Reid 28, 58
by RICK COWDERY
TWO-GOAL Reuben Reid sent Argyle into seventh heaven, his strikes either side of half-time against the Sky Bet League 2 leaders taking the Pilgrims into the play-off places for the first time this season.
Reid put the Pilgrims ahead midway through the first half with his 17th goal of a season in which he has lead the line like few others this century.
Taking the ball in his stride from Lewis Alessandra’s perceptive assist, he drove Argyle ahead to gain a measure of redemption for his penalty miss in the earlier fixture between the two sides earlier in the season.
That measure was filled just before the hour, when he scored an even better second, his 18th of the campaign, the 20-yard shot into the goal at the Devonport End coming less than two minutes after Ritchie Humphreys had driven the table-toppers level.
Heady days for Reid and for all Pilgrims.
Argyle manager John Sheridan had made two changes to the Pilgrims’ starting line-up that had lost a close thing 2-0 at home to Scunthorpe four days earlier: Durrell Berry and Dominic Blizzard, substituted against the Iron, did not make the 18 this time, with Paul Wotton and Andres Gurrieri recalled to colours.
It was Wotton’s 485th turn-out in his hometown green, taking him to within six of Sammy Black’s number two position on the list of Argyle all-time appearance-makers.
The bench that he vacated was about as attacking a one as has ever been seen at Home Park: an out-and-out striker, four midfielders-come-forwards, and just the one defender. If Argyle do not make the play-offs this season, no-one is going to die wondering.
Chesterfield’s party was no different to that which had eased to a 3-0 home win over Oxford United the previous weekend, and included the newly-crowned Sky Bet League 2 Player of the Season, midfielder Gary Roberts.
Roberts was as busy as anyone in the opening 15 minutes but neither he, nor anyone else, could manufacture anything to trouble either goalkeeper as the two sides circumspectly measured each other up.
The inert spell was broken by Reid when he volleyed a dropping ball goalwards from the edge of the penalty area and, although the left-footed shot did not carry enough weight to truly trouble Chesterfield custodian Tommy Lee, the ball was spilled and Lewis Alessandra was not far away from snaffling up the titbit.
With Argyle’s defensive discipline holding admirably as Chesterfield passed the ball around in front of them, chances remained at a premium and it was well after the mid-point of the first half that the visitors mustered their first shot when Ollie Banks’ long-ranger sent Jake Cole full length to save.
Argyle’s response was immediate and deadly. Alessandra, enjoying a lively start to the game, leapt to flick a header into the path of Reid, who had already built up a significant head of steam by the time he got to the ball.
It carried him easily past the Chesterfield defence and he had just enough time to steady himself and plant a powerful shot across Lee and into the far side of the goal.
The valuable assist was just about Alessandra’s last contribution to the game, with what looked like a muscle injury forcing him off the field soon afterwards.
With Tope Obadeyi whistled up from the bench, no momentum was lost and Reid brilliantly worked an opening for himself. Unfortunately, the finish failed to match the approach play and Argyle’s leading scorer dragged his left-footed shot wide.
Leaders do not conceded ground easily and Chesterfield skipper Ian Evatt headed wide before his fellow defender Tendayi Darikwa ripped into the penalty area, made the bye-line, and obliged Cole to cut out his low driven cross.
The Pilgrims faced up to their opponents’ swift midfield, pressing hard to deny them any meaningful time of the ball, and might have gone into the break two up had Reid been able to keep down his first-time shot after Obadeyi had broken to tee him up.
Still, a winning margin at half-time had perfectly suited Argyle in the past. Seven times they had led at the interval this season; seven times had they gone on to win. In those seven matches, they had conceded just three goals.
Cole made sure it remained three when the game resumed, diving smartly to keep out a shot from Marc Richards after the Spireites’ number nine had cut in from the left wing.
The attempt presaged a period of heavy Chesterfield pressure that culminated with Humphreys’ equaliser.
Richards had just missed one of those chances which looked easier to convert, slamming Darikwa’s low cross against the crossbar from no more than four yards out, when Humphreys ended a period of stoic Argyle defence by returning a headed clearance back with maximum interest. The ball might have taken a deflection off Gurrieri but it was pretty well goalbound anyhow.
The Pilgrims’ response to the setback was pretty well textbook. Reid bullied his way through to the edge of the penalty-area D and drilled a right-footed shot across Lee from left to right, beating the ’keeper for pace.
Chesterfield sent on loan pair Daniel Kearns and Mason Bennett immediately, and Eoin Doyle soon afterwards. In between the two breaks, Obadeyi had engineered a brilliant break for himself which obliged Lee to save at the last. A pass to the unmarked, hat-trick seeking Reid might have been the better option.
The contest remained an enthralling one as the search for the next goal became imperative. Lee prevented its arrival when he read Curtis Nelson’s gentle header from Conor Hourihane’s free-kick to perfection, plopping on the ball on the goal-line.
Reid was denied the chance of becoming the first Argyle player to hit a league hat-trick for more than eight years when he was replaced by Marvin Morgan in the 80th minute.
Richards set up Doyle for a drive which allowed Cole to show just how good a shot-stopper he is, and he demonstrated the same when Sam Morsy let fly from outside the box.
The closing moments were like a cup-tie, with Chesterfield pressing and Argyle content to soak things up and try to hit the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy finalists on the break.
Hourihane had a burst into the box that nearly produced the nerve-settling third before a nerve-jangling four minutes of added time.
After the last few seasons, we can take that.
(3-5-2): 1 Jake Cole; 4 Maxime Blanchard, 16 Neal Trotman, 17 Curtis Nelson; 27 Andres Gurrieri, 14 Luke Young, 15 Paul Wotton, 6 Conor Hourihane (capt), 26 Matt Parsons; 7 Lewis Alessandra (28 Tope Obadeyi 35), 9 Reuben Reid (10 Marvin Morgan 80). Substitutes
(not used): 18 Tyler Harvey, 19 Nathan Thomas, 20 Jason Banton, 25 Ben Purrington, 32 Cameron Dawson (gk).
(4-5-1): 1 Tommy Lee; 7 Tendayi Darikwa, 23 Ian Evatt (capt), 6 Liam Cooper, 15 Ritchie Humphreys; 10 Jay O’Shea (29 Daniel Kearns 62), 12 Jimmy Ryan, 2 Ollie Banks (30 Mason Bennett 62), 5 Sam Morsy, 11 Gary Roberts (17 Eoin Doyle 70); 9 Marc Richards. Substitutes
(not used): 3 Nathan Smith, 4 Sam Hird, 21 Armand Gnanduillet, 35 Ian Dunbavin (gk).
: Cooper 60, Bennett 87.
: Oliver Langford.
: 6,012 (92 away).