foot pot at goal, which he pulled wide.
Midway through the half, Fletcher introduced striker Juvhel Tsoumou for Luke Young, moving MacDonald on to the right flank, and, shortly afterwards, Luke Daley for Ashley Hemmings - bold, attacking moves, designed to win the game.
Within a minute, Daley took advantage of a Daggers' defensive disaster to fire in a shot that beat Bond but hit the foot of his far post.
In the frantic scenes that followed, Maxime Blanchard streered a corner goalwards only for his shot to be blocked on the way to goal before the move ended with Williams thwacking a shot against the same post. In the same place, actually.
MacDonald came in off the left wing to fire on a shot that Bond did well to turn around for a corner as Argyle looked to seal a win with one of their famous late goals.
Williams had a free-kick tipped wide and Dagenham & Redbridge were obliged to make some manful blocks as the Greens kept going for it.
Argyle (4-4-2): 23 Jake Cole; 28 Paul Bignot, 5 Darren Purse, 22 Maxime Blanchard, 3 Robbie Williams; 15 Luke Young (9 Juvhel Tsoumou 64), 19 Paul Wotton (capt), 20 Conor Hourihane, 31 Ashley Hemmings (7 Luke Daley 71); 28 Nick Chadwick, 32 Alex MacDonald. Substitutes (not used): 1 Romain Larrieu (gk), 2 Durrell Berry, 8 Simon Walton.
Bookings: Larrieu 77.
Dagenham & Redbridge (4-4-2): 1 Jonathan Bond; 41 Michael Spillane, 4 Scott Doe, 6 Mark Arber (capt), 3 Damien McCrory; 9 Jon Nurse, 19 Abu Ogogo, 15 Matt Saunders, 25 Ben Reeves (8 Robert Edmonds 83); 10 Josh Scott, 23 Brian Woodall (12 Medy Elito 74). Substitutes (not used): 5 Richard Rose, 24 Billy Bingham, 27 David Hogan (gk).
Referee: Dean Whitestone.
Attendance: 7,804 (93 away).