Argyle 0Chesterfield 1
by RICK COWDERY
WHEN Lady Luck turns her back on you, misery pours down.
Argyle created a torrent of scoring opportunities against opponents in a fixture that has a recent tradition of similar, but failed to take one.
The Spireites, alternatively, were not so prolific, but much more deadly, and Marc Richards’ goal midway through the second half inflicted defeat on a Pilgrims side that has now not won for eight matches.
They might have found a way back in to the match had not the officials missed a blatant and obvious late handball by Chesterfield defender Nathan Smith as they strove manfully for an equaliser which would have been the least of their deserts.
All in all, it was rotten reward on a rotten afternoon for a honest, hard-working, imaginative performance that lacked only the end product.
Argyle manager Carl Fletcher had made one change to the side that had lost 1-0 at Bradford in midweek to accommodate his midweek loan signing from Bournemouth, Mark Molesley.
The midfielder to make way was Jamie Lowry, who missed an on-pitch reunion with old friends, having joined Argyle in the summer after nine seasons at Chesterfield.
Lowry dropped to a bench which included the recuperating Rhys Griffiths and Guy Madjo, as well as the tyro Tyler Harvey, but was bereft of the ailing Warren Feeney.
Chesterfield manager Paul Cook understandably stuck to the same 11 – the same 18, even – that had done duty in the 4-1 home win over Cheltenham the previous Tuesday, meaning only a substitute's role for the most noteworthy signing in their recent history, former Premier League Double winner Luis Boa Morte.
The Pilgrims’ early threat came from their flanks with both Paris Cowan-Hall, on the right, and Andres Gurreri, on the left, cutting in for shots that prompted a response from Chesterfield goalkeeper Tommy Lee.
Buoyed by the sight of the visitors back-pedalling towards the Devonport end, Argyle cranked it up a notch, with Cowan-Hall providing a cross that Alex MacDonald was just beaten to by some desperate defending that saw the ball rebound from a bemused defender’s shins for a corner.
More pressure from the corner saw the ball fall for Curtis Nelson, whose goalbound shot failed to make it through a wedge of bodies between him and the goal.
Chesterfield looked content to soak up the Pilgrims’ efforts but were not without their moments at the business end of the park and Brennan Dickenson might have done better than fire wide when well-placed in the Argyle penalty area.
Generally, though, the attention was hundred yards away.
In a purple patch, the Greens forced corner from just about each of which they had Lee and his defenders struggling to keep their goal intact.
Skipper Conor Hourihane’s shot was deflected wide by a Chesterfield boot before MacDonald larruped the ball into the side-netting with Lee late to get down.
Nelson then had another shot blocked, this time much nearer the line, followed by Gurrieri’s improvised little dink towards goal, which was cleared, by way of his own crossbar, by Drew Talbot.
MacDonald’s excellent dead-ball deliveries were becoming a feature of the afternoon and his next free-kick to the far post reach Cowan-Hall, who nodded wide.
The previous time Argyle had entertained Chesterfield, they had led 6-0 at the interval. It is difficult to remember the 2004 Pilgrims having created more first-half chances than their 2012 counterparts.
This year’s model ended a highly satisfying 45 minutes with Nick Chadwick heading narrowly over after Cowan-Hall had set him up following fine work by the impressive Molesley.
Chesterfield needed to change things at the interval and they did, bringing on Boa Morte for Dickenson.
The introduction of the Portugueser and subsequent shape-shifting was enough to cause Argyle a few initial problems but they soon resumed their assault on the Chesterfield goal.
Crosses from the left, from Gurrieri, and the right, from Durrell Berry, tested Lee and his back four, and gave Argyle further opportunities to attack from the resultant corners.
MacDonald fired over after good work from Berry, who was then beaten by Boa Morte, allowing the pacy forward to unleash a shot that Gilmartin went full length to stop.
Chesterfield considerably increased their attacking options, and average age of the team by bringing on Jack Lester, and their forward thinking was rewarded with a shot from that again required Gilmartin’s attentions.
The big Irishman was powerless to stop Richards from putting Chesterfield ahead soon afterwards with a picturebook goal. Boa Morte’s cross was deadly, Lester’s cushioned chest-down, perfect; and Richards’ strike deadly.
Argyle’s response was immediate with MacDonald’s grass-cutter from long range beating Lee but shaving the post.
Hourihane then headed powerfully over before Fletcher went all in by bringing on Rhys Griffiths, Guy Madjo and Joe Lennox.
Lennox asked the sort of questions he can, and when his cross was blocked by the outstretched arms of Smith, three yards inside the area, a penalty was banged on with nine-inch nails.
Unbelievably, amazingly, frustratingly, referee Graham Scott and linesman Andrew Turner did not see what everybody else in the ground apparently did.
Lady Luck tossed her head and smirked.
20 Rene Gilmartin; 2 Durrell Berry, 17 Curtis Nelson, 4 Maxime Blanchard, 14 Onismor Bhasera; 7 Paris Cowan-Hall (18 Guy Madjo 75), 30 Mark Molesley, 32 Alex MacDonald, 6 Conor Hourihane (capt), 27 Andres Gurrierri (19 Joe Lennox 75); 9 Nick Chadwick (10 Rhys Griffiths 73). Substitutes (not used):
1 Jake Cole (gk), 16 Jamie Lowry, 23 Jamie Richards, 29 Tyler Harvey.
1 Tommy Lee; 25 Drew Talbot, 6 Sam Hird (capt), 31 Liam Cooper, 3 Nathan Smith; 17 Chris Atkinson, 8 Sam Togwell, 12 Tendayi Darikwa, 10 Danny Whitaker (14 Jack Lester 61); 38 Brennan Dickenson (37 Luis Boa Morte h-t), 9 Marc Richards (15 Craig Clay 82). Substitutes (not used):
4 Terrell Forbes, 13 Richard O'Donnell (gk), 33 Conor Townsend, 34 Jay O'Shea.
Whitaker 52, Hird 71, Lester 90.
5,711 (261 away).