by Rob McNichol
ARGYLE’S winless run extended to six games as a 1-1 draw at home to Morecambe gave the Pilgrims their third draw in four fixtures in 2015.
Reuben Reid’s goal in first half stoppage time gave Argyle a deserved lead, but Morecambe carried a threat throughout, and Jack Redshaw’s goal shortly after the interval was one of several chances the busy forward had.
The Pilgrims dictated play for most of the afternoon, but the visitors always looked able to pinch something in an interesting tactical affair.
Argyle were able to welcome Bobby Reid back to their starting line-up, with the midfielder signing up once again from Bristol City on loan – this time until the end of the season.
He replaced the injured Dominic Blizzard in the centre of Argyle’s midfield. The Pilgrims’ personnel issues had slightly abated from the previous week – six substitutes were able to named this week, as opposed to four, for example – with the ranks bolstered by Aaron Bentley, returning from suspension; Jason Banton, over his latest injury worry; and Ryan Brunt, recruited from Bristol Rovers during the week.
Morecambe have had a major injury worry of their own, with talisman Kevin Ellison only able to make the bench for the Shrimps.
Both sides lined up with a similar looking 3-5-2 formation. Argyle countered the threat of Jamie Devitt – the match-winner in the reverse fixture at the Globe Arena – playing behind his front two by deployed Olly Lee in front of the back three, with Lee Cox and Bobby Reid slightly more advanced.
The matched-up systems yielded a total of precisely zero chances in the opening 15 minutes, akin to two pugilists circling each other and offering the odd token jab, rather than land any serious blows.
It was not until the quarter hour mark that Argyle earned a free-kick on the edge of the Morecambe area, after Tom Flanagan was pole-axed by Andy Parrish, who went into the book for his transgression. Bobby Reid’s curling effort was totally beyond the rooted Andreas Arestidou in the Morecambe goal. Unfortunately for Argyle, the shot glanced the side netting on the wrong side of the post.
The visitors responded immediately with a glorious chance to take the lead. Luke McCormick unconvincingly kicked clear after receiving a backpass, and Morecambe quickly worked the ball to Padraig Amond, clear on goal. McCormick redeemed his error with not only a terrific point-blank save, but a follow-up stop on the loose ball. His heroics earned him plaudits, and a visit from physio Paul Atkinson, but after inspection of his hand, McCormick was able to continue.
Atkinson, who is thinking about installing a turnstile in his physio room, had already paid one visit to the pitch to tend to Kelvin Mellor, who appeared to hurt a shoulder. The wing-back, though, also was able to carry on.
If Physio Paul has magic hands, then Bobby Reid has similar restorative powers in his feet. He rescued a flagging Argyle attack with an astonishing flicked pass that got beyond Morecambe and put Reuben Reid in. Arestidou, though, closed him down quickly to prevent the opening goal.
By the half-hour mark, signs were clear that Argyle were starting to hit a rhythm. Lewis Alessandra’s shot was deflected just wide, and from the corner the ball fell to Lee Cox, who shot over. Alessandra then looked for a clever clip across the area, but the ball was floated a little high over the eye—catching run of Ben Purrington.
Morecambe, reminding Argyle of their presence, sprung a rare breakaway, and from Devitt’s teasing cross, Amond’s back-header looked destined to loop over Luke. McCormick, though, arching his body backwards, pulled off another stunning stop to keep parity on the scoresheet.
It did not last until the half-time break, though, as Argyle went into the interval in front from the eleventh time in twelve home matches. Bobby Reid, again showing what Argyle had missed during his brief absence, threaded a beautiful pass through to his namesake, Reuben. The latter collected neatly, calmly bypassed Arestidou as he advanced, and rolled the ball into the unguarded net.
It was Reuben’s fourteenth goal of the season – his twelfth in the league – and came at a mighty nice time. Morecambe barely had time to kick-off and settle before the half-time whistle sounded.
When the teams emerged for the second period, ten men in green appeared, but a different man in pink. McCormick had succumbed to his finger injury to be replaced by James Bittner, making his first official Argyle appearance.
Bobby Reid looked to add to Argyle’s tally just seconds after the second half began, but his shot was well blocked by Arestidou, with his chest.
Frustratingly for Bittner, his first real act was to pick the ball out of his net, as Morecambe found their equaliser very quickly. A corner on the left was whipped in with power by Devitt, flicked on by the head of Stuart Drummond and nodded home from close range by Jack Redshaw.
Midway through the half, Morecambe introduced Ellison and Alan Goodall to freshen things up, while John Sheridan countered with the introduction of debutant Ryan Brunt. This led to a shift in system, with Reuben Reid and Alessandra operating either side of Brunt in a revamped front three. Tom Flanagan, meanwhile, stepped out of the back four and into a holding midfield role, as Sheridan switched to 4-3-3.
Pushing for a winner, and earning a corner, Argyle left spaces, and the lively Redshaw looked to exploit. He evaded a challenge as he tore into the box, but Bittner made his first telling contribution with an excellent stop at the feet of the Morecambe goalscorer.
Argyle continued to push, but again it was Redshaw that came closest to scoring. A curled ball to the far post found him stretching and trying to flight over Bittner, but his angles were wrong and the ball landed in the six yard area, where it was hurriedly cleared.
Sheridan brought on Nathan Thomas in the closing stages, and a cross of his led directly to a corner. Brunt met Bobby Reid’s delivery, but his headed found the roof of the net on the wrong side.
Kevin Ellison, so often the bane of Argyle’s existence, had a wonderful chance to win the game for Morecambe in the last minute, but comedically fell on his face at the moment at which mattered most.
Territorially, Argyle continued to try to nab the winner their efforts deserved, but it was not to be.
Argyle (3-5-2): 23 Luke McCormick (1 James Bittner half-time); 5 Curtis Nelson, 16 Carl McHugh, 20 Tom Flanagan; 2 Kelvin Mellor, 4 Lee Cox (19 Nathan Thomas 86) 17 Bobby Reid, 21 Olly Lee (28 Ryan Brunt 69), 3 Ben Purrington; 7 Lewis Alessandra, 9 Reuben Reid. Substitutes (not used): 6 Ollie Norburn, 8 Jason Banton, 25 Aaron Bentley.
Booked: McHugh 88.
Morecambe (3-5-2 ): 25 Andreas Arestidou; 6 Ryan Edwards, 5 Mark Hughes (capt), 22 Andy Parrish; 2 Shaun Beeley, 16 Stewart Drummond, 4 Alex Kenyon (13 Alan Goodall 66), 3 Jamie Devitt, 19 Laurence Wilson; 7 Jack Redshaw, 27 Padraig Amond (11 Kevin Ellison 66). Substitutes (not used): 9 Jack Sampson, 12 Paul Mullin, 17 Andy Fleming, 21 Aaron McGowan, 44 Lee Jones (gk).
Booked: Parrish 14, Goodall 80.
Referee: Oliver Langford.
Attendance: 6,314 (66).