Nardiello 62, Rose 90
by Rob McNichol
ARGYLE'S run of four consecutive victories came to a shuddering halt at Home Park thanks to a familiar old foe.
It was rather fitting that seven days after a hugely satisfying win at the home of Exeter City, former Grecian Danny Nardiello, previous a goalscorer for City against Argyle, returned to haunt the Pilgrims again.
His goal midway through the second half - ironically following Argyle's best period of the game - game Bury a lead the Greens seldom looked like salvaging, before substitute Danny Rose's late effort sealed the deal.
Flying high after four victories on a roll, Argyle confidence was dented a little prior to kick-off. Any team would miss their top scorer, but missing him after perhaps his career highlight - a history-making hat-trick away at Exeter City - was a bit of a blow to Argyle. Olly Lee was also missing following his red card at St James Park, but Lee Cox was a more than able deputy in the heart of the park, and Ryan Brunt's exceptional cameo when replacing Reid for the closing stages of last week's win suggested he would not find stepping in Reuben's sizable size tens a problem either.
Bury had proved a very difficult prospect at Gigg Lane earlier in the season, especially in the first half, when they rather overran Argyle in the opening stages, going on to claim a 2-1 victory. They nearly made the perfect start at Home Park, too, with first Joe Riley's shot from range being deflected wide, then Danny Nardiello missing the proverbial sitter inside the six-yard box with only Luke McCormick to beat.
Bury had very much the best of the opening exchanges, showing their propensity to keep the ball and shift play stylishly, but it was Argyle who had the next big chance of the game. Brunt did well to shift the ball inside to Bobby Reid, who played in Drew Talbot. The full-back's shot was low and controlled, but straight into arms of Bury goalkeeper Nick Pope.
Argyle saw off the early, persistent Bury threat, and the game fell into a pattern of promising build-up play ending before being given a chance to develop. Rather than a haphazrad series of mistakes, this was largely down to diligent shape play and solid defending by both sides. It was far from a feast of entertainment, but this was not through a lack of quality. It was simply two sides who to this point could not be separated in the league table on any criterion save for goal difference cancelling each other out.
Bury's chief threat came from Danny Mayor on their left side. Playing like a League 2 Adam Lallana tribute act, a now-familiar glide off the flank drew several retreating Argyle defenders, and the switch to Nicky Adams ended with a curling effort from the latter just flying wide. Adams, looking equally as lively as his counterpart on the opposite wing, pounced on a mistake by Peter Hartley shortly afterwards to make McCormick work, as the visitors forged out the more telling chances.
Argyle, though, were keen to remind their guests of their own goalscoring ability, and Reid stung the palms of Pope with a free-kick from some distance. Bury answered with a corner that Adam El-Abd glanced wide.
The Pilgrims seemed to start the second half with an attacking vigour missing through much of the first period. Tareiq Holmes-Dennis seemed to be playing an additional ten yards further forward, and looked a real threat. Cox also showed more willing to get forward, and when fouled in a good position, Argyle had a dangerous free-kick. The shot from Anthony O'Connor was blocked, but a flick into the danger area found Lewis Alessandra, who fired home. Unfortunately for Argyle, as well as being met with a cheer, the strike was also accompanied by an offside flag.
Suddenly it was all Argyle. A Reid corner was headed onto the crossbar by Curtis Nelson, and Reid pulled a shot wide after some extraordinary endeavour from Holmes-Dennis.
It was Bury's turn to live on the counter, but they nearly did it to perfect effect as Adams' burst down the flank and subsequent square pass was only inches away from an oncoming Nardiello.
Two minutes later, the combination got it right. Adams, who increasingly was part of everything good that Bury did, clipped a gorgeous ball into the path of Nardiello, who headed past McCormick.
Nardiello went off shortly afterwards, to much derision from the Green Army - partially down to Nardiello's lengthy celebration and prolonged return to his own half, but probably mainly due to his Exeter connections.
Perhaps understandably, the goal knocked the stuffing out of a previously buoyant Argyle. A dozen lifeless minutes went by before Bury came closest to adding the next goal, McCormick being asked to retreat and flick a goalbound free-kick from Chris Hussey over his crossbar.
John Sheridan's unorthodox solution was to bring on Kelvin Mellor and play him at centre-forward. His addition was accompanied by the introductions of Jason Banton and Dom Blizzard, with Ryan Brunt, Lee Cox and Carl McHugh making way.
Mellor was on the park about 60 seconds before getting a clunk in the face that required treatment, and then a trip down the tunnel with Dr Paul Giles, presumably to patch up a cut on his face. Meanwhile, Argyle soldiered on with with ten, but the strengthening rain was just part of the gloom beginning to envelop Home Park.
It was not to lift. Rose got beyond a labouring green backline to slot home in the dying seconds of the 90th minute to accompany Nardiello's opener. A goal by any other player would surely have tasted just as sour.
Argyle (3-5-2): 23 Luke McCormick; 5 Curtis Nelson (capt), 16 Carl McHugh (8 Jason Banton 77), 29 Peter Hartley; 25 Drew Talbot, 17 Bobby Reid, 19 Anthony O'Connor, 4 Lee Cox (11 Dom Blizzard 77), 13 Tareiq Holmes-Dennis; 7 Lewis Alessandra, 28 Ryan Brunt (2 Kelvin Mellor 77). Substitutes (not used): 1 James Bittner (gk), 3 Ben Purrington, 6 Ollie Norburn, 14 Tyler Harvey.
Booked: Alessandra 90.
Bury (4-3-3): 21 Nick Pope; 23 Joe Riley, 27 Nathan Cameron (capt), 5 Adam El-Abd, 11 Chris Hussey; 4 Andrew Tutte, 6 Kelvin Etuhu, 9 Tom Soares; 8 Nicky Adams (2 Craig Jones 77), 17 Danny Nardiello (9 Danny Rose 66), 10 Danny Mayor. Substitutes (not used): 3 Jimmy McNulty, 12 Chris Sedgwick, 15 Ryan Lowe, 16 Keil O'Brien, 26 Rob Lainton (gk).
Booked: El-Abd 53, Rose 90
Referee: Fred Graham.
Attendance: 7,374 (221 away).