Reid 5, Jervis 32
by Rob McNichol
ARGYLE recorded their fourth win from five away games this season - and exorcised a significant demon - with a battling win against a very good Wycombe side.
Some 121 days since a losing effort at Adams Park in the play-off semi final put an end to Argyle's 2014-15 season, the Pilgrims returned to win a fiercely contested game by the odd goal, in a match that was a credit to the division.
Reuben Reid's early goal and Jake Jervis' somewhat fortunate effort sandwiched an inevitable Jason Banton strike, to give Argyle a 2-1 lead to which held on to for a nerve-wracking hour-and-a-bit. Both sides had chances galore in the game, and Wycombe played plenty of eye-catching football - in fact, Argyle should take great heart from playing a very good outfit and beating them in this manner - the first side to do so this season.
For a brief period in the afternoon, Argyle led the division, when Leyton Orient were losing at Cambridge, and although the O's recovery for a point means Argyle are not at the summit quite yet, a fifth victory from seven games is certainly the most important matter right now.
There were plenty of notable inclusions and exclusions when the teamsheets were presented an hour before kick-off, not least when bringing into account historical precedent. For Argyle, Reuben Reid was returning to the starting line-up having limped off early in the game at Northampton three weeks ago, and been absent since. Reid, of course, was selected to play despite being less than 100% fit when Wycombe beat Argyle over two emotional legs of the Sky Bet League 2 play-offs last season, so this was a fitting venue for him to return to action.
As for the home team, they were missing a number of key players from that brace of play-off encounters; mainly down to those players no longer being asscoiated with the Chairboys, but there was one notable exception to this. Paul Hayes, a former Argyle loanee, was a menace to the Pilgrims last season, scoring three almost identical goals in separate games, and being a general nuisance to his old side. This time round, though, he missed out because of injury.
Another player who impressed in May was Aaron Amadi-Holloway, and he too was missing from the 11, having to settle for a spot on the bench. In the starting line-up, though, were two ex-Pilgrims no doubt keen to impress again their former employers.
Striker Gozie Ugwu made six goalless appearances for Argyle in early 2013 when on loan from Reading, and was making his Blues debut here after signing in summer following his release from Yeovil Town. Alongside him in the line-up was Jason Banton, he of 56 appearances in a rollercoaster Argyle career that encompassed a season-saving loan spell, drifts in form, injuries aplenty and two eye-catching cameos in the aforementioned play-off games - eyecatching enough for Wycombe to seek his signature.
To add to all of this, the fixture was pitting the team second in the table at home to the one in third. Depending on other results, a winner here could ascend to the top of the league by the end of the day.
Oddly, the game did not kick off until six minutes past the hour - a lengthy inquest delayed the start as apparently referee Tim Robinson was not happy with some GPS equipment being worn by Wycombe for analysis purposes. When play did get underway, Wanderers looked lively, with Ugwu going to ground under pressure from Luke McCormick. Nothing was given, and rightly so, as McCormick had backed out of any challenge. In fairness to Ugwu, he did not claim any indiscretion either.
Just four minutes into the game, Reid gave an indicator that he was in rude health, picking up a loose ball thirty yards out, driving into the area and forcing Matt Ingram into a tidy near post save.
From the corner, Graham Carey picked out Peter Hartley, who flicked on, with Reid lurking at the far post. He prodded home via a small deflection, and Argyle had an early lead. A number nine? Scoring from close range from a corner in a Wycombe v Argyle match? Whatever next?
Well, the simply answer to that apparently rhetorical question is: exactly what you would expect to happen. Ergo, Banton scoring against his old club. Lazy journalists and commentators may well trot out the hackneyed 'you couldn't write it' response - of course you could write it; in fact it is the most obvious thing to write - but the most important matter was that Argyle had lost their lead. The Pilgrims failed to clear their lines from a corner, and when the ball fell to a two-toned Blue shirt six yards out, of course it was Banton was the beneficiary. He thumped into the roof of the net to score his first goal for his new club, and to restore parity.
He may have restored his confidence, too. Midway through the half the ball fell to him nicely on the edge of the area, on his right foot. He shot over, but it was a statement that he had his swagger back.
Moments later, Wycombe nearly forged ahead as, after an attack down the right instigated by unflappable full-back Sido Jombati, Luke O'Nien peeled away from his man and flicked goalwards, only to strike a post. On such moments, games can turn.
A short time later, Jervis was felled when breaking down the right, and Argyle had a free-kick in a perfect area; i.e. one where Carey could inflict the most damage.
