Accrington Stanley 0
by CHRIS PARSONS
JOHN Sheridan remained unbeaten as Argyle manager after a frustrating 0-0 draw with Accrington Stanley.
In a game that had little in the way of goalmouth action, second time debutant Reuben Reid had the Pilgrims best chances but it was Anthony Charles who had the ball in the net midway through the second-half, only to have his header, from a Ronan Murray free-kick, disallowed.
The main talking point of the match, though, will be the terrible injury suffered by Accrington’s Nicky Hunt, who left the field on a stretcher, after a fairly run-of-the-mill coming together with Murray just inside the second-half..
Play took a lengthily break while the defender received treatment, resulting in over 11 minutes of added time.
If Accrington were in any doubt as to the Pilgrims’ mantra, then they must have been somewhat assured when the team-sheets were swapped an hour before kick-off.
Sheridan had promised to take the game to the visitors and delivered on his word; naming three strikers in the starting line-up.
In all, here were three changes of note, with new signings Anthony Charles and Reuben Reid both handed debuts.
Charles, match-fit after signing from Northampton, took his place at left-back, pushing Onismor Bhasera forward at the expense of Jamie Lowry.
Meanwhile, Reid lined up in a green shirt at Home Park for the first time since August 2007, partnering fellow loanee Ronan Murray in attack.
The Pilgrims’ other new signing, Gozie Ugwu, was made to wait for a Pilgrims debut after an injury in training ruled him out of the match day squad all together.
Despite the intent, the match started in a slightly scrappy manner with a number of hopeful long balls failing to reach their destination, leading to an awful lot of head tennis.
In fact, there was nearly nothing of note until Maxime Blachard, reacting after Reid’s shot from close range was deflected clear, was unluckily booked for a challenge on Craig Lindfield.
But it took nearly 20 minutes for the first genuine goalscoring opportunity of the game when Romuald Boco fluffed Linfield’s in-swinging cross at the back post with Rene Gilmartin at his mercy.
Argyle did not really create until ten minutes after that when Bhasera’s industry on the left provide a low bobbling cross that Paris Cowan-Hall, sliding in between the two centre-backs, failed by millimetres to make contact with.
It was not quite Gazza in the Euro 96 semi-final, but it was not far off.
Accrington then had a couple of half-chances, a shot from distance as well as a few dangerous crosses before, with five minutes to go until half time, Argyle tested visiting ‘keeper Cameron Belford for the first time when Murray headed another of Bhasera’ sweet left-footed deliveries into his grateful hands.
After what had been a fairly uneventful opening period, it was this chance that seemed to bring it back to life.
But it was Accrington who were administering the CPR and they could have possibly been ahead when Bhasera’s goal-line clearance from James Beattie’s smart header sparked a scramble that Argyle struggled to clear.
Eventually they did, releasing Reid on a solo counter-attack. Surprisingly, he did quite well, plough a furrow past two defenders before eventually losing possession on the edge of the box.
When everyone had got their breath back, it became apparent that Gilmartin had not recovered from the earlier drama in his goalmouth and after an assessment from physio Paul Atkinson, was replaced by Jake Cole.
Jake had barely had his gloves on the ball when in the first few minutes of the second half, Argyle came inches away from taking the lead when Belford made a cracking save to tip Bhasera’s effort around the post.
But the drama that came next was of a more serious kind when, after an innocuous challenge with Murray, Accrington defender Nicky Hunt went down did not get up. Murray realised immediately the severity of the incident and called immediately for medical assistance.
After ten minutes on treatment from both physios, paramedics and the club’s doctor, Hunt left the field on a stretcher to unilateral applause.
As is expected after a lengthily stoppage, the crowd fell a little bit flat and did not stir again until Reid blasted over from just inside the area.
Again, though, the tempo of the game started to drop and although both sides managed to forced a corner or two, neither could create a genuine chance until Belford denied Reid from an acute angle.
It was all becoming a bit niggly, too, with every challenge on a Stanley player resulting in the introduction of the physio, who had spent nearly as much time on the pitch as the some of the players.
Argyle did eventually find the net but when Charles met with Murray's free-kick from the right-hand side, his bullet header past Belford was disallowed.
Irritating indeed, but the match was beginning to swing in the Pilgrims’ favour and again Reid found himself on the wrong end of lady luck’s whim when he shot from right, only to see his effort deflected into the side netting.
Normal time was fast running out so when 11 minutes of added time were indicated by the fourth official, Argyle really began to push, introducing the fresh legs of Tyler Harvey in place of Murray.
But despite their toil, they could not seem to get the rub of the green and, at the death, had Jake Cole to thank for a fabulous save from a James Beattie free-kick.
20 Rene Gilmartin (1 Jake Cole 43); 2 Durrell Berry, 17 Curtis Nelson, 5 Guy Branston, 26 Anthony Charles; 7 Paris Cowan-Hall, 6 Conor Hourihane (capt), 4 Maxime Blanchard (8 Luke Young 65), 14 Onismor Bhasera; 28 Ronan Murray (29 Tyler Harvey 90), 24 Reuben Reid. Substitutes (not used):
3 Robbie Williams, 15 Paul Wotton, 16 Jamie Lowry, 27 Andres Gurrieri.
Blanchard 7, Branston 80
Accrington Stanley (4-4-2):
1 Cameron Belford; 16 Nicky Hunt (19 Marcus Carver 61), 6 Dean Winnard, 2 Peter Murphy, 3 Michael Liddle; 7 Craig Lindfield (12 George Miller 78), 4 Luke Joyce, 8 Charlie Barnett, 34 Laurence Wilson; 33 Romuald Boco, 21 James Beattie. Substitutes (not used):
14 Luke Clark, 15 Bohan Dixon, 17 James Gray, 22 Andrew Dawber, 24 Lee Molyneux.
6,509 (91 away)