Reid 23, Hartley 45, Alessandra 76
by Rob McNichol
ARGYLE recorded their fifth straight home victory with a comprehensive dismantling of Cheltenham Town.
The Robins began the day only a point behind the Pilgrims in the division, but at times, on another satisfying Saturday at Home Park, they were not in the same league.
First half goals from Reuben Reid and Peter Hartley saw Argyle cruise into a half-time lead, and a second half settler by Lewis Alessandra put the game well beyond the shell-shocked visitors.
Almost as important as the win was another clean sheet for Argyle, extended the run of not conceding a goal to well over eight hours, and keeping a shut-out for a fifth straight game.
To make things sound more impressive, Argyle are unbeaten in the month of October, winning five and drawing once. Not a single league goal has been conceded in the month.
It was hardly surprising that John Sheridan would opt to field the same starting line-up from Tuesday's 0-0 draw with Wimbeldon. This meant a home debut for Andy Kellett, who had impressed on his first start for the club four days prior. Lee Cox, who missed out on the trip to south-west London with a heel injury, returned to the squad, but had to be content with a place on the bench.
Precious little occurred in the first dozen minutes of the game, although when it did, Argyle came startlingly close to opening the scoring. A clipped corner by Bobby Reid, after the flag-kick was earned by his namesake Reuben, was powerfully headed at goal by Curtis Nelson, and it took a strong block, deep in the Cheltenham six-yard area to prevent an opening goal.
Cheltenham answered with the real chance of their own, with the in-form Terry Gornell heading over from a cross by Craig Braham-Barrett, before Argyle created a similar chance of their own. Kellett capitalised on a loose clearance from the Robins' rearguard, and dart into the channel on the left flank. His cross, stood up to the far side, was met by a leaping Reuben Reid, but his header was saved.
Reid, Argyle's leading goalscorer, was able to grab the opener midway through the first period, and will rightfully get the plaudits for a terrific drive from just inside the penalty area that rocketed past Trevor Carson and into the net via the crossbar.
Plenty of credit, though, must be reserved for right-back Kelvin Mellor, who showed quick and dazzling feet twice in the build up to the goal. First, Mellor played a ball to Lewis Alessandra down the right wing with a cheeky backheel, and then received the follow-up ball inside. His shift from one foot to another to slide the ball to Reid was equally deft, and laid the ball perfectly for Argyle's number nine to notch goal number eight of the season.
To say the goal settled Argyle would suggest they were not already in control of the game, which they were. However, it certainly seemed that the goal injected that extra spring in the step and bounce within the Green Army, as the Pilgrims went on to play a very strong - and audibly acclaimed - rest of the half. Alessandra, Bobby Reid and Kellett all showed great movement to engineer good positions within the area, but ultimately were just unable to get anything meaningful on goal.
For their part, Cheltenham produced a threatening attack, right-back Lee Vaughan sending over a hugely inviting cross for Byron Harrison, but Carl McHugh's intervention was superb, and telling. Luke McCormick gathered gratefully after the block by the Irishman saw off the Robins on that particular occasion.
Shortly afterwards, another cross from the right, this time by Omari Sterling-James, was kicked away well by McCormick from a dangerous area.
At the other end, after a swift break by Kellett, Reuben Reid set the ball back to Bobby of that ilk, who forced Carson into an excellent save from a rasping 20-yarder. Cheltenham were unable to clear the corner satisfactorily, and from the third effort to get the ball in the box, Bobby Reid's lovely low cross was clipped over the bar by the stretching McHugh.
Argyle were not to be denied their second, though. After Bobby Reid was fouled, Kellett curled in a left-footed free-kick from the right that was inch-perfect for Peter Hartley to head powerfully past Carson.
The goal came in the 45th minute of the game, but there was still time for Argyle to come close to adding a third. Kellett, who had proved hard for Cheltenham to contain through, nicked the ball off a dozing defender, skip pats another, then poke just wide.
The positive - and thoroughly deserved - reaction from the Green Army as the teams departed at the half-time break was a joy to hear.
Within thirty seconds of the restart, Argyle almost kicked the second half in grand style. Reuben Reid dismissively brushed aside a flailing Troy Brown, and earned himself some space in the heart of the box. After his riproaring finish earlier, he would have been disappointed to blast high over the bar.
Hartley then had his attempt to get a second on the afternoon, back-heading a Bobby Reid free-kick goalwards. Carson, though, was well positioned, and pouched easily.
Jason Taylor caught a sweet ball from a long way to give a flurry of nerves to the Grandstand; his shot hit a stanchion and ricocheted to hit the back of the net. Fortunately, the ripples on the netting had come from the ball hitting it whilst out of play.
It has become custom of late for Argyle's second half performances to be inferior to that of the first 45, and this game had a similar pattern. However, the depreciation was not as severe as it has been at times, and, in truth, the opposition was showing little in terms of organised response.
Midfielder Matt Richards had two efforts from range, the second from a direct free-kick, but neither were at all accurate.
In mitigation, Argyle had rarely looked like troubling Carson since the flurry at the start of the half, but with just under fifteen minutes to go, they truly killed the game off.
As Bobby Reid threaded a ball behind an ailing Robins defence, Alessandra ghosted behind them, retrieved the ball, and slid it beneath Carson with his left foot.
Cheltenham hopes extinguished, Argyle saw the game out in reasonable comfort. A late scare meant Kelvin Mellor had to see off a prowling Gornell, but the Pilgrims continued their happy knack of keeping a clean sheet whenever they win a game.
Thanks, October. You've been swell. Here's to a happy November, too...
Argyle: 23 Luke McCormick; 5 Curtis Nelson (capt), 16 Carl McHugh (14 Tyler Harvey 82), 29 Peter Hartley; 2 Kelvin Mellor, 28 Anthony O'Connor, 17 Bobby Reid, 11 Dominic Blizzard, 13 Andy Kellett; 9 Reuben Reid (22 Deane Smalley 72), 7 Lewis Alessandra (8 Jason Banton 82). Substitutes (not used): 1 James Bittner, 4 Lee Cox, 6 Ollie Norburn, 10 Marvin Morgan.
Cheltenham: 1 Trevor Carson (capt); 2 Lee Vaughan, 5 Tory Brown, 6 Steve Elliott, 3 Craig Braham-Barrett; 19 Omari Sterling-James (29 Eusebio Bancessi 60), 25 Jason Taylor (16 Joe Hanks 85), 8 Matt Richards, 15 Jack Deaman; 10 Terry Gornell, 9 Byron Harrison (11 Andy Haworth 85). Substitutes (not used): 12 Matt Gould (gk), 17 Zack Kotwica, 18 Paul Black, 28 Raffaele De Vita.
Bookings: Braham-Barrett 45, Hanks 86
Referee: Andy Davies.
Attendence: 6,837 (196 away)