Berry 5, Alessandra 40, 90, Nelson 77, Gurrieri 87
by RICK COWDERY
“THERE’S always one team that comes out of the pack – why can’t it be us?”
John Sheridan’s mantra might have raised a few eyebrows when he first said it a few weeks ago, but no longer.
Eleven goals in three matches from eight different scorers have now seen Argyle claim three points in three successive games for the first time this season and the play-offs are no longer a distant dream.
You know momentum is on your side when a player who has never previously scored a league goal breaks his duck to set your team on their way to a third successive win for the first time this season.
Durrell Berry opened the scoring in the fifth minute of Argyle’s third victory in a week, rippling the netting for the first time in his 97th match for Argyle.
Lewis Alessandra, who, this time last year, was a Morecambe player, extended the Pilgrims’ advantage five minutes before the break, and added a second in injury time after Curtis Nelson’s first league goal of the season and the fourth from substitute Andres Gurrieri.
Pilgrims’ manager John Sheridan had stayed faithful to the side that had produced a season's best performance – not to mention a season's-plus best 4-0 win – at Fleetwood on Tuesday.
That meant a 482nd appearance in the Green for hometown hero Paul Wotton – inching ever closer to Sammy Black's number two slot on the list of all-time Argyle appearances – who had been recalled at Dagenham & Redbridge a week earlier after four months' absence.
Morecambe made two changes to the side which had drawn 1-1 with Oxford a week earlier in pursuit of their first win in 11 matches, with a net result that both the scorers in the Shrimps' 2-1 victory over Argyle in August were non-starters. Kevin Ellison, who equalised Reuben Reid's first-half strike at the Globe Arena, was on the bench, while match-winner Padraig Amond was omitted from the 18-man squad with a hamstring injury.
As at Fleetwood a few days previously, Argyle’s start fell into the ‘iffy’ category and only a well-read interception by Nelson prevented Morecambe from capitalising on Jack Redshaw’s breakaway.
Reprieved, the Pilgrims took the game to their opponents. Matt Parsons, making his home debut, had already caused a few tremors down the Morecambe right before his shot was parried by goalkeeper Barry Roche.
The ball broke to Berry, who has obviously not entirely forgotten the talents that he displayed as a striker in his youth as he drilled his shot home from 15 yards. It was the third time in their last five games that Argyle have scored in the fifth minute of a match.
The Pilgrims almost doubled their lead immediately when Alessandra teed up Luke Young for a swinging cross to which Nelson beat Roche with a header that zipped over the crossbar.
The early breakthrough was all it needed to top up Argyle confidence levels that were already pretty high following back-to-back away wins, and had Alessandra’s block of Roche’s kick bounced back the right side of the post, they would have gone off the scale.
As it was, Morecambe tentatively clawed their way back into proceedings and Young needed to show the desire lauded by Sheridan at Fleetwood in midweek to track back and make a precise tackle in the six-yard box and deny Andy Fleming.
Although Argyle’s dominance diminished, they still looked capable of adding to Berry’s strike. Alessandra saw a shot deflected for a corner, talking of which, the Pilgrims seem to have developed a penchant for set-pieces lately and Max Blanchard twice went close with headers.
When Reid was denied by a combination of Roche and Andy Parrish eight minutes before half-time, after a breakaway in which the Argyle No. 9 did everything right, it looked like the Pilgrims might only have a one-goal lead to take into the interval.
However, another break, engineered by Conor Hourihane’s steal from Sean Beeley just inside Morecambe half, gave them the comfortable advantage their endeavours had merited. The skipper fed Alessandra, who showed no mercy to his former team-mates and plenty of self-confidence, in firing the ball home from the edge of the penalty area.
Morecambe brought on Ellison at the interval but it was Argyle who came out of the blocks faster with Reid muscling his way past his marker to set up Hourihane for a rising shot that cleared the angle of post and crossbar.
The opposition had their moments, but those were neither as potent nor plentiful as those fashioned by the Pilgrims, some of who were showing almost indecent amounts of swagger – most noticeably Alessandra, who teased his old muckers mercilessly at times.
Youth-team graduates Nelson and Young, too, have grown as players as the confidence levels have risen, and Young was close to claiming his fifth goal of the campaign from a direct free-kick that would just not come down quickly enough.
Wotton was replaced, to a standing ovation from three sides of Home Park, by Tyler Harvey, an indication by Sheridan that the points were in the bag and that some 36-year-old legs needed saving for the visit to Bristol in a week’s time.
Teenager Harvey joined the party straight away with a break from midfield that saw him surge past several defenders before his placed effort was very well saved by Roche.
No matter. From Young’s flag-kick, Nelson completed what he and Blanchard had been threatening to do all afternoon, powering home an unstoppable header.
The comfort zone reached, Sheridan gave Reid and Hourihane a rest in favour of Marvin Morgan and Gurrieri, who announced himself 75 seconds after coming on by slamming home Harvey’s cross after a breakaway started by his tackle in the Argyle half.
That left Alessandra to deliver the final blow of a great Home Park afternoon.
Ain’t no stopping us now.
(3-5-2): 1 Jake Cole; 4 Maxime Blanchard, 16 Neal Trotman, 17 Curtis Nelson; 2 Durrell Berry, 14 Luke Young, 15 Paul Wotton (18 Tyler Harvey 73), 6 Conor Hourihane (capt, 27 Andres Gurrieri 86), 26 Matt Parsons; 7 Lewis Alessandra, 9 Reuben Reid (10 Marvin Morgan 81). Substitutes
(not used): 8 Rommy Boco, 25 Ben Purrington, 28 Tope Obadeyi, 32 Cameron Dawson (gk).
(4-4-2): 1 Barry Roche; 2 Shaun Beeley (11 Kevin Ellison half-time), 22 Andy Parrish, 5 Mark Hughes, 3 Robbie Threlfall; 4 Alex Kenyon (10 Ryan Williams 79), 8 Andrew Wright, 17 Andy Fleming, 16 Stewart Drummond; 7 Jack Redshaw, 9 Jack Sampson (14 Marcus Marshall 79). Substitutes
(not used): 6 Tony Diagne, 15 Chris McCready, 19 Joe McGee, 25 Andres Arestidou (gk).
: Kenyon 70.
: Graham Horwood.
: 6,827 (45 away).