He did, although there was a sprinkling of good fortune about Jervis' goal that got Argyle back in front. Carey's delivery was fantastic, and the ball began to cannon around the six yard area. It struck Jervis, who had launched himself at the initial cross and was laying prone on the deck, in the back and rolled past Ingram, into the net. It was the second goal this season Jervis had scored whilst being on the ground - although he knew a lot less about this than his goal at Northampton.
In truth, Wycombe had had a lot of the play and may have felt a touch aggrieved. However, Argyle looked a constant threat when breaking, and nearly scored a peach of a counter-attack goal. Credit for the chance goes to Kelvin Mellor, who twigged a Wycombe break and intercepted. As the ball fell in front of him on the right wing, he whipped in a beautifully weighted first-time cross to the far post, when Reid, angling his body, headed back across goal. It took a fantastic, full-length save from Ingram to stop Argyle getting a two-goal cushion.
Back at the other end, Wycombe were far from finished. As time in the half ticked away, O'Nien launched a shot from 40 yards that looked to redefine the term 'ambitious', but it spawned several excellent opportunities for the hosts. A partial block fell nicely to Ugwu, who fired goalwards, only to be denied by a terrific McCormick save. The ball fell to Pierre, who took his time and fashioned an angle to shoot, but the ball clipped his standing foot and he swished his other leg clean past the ball. Another flick got the ball to Banton, though, and it looked a certain repeat of the first equaliser. Somehow, though, Banton pulled the shot just wide.
This breathtaking half of football was not finished, though. Reid did a sterling job of holding up a long ball forward, and flicked it back to Carey. Taking aim from 25 yards, Carey whipped his left-foot around the ball, left Ingram helpless, but the curled ball fell centimetres wide of the goalkeeper's left-hand post.
The excitement factor of the game showed no sign of letting up in the second period. A ball filled more with hope than expectation by Wycombe was floated beyond the Argyle defence, but Nelson, who had been immaculate to that point, left the ball, assuming it would run to McCormick. It did not, and Garry Thompson was first to it. He steadied himself and clipped past the Pilgrims goalkeeper, but the ball cannoned back of the inside of the post and away.
Banton was still causing problems, with the kind of display players save for when they want to prove their old club wrong - although part of you thinks that had they produced it a little more often, they would not need to attempt that statement in the first place - and twice he caused palpitations for the Green Army. Each time resulted in a bit of scrambling being required by Argyle, but each time the ball was lifted away.
Wycombe brought on forward Amadi-Holloway for their centre back Danny Rowe, shuffling their pack a little, but retaining the shape. Argyle made a similar move, with Ryan Brunt coming on for Jervis, but there was no shift in formation to follow.
Joe Jacobson delivered a free-kick into a great area from Wycombe's right as they continued their search for an equaliser, but despite Bean, Amadi-Holloway and Pierre all launching themselves at the delivery and rebound, the ball trickled wide.
Argyle did intermittently show signs of trying to extend the lead, usually though Carey, who had one shot saved and two free-kicks find decent areas but never threaten Ingram.
It was fair to expect a late home bombardment, but although Wycombe worked very hard to get into good position to find their equaliser, Argyle's defence was equal to everything.
We shall consider buying Wycombe an apostrophe. By our reckoning, on Saturday at least, this was Adams' Park.
Wycombe (4-4-2): 1 Matt Ingram; 2 Sido Jombati, 18 Danny Rowe, 6 Aaron Pierre (16 Aaron Amadi-Holloway 72), 3 Joe Jacobson; 19 Michael Harriman, 8 Marcus Bean, 20 Luke O'Nien, 12 Jason Banton (15 Ryan Sellers 82); 23 Gozie Ugwu, 7 Garry Thompson. Substitutes (not used): 4 Stephen McGinn, 10 Matt Bloomfield, 17 Max Kretzschmar, 21 Alex Lynch (gk) 22 Janoi Donacien.
Booked: Bean 26.
Argyle (4-2-3-1): 23 Luke McCormick; 2 Kelvin Mellor, 5 Curtis Nelson (capt), 6 Peter Hartley, 3 Gary Sawyer; 4 Carl McHugh, 20 Hiram Boateng; 14 Jake Jervis (17 Ryan Brunt 75), 10 Graham Carey, 11 Gregg Wylde (27 Craig Tanner half-time); 9 Reuben Reid (7 Lee Cox 90). Substitutes (not used): 15 Tyler Harvey, 16 Ben Purrington, 19 Aaron Bentley, 30 Cory Harvey (gk).
Booked: Sawyer 74, Tanner 78, Boateng 85, Carey 90.
Referee: Tim Robinson.
Attendance: 4,223 (777 away).