Hereford United 1
Stam OG 30
by CHRISTOPHER PARSONS
ARGYLE moved themselves five points clear - temporarily at least - of the npower League 2 drop zone with a battling draw at Hereford United.
Having taken the lead through an Stefan Stam own-goal, Argyle looked comfortable and could have perhaps been further ahead at the interval in a half when skipper Simon Walton saw his penalty crash against the woodwork.
Tom Barkhuizen's equaliser seven minutes after the break rescued a point for the home side but, really and truly, that was the last meaningful action of the game.
Argyle manager Carl Fletcher made just one enforced change for this vital clash.
Juvhel Tsoumou, the goalscoring hero of the previous Saturday's win over Bradford City, missed out after picking up an injury during the week. Warren Feeney was the man to fill Juvhel's size elevens.
The Bulls had made three changes through the spine of their team following their disappointing 1-0 defeat to Rotherham six days earlier. Byron Anthony, Will Evans and Nathan Elder slipped in for Ryan Green, Joe Colbeck and Delroy Facey in defence, midfield and attack respectively.
Before the match, the atmosphere was already pumping with the magnificent 1,244 travelling Argyle fans providing a spine-tingling noise from two sides of the ground.
The Hereford stadium announcer played Journey's 'Don't Stop Believing' before the teams ran out to try and build up some kind of atmosphere from the Edgar Street faithful but the home fans would have struggled to hear. The Green Army had started the afternoon in wonderful form.
Whilst there was confidence in the stand, on the pitch, it looked a little nervy and it was not until the 10th minute that the game saw a shot on goal when Hereford defender Michael Townsend nodded a corner over the bar.
The home side were obviously looking to make amends for their four defeats on the bounce and had an even better chance to score when Barkhuizen fired a curling effort straight at Jake Cole from just inside the box.
Argyle had their first chance just after the 15 minute mark when a trademark Paul Wotton lofted free-kick from the left flank was nodded just wide by Alex MacDonald.
Then, not even a minute later, Feeney was gifted an opportunity as defender Stam tried and failed to deal with a dodgy back pass. The Northern Irishman chased, got a touch, but could not quite direct it towards Dave Cornell's goal.
Argyle were finding their feet in the game and once again threatened when MacDonald forced his marker to handle the ball around 30 yards from goal. Robbie Williams, who had hit the post with one of his curling set pieces against Bradford seven days previously, stepped up and launched one just over the crossbar.
Just as the Pilgrims were beginning to take control of the match, Hereford came within a whisker of taking the lead when Richard Peniket's low drive evaded Cole and thankfully, the far post as well.
Hereford had not learned from MacDonald's earlier chance and again gave away another free-kick in Wotton's range. The Argyle midfielder's cross was as exquisite as the last but this time, nobody could find a touch at all, let alone a decisive one.
Feeney had already been causing problems for the Hereford defence, playing on the last man and chasing every ball and on the half hour, his harrying paid off as Argyle took the lead.
When Cole gathered the ball in his arms and launched the ball down field, both Feeney and Chadwick chased the ball. Hereford let it bounce, though, and Stam initially did well to get himself to the ball first.
Unbeknown to Stam, 'keeper Cornell had advanced to meet the ball and the defender could only watch in horror as his touch looped into the air and then into his own net.
The goal and the manner it had come in knocked the wind out of the home side and they should have been yet further behind when Chadwick beat his man, advanced into the box before skewing his effort wide.
Feeney was having a stormer and had a further impact on the game when we went down in the area under the challenge of James Chambers and earned his side a penalty.
Spot-kick taker and leading scorer Simon Walton stepped up, sent the 'keeper the wrong way, but drove his kick into the foot of the post. The home fans gave their biggest cheer of the afternoon as the Argyle captain stood with his head in his hands on the D, denied of his ninth goal of the season.
Having previously looked dead and buried, the missed penalty spurred the home side on to a spell of pressure just before the interval. Argyle held strong, though, and went to break one goal to the good.
Sadly, though, they could not keep it after the break and Hereford equalised. Having conceded a fairly innocuous free-kick, Argyle were caught unaware by the speed in which it was taken as Byron Anthony fed the ball to Barkhuizen for the midfield to fire home.
The whole mood of the stadium changed as the Hereford contingent finally matched the noise levels of their impressive visitors.
Hereford were now the more dangerous side and were throwing increasing numbers forward in search of the goal to go ahead and, whilst clear-cut chances were few and far between, the hastened clearances from the Argyle defence told their own story.
With the tide turning, Fletcher sent on namesake Steve with 25 minutes remaining.
Big Fletcher's introduction made a massive difference as Argyle slowly began to regain confidence with a number of corners.
Long balls up field became the order of the day for both sides but they were working out more affective for Argyle with Fletcher winning nearly every aerial contest.
With five minutes to go, both sets of fans were anxious and the cauldron of noise that been created at the kick-off had all but died out.
If every point is a prisoner, this one is safely behind bars.
Hereford United (4-4-2): 28 David Cornell; 19 James Chambers, 24 Stefan Stam (capt), 5 Michael Townsend, 22 Byron Anthony; 21 Tom Barkhuizen (27 Sam Clucas 90), 8 Nicky Featherstone, 11 Kenny Lunt, 34 Will Evans; 26 Richard Peniket (17 Joe Colbeck 73), 25 Nathan Elder (10 Delroy Facey 64). Substitutes (not used): 9 Yoann Arquin, 20 Beniot Dalibard,.
Booked: Anthony 81.
Argyle (4-4-2): 23 Jake Cole; 2 Durrell Berry, 5 Darren Purse, 22 Maxime Blanchard, 3 Robbie Williams; 32 Alex MacDonald (15 Luke Young 76), 8 Simon Walton (capt), 19 Paul Wotton, 31 Ashley Hemmings; 11 Warren Feeney (20 Conor Hourihane 90), 29 Nick Chadwick (10 Steve Fletcher 65). Substitutes (not used): 1 Romain Larrieu (gk), 14 Onismor Bhasera.
Referee: Oliver Langford.
Attendance: 4,597 (1,244 away).