Carey 53, Jervis 60
By Rick Cowdery
ARGYLE maintained their early-season Sky Bet League 2 promotion push with three points eked out against difficult opponents who proved to be nothing like their manager’s pre-match billing.
Two goals in eight second-half minutes, from Graham Carey – his fifth of the season - and Jake Jervis – his seventh – turned the match on its head after Barnet had deservedly led from the 30th minute through Aaron McLean.
The Pilgrims were by no means at their best but they will take great satisfaction that, despite their shortcomings, they collected their sixth victory from their first ten games this season.
Argyle showed one change to their starting line-up compared to the one seen at Field Mill for their 0-0 draw against Mansfield three days previously.
That was on the left side of attack, where Gregg Wylde was called up after missing out to horses-for-courses selection Ryan Brunt on the Stags weekend, and to Craig Tanner in the Pilgrims’ previous home 1-1 draw with Bristol Rovers.
Before the match, Barnet manager Martin Allen had spoken about radically changing a side that had failed to win any of its four away league games this season, conceding 11 goals in the process. “I’ve decided... to make several changes...we’ll play 4-5-1, we’ll play much deeper, and we’ll ‘park the bus’ for want of a better phrase,” he wrote on his club’s website the previous day.
It whiffed of an unsophisticated bluff then, and so it proved. Allen kept the same starting 11 and substitutes that had beaten Dagenham & Redbridge 3-1 at the Hive on the weekend in a 4-2-3-1 shape that matched Argyle, and they showed no signs of bus-like mentality. Indeed, although it is certain that Derek Adams paid no heed to Allen’s crude kidology, the visitors started like a train.
Argyle, maybe uncomfortable that Barnet had turned then against the Devonport end for the first half, just could not get going and a quiet Home Park maybe sensed their discomfort.
On the subject of rather obvious attempted cons, referee Simon Hooper also failed to buy into the Bees’ deceits, choosing to book Luke Gambin after the midfielder deliberately tripped himself up following a decent move in an attempt to win a penalty.
Still, Barnet pressed hard (naturally – “We’ll play much deeper,” Allen had lied) and it took until, midway through the opening 45 minutes for Argyle to shows signs of what they can do when they shift through the gears, Josh Simpson, on his full home debut, slipping in Jake Jervis for a shot that Barnet goalkeeper Max Crocombe pouched.
That welcome sight was soon forgotten as Barnet responded by taking the lead after a quick break down their left. Weston drove into the box and pulled the ball back from the bye-line to the unmarked McLean, who thumped it home. The move took about 10% of the time Barnet enjoyed celebrating the strike, adding time-wasting to their litany of irritating gamesmanship.
No bones, though. The visitors deserved their half-time lead, although Argyle did show signs of upping their game before the interval with two goalbound shots from Reuben Reid hitting bodies. Argyle’s number nine was then denied by Crocombe’s stretching dive in time added on to the first 45 minutes after Carey’s defence-splitting pass.
That momentum was lost during the break and it was Barnet who came out buzzing for the second period. Akinde got goal side of Curtis Nelson midway inside the Argyle half, drew Luke McCormick, and slid the ball wide of the Argyle custodian.
Perhaps McCormick got his angles spot on, but no-one inside Home Park expected to see the ball rebound from the foot of the post. Nelson redeemed himself by clearing substitute Mauro Vilhete’s follow-up off the line.
Argyle desperately needed a pick-me-up and they found it in the hitherto misfiring Carey. Argyle’s Irish playmaker only had one thing in mind when he picked the ball up 30 yards out. He needed the strength and touch of Reid to assist him, and when the Pilgrims number nine held off former Pilgrim Bondz N’Gala and laid the ball sweetly in Carey’s path, the Irishman blasted the ball home.
The momentum was suddenly reversed and, having been outplayed for the first half-hour and trailing for the next 30 minutes, Argyle entered the final third of the game ahead.
Wylde had, like many of his colleagues, been not quite on his game, but his gallop down the left wing was him at his best and, although his cross was slightly behind Jervis, Argyle’s leading scorer stretched back an Inspector Gadget leg and hooked the ball home.
Worryingly, the Pilgrims lost man of the match Carey to a leg injury shortly after taking the lead, but his team-mates and understudies showed the resilience required to see out the game.
Resilience and no little judgment. Barnet had the ball in the net, through John Akinde, but he had been allowed to stray into an offside position, while Vilhete’s dangerous-looking break was also flagged.
However, it ultimately took the woodwork to preserve the victory. As Argyle sat deeper and deeper, Barnet poured on the pressure and Vilhete followed some jinksy trickery with a shot that, half-blocked, deflected off the crossbar.
Make no mistake, perfect or not, lucky or not, Argyle mean business.
Argyle (4-2-3-1): 23 Luke McCormick; 2 Kelvin Mellor, 5 Curtis Nelson (capt), 6 Peter Hartley, 3 Gary Sawyer; 8 Josh Simpson, 20 Hiram Boateng; 14 Jake Jervis, 10 Graham Carey (27 Craig Tanner 73), 11 Gregg Wylde (17 Ryan Brunt 81); 9 Reuben Reid (26 Oscar Threlkeld 73). Substitutes (not used): 7 Lee Cox, 15 Tyler Harvey, 16 Ben Purrington, 30 Cory Harvey (gk).
Barnet (4-2-3-1): 25 Max Crocombe; 7 Andy Yiadom, 5 Bondz N’Gala, 6 Michael Nelson, 3 Elliot Johnson; 8 Curtis Weston, 14 Sam Togwell; 24 Aaron McLean (11 Mauro Vilhete 42), 18 Michael Gash (16 Tom Champion 65), 12 Luke Gambin (2 Gavin Hoyte half-time); 9 John Akinde. Substitutes (not used): 17 Sam Muggleton; 20 Fumnaya Shomotun, 21 Jamie Stephens (gk), 26 Hakeem Odoffin.
Booked: McLean 7, Gambin 16.
Referee: Simon Hooper.
Attendance: 6,115 (69 away).