Lavery 10, Reid 78
ARGYLE returned to winning ways as Reuben Reid’s late second-half goal saw them go into Christmas with three valuable points in the sack.
Reid netted his ninth goal of the season from close range after fine work from Lewis Alessandra to give the Pilgrims their first win in three Sky Bet League 2 matches.
The Pilgrims had been unable to build on a good early start in which Caolan Lavery scored his first senior goal, on his first senior start, in a pre-Christmas encounter that was more Scrooge than Joy to the World.
Northern Ireland Under-21 international Lavery executed a smart finish in front of the Devonport end after just ten minutes,
That sweet strike was trumped in the opening minutes of the second half by an even more eye-catching shot from Chris Sedgwick to shake up the Pilgrims by bringing their visitors level.
Argyle manager John Sheridan selected a side without Conor Hourihane in it for the first time this season as the skipper was obliged to serve a one-match suspension after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season in the previous week’s 2-0 defeat at Chesterfield.
The 22-year-old Irish midfielder’s place in a rejigged 4-3-3 starting line-up went to his junior colleague Luke Young, while the captain’s armband was passed to Curtis Nelson, who is not 20 until the summer.
The other Argyle change was up front, where on-loan Sheffield Wednesday striker Lavery was given his first start for Argyle after four previous substitute appearances, and first start in senior football.
Bury, unbeaten in five under new manager David Flitcroft, had to make do without midfielder Tommy Soares. Danny Mayor was elected for promotion from the substitutes’ bench.
Lavery took no time at all to frank his full debut with a goal. He had already seen a header palmed over the crossbar by Bury’s veteran custodian Brian Jensen before Young released him down the left.
He immediately cut back inside and bore down on goal against the back-pedaling Nathan Cameron before insouciantly wrong-footing the Danish goalkeeper and craftily tucking the ball past him on his narrow side.
The early goal forced Bury to be more progressive than their two-sitting-midfielders line-up suggested they might initially have liked to have been, and they responded by making Argyle work hard to hold on to their lead.
With Alessandra also finding plenty of space on the left, and Bury right-back Shaun Beeley struggling, it always seemed that avenue would be the one where the Pilgrims might have further joy.
A break by Alessandra down that flank nearly brought a second goal but his cross to the far post was a little too strong for Lavery to get a measured header on. Plan B, a full-body fling at the delivery, saw him make contact with the ball but he was unable to direct it the right side of the post.
Bury maintained their cool and patience, and crafted a decent opening just before the interval when Sedgwick threaded in Mayor behind the Argyle defence. Luke McCormick was pretty well alone in reading the danger and came from his line swiftly before getting down even more quickly to keep out the shot.
The second half began at a furious pace. Argyle failed to make the most of a break after Reid miskicked Andres Gurrieri’s cut break and found themselves caught on the counter.
They survived the first wave, although only with the aid of a post as Danny Nardiello nearly Lavery-ed McCormick, but succumbed moments later when Sedgwick spotted the Argyle ’keeper a tad too far off his line and lobbed him from 20 yards.
The Pilgrims riposted with Reid firing in a low cross after nutmegging Dean Howell, but the ball passed tantalisingly across the goal in a pluperfect channel equidistant between the goalkeeper and Lavery’s outstretched leg.
Playing towards the Barn Park end, Argyle had a strong wind at their backs, which was more of a curse than a blessing, as evidenced by the number of crosses and free-kicks which drifted past the Bury goal.
Bury sent on Anton Forrester in place of Nardiello and the substitute did not take too long to find his range, sending a low shot on the spin towards the Argyle goal, where it was pouched by McCormick.
For the second week in succession, Argyle found themselves finishing against 10 men when, with Bury having used all their substitutes, captain Craig Jones limped out of the action.
Within a few minutes, they made the numbers count as Alessandra made headway again down the right and squared the ball for Reid to tuck it home and release the demons that had seemed to have plagued him since the previous week’s penalty miss.
Reid was subbed immediately after his strike, before the restart, with Rommy Boco coming on, and, having started so attack-minded, Argyle finshed in what-we-have-we-hold mode as Hamza Bencherif was introduced in place of Lavery.
It proved sound tactics.
A happy Christmas to all our readers.
(4-3-3): 23 Luke McCormick; 4 Max Blanchard, 16 Neal Trotman, 17 Curtis Nelson (c), 2 Durrell Berry; 11 Dominic Blizzard, 14 Luke Young, 27 Andres Gurrieri; 13 Caolan Lavery (20 Hamza Bencherif 88), 9 Reuben Reid (8 Rommy Boco 79), 7 Lewis Alessandra. Substitutes (not used): 1 Jake Cole (gk), 3 Andre Blackman, 5 Guy Branston, 15 Paul Wotton, 28 Jamie Reckord.
: Berry 69, Lavery 87.
(4-5-1): 21 Brian Jensen; 2 Shaun Beeley (22 Marco Navas 33), 5 Nathan Cameron, 25 William Edjenguélé, 23 Dean Howell; 7 Craig Jones (c), 8 Tommy Miller, 6 Andy Proctor (14 Shaun Harrard 67), 12 Chris Sedgwick, 15 Danny Mayor; 18 Daniel Nardiello (9 Anton Forrester 63). Substitutes (not used): 3 Gareth Roberts, 10 Ashley Grimes, 15 Danny Mayor, 30 Reice Charles-Cook (gk), 31 Regan Walker.
: Navas 52, Mayor 69.
: Mike Bull.
: 6,206 (160 away).