R Reid 33
by Rob McNichol
AFTER a dominant performance on one Saturday ends in a 1-0 defeat for Argyle, the following weekend sees a 1-0 victory very much earned the hard way. Such is life in Sky Bet League 2.
Reuben Reid's goal just after the half-hour mark was the difference between Argyle and visitors Shrewsbury Town, but it was about the only difference. Two extremely hard-working and committed sides tussled in the low Home Park sunshine, with the Pilgrims putting in an outstanding defensive display.
Occasionally in this division you get the impression that one poor team edges out another, slightly poorer, outfit. On this occasion, there was the distinct feeling that the Pilgrims dug deep into their reserves to outdo a strong team in the division - albeit one lacking confidence on the road.
After missing last week's 1-0 defeat at Accrington Stanley, Reuben Reid and Peter Hartley both passed muster, and were brought back into the starting line-up. They replaced Nathan Thomas, who dropped to the bench, and Ben Purrington, who broke his wrist last week at the Storefirst Stadium.
Argyle retained the shape that they used in Lancashire, though, with Marvin Morgan, playing against his former club, and Lewis Alessandra operating either side of Reid in the Pilgrims attack. Anthony O'Connor operated his typical deep role in the centre of midfield, with Bobby Reid - making his Home Park bow - and Dominic Blizzard around him for support.
Hartley slotted back in to the centre of the Argyle defence, with Carl McHugh returning to full-back. Curtis Nelson and Kelvin Mellor completed the back four in front of goalkeeper Luke McCormick.
The defensive unit for Argyle were asked to be on their guard for much of the opening ten minutes, but despite a fast Shrewsbury beginning, the Pilgrims rearguard were alert and controlled any threat their visitors could pose in the early stages.
Argyle, though, thought they had broken the deadlock when McHugh's cross on the left found Reuben Reid at the far post. His header struck the crossbar then deflected off of a retreating defender, and into the back of the net. An assistant's flag was up immediately to signal an infringement, which was initially thought to be censuring Reid for a foul - he was certainly nowhere near an offside position - but there was later a suggestion that the ball could have curled out of play and back in again.
Stung by their denial of an opener, Argyle began to take the game to the Shrews with a little more force and belief. They again came close to an opening goal when Bobby Reid recovered a half-cleared corner and ferociously shot at goal. Goalkeeper Jayson Leutwiler shovelled the ball away from goal but to the feet of O'Connor. However, the Irishman fired his effort well over the bar.
Despite not having registered a win on their travels in the League this season, Shrewsbury showed their threat when Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro got on the end of a beautifully flighted throughball by Ryan Woods, and asked serious questions of McCormick. The Argyle keeper was swift to react, though, and after his parry, Mellor assisted in averting any danger.
Shrewsbury, led by the impressive Woods, would have been ahead on points after a third of the game were football judged in that manner. Argyle learned at Accrington, though, that possession and dominance counts for naught. Goals are the key, and on 33 minutes, the first one arrived - and via a familiar source.
Not only was the goalscorer a man by the name of Reid, but so was the provider. Bobby Reid, who again had seen a corner of his partially dealt with, was flicked the ball by Alessandra. Bobby picked out his namesake Reuben, who powered a header past the powerless Leutwiler.
The first impressions the Home Park crowd were getting of Reid the younger were proving very favourable. Another stint of Shrewsbury pressure was not only broken up by Bobby, but he galloped, with the ball, fully 60 yards before flicking to Reuben. The senior Reid ended up being crowded out, but the initial set-up was extremely eye-catching.
Leutwiler was called into action when Blizzard found space in the left channel and stabbed over a high cross, which looped and sliced towards goal. The Shrews keeper was forced to backpedal and tip the ball over from under his crossbar.
Despite Argyle having the more noteworthy moments, Shrewsbury were more than in the game, though their many stints of territorial pressure rarely translated into significant chances. Sound familiar? In fairness to Argyle, the defence were very sharp indeed, working hard to nullify Shrews attacks before they truly developed.
The first quarter of an hour of the second half saw a compelling battle develop two very committed teams. Argyle's best chance of the second period's opening came via a neat interchange between Reuben Reid and Morgan, with the latter's toe-poke at goal being blocked at the near post.
Shrewsbury again began to assert themselves, and it took a wonderful stop by McCormick to deny Akpa Akpro's bullet header from a corner taken by 17-year-old substitute Josh Ginnelly with his first touch.
McCormick was at it again when Mickey Demetriou's clever cross found James Collins unmarked eight yards out, but found the oncoming presence of the Argyle goalkeeper too much to handle.
John Sheridan brought on Deane Smalley for Morgan to combat the new threat of the speedy Ginnelly, with Alessandra switching flanks to help protect McHugh. It was on the right, though, that Alessandra popped up to dispossess Knight-Percival and bear down on goal. His shot was well saved by Leutwiler, although Reuben Reid, stood in space in the centre, might have been bemoaning not receiving a pass.
Argyle had actually wrestled back control of the game since the substitutions, and although Shrewsbury forced a corner, Argyle could easily have doubled their lead as a result. The Greens broke at pace, with each Reid in turn bringing the ball forward, with Reuben releasing Smalley. The former Oxford man looked to be beyond the Shrews, but as he cut back onto his right foot, he turned into traffic and the danger was over.
Woods was a shade lucky to only receive a yellow card after planting a forearm on Alessandra forehead as they just for a header. Bobby Reid flicked the resultant free-kick over the bar.
Late on, Argyle were deeper than the big tank at the National Marine Aquarium, and Shrewsbury threw a great deal at them. More than once Ginnelly planted dangerous crosses in Argyle territory, but each time they were dealt with. It was not an uncommon sight to see green-and-white shirts throwing themselves headlong to shield powerful efforts. In the last minute of stoppage time Collins launched a 25-yard dipper that hit the roof of the net - fortunately, it was on the outside.
In that moment, about 6,000 Pilgrims realised they had been holding their breath for about ten minutes. As their long exhale left them, so the final whistle sounded.
Three points. Hard earned, much needed.
Argyle (4-3-3): 23 Luke McCormick; 2 Kelvin Mellor, 5 Curtis Nelson (capt), 29 Peter Hartley, 16 Carl McHugh; 11 Dominic Blizzard, 18 Anthony O'Connor, 17 Bobby Reid; 7 Lewis Alessandra, 9 Reuben Reid, 10 Marvin Morgan (22 Deane Smalley 66). Substitutes (not used): 1 James Bittner (gk), 4 Lee Cox, 6 Ollie Norburn, 14 Tyler Harvey, 19 Nathan Thomas, 25 Aaron Bentley.
Shrewsbury Town (4-4-2): 1 Jayson Leutwiler; 2 Jermaine Grandison, 6 Connor Goldson, 20 Nathaniel Knight-Percival, 3 Mickey Demetriou; 7 Ashley Vincent (35 Josh Ginnelly 61), 14 James Wesolowski, 4 Ryan Woods, 26 Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro; 10 Scott Vernon (22 Jordan Clark 78), 9 James Collins. Substitutes (not used): 5 Mark Ellis, 11 Liam Lawrence, 12 Cameron Gayle, 16 Anthony Griffith, 21 Mark Halstead (gk).
Booked: Woods 77
Referee: Stuart Attwell.
Attendance: 6,229 (270 away).