Carey 2, Tanner 12
by Rob McNichol
THE gifted left feet of Graham Carey and Craig Tanner allowed Argyle to take another step forwards in this so-far glorious Sky Bet League 2 campaign, as goals from the pair put Argyle into a lead after a dozen minutes that they would never relinquish.
Carey's goal after a little more than a minute gave the Pilgrims the lead, and Tanner followed with a similar-looking, cultured, left-footed goal ten minutes later. It was a lead they never looked like letting slip.
Derek Adams made one change from the side that began the 2-1 win at Luton seven days previously; Jake Jervis returned to the starting line-up having sat out the game at Kenilworth Road on the bench, with Gregg Wylde the man to make way.
Reuben Reid, who pulled up in Argyle's previous home fixture, against Accrington Stanley, was still missing, but Peter Hartley, a victim to a hamstring injury at Luton, passed muster.
Prior to the game, the build-up focused on ones thing: goals. Morecambe came to Home Park as the leading goalscorers in the Football League, but also with a record of conceding plenty, too. On Derek Adams' arrival at Argyle, he promised attacking, open football, and he has delivered on that promise. Therefore, it was fair for supporters to expect goals in the game.
They had to wait 69 seconds.
Prior to the game, Graham Carey officially received his award as PFA Fans' Player of the Month for August/September. The time it took for him to be introduced to the crowd and to collect his award was probably longer than the time from the kick-off to a ball hitting the net.
Argyle sauntered down the right hand side soon after the play started, and when the ball was squared to Care, some 25 yards out, he chose not to control the ball, instead dropping a shoulder and letting it run across him. When the time seemed right, he flicked his wand of a left foot and bent a ball into the bottom left hand corner. If you looked closely at the goalmouth for the remainder of the first half, you could still possibly see heavy footprints from where goalkeeper Barry Roche was rooted to one spot, a mere spectator as the ball curled in.
No blame could be attached to the goalkeeper, though. It was an expertly placed shot, and pleased all Pilgrims - even the ones still carrying their hot dog and programme to their seat.
In the middle of said programme, you could find Craig Tanner, who was this game's poster boy. If we had experienced the Carey Months, then this was very much Tanner Week at Home Park. After a great performance at Luton, Tanner turned 21 on the Tuesday; spoke to the Senior Greens and the press corps on Thursday, and featured as the featured Pilgrim in the programme by the Saturday.
Ten minutes after Argyle's number 10 had given the Greens the advantage, Tanner followed Carey's lead - and doubled his team's lead.
When Tanner gathered the ball on the right flank, looking to cut inside onto his favoured left foot, most of the ground probably did not want him to shoot. Carl McHugh certainly did not, as he was in a wonderful position, should Tanner lay the ball off to him.
There was no lay-off. Instead, Tanner, took aim, and was even more precise than Carey before him. The ball struck the inside of the post that lay beyond Roche's despairing right hand, and into the net.
The early goals were bucking one trend. Calling Argyle 'slow starters' might be a bit extreme, but until 3.01pm on October 31, the Pilgrims had not scored a home league goal in the opening half an hour of a game.
Argyle played out the rest of the first half with demonstrable confidence. In fact, like a team four points clear and 2-0 up. Jervis had the best opportunities to extend Argyle's lead, once hitting a left-footed shot into a defender and watching the ball deflect wide, and once getting completely behind the Morecambe defence. He may well have been clipped by Shaun Beeley as he hit the deck, but referee Michael Bull was unmoved.
The Argyle attacks kept coming. Tanner came forward, faced by veteran Kevin Ellison, who celebrated his 21st birthday before Craig had given his first apple to the teacher. Tanner schooled him, though, leaving Ellison watching the winger drift forward without a care in the world. His shot, bound for the opposite corner to which he found for his goal, was very well saved by Roche.
Morecambe, for the their part, tried to push forward, and did so plenty of times. However, the typical pattern was for Hartley or Curtis Nelson to cut out a throughball, or for Luke McCormick to put at least one gloved hand to the incoming ball. Their best chance looked to come when Jervis had a shot blocked by a multitude of players conferencing in the area at an Argyle corner, and the away side broke. However, before Devitt could run onto a throughball, Gary Sawyer twigged, and comfortably shepherded the ball back to McCormick.
After the break, Carey tried to snip some seconds off of the time for the quickest goal of a half in a game, whipping in a teasing ball from the left that Jervis almost reached and a defender sliced out for a corner. From the kick, Carey found Jervis again, but his shot was blocked.
It seemed like the only thing that could derail Argyle's afternoon might be injuries. Hiram Boateng's afternoon ended after being tackled - fairly- when traveling down the left wing. He was replaced by Josh Simpson. Before physio Paul Atkinson had finished escorting Boateng back to his bench, he was called on again, as Hartley went down after making a clearance, in some distress. After a bit of attention, he was fine to continue.
Argyle's next chance came via the twinkling toes of Carey. Tanner's low right-wing cross was prodded back by Jervis, but looked a little beyond Carey. It was not. Carey flicked the ball over a defender's leg and leaped over it himself, in a single movement. He cut inside another defender, then sent the goalkeeper completely the wrong way. It seemed a travesty that the ball met the side-netting on the outside, rather than the inside, of the post.
Carey was at it again minutes later, receiving the ball after a typical piece of Curtis Nelson cavalierism, and making Roche stretch to his full length to tip the ball round. Next, Brunt broke the offside trap and got the ball around the goalkeeper, but failed to get the ball on target from wide on the left.
Morecambe had a moment, sprinting away after an Argyle corner, but Tanner showed willing to get back and prevent Aaron Wildig from getting a shot away. Tom Barkhuizen then concluded a reasonable spell of Morecambe possession by driving into the area, but McHugh saw the danger away.
The Shrimps, despite swimming against the tide, were looking to at least grab some lifeline and came the closest they had so far when substitute Paul Mullin hit a shot on the turn not too far over McCormick's bar.
Argyle, in particular Carey, were in the party mood, though, spreading the ball around the park with consummate ease and style, but just could not get a third that would settle any residual nerviness.
As injury time arrived, and Morecambe came no closer to registering their mark on the game, Argyle saw the game out comfortably. Not only another win - an 11th in 16 League games - but another clean sheet, this time against a supposedly unstoppable attacking force.
Argyle never missed a trick - and were quite the treat.
Argyle (4-2-3-1): 23 Luke McCormick; 2 Kelvin Mellor, 5 Curtis Nelson (capt), 6 Peter Hartley, 3 Gary Sawyer (16 Ben Purrington 88); 4 Carl McHugh, 20 Hiram Boateng (8 Josh Simpson 54); 27 Craig Tanner (26 Oscar Threlkeld 80), 10 Graham Carey, 14 Jake Jervis; 17 Ryan Brunt. Substitutes (not used): 7 Lee Cox, 15 Tyler Harvey, 21 James Bittner (gk), 24 Louis Rooney.
Booked: Carey 42, Tanner 43.
Morecambe (4-2-3-1): 1 Barry Roche, 2 Shaun Beeley (capt), 6 Ryan Edwards, 22 Andy Parrish, 3 Aaron McGowan; 13 Alan Goodall (10 Lee Molyneux 74), 15 Aaron Wildig; 7 Jamie Devitt (17 Andrew Fleming 66), 16 Shaun Miller (12 Paul Mullin 66), 11 Kevin Ellison; 9 Tom Barkhuizen. Substitutes (not used): 4 Alex Kenyon, 19 Laurence Wilson, 20 Tony Thompson (gk), 27 Jack Kelleher.
Booked: Goodall 27.
Referee: Michael Bull.
Attendance:7,574 (87 away).