Tutte 8 Nardiello 49, pen 53, Rose 87
by Chris Groves
ARGYLE'S playoff hopes are now hanging by a thread, after being comprehensively beaten 4-0 by Bury.
The Pilgrims went into the break a goal behind to Andrew Tutte's strike in the eighth minute, but held their own against a confident Bury side who have been on enviable run of form.
Argyle may have been hopeful of clawing back at least a point after the interval, but when Danny Nardiello converted a penalty for which he was fouled only minutes after the restart, things looked bleak. When the same player headed home a cross four minutes later, the task for the Greens became nigh-on impossible. Substitute Danny Rose capped an impressive cameo with a salt-in-the-wounds fourth. By this point, Argyle fans heart had sunk beneath their abdomen and their minds to August, when the new season will begin.
On a glorious afternoon at Gigg Lane, a win would have kept Argyle firmly in the mix for the Sky Bet League 2 playoffs, whilst a Shakers victory would see them pull to within a point of the Pilgrims.
Following last weekend's 2-0 defeat to Oxford United, John Sheridan made four changes in the starting line-up: Nathan Thomas, Tyler Harvey, Paul Wotton and the suspended Maxime Blanchard making way for Dom Blizzard, Jason Banton, Ben Purrington and Durrell Berry, in a revised formation that resembled a 4-4-2, with a little flexibility allowed.
Striker Hallam Hope had an early sight at goal for the hosts but he was closed down quickly by Neal Trotman, with Purrington clearing away.
With six minutes gone, Lewis Alessandra broke free of the offside trap down the left flank, but his shot was scuffed wide of Brian Jensen's near post.
Bury took full advantage of Lewis' miss, taking the lead with a calmly-placed strike from Tutte. A lofted ball from Hope found the midfielder in plenty of room inside the box, and he duly converted past Jake Cole.
Tutte's strike - his first goal of the season - left the Greens with a mountain to climb, but the attacking combination of Reid, Banton, Alessandra and Gurrieri had defenders regularly back-tracking. With 20 minutes gone, a fierce strike by Reuben Reid was parried straight into the path of Gurrieri, who just couldn't sort his feet out in time, ending up lofting the ball over.
A dangerous cross on the half-hour mark from Nardiello cause some indecision in the Argyle area, before Purrington once again dealt with the pressure. The striker fizzed a daisy-cutter wide of Cole's net soon after.
At the opposite end, a lofted cross was contested by Jensen and Trotman, with the latter coming out on top, but the centre-back was adjudged to have impeded the shot-stopper.
Reid continued to ask questions of the Bury back line with his direct, powerful running on numerous occasions. Five minutes from the end of the second half, he put a header inches wide, after Alessandra popped up on the left and delivered an inch-perfect cross for his team-mate.
Argyle returned for the second half early, but it wasn't long after that Bury made it 2-0. After Nardiello was ruled to have been brought down in the area by Nelson, the striker picked himself up to power the penalty past Cole, doubling his side's lead.
By the 52nd minute, it was 3-0; a beautifully delivered ball from Chris Hussey allowed Nardiello to head home his second in quick succession, leaving the Greens with a virtually impossible task in hand.
It was nearly 4-0 before the hour mark; Curtis Nelson's misplaced pass led to a long-range curling effort from Danny Mayor that clipped the top of the bar on its way over. With his side thoroughly on the ropes, Sheridan made all three of the changes available to him: Thomas, Luke Young and Enoch Showunmi coming on for Gurrieri, Trotman and Alessandra.
In the 68th minute, Showunmi nearly capitalised on Jensen failing to get rid of the ball quickly enough - his clearance cannoned in to the advancing substitute, but looped over the bar.
Bury constantly posed a threat on the break, though, with Shakers sub Rose terrorising Argyle's defences. Another counter-attack culminated in a low cross from Tom Soares being cleared by Blizzard, as Rose looked to tap in from close range. He then missed two glorious chances - one after firstly with a tame show failing to find a way past Cole, before stretching to turn over from another good cross - this time from Mayor.
Despite the hosts' dominance the Green Army continued to make plenty of noise, and were nearly rewarded, albeit in a small, token manner, 15 minutes from time, when Conor Hourihane's delivery fell at the feet of Reid, who had his shot blocked by Jim McNulty.
Rose finally got his goal four minutes from time; a low free-kick found the chest of another substitute, Clive Platt, who set up his strike partner to slot home into the far corner.
While the first 45 minutes were contested fairly evenly, Argyle were totally outplayed in the second half. For all their hard work and commitment to the task, they were undone by Bury's attacking vision and blistering counter attacks.
Half-full glasses will be at a premium this evening.
(4-2-3-1) 1 Jake Cole; 2 Durrell Berry, 16 Neal Trotman (14 Luke Young 60), 17 Curtis Nelson, 25 Ben Purrington; 6 Conor Hourihane (capt), 11 Dominic Blizzard; 27 Andres Gurrieri (19 Nathan Thomas 60), 20 Jason Banton, 7 Lewis Alessandra (29 Enoch Showunmi 60); 9 Reuben Reid. Substitutes
(not used): 8 Rommy Boco, 15 Paul Wotton, 18 Tyler Harvey, 32 Cameron Dawson (gk).
: Berry 86.
(4-4-2): 21 Brian Jensen; 7 Craig Jones (capt), 34 Pablo Mills, 3 Jim McNulty, 11 Chris Hussey; 19 Tom Soares, 16 Andrew Tutte, 12 Chris Sedgwick (8 Tommy Miller 67), 15 Danny Mayor; 18 Danny Nardiello (22 Clive Platt 79), 9 Hallam Hope (20 Danny Rose 57). Substitutes
(not used): 5 Nathan Cameron, 6 Andy Proctor, 10 Ashley Grimes, 30 Reice Charles-Cook.
: Eddie Ilderton.
: 3,401 (553 away).