Exeter City 1
R Reid 27, pen 57, 71
by Rick Cowdery
REUBEN Reid made history by becoming the first Plymouth Argyle player to score a hat-trick at St James Park as Argyle achieved a memorable Devon Expressway Derby win.
Only two previous Pilgrims – Jack Fowler and Ray Bowden – had previously rung in a triple in matches between the two sides, both at Home Park. The magnitude of the defeat can be measured by the fact that the most recent – Bowden’s – was 84 years ago. Reid's threesome was also a first league hat-trick by any Pilgrim since 2006.
His first two goals came before and after Aaron Davies had netted for Exeter, who were outplayed for all but small parts of the game, right on the stroke of half-time. Reid’s opener, after 27 minutes, was followed by a 54th-minute penalty.
His all-important third came after the Pilgrims had been reduced to ten men following the unlucky dismissal of Olly Lee and is destined to be one of the most celebrated goals in the long history of the club.
As importantly, it kept Argyle’s Sky Bet League 2 promotion push going, giving them a fourth successive victory.
Greens’ manager John Sheridan had probably dwelled over his team selection for no longer that it takes to say ‘same again’ as the Pilgrims paraded an identical starting line-up for the third game in succession.
With successive 2-0 wins at Wycombe and against Cambridge at Home Park, and a more or less fully fit squad from which to select, the surprise would have been had he decided to tinker with a settled and confident 11.
Thus, Lee began the last game of his loan spell from Birmingham City in central midfield, alongside Devon Expressway Derby debutant Bobby Reid and just ahead of the inestimable Anthony O’Connor whose return to colours has, as much as anything, reignited the Pilgrims’ play-off ambitions.
Exeter elected to oppose this with a modified 4-3-3 in which the recalled Scott Bennett was handed a key forward role behind Tom Nichols and the veteran Clinton Morrison.
A lively opening saw Argyle fashion the game’s first clear opening after Carl McHugh struck a ball from the middle of the three-man back line to Drew Talbot.
The right wing-back made great strides up his flank before unleashing the ball across the face of custodian Christy Pym’s goal. The delivery was just too far in front of Reuben Reid, whose attempt to reach the ball possibly distracted Lewi Alessandra enough for his team-mate to be able to capitalise on the opportunity.
The opening quarter was all Argyle’s. Exeter saw little of the ball as the Pilgrims stroked the ball around confidently in their own time. On the rare occasion the home side did have possession, their sole tactic appeared to be to attempt to prey on young left wing-back Tareiq Holmes-Denis with diagonal balls over aimed over his head.
The men in yellow probed with patience and, following one of several corners, Reuben Reid saw a goalbound shot bounce back out of the crowd, off Craig Woodman.
The breakthrough was not long in coming and, given all the precision of the Pilgrims’ play up until then, there was a degree of irony that it was fashioned from a mishit.
A looped City clearance was seized upon by Bobby Reid just outside the edge of the Grecians’ penalty area but the midfielder shinned his shot. Fortuitously, the scuffed attempt became a perfect pass for the other Reid, who kept cool and slotted the ball past Pym.
Argyle showed no inclination to do anything other than continue to take the game to their hosts and Alessandra nearly surprised Pym with a scorching rising shot from long range that swayed like a Union Street reveller before producing an edgy one-handed save.
His counterpart at the other end was having one of those afternoons when keeping concentration was more important than keeping goal. Luke McCormick was given a rude awakening, however, when Nichols took him out of the air as he went to collect a cross, illegally and unpunished, the challenge leaving McCormick with a head wound that required bandaging.
The break in play altered the momentum of the game, with Exeter manager Paul Tisdale using the hiatus to regroup and reorganise and, after Reuben Reid slashed a shot wide of Pym’s right-hand post, they levelled.
In time added on for the injury to McCormick, left-back Jordan Moore-Taylor made strides down the Argyle right and sent in a low cross which arced its way across the six-yard box all the way to the far lost, where Davies played the Grecians’ get-out-of-jail card and thumped the ball into the roof of the net.
City tweaked things further at the interval, bringing on Jamie McAllister for Woodman, and Exeter initially continued where they had left off before the break as Argyle’s attempts to control the game with the effectiveness they had managed in the first half falling short of the objective.
It did not prevent them from retaking the lead, however, with Alessandra winning yet another penalty when he proved to quick-witted and fleet of foot for the aging Matt Oakley and was brought down, allowing Reid to net with a powerful shot high to Pym’s right.
How Oakley – like Nichols earlier – avoided a card of any colour was mystifying but it was not the last of referee Graham Scott’s controversial decisions.
That came shortly afterwards when he dismissed Lee after the midfielder challenged Nichols and clearly missed both man and ball. Nichols rolled around like he had been taken out by a sniper and Argyle’s sense of injustice was such that Peter Hartley and O’Connor were booked after the melee that followed, along with Nichols and McAllister.
That passion maybe played a part in what followed. Just after Lee Cox was sent on for the sacrificed Alessandra, now lone striker Reuben Reid was played in from the left.
Tightly marked and with Pym grabbing at his heels on the edge of the six-yard box, he lost the ball, won it back, lost it again, won it back, and then gloriously smashed it into the goal in front an ecstatic Green Army.
Such was the effort and the tackles flying in on him, it was his last action of the match, with Ryan Brunt coming on before the restart.
It did not matter. He had done enough. The team had done enough.
No, no, no. Much more than enough.
Much, much more.
Exeter City (4-3-3): 30 Christy Pym; 6 Christian Ribeiro, 8 Matt Oakley (capt), 15 Jordan Moore-Taylor, 3 Craig Woodman (14 Jamie McAllister half-time); 11 Aaron Davies, 7 Lewis Sercombe, 33 Ryan Harley; 20 Tom Nichols, 34 Clinton Morrison (22 David Wheeler 71), 4 Scott Bennett (23 Alex Nicholls 77). Substitutes (not used): 10 Jimmy Keohane, 21 James Hamon (gk), 26 Jordan Tillson, 31 Graham Cummins.
Booked: Morison 45. Moore-Taylor 63, McAllister 63.
Argyle (3-5-2): 23 Luke McCormick; 5 Curtis Nelson (capt), 16 Carl McHugh, 29 Peter Hartley; 25 Drew Talbot, 17 Bobby Reid (11 Dominic Blizzard 86), 19 Anthony O’Connor, 21 Olly Lee, 13 Tareiq Holmes-Dennis; 7 Lewis Alessandra (4 Lee Cox 65), 9 Reuben Reid (28 Ryan Brunt 73). Substitutes (not used): 1 James Bittner (gk), 3 Ben Purrington, 6 Ollie Norburn.
Sent off: Lee 61.
Booked: Hartley 63, O’Connor 64.
Referee: Graham Scott.
Attendance: 7,440 (1,682 away).