Burton Albion 1
by ROB McNICHOL
ARGYLE’S eight-game unbeaten run came to an end at Home Park as Adam McGurk’s goal sealed all three points for Burton Albion.
The Brewers won 1-0 for the third time this week to head back to Staffordshire the most contented side, although their goal was the catalyst for Argyle to play some of their best football of the season.
After McGurk – the best player on show on the day – finished sleekly to open the scoring, it prompted The Pilgrims to play some expansive and creative attacking football, but they could not find a way of levelling before half-time.
The second half saw Albion reduce the game to a scrappy, fussy affair, and a frustrating second half will be forgotten by most before the highlights, such that they are, appear on our screens.
Argyle made just one change to the starting line up from the eleven that started the Devon derby with Torquay. An injured Durrell Berry made way for Jamie Reckord in a straight switch at left full-back, who himself had stood aside several games ago due to illness.
Burton’s team, totally unchanged since their midweek win against Mansfield, included an ex-Pilgrim – Damien McCrory - in the eleven and recent former Home Park loanee Alex McDonald on the bench.
McCrory was involved in the build up to the first chance of the afternoon, and it was one that Burton will certainly feel they should have taken. McCrory fed Chris Hussey down Albion’s left flank, and when his floated ball was only meekly headed by Adam McGurk, the ball fell to Matt Palmer, unguarded, and six yards out. His finish, though, was hurried, sliced and landed softly in the Devonport End.
McGurk, though, when given the chance, showed his cohort just how to finish. Neal Trotman misjudged a long ball by Phil Edwards and propelled a header upwards rather than away. When the ball returned to earth, McGurk pulled the ball down beautifully, then finished, left-footed, on the turn, to McCormick’s left.
Argyle’s response was swift, and very nearly telling. Both Andres Gurrieri and Lewis Alessandra saw shots from the edge of the area deflected wide, and from the latter of the two subsequent corners Trotman’s powerful header thudded into the shins of Robbie Weir on the Albion goal-line.
Midway through the half, Tope Obadeyi set off, for the first time on the afternoon, on a pacy, dangerous run. Unfortunately for him, he was too quick for his own hamstring, which appeared to buckle under the strain. He was replaced by Caolan Lavery, making a third appearance from the bench since his arrival eight days previous.
Argyle were having the best of the game, without a doubt. A stylish interchange between Lavery and Alessandra ended in a corner, from which Curtis Nelson headed into Reuben Reid’s path. Reid’s shot was fast and powerful, but Burton were proving adept at putting bodies in the right place in the nick of time.
Knock-downs were also proving the order of the day. Gurrieri provided a variation on the theme when he steered a deflected Alessandra cross into Reid’s path. Argyle’s top scorer could not hit the target from the angle, though.
Minutes later, when Reid set off on another marauding run down the right hand channel, it set off an odd chain of events. Firstly, he was hauled back, but shrugged off his assailant to continue his run. Referee Graham Salisbury, for his part, played a very good advantage. Reid cut inside and skewed his effort wide, to the apparent dismay of Mr Salisbury, who put his hands to his head at the sight of the ball missing the target. Brewers players understandably were a little perturbed with the official, and questioned his reaction. We’ll simply assume that he was adjusting his headset. Or doing the mime to ‘Tragedy’ by Steps.
Argyle continued to press. A gift by former player McCrory presented the ball to Reid, who released Gurrieri on the right. A clipped, precise cross landed on Reid’s head, but the effort was just wide.
In truth, when reflecting at half-time, it would be fair to assess the first-half performance by The Pilgrims as being as good as any other in recent weeks. Yet the 0-1 scoreline remained the most important matter.
As in recent weeks, Reid had been the architect of much of Argyle’s best work, and as if recognising his influence, Burton introduced their own burly number nine after the half time break. Rene Howe, ex of Torquay and of similar stature to Reid, was now asked to lead the Burton line.
Argyle continued to exert pressure from the off in the second period, but it was the visitors that had the first true chance of the half. McGurk sprung away from auxiliary left-back Hourihane as Burton broke from a Pilgrims corner, but McCormick got down well to block the snapshot.
It looked very much as though Howe had doubled Albion’s advantage when Trotman appeared to slip when clearing the ball in the six-yard area, and the Burton sub stabbed home. As Burton celebrated, the referee indicated a free-kick to Argyle, ostensibly for a push on Trotman by Howe.
Argyle’s first-half dominance, despite the negative scoreline, had now faded. Burton’s change in personnel had affected a shift in attitude, too, as if they needed reminding that they led the game.
The second half turned into a turgid affair, with Burton essentially snuffing out Argyle’s creative outlets, yet failing to play any football of their own. That, by the way, is not a criticism. It was in Albion’s interests to stifle the pace of the game and not allow Argyle a way back in.
With time and ideas running out John Sheridan introduced Rommy Boco for Jamie Reckord, and it nearly paid immediate dividends. Boco got to the bye-line, with help from Reid, and squared to Lavery. When the shot was blocked, it fell to Conor Hourihane, but the skipper, under pressure, could only fire over the bar.
: 23 Luke McCormick, 4 Maxime Blanchard, 17 Curtis Nelson, 16 Neal Trotman, 28 Jamie Reckord (8 Rommy Boco 85), 27 Andres Gurrieri, 14 Luke Young, 6 Conor Hourihane, 26 Tope Obadeyi (13 Caolan Lavery 25), 9 Reuben Reid, 7 Lewis Alessandra.
(not used): 1 Jake Cole, 3 Andre Blackman, 5 Guy Branston, 11 Dominic Blizzard, 15 Paul Wotton.
: 16 Dean Lyness, 2 Phil Edwards, 6 Ian Sharps, 25 Shane Cansdell-Sherriff, 14 Damien McCrory, 23 Matty Palmer (5 Zander Diamond 83), 3 Chris Hussey, 8 Robbie Weir, 7 Lee Bell (capt) , 18 Dominic Knowles (9 Rene Howe HT) , 20 Adam McGurk (17 Jimmy Phillips 73).
(not used): 1 Benjamin Siegrist, 11 Alex McDonald, 22 Jack Dyer, 29 Billy Kee.
Booked: Edwards 45, Hussey 76, Phillips 80
: Graham Salsibury
: 6,294 (132 away).