Torquay United 1
by RICK COWDERY
THERE are ways of announcing yourself, and ways of announcing yourself.
Teenager Tyley Harvey marked his full Argyle debut by rescuing a point for the Pilgrims in the last minute of their Boxing Day derby.
Up until the young Devonian’s late intervention, Argyle had looked like having their colours lowered in a December 26 fixture for the first time since 1997, by their nearest and dearest neighbours.
A goal 12 minutes from time by Gulls’ centre-back Aaron Downes, who, along with his defensive colleagues, had survived a Pilgrims onslaught for most of the game, looked like proving the difference between the two sides.
However, the tremendous efforts of the Argyle players, not least of all those of teenage Harvey, were rewarded just as it seemed that a five-figure holiday crowd would be ruing, again, the Pilgrims; frustrating habit of not being able to turn their pressure into goals.
Harvey struck, taking a touch after being played in coolly by Luke Young on the edge of the 18-yard box and shooting low into the net. In front of the Devonport end.
Up until that sweet, sweet strike, Argyle’s profligacy and some fantastic goalkeeping by opposition goalkeeper Michael Poke had threatened to halt Argyle’s unbeaten Devon derby record this season.
As well as giving a full debut to 17-year-old forward Harvey, in place of Rhys Griffiths, Fletcher had made two further changes to the side that drew 1-1 at Accrington the previous Saturday.
Defender Durrell Berry and midfielder Joe Lennox joined the Welshman on the substitutes’ bench as Max Blanchard returned for suspension to claim his place alongside Darren Purse in the centre of defence, Curtis Nelson moving across to right-back.
With Luke Young still required to fill the central midfield hole left vacant by Mark Molesley’s injury, Paris Cowan-Hall was recalled to the right side of midfield in place of the Pilgrims’ previous derby day goalscoring hero, Joe Lennox.
Torquay, whose other festive derby, at home to Exeter, was called off last Saturday, were obliged to replace Ryan Jarvis after he suffered a punctured lung in their previous game.
The unplanned respite gave Billy Bodin time to recover from an ankle problem and he was promoted into the vacancy in the only change to the Gulls’ relatively settled line-up.
Harvey certainly did not lack confidence and nearly found an early way through the Torquay back line.
His shot was quick off his foot, but off target, before Gulls’ skipper Lee Mansell stuck a leg out to turn the ball back on target and nearly wrong-foot Poke.
With a strong, swirling wind largely behind them in the opening 45 minutes, the Pilgrims quickly pegged Torquay back in their own half, and Robbie Williams flashed shot wide after striding forward from halfway with real intent.
A similar move, on the same left-hand side, from Onismor Bhasera came close to making the breakthrough, with the Zimbabwean’s driven cross deflected wide by Kevin Nicholson.
Nicholson’s defensive partner Downes was the next overworked Gull to come to his side’s rescue, throwing himself in the way of Cowan-Hall’s strike after Nelson’s panic-inducing long throw.
The next assault wave saw the well-positioned Poke just get his fingers to Young’s rising drive from fully 30 yards to turn the ball away for a corner.
Torquay managed a couple of non-threatening corners around the half-hour mark, but the overall momentum remained well and truly with the home side.
Such was their dominance of proceedings that Pilgrims’ goalkeeper Rene Gilmartin had not dirtied his gloves by the time referee Graham Salisbury called time on the first 45 minutes.
Harvey was to the fore straight after the restart, seizing on some loose Torquay play in midfield to drive forward with the ball and loose off a shot that was blocked before it reached the target.
The visitors responded with a couple of corners, the first of which ended with Danny Stevens’ volley well blocked by Nick Chadwick.
Gilmartin was then called into meaningful action for the first time in the game to beat away a shot on the spin by Howe at his near post as the derby day atmosphere finally arrived.
So did Bodin, with a left-foot shot from 20 yards that worried Gilmartin enough to send him sprawling across his goal before convincing himself that the ball was really drifting wide.
Argyle, though, were not for sitting back, and Conor Hourihane fashioned an excellent opening when he slickly picked out a perceptive run into the box from Chadwick, whose header could not match his awareness.
Chadwick lifted himself to play in Harvey with a subtle header and the teenager let fly with a shot that Poke went to ground to stop.
In testing conditions and with tiring limbs on both sides, the match became increasingly open and much more 50-50.
Torquay spurned the best opportunity of the match halfway through the second period when the ball fell invitingly to Mansell inside the six-yard box and the goal at his mercy. It looked harder to clear the crossbar, than to lift the ball high into the Barn Park end.
Harvey continued to be involved and alert enough to Bhasera’s wing play to latch on to a low cross which he could not quite force in at the near post.
Kevin Nicholson then forced Gilmartin into a sprawling save with a low free-kick that beat the wall, but not the Irish goalkeeper.
However, from the subsequent corner, the ball fell invitingly at the feet of Downes, who lashed it high into the roof of the net.
Griffiths immediately replaced Chadwick, and was denied an equaliser by a fantastic save from Poke, who, after beating out Young’s drive, regained his footing and composure to bravely throw himself at the feet of the Welshman, who had sniffed out the rebound.
Poke then broke the home fans’ hearts again when he flung himself to his right to beat out Williams’ free-kick.
He could, though, not deny Harvey his moment, nor the Greens their point.
Argyle (4-4-2): 20 Rene Gilmartin; 17 Curtis Nelson, 5 Darren Purse (capt), Maxime Blanchard, 3 Robbie Williams; 7 Paris Cowan-Hall, 8 Luke Young, 6 Conor Hourihane, 14 Onismor Bhasera; 29 Tyler Harvey, 9 Nick Chadwick (10 Rhys Griffiths 81). Substitutes (not used): 1 Jake Cole, 2 Durrell Berry, 11 Warren Feeney, 16 Jamie Lowry, 19 Joe Lennox, 27 Andres Gurrieri.
Booked: Hourihane 83.
Torquay United (4-5-1): 1 Michael Poke; 2 Joe Oastler, 16 Angus MacDonald, 4 Aaron Downes, 3 Kevin Nicholson; 20 Nathan Craig, 7 Lee Mansell (6 Damon Lathrope 90), 15 Billy Bodin (23 Ashley Yeoman 70), 18 Craig Easton, 19 Danny Steven; 9 Rene Howe. Substitutes (not used): 12 Daniel Leadbitter, 13 Martin Rice (gk), 17 Saul Halpin, 21 Thomas Cruise, 30 Kirtys Mackenzie.
Referee: Graham Salisbury.
Attendance: 10,003 (1,525 away).