Gurrieri 13, Nelson 18, Alessandra 21
Welling United 1
by RICK COWDERY
TIME to dream.
Argyle, who have reserved their best scoring form this season for the knock-out competitions, did it again in their FA Cup with Budweiser second round tie to reach the stage of the tournament when the nation’s top teams enter proceedings.
Three goals in eight first-half minutes before a quarter of the match had elapsed set the Pilgrims on their merry way to a first earned third-round place in 11 seasons and, for around 24 hours at least, any fantasy scenario you like.
Andres Gurrieri, with only his third Pilgrims’ goal, and first for 14 months; Curtis Nelson, with his first of the campaign; and Lewis Alessandra, with his sixth cup goal this season did the damage between the 13th and 21st minutes.
The treble-quick salvo killed off Welling’s hopes of an upset, and breathed life into Argyle dreams of landing third-round opponents to excite players, supporters and the club’s financial department alike.
The Skrill Conference side did show a bit of fight in the second half, reducing the arrears straight after the break through Ross Lafayette and going on to show how important that Argyle not allowed them to start the game in such manner.
Pilgrims’ manager John Sheridan had made two personnel changes and one switch of system to his starting line-up from the side that had surrendered an eight-match unbeaten run at home to Burton Albion the previous weekend.
Goalkeeper Jake Cole came in for his sixth cup-tie of the season, while Durrell Berry returned from injury to replace the hamstrung Tope Odebayi. That allowed Sheridan to switch to a 3-4-3 formation, with Gurrieri tucked in behind main strikers Reuben Reid and Lewi Alessandra, and revert to a three-man defensive unit of Maxime Blanchard, Neal Trotman and Nelson.
Welling lined up much as expected, having rested the majority of their side in a 3-0 FA Trophy defeat by Braintree seven days earlier. They included recent loan signing, Leyton Orient defender De’Reece Vanderhyde, but were not allowed to field another loanee, Bournemouth winger Aristide Bassele.
After the initial sparring, which the Pilgrims controlled, Argyle fashioned the game’s first opportunity. Reid released Jamie Reckord down the left and moved into the centre to receive the return and send a low shot towards goal that was meat and drink for Wings’ goalkeeper Lee Butcher.
Reid then made the most of the generous amounts of space being afforded him to play a pivotal role in Argyle’s opener. After another patient build-up, the Argyle No.9 slipped in Gurrieri who twisted his marker inside out before flicking the ball past Butcher.
Five minutes later, the Pilgrims had their settler. A cunning, curling free-kick from Conor Hourihane caused panic in the Welling penalty area with Fraser Franks’ clearance barely worthy of that description and Nelson returning it, with interest, all along the deck from 12 yards.
Reid – surely now a true inheritor of Johnny Hore’s Here, There and Every…where mantle – tried a curler that went wide and then set up Alessandra for a shot that Butcher chopped off.
From the resultant short corner-kick, Luke Young drifted over a cross that Alessandra rose to head home, beating ill-judged Butcher’s charge into what turned out to be no-man’s land.
After that, it was simply a case of keeping the ball and/or keeping Welling at arm’s length for the next hour and ten minutes.
Which was not really a problem. Reid nearly netted the goal his all-round contribution deserved when Alessandra broke hard down the left and cut the ball back for his strike partner, whose precise on-target shot was well blocked.
The same fate befell a drive with a little more oomph behind it from Berry. You know you are well on top of things when the Argyle defender – 87 appearances, 0 goals – is taking pot-shots.
Welling proved game, though, and Cole maintained his concentration well enough to palm away a shot on the turn from six yards by Alex Dyer before Reid saw another goalbound attempt blocked.
If the near-thing did not shake Argyle out of their complacency, Layfayette’s opportunistic goal at the start of the second half will have done, the striker profiting from Trotman’s slip that left the Argyle defender on the floor to fire past Cole.
The wind was beneath the Wings now and captain Lee Clarke’s chip over Cole was a few inches away from falling into the goal, rather than on top of it.
Blanchard limped off midway through the second half, although Sheridan signalled his intent to get back on front foot by replacing the defender with the attack-minded Rommy Boco.
Welling, of course, had nothing lose, and some pride to salvage, and they kept Argyle keen when Kurtis Guthrie broke through. Cole met him halfway but was on the end of an ugly challenge that saw striker booked and goalkeeper, clearly badly hurt, replaced by Luke McCormick.
It was as close as the Wings came to disturb the Green Army’s dreams.
Enjoy your sleep.
(3-5-2): 1 Jake Cole (23 Luke McCormick 73); 4 Maxime Blanchard (8 Rommy Boco 64), 16 Neal Trotman, 17 Curtis Nelson; 2 Durrell Berry, 14 Luke Young (11 Dominic Blizzard 80), 27 Andres Gurrieri, 6 Conor Hourihane (c), 28 Jamie Reckord; 9 Reuben Reid, 7 Lewis Alessandra.
Substitutes (not used): 3 Andre Blackman, 5 Guy Branston, 15 Paul Wotton, 20 Hamza Bencherif.
(4-5-1): 18 Lee Butcher; 31 De'Reece Vanderhyde, 5 Fraser Franks, 14 Blaine Hudson, 26 Baily Cargill; 9 Kurtis Guthrie, 15 Alex Dyer, 4 Jake Gallagher (21 Harry Beautyman 81), 8 Lee Clarke (capt), 33 Joe Healy (25 Luis Cumbers 81); 10 Ross Lafayette.
Substitutes (not used): 6 Doug Berqvist, 13 Jamie Turner (gk), 17 Callum Webb, 20 Sam Corne, 29 Josh Ekim.
: Cargill 35, Clarke 65, Guthrie 68, Healy 70.
: Steve Bratt.
: 4,706 (215 away).
THE draw for the third round of this year’s FA Cup with Budweiser takes place on Sunday at approximately 4.10pm, and will be screened live by ITV. Argyle have been assigned ball number 58.