Leyton Orient 1
James pen 82
Hartley 45, Jervis 78, 90
by Rob McNichol
LATE drama threatened to turn another game for Argyle in this dramatic Sky Bet League 2 run-in, but the Pilgrims held on to record a second, vital win in four days.
Following a late comeback at Portsmouth, Argyle led at half-time at Leyton Orient thanks to Peter Hartley's first goal of the season, and looked home and dry when Jake Jervis made it 2-0 with 12 minutes to go. A Lloyd James spot-kick, though, put the pressure on as the game reached it closing stages, but the excellent Jervis pounced in stoppage time to see the Pilgrims home.
Perhaps a minor surprise was sprung in the opening seconds of the game when it became apparent that Derek Adams had changed the shape of his eleven, employing a 3-5-2 system, instead of regular variants on 4-4-2. Reuben Reid, preferred to Jake Jervis, partner Jamille Matt up front, with Graham Carey the most attacking midfielder, shielded by Hiram Boateng and Jordan Houghton. Carl McHugh dropped back into the defensive line after playing virtually the entire season in midfield. He joined up with Peter Hartley (to the left of him) and Curtis Nelson (to the right) to form the defensive trio Argyle fans became so familiar with last season. Kelvin Mellor and Ben Purrington kept their berths in the starting line-up, and acted as the wing-backs.
Orient, keeping faith with the 11 that started their 3-2 win on Saturday against Dagenham & Redbridge, started the brighter of the two sides, with 25-goal striker Jay Simpson sneaking behind the Greens' defence inside the first five minutes. He appeared to hesitate over how to deal with a looping right-wing cross, though, and his stab back was swiftly cleared by Mellor.
Argyle quickly gained a foothold in the game, and after a tame Carey effort was easily pouched by home goalkeeper Alex Cisak, the Irishman was then involved in a neat left-wing move that involved Boateng and Purrington, and almost set Matt away, but his first touch, for once, let him down.
Matt was soon in the action again, picking up a loose ball on the Orient goal-line and cutting back towards Reid. The cutback was a little too pacey, though, and the chance was gone.
Argyle were starting to use their shape to pick holes in Orient, with McHugh dictating from the back and Carey shifting to find space. The two combined down the middle, then Carey played Reid in as Argyle pressured again. This time Purrington was sufficiently advanced for Reid to slide him in, and although it looked as though the teenager had dawdled, he then flicked a delightful lob over Cisak - who was not even notably off his line. The only thing that prevented the chip from being sheer perfection was the crossbar, which for the third time in successive games Argyle had struck at 0-0.
Worryingly, in the previous encounters, Argyle had failed to notch first after hitting the woodwork, but they kept up their pressure on Orient, with Nelson going close next after meeting a far post Carey free-kick.
Nelson turned supplier, launching a long throw into the area that Matt headed straight at Cisak, before Carey's direct free-kick from a wide position whistled past the Orient goalkeeper's near post.
Reid was causing problems for Orient with his familiar powerful running, and from one particular foray down the right flank his power and pace proved too much for Shaun Brisley. Reid's cross was just beyond the approaching Matt, but more tellingly it was a bit beyond his body, as he immediately signaled to the bench that he could not continue. He was replaced by Jervis on 37 minutes.
Orient, reminding Argyle of their presence, caused panic after Nicky Hunt drove into the area from the right. Shots rained in from an array of Orient players including Hunt and Nigel Atangana, but blocks by Nelson, Purrington and Mellor were crucial, and Argyle held out.
As the stoppage time board was held up signalling two minutes, Carey's back was bumped and Argyle had a free-kick on the left. From his vantage point over the ball, the area between the six-yard box and penalty spot must have looked to Carey like the 18th fairway at Augusta looked to Danny Willett. Carey, hitting a three-wood with a hint of draw into position A. There stood Peter Hartley, with nary a goal to his name this season and social media criticism of a recent opponent ringing in his ears. Left-footed defender Pete received the ball in the air on his right side - one carefully place right-footed volley later, the Greens led 1-0, and Hartley was top dog.
Little occurred in the opening ten minutes of the second period, but at that point more injury misfortune struck Argyle. Carl McHugh, who typically may be struck by a harpoon and play on, pulled up and hit the deck, with what appeared to be a thigh injury. Jordon Forster was his 56th minute replacement.
Coming into this game Argyle had won 11 league games away from home - with all them coming via 2-1 or 2-0 scorelines. Sensing a second may be needed here, following Armand Gnanduillet's header from a corner that McCormick saved, Argyle pressed hard. Excellent work by Jervis won Argyle the ball back, and Boateng fed Carey. A typical long-range snap shot followed, and Cisask had to juggle before getting it under control.
Gnanduillet made way for Ollie Palmer just after the hour as Orient shuffled their pack. Meanwhile Boateng was cautioned for a foul on Atangana, and Orient winger Blair Turgott went into the book for simulation, having fallen under pressure from Forster in the penalty area.
Orient fans, already perturbed having disagreed with the first-half decision that led to the goal, took up their displeasure for the officials once more after Turgott's booking. Annoyingly for Argyle, this raised the decibel levels in the Matchroom Stadium, and the home players seemed to respond. In turn, with two players off injured and few others toiling, Argyle - for the first time in the match - looked up against it, energy-wise.
Never fear, however. Argyle saw off whatever little Orient could throw at them, with Jervis in particular working tirelessly to hassle Orient into mistakes. After twice being used as a climbing frame by Orient defenders, Jervis was awarded a free-kick at the third attempt after Leyton's repeated piggy-back attempts finally drew the ire of the referee.
A free-kick on the right looked the mirror image of the first-half set-piece that led to a goal. Carey, with an near-post inswinger, duly obliged, setting the ball perfectly for Jervis' stunning diving header that flew past Cisak.
But what is that about never making things easy? Orient sub Palmer managed to sneak between Hartley and Forster, and was bundled over as he entered the box. A penalty was given, Forster was booked, and Lloyd James coolly rolled home the spot-kick. Game - unfortunately - on.
As the game reached its conclusion, and the stoppage time board showed an unbelievable six minutes, there seemed to be another interminable final chapter to get through. Matt, though, got behind Orient, and though he sliced his chip, Jervis followed in and hammered home the third, killer goal.
For the second time this week Argyle players and staff celebrated a fantastic result with another 1,000-strong Green Army - see you all at Home Park on Saturday as we look to keep things going - and keep bringing back those good times.
Leyton Orient (4-4-2): 1 Alex Cisak; 34 Nicky Hunt, 6 Mathieu Baldry (capt), 16 Shaun Brisley, 20 Jerome Binnