Banton 5, 40
by CHRIS PARSONS
JASON Banton’s first-half brace earned the Pilgrims three valuable points at the EBB Stadium.
On only his second league start, the Crystal Palace loanee scored his first two professional goals, sandwiching Peter Vincenti’s lone strike for the home side.
His first goal came after just five minutes, when he crashed home a shot from the edge of the box from Conor Hourihane’s smart free-kick.
Vincenti equalised soon after but Banton had more in his locker and five minute before half-time, he scored what would become the winning goal after great work from Reuben Reid on the counter-attack.
Despite Banton’s two goals, Reuben Reid was the Pilgrims undoubted star of the day. His strength and intelligence shone through in the final third, playing some of the best hold up play seen from an Argyle player in the last few seasons.
Most importantly, the result moved the Pilgrims two points clear of the npower League 2 drop-zone with mid-table Oxford United up next at Home Park.
Looking to remain unbeaten as Argyle manager, John Sheridan opted for two changes to the side that battled to the 0-0 draw with Dagenham seven days previously.
Lee Cox, who signed on emergency loan from Swindon on Friday, was drafted straight into the team, replacing Luke Young in a five man midfield that also included Paul Wotton.
Wottsy, who was earning his first start under Sheridan and the 428th of his Pilgrims career, was in at the expense of Ronan Murray, who was forced to settle for a seat on the bench.
Sheridan’s change of system seemed to pay immediate dividends when after just five minutes, Banton gave the Pilgrims the lead.
Paris Cowan-Hall, who was already looking lively, was the man who carved out the opportunity, drawing a foul on the right flank after attacking the acres of space he found in front of him.
Captain Hourihane took the free-kick, playing a short pass to Banton who side-stepped before sending a deflected effort into the bottom corner from the edge of the box.
But sadly, Argyle’s lead was to last just six minutes when Danny Hylton exploited hesitation in the Pilgrims midfield to fire a shot across Jake Cole.
Cole, in fairness, pulled off a great save to deny the Aldershot forward but could only palm the ball into the feet of Vincenti, who side-footed it home to draw the his side level.
A free-kick in a slightly more central position provided Argyle with their next opportunity to trouble the hosts but Reuben Reid could not navigate his shot around the six man wall.
After a stagnant 20 minute period, Vincenti brought the game to life again on the half hour when his shot from distance was fumbled round the post by Cole.
But just five minutes short of the break, a swift Argyle counter-attack saw Banton once again fire the Pilgrims in front.
Okay, it was Banton with the finish, but credit must go to Reid who, after winning the ball on the edge of his own area, ran the length of the pitch before squaring it across to his team mate.
Still with a lot to do, Banton stepped inside his man and curled a wonderful effort out of the reach of the keeper and into the far corner to send the marvellous away support behind the goal into raptures.
There was to be more drama as the half came to a close when Guy Branston, sliding out to defend Hylton’s shot, appeared to handle the ball inside the area. The Aldershot players, bench and crowd made vibrant appeals but luckily for the Pilgrims, referee Fred Graham waved play on.
Straight from the second-half restart, Aldershot took the game to the Pilgrims and even forced a number of corners. But they were still vulnerable on the break with the strength of Reid and the pace of Banton and Cowan-Hall causing a nuisance.
But slowly, the Shots were beginning to turn the screw as Danny Rose cannoned a 20 yard daisy-cutter against Cole’s right-hand post.
The Argyle defence were defiant, though, using Reid incredible hold-up ability to reduce the pressure of the Shots’ attacks.
Cox, who along with Wotton and Hourihane had provided a much needed touch of physicality in the middle of park, nearly put the game beyond doubt, but saw his shot deflected over by Troy Brown with Reid again the architect.
Gozie Ugwu was finally given his Argyle debut with eight minutes remaining, replacing Reid in the lone forward role and set about cause the kind of problems that his predecessor had.
When four minutes of injury time were signalled and Shots’ ‘keeper Jamie Young started advancing for corners, hearts were understandably in mouths.
But the Pilgrims held strong for only their third away win of the season.
Meanwhile, John Sheridan remains unbeaten...
Argyle (4-5-1): 1 Jake Cole; 2 Durrell Berry, 26 Anthony Charles, 5 Guy Branston, 14 Onismor Bhasera; 7 Paris Cowan-Hall, 6 Conor Hourihane (capt), 15 Paul Wotton (4 Maxime Blanchard 90), 10 Lee Cox, 19 Jason Banton; 24 Reuben Reid (18 Gozie Ugwu 82). Substitutes (not used): 8 Luke Young, 13 Ollie Chenoweth (gk), 16 Jamie Lowry, 27 Andres Gurrieri, 28 Ronan Murray.
Booked: Charles 15
Aldershot Town (4-4-2): 21 Jamie Young; 2 Ben Herd (capt), 5 Troy Brown, 23 Sonny Bradley, 3 Anthony Tonkin; 28 Kieron Cadogan (27 Lionel Ainsworth 74), 31 Danny Rose (24 Asa Hall 83), 20 Craig Reid, 12 Oliver Risser (17 Adam Mekki 74); 11 Peter Vincenti, 10 Danny Hylton. Substitutes (not used): 4 Aaron Morris, 9 Michael Rankine, 19 Terrell Forbes, 29 Glen Morris (gk).
Booked: Cadogan 64, Rose 71, Brown 90.
Referee: Fred Graham
Attendance: 3,241 (907 away)