Carey 39, Jervis 71
by Rob McNichol
THEY say familiarity breeds contempt. Whoever "they" may be, they are not following Plymouth Argyle this season.
A trip away from home and a goal in each half, a formula that worked to good effect at Wimbledon two weeks ago, was adhered to once more, as Graham Carey scored before the break and Jake Jervis after it, giving Argyle a comfortable victory by an identical scoreline as the opening day in south-west London.
The victory had more than a passing resemblance to Tuesday night's 4-1 win over Carlisle, with the Pilgrims nicking a goal from a half in which they were not on top, but dominating after the break to a notable extent, along with some other fleeting similarities.
Derek Adams went with the same starting 11 that began proceedings against Carlisle United in midweek, but, in the opposite dugout, things were a little different. Northampton boss Chris Wilder, having seen his side win their first two Sky Bet League 2 games and proceed into the second round of the Capital One Cup, had decided to make four changes for Cobblers' trip to Barnet on Tuesday. It backfired, with the Bees running out 2-0 winners, and Wilder decided - although perhaps that had been the plan all along - to revert to the basis of the side that had beaten Exeter the previous Saturday. This meant recalls for Nicky Adams, Marc Richards and Alfie Potter, with Ryan Watson, brought in on loan from Leicester, coming into the side.
As you might expect between two teams on the same amount of points, and only separated in the league by Argyle's marginally healthier goal difference, there was very little between the teams in the opening exchanges. Neither goalkeeper was called upon to take serious action, with McCormick safety gathering Nicky Adams effort at one end not long after Peter Hartley headed over from a Graham Carey corner.
Perhaps the most important act of the first quarter of the game was the fourth official holding aloft a board that included the number nine on it. It indicated that Reuben Reid had a problem - from afar, it looked like a hamstring issue - that ruled him out of the game at an early stage. Ryan Brunt took his place leading Argyle's line.
The change, predictably, unsettled Argyle for a while, and the home side settled into a pattern of possession. However, it rarely converted into chances; a 25-yarder from Lawson D'Ath that was close, but that McCormick calmly saw past his post, was the nearest they got. At the other end, Carey beat several Cobblers to dance into the area, but took on one too many one and the chance was gone.
Carey then cast his mind back to Tuesday for inspiration. On that occasion, his hard work and persistence led to two Argyle goals - one for himself and one for Jake Jervis. Four days later, and he repeated the dose to put the Pilgrims in front. As Watson dithered, Carey picked his pocket, took the ball, and headed for goal. He had a fair distance to travel to get to goal, but Northampton had begun to commit men forward and were no position to hold Carey back. The Irishman ran directly towards goal, waited until home goalkeeper Adam Smith had committed himself, and calmly slotted home for his third goal in four league games.
Another repeat of Tuesday night came as the second half began, as once again Derek Adams replaced Gregg Wylde with Josh Simpson, although this time it did not signal a change of shape. Argyle maintained the 4-3-3 with which they had started, only with Simpson central and Carey asked to play from the left. It was hardly a surprise that Chris Wilder, too, looked to his bench to make an alteration. Potter was sacrificed to make way for Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who was asked to play closer to strike Richards than any of his cohorts had done in the first half.
Argyle started the half - again, just as Tuesday - with a spring in their step, and dominated the opening to the second period. In fact, before the hour mark, they could have been out of sight. Brunt poked one just wide after a melee in the area following a left-wing through-ball, then looked to have been brought down when heading through on goal, yet nothing was given.
Carey then showed a mesmerising combo of footballing intelligence and sublime skill to chip a ball past his marker on the Argyle left, cut in and fire goalwards. It took a marvellous save by Smith to turn the ball onto the crossbar and out for a corner. That one corner turned into four in a row, one of which looked to have been converted by Jake Jervis after a McHugh flick-on only for the ball to be cleared from gthe line.
Exactly on the hour mark Jervis latched onto a long ball over the top to prod at Smith, and nearly fished out the rebound, too. The early-second half blitz was again akin to Tuesday night, only this time Argyle had no extra goals to show for their dominance.
Northampton had only a handful of set-pieces that Argyle largely dealt with to show for their second-half efforts, although at the midway point in the period a sharp header by Ryan Cresswell asked the serious question of McCormick since the interval. Luke was equal to it, saving and holding low to his right. Shortly afterwards, Kelvin Mellor's excellent piece of defending prevented Richards having a surefire tap-in - although the offside flag had gone up, Mellor was not to know that at the time.
Argyle won a corner thanks to Carey's persistence on the left-flank again, and from it they deservedly doubled their lead. Carey's floated corner to the far post saw a phalanx of heads, from both sides, go for the ball. Hartley got a decisive touch and, as the ball fell limply to the deck, it landed extremely near Jervis, who had been among those leaping for the initial cross. Jervis intelligently and instinctively swung a leg at the loose ball, and hooked it into the corner of the net.
Adams, ever tinkering, adapted Argyle's formation again, bringing Jervis in line with Brunt and dropping Carey in behind, with the rest of the midfield making up a diamond. Town were still trying to work this out when Argyle waltzed through them, with Jervis, Carey and Boateng all involved in shifting the ball quickly and effectively to Simpson, who saw his shot saved. Moments later, the referee played a good advantage when Brunt was being held as he turned Lelan and, as play was allowed to continue Brunt advanced and picked out Jervis. The latter hurried his shot and the danger was over, but the joy of watching Argyle attack in such style continued.
The final whistle brought a fresh wave of joy - and more crucially three points. This is our kind of deja vu.
Northampton Town (4-2-3-1): 1 Adam Smith; 12 Josh Lelan, 5 Zander Diamond, 6 Ryan Cresswell, 16 David Buchanan; 19 Ryan Watson, 8 Joel Byrom (17 Paul Corry 77); 7 Lawson D'Ath, 10 Nicky Adams (14 Sam Hoskins 63), 15 Alfie Potter (20 Dominic Calvert-Lewin half-time); Marc Richards (capt). Substitutes (not used): 18 Rod McDonald, 21 John-Joe O'Toole, 22 Chris Hackett, 26 Ryan Clarke.
Booked: Lelan 88, Diamond 90.
Sent off: Lelan 90.
Argyle (4-3-3): 23 Luke McCormick; 2 Kelvin Mellor, 5 Curtis Nelson (capt), 6 Peter Hartley, 3 Gary Sawyer; 20 Hiram Boateng (27 Craig Tanner 83), 4 Carl McHugh, 10 Graham Carey; 14 Jake Jervis, 9 Reuben Reid (17 Ryan Brunt 16) 11 Gregg Wylde (8 Josh Simpson half-time). Substitutes (not used): 21 James Bittner, 7 Lee Cox, 15 Tyler Harvey, 16 Ben Purrington.
Booked: McHugh 54.
Referee: Nick Kinseley.
Attendance: 4,505 (710 away).