Soares 5, Rose 15.
Reid 66 pen.
by Rob McNichol
FOR the second season in succession Argyle lost at the JD Stadium, but this time it was in a game that followed a pattern inverse to the previous meeting.
In April, Argyle’s play-off hopes died in Greater Manchester, as Bury inflicted a mortal blow in the form of a 4-0 drubbing. That game had seen Argyle trail at half-time, despite being more than competitive, only to roll over and concede three after the break.
This time, Argyle were second best across the park in the first 45 minutes, going in two down at the break following two early goals by Tom Soares and Danny Rose. In truth, it could have more, as Argyle continued their lacklustre look that was in evidence four days previous against Stevenage.
A triple substitution and formation shift early in the second half transformed the Pilgrims, though, and a penalty from Reuben Reid stoked the embers of Argyle’s hopes of earning something from the game.
It was not to be, but there was a consolation to be had in the shape of a much-improved second half performance.
John Sheridan recalled Ollie Norburn to the starting eleven after missing out through illness against Stevenage in midweek, with Deane Smalley, penalty hero from that game, also brought into the line-up. Lee Cox and Tyler Harvey were the men to make way.
Argyle’s system was largely unchanged, but the trio in behind Reid were shuffled. Jason Banton started in a central role, with Lewis Alessandra to his left and Smalley on the right. Norburn slotted in alongside Anthony O’Connor is a deep-lying midfield position, in front of a back four of Kelvin Mellor, Curtis Nelson, Peter Hartley and Carl McHugh.
The game was only four minutes old when Bury took the lead. A free-kick awarded on their left flank for an infringement against Norburn was the first chance of note for either side, and the home side took it with aplomb.
Nicky Adams’ dead-ball was a corker, delivered into a perfect area to be attacked; there was even an audible purr of appreciation for the cross before it even reached the waiting white shirts. Tom Soares was the man who got to the ball first, and needed only to flick a glancing header towards goal to open the scoring.
Argyle had a half chance to threaten the Shakers goal for the first time when Alessandra skipped down the left wing, but his cross was a little high for both Reid and Smalley in the area. At the other end Danny Rose’s looping header went safely wide of Luke McCormick’s left-hand post, but still raised a flutter of concern.
On the quarter hour mark, Bury did make it two. Ryan Lowe found space in an inside right position after a patient build-up, and fired a ball across the face of goal to where Rose was poised to turn home.
Argyle nearly responded immediately. Banton exploited some dallying by Bury’s backline to spring clear, then release Reid. However, the big frontman attempted to cut back inside Jimmy McNulty, and the Bury captain was able to recover the ball for his grateful goalkeeper.
Reid burst forward again shortly after, running into the left channel and checking his advance. He rolled the ball inside for Lewis Alessandra, who tried a curled clip low into the corner. It went just wide.
Argyle had the best of a ten minute spell, picking up numerous loose balls and getting the better of a series of midfield tussles, but it was Bury with the next big chance. A long kick by goalkeeper Rob Lainton caught Nelson out, and he could get little on his header back to McCormick. Rose pounced, but was taken wide. He set the ball back for Adams, who curled his effort wide.
Argyle won a free-kick 25 yards out when Reid was bundled over, and McHugh’s effort looked suspiciously like it had been blocked by an arm in the Bury wall as it was deflected wide. Nothing was given, and McHugh then headed well wide from the corner.
Danny Mayor, at left wing-back for Bury, was getting some joy down his flank, and from one decent incursion he beat Mellor and stabbed an inviting cross into the six yard box, where Hartley was forced to clear from underneath his own crossbar.
As half-time approached, Nathan Cameron, one of three Bury centre-backs, was put under some pressure to clear, deep on his right hand side, and he could only cannon a ball against Alessandra. Having controlled – possibly with an arm – Alessandra fed Reid, who in turn laid off to Smalley, but his powerful effort was blocked as Bury scrambled to recover.
Within a couple of minutes of the restart, Bury almost had their third. The industrious Adams ran an arc around Argyle’s backline and squared to Rose, who somehow shanked wide from five yards. Mayor then cut in from the left and fired a low effort that McCormick smartly saved.
With the second half only eight minutes old, Sheridan effected a triple substitution that changed not only personnel but style. Marvin Morgan, Cox and Ben Purrington replaced Smalley, Banton and McHugh, with Argyle switching to a 3-5-2 formation to match their dominant hosts.
Bury continued in the ascendancy, with Norburn being pickpocketed by Adams, who danced into the area. He chose to shoot, and did so tamely at McCormick, much to the chagrin of two team-mates who were waiting in close order.
Midway through the second half, Argyle had their lifeline. Mellor had looked lively ever since the switch of systems, and it was his desire to progress down the right that led to the Pilgrims getting themselves back in it. The former Crewe man’s pressure led to Argyle recover the ball on the right flank, and Reid had a chance to attack their limited defensive resources. He beat Mills on the edge of the area, and the referee pointed to the spot.
There was little to no doubt that it was a foul, but a conversation was certainly there to be had about whether or not it was past the white line of the penalty area.
Reid stepped up confidently, and with the goalkeeper diving low to his left, Reuben placed it high an to the other side of the goal. Game on.
Five minutes later, the men in yellow were asking for another penalty, this time even more vigourously. Reid looked to get beyond the dithering Cameron and get himself in on goal, and it seemed that the defender’s method of getting the ball back to his goalkeeper was to use his forearm. Nothing was given, to Reid and Morgan’s obvious dismay. Reid was booked for the vehemence of his protestations.
Gone was the poise of the Bury side of the first half, along with the confidence of the home fans. The momentum was with the Pilgrims, and had Reid taken an ounce of pace off of a throughball to Morgan, the equaliser might have been on hand.
With five minutes remaining on the clock Daniel Nardiello, who had not long come on as a substitute, limped off with what looked like a groin injury, so Argyle had a late numbers advantage to try to capitalise on.
Their chance to came from a corner headed down by Hartley and stabbed across goal by Mellor, but as Reid waited unchallenged in the six-yard box, the ball struck him and bounced clear, rather than go the direction that all Pilgrims were willing it.
Despite a yellow tide of attack as the game reached in conclusion, Argyle were unable to salvage a point their later improvement for a time looked like yielding.
(3-5-2): 26 Rob Lainton;
27 Nathan Cameron, 34 Pablo Mills, 3 Jimmy McNulty (capt); 19 Tom Soares, 8 Nicky Adams, 6 Kelvin Etuhu, 4 Andrew Tutte (11 Chris Hussey 75), 10 Danny Mayor; 15 Ryan Lowe (30 James Poole 82), 9 Danny Rose (17 Danny Nardiello 70). Substitutes
: 1 Shwan Jalal, 12 Chris Sedgwick, 14 Joe Thompson, 16 Keil O’Brien.
Booked: Mayor 86
Argyle: (4-4-1-1) 23 Luke McCormick; 2 Kelvin Mellor, 5 Curtis Nelson (capt), 29 Peter Hartley, 16 Carl McHugh (3 Ben Purrington 53); 22 Deane Smalley (10 Marvin Morgan 53), 6 Ollie Norburn, 26 Anthony O’Connor, 7 Lewis Alessandra; 8 Jason Banton (4 Lee Cox 53); 9 Reuben Reid. Substitutes: 1 James Bittner, 11 Dominic Blizzard, 14 Tyler Harvey, 19 Nathan Thomas.
Booked: Hartley 13, Nelson 50, Reid 73
Referee: James Adcock.
Attendance: 3,156 (355 away).