Ogilvie 6, Whelpdale 38
by Rick Cowdery
ARGYLE failed to pull off the same trick twice within a week – and to take advantage of rivals Exeter’s trouncing of Sky Bet League 2 leaders Leyton Orient – when they lost for the first time away from Home Park this season.
As they had four days previously at Wimbledon, they allowed their hosts the luxury of a two-goal lead, going behind to strikes from Connor Ogilvie and Chris Whelpdale, both of which had more than an element of good fortune about them.
Unlike the Johnstones Paint Trophy encounter at the Cherry Red Records Stadium, they were unable to come back and claim the victory that would have taken them top of the table, although they did reduce the arrears when substitute Craig Tanner scored the first league goal of his loan spell from Reading.
The Pilgrims had gone into game with the same 11 that had knocked Wimbledon out of the JPT; their only change was the addition of two substitutes in the shape of home-grown youngsters Ben Purrington and Louis Rooney.
Former Stevenage loan player Ryan Brunt continued as the central forward in place of the hamstrung Reuben Reid in a side that has shown precious few changes since the opening day of the season. Or, even, come to think of it, before that.
Stevenage, whose first season under Teddy Sheringham’s management has been hampered by injuries, showed five changes from the side that had started the previous week’s Sky Bet League 2 draw at Dagenham & Redbridge.
Former Pilgrim Dean Parrett was rushed back from injury to line up behind another ex-Green, Tom Hitchcock, whose loan spell from Milton Keynes almost ended before it began when he was sent off in Boro’s first fixture of the season.
The home side also included 40-year-old goalkeeper Chris Day, deputising for Finnish goalkeeper Jesse Joronen, away on international duty, and Connor Smith, loaned earlier in the week from Watford.
It was another Connor, Ogilvie of that ilk, who opened the scoring in the sixth minute with a goal that was triply fortunate.
Successive full-blooded challenges by Carl McHugh and Kelvin Mellor bounced off opponents’ shins and fell fortuitously to another Boro player. This advanced the home side incrementally up the pitch to the penalty area, where Peter Hartley’s full-stretch attempted block of Ogilvie’s shot succeeded only in deflecting the ball up and over Luke McCormick.
The Pilgrims responded positively, taking control of the game. Long periods of possession starved the home side of opportunities but, with playmaker Graham Carey not quite hitting his stride, failed to provide the necessary platform for the equaliser.
They worked their way into decent positions several times, having stretched the Boro back line this way and that, but foundered at the last through a combination of wrong choices and stoic defensive work.
Stevenage were, for the most part, happy to deal with the tide. As is the way such affairs, it was the side that was under the cosh which then came closest to scoring when, after breaking free of the shackles, Charlie Lee slashed the ball over following Ogilvie’s perceptive low cutback.
Argyle continued to possess and press and twice had the Green Army on their feet in the Austin Stand, which they were attacking. Brunt’s thunderous volley was blocked by Boro captain Mark Hughes and the ball eventually fell to Carey, whose shot across goal dribbled the wrong side of the post.
Immediately, the Pilgrims’ task became doubly difficult. Again, though, there appeared to be some luck in Whelpdale’s goal, with Boro players seemingly active and offside on two occasions during the build-up before the midfielder helped Lee’s shot across the line.
Manager Derek Adams, who has not been slow in switching horses midstream so far in his short Argyle tenure, made changes at half-time, bringing on Tanner and Oscar Threlkeld for Brunt and Mellor and tweaking the formation to more of a 4-1-4-1.
Fortune straight away favoured the brave. Within ten minutes, the Pilgrims were on the scoresheet as Carey hung the ball up for Tanner to arrive at the back post and powerfully head the ball down past Day.
A curling shot from distance by Jervis then stung Day’s fingertips before the Argyle forward then shot into the side netting after breaking from deep and running through on goal.
The second half followed the same pattern as the first, with Argyle enjoying greater possession and a majority of the ball, and Stevenage playing on the counter with the scraps.
Lee, again, failed to make the most of an incisive break by the home side, heartbreakingly firing wide after being set up by Tom Pett.
Argyle had the ball in the net with 20 minutes to go, McHugh squeezing the ball in at the far post from Carey’s left-wing corner, but referee Gary Sutton decided a misdemeanour had been committed and denied the Irishman his second goal in four games.
As Argyle chased at least a leveller, the game became more stretched and half-chances appeared at both ends. Nothing decisive, although Jervis had a header at the very death from a Carey cross that might have realised a dramatic leveller.
So Argyle failed to overtake Leyton and go to the head of the Sky Bet League 2 table at this early stage of the campaign. When you consider who led the division after six games of last season, and what eventually happened to them maybe that is no bad thing.
Stevenage (4-4-2): 16 Chris Day; 5 Fraser Franks, 19 Dean Wells, 6 Mark Hughes (capt), 30 Connor Ogilvie; 7 Chris Whelpdale (32 Tom Conlon 89), 28 Connor Smith (24 Jack Jebb 69), 18 Dean Parrett, 11 Tom Pett; 22 Charlie Lee (9 Brett Williams 68), 15 Tom Hitchcock. Substitutes (not used): 4 Jamie McCombe, 13 Chris Kettings (gk), 20 Dipo Akinyemi, 25 Ronnie Henry.
Booked: Wells 45.
Argyle (4-2-3-1): 23 Luke McCormick; 2 Kelvin Mellor (26 Oscar Threlkeld half-time), 5 Curtis Nelson (capt), 6 Peter Hartley, 3 Gary Sawyer; 4 Carl McHugh, 20 Hiram Boateng (15 Tyler Harvey 89); 11 Gregg Wylde, 10 Graham Carey, 14 Jake Jervis; 17Ryan Brunt (27 Craig Tanner half-time). Substitutes (not used): 7 Lee Cox, 16 Ben Purrington, 24 Louis Rooney, 30 Cory Harvey (gk).
Referee: Gary Sutton.
Attendance: 3,533 (854 away).