Leyton Orient 1
by Rick Cowdery
ARGYLE skipper Curtis Nelson came up with a timely first goal of the season to rescue a point for the Pilgrims in a robust encounter at Home Park on Tuesday night.
The captain pounced in front of the Devonport end ten minutes from time to earn a draw for the Sky Bet League 2 leaders after Orient had led them for 77 minutes.
Jay Simpson played barely a quarter of the match but that was plenty of time to leave his mark on an Argyle side that avoided slipping to a second home league defeat inside four days.
The division’s leading scorer smashed the game’s only goal after four minutes of a robust encounter, a beautiful strike from 20 yards that was just about perfect in conception and execution.
Twenty minutes later, an ugly challenge by Simpson took out Pilgrims’ midfielder Oscar Threlkeld and saw him limp out of the action. That was as much as we saw of Simpson as he was almost immediately substituted by the Orient management.
Argyle manager Derek Adams had made one change to the Pilgrims’ starting line-up following the previous Saturday’s 2-1 home defeat by Exeter City: Carl McHugh, who had missed the Devon Expressway Derby with a hamstring problem, came back in to central defensive midfield alongside Saturday scorer Threlkeld.
Josh Simpson returned to a substitutes’ bench which also housed a player whose name has not been on an Argyle teamsheet for five days shy of a calendar year, forward Deane Smalley. The Mancunian’s journey back from a knee ligament and cartilage injury has been a long haul and it is good to have him back.
It was the other Simpson on the pitch who got the game off to an explosive start for the visitors. Jay of that ilk is, by some distance, the leading scorer in League 2 this season and he showed exactly why after four minutes, when he collected team-mate Ollie Palmer’s nod-on and, in the same movement, slammed the ball past Christian Walton from the edge of penalty area D.
Walton prevented the O’s from doing what Exeter had four days earlier and taking a 2-0 lead in front of the Devonport end when he picked off a goalbound header by Jean-Yves M’voto following Sammy Moore’s corner.
Argyle took some time to get into their stride; when they did, they nearly equalised. Kelvin Mellor broke up a Leyton attack and sent Graham Carey away on the counter. He fed Craig Tanner, whose clever little ball across the penalty area found Jake Jervis galloping in behind the O’s defence at the far post.
Jervis’s long limbs enabled him to reach the sweet pass but the angle was too tight and his attempt to convert by knocking the ball into the opposite side of the goal missed the target on the pitch side, the ball going out for a throw-in.
Leyton survival then was nothing compared to Simpson’s few minutes later, when his terrible, late, lunging challenge ended Threlkeld’s participation on the game. A yellow card seemed small beer by comparison and it still amazes that, in football, you can kick somebody out of the game and receive precisely the same punishment as someone who dallies a couple of extra seconds over a goal-kick.
As the game Orient cannily took Simpson off – quite possibly through the fear that, with passions bubbling under, he would be sent off – but not before his namesake in green and white, Threlkeld’s replacement Josh, had fired a shot over following a decent link-up between Gregg Wylde and Jervis.
The second half began with Orient creating the best chances. Walton saved one shot from Marquis before producing an outstanding save from the same player after the Millwall loan man had charged down Curtis Nelson’s clearance and shot from point-blank range.
M’voto then beat the Argyle defence to another corner, but this time could not direct his header on target, before Adams decided it was time to introduce Ryan Brunt.
Having a target man seemed to galvanise the Pilgrims, who had been quiet for the first half of the second 45 minutes, and they levelled going into the final ten minutes. Croll and Nelson were up for a free-kick which Orient failed to clear and when Croll’s shot was blocked, the skipper swept the rebound into the net.
There was still life in the opposition and Walton had to get down smartly to keep out another shot from Marquis.
Argyle looked unlucky not to be awarded a penalty after Jervis’s shirt appeared to be tugged by M’voto and had to accept just the point which maintained their two-point lead at the top of the table.
Argyle (4-2-3-1): 31 Christian Walton; 2 Kelvin Mellor, 5 Curtis Nelson (capt), 28 Luke Croll, 3 Gary Sawyer; 4 Carl McHugh, 26 Oscar Threlkeld (8 Josh Simpson 31); 27 Craig Tanner, 10 Graham Carey, 11 Gregg Wylde (17 Ryan Brunt 66); 14 Jake Jervis. Substitutes (not used): 7 Lee Cox, 15 Tyler Harvey, 18 Deane Smalley, 19 Aaron Bentley, 21 James Bittner (gk).
Booked: McHugh 73, Sawyer 89.
Leyton Orient (4-3-3): 1 Alex Cisak; 2 Sean Clohessy, 15 Jean-Yves M’voto, 20 Cole Kpekawa, 3 Frazer Shaw; 14 Sammy Moore, 12 Jack Payne, 18 Bradley Pritchard; 27 Jay Simpson (8 Lloyd James 38, 19 Scott Kashket 90), 9 Ollie Palmer, 32 John Marquis. Substitutes (not used): 5 Alan Dunne, 11 Jobi McAnuff, 17 Blair Turgott, 23 Freddy Moncur, 29 Sam Sargeant (gk).
Booked: Simpson 28.
Referee: Andy Woolmer.
Attendance: 6,469 (198 away).