Crawley Town 1
RYAN Brunt’s purple patch continues to steer the Greens towards promotion.
The young Pilgrims’ forward notched early in the second half at Crawley to earn Argyle a point and keep them on the coat-tails of Sky Bet League 2 leaders Northampton and comfortably ahead of the chasing pack.
A year after becoming a Pilgrim, Brunt has been at the forefront of their mid-season push. He has now scored eight times in Argyle last 12 matches; his goals have turned three draws into wins in that period, with another two being the difference between a draw and defeat: effectively worth eight points to the team.
However, Argyle will be disappointed not to have notched a tenth away win of an increasingly happy campaign. They dominated the game and no-one would have begrudged them being out of sight by the time substitute Shamir Fenelon levelled for the home side with seven minutes to go.
Pilgrims’ manager Derek Adams had stayed true to the starting 11 which had laid the foundation for the previous Saturday’s comprehensive 3-0 home win over Mansfield in which Brunt had scored twice from the lone striker position. That meant that this season’s leading marksman Jake Jervis again began the game as a substitute, as did the wearer of that mantle for the previous two seasons, Reuben Reid.
The only change to the Pilgrims’ party was on the bench, to which former Crawley Town skipper Josh Simpson returned after a side injury, replacing Louis Rooney.
Some sort of reciprocal ex-captaincy arrangement between the two sides was ruled impossible following Simon Walton’s strange dismissal for Red Devils in their 4-1 defeat at Accrington seven days earlier and subsequent suspension. Ross Jenkins, who had a crash-bang-wallop couple of games as a Pilgrim in 2011 had been on the Town bench at Stanley but subsequently upped sticks for Romania.
With Matt ‘Hoodoo’ Harrold ruled out through a training-ground hamstring tweak and replaced by Lee Barnard, a former Southampton team-mate of Argyle coach Paul Wotton, Crawley made three changes to their starting line-up.
That included giving club debuts to two payers signed only on Friday: on-loan Brighton defender Tom Dallison, who was plunged straight into the middle of a back three; and midfielder Andy Bond, who returned to the Football League after leaving Stevenage last summer and most recently playing for National League North Chorley.
Argyle were soon tugging at the home side’s defensive blanket and Gregg Wylde continued in the perky vein of form that had seen him claim three goals in the previous five matches by unleashing a shot from similar range and distance that had opened the scoring a week previously against the Stags.
Town goalkeeper Paul Jones tipped this one around the post before another Wylde shot was blocked on the stretch by Dallison. From the corner, the ball fell just behind Peter Hartley, who shovelled a makeshift shot over the crossbar.
Wylde saw plenty of the ball in opening exchanges which sometimes resembled an attack v defence training routine. Fortunately for Crawley, their defence – Josh Yorweth in particular – appeared well drilled in the exercise, and the quality of Argyle’s crosses did not match the quantity.
Crawley offered little attacking threat, though, and only the Pilgrims’ profligacy with their possession resulted in a decrease in a barrage which resumed two-thirds of the way the first half. Craig Tanner cut inside off the right wing for a left-footed shot that went over the goal, before Carl McHugh’s not totally clean strike was paddled away by Jones.
Another tame Wylde shot followed before the home side fashioned their first shot on Luke McCormick’s goal, although there was little structure to it. Left wing-back Roarie Deacon, who had scored Town’s consolation in their 2-1 defeat at Home Park earlier in the season, came inside, and kept going and going before letting fly with a shot that comfortably cleared the Green Army in the KR-L Stand.
As the half ran out, Argyle kept going, and laid siege to the home side’s goal in two minutes of stoppage time which culminated with the familiar Wylde-shot-Jones-stop combination that had been the opening half’s theme.
Reid replaced Tanner for the second period to join Brunt up front and was soon in the thick of things, although the change of shape to 4-4-2 to accommodate him appeared to offer Crawley greater opportunity for a foothold in the game.
Perversely, just after Crawley had produced one of their more threatening periods of the match, Argyle took the lead. Again, there was a touch of training-ground simplicity to their strike. Oscar Threlkeld stroked the ball wide for Wylde to pick out the poorly marked Brunt, who had time and space to plant a header past Jones.
Crawley responded well to going behind, with Bobson Bawling joining Deacon in getting forward from the wing-back positions, and Gavin Tomlin not making the best of a rare half-chance.
Brunt was replaced – to another standing ovation - by Jervis for the final 12 minutes, which began with Graham Carey’s dipping free-kick being tipped over by Jones before Jordon Forster strode forward from right-back and sent a low shot wide of the post.
Forster then conceded a free-kick in the right defensive corner which found its way to the ever-willing Yorweth at the far post; Fenelon got the scruffiest of scuffs on the ball to send it past McCormick.
A late winner has become something of a party trick of Argyle’s this season, but the man who got them out of trouble at Dagenham and three points at Luton, was on the bench, alongside the scorer of the winner at Hartlepool.
A draw, then, and, as all Pilgrims know, every point is a prisoner.
Crawley Town (5-3-2): 1 Paul Jones; 17 Bobson Bawling, 25 Josh Yorwerth, 3 Tom Dallison, 6 Sonny Bradley (capt), 20 Roarie Deacon; 21 Gavin Tomlin, 22 Andy Bond, 11 Chris Atkinson (15 Shamir Fenelon 68); 7 Gwion Edwards, 9 Lee Barnard. Substitutes: 2 Lanre Oyebanjo, 12 Callum Preston (gk), 14 Lewis Young, 16 Jon Ashton.
Booked: Jones 58, Tomlin 78.
Argyle (4-2-3-1): 23 Luke McCormick; 28 Jordon Forster, 5 Curtis Nelson (capt), 6 Peter Hartley, 3 Gary Sawyer; 4 Carl McHugh, 26 Oscar Threlkeld; 27 Craig Tanner (9 Reuben Reid half-time), 10 Graham Carey, 11 Gregg Wylde; 17 Ryan Brunt (14 Jake Jervis 78). Substitutes: 2 Kelvin Mellor, 7 Daniel Nardiello, 8 Josh Simpson, 16 Ben Purrington, 21 James Bittner (gk).
Booked: Forster 60, Brunt 77.
Referee: Peter Bankes.
Attendance: 3,522 (1,503 away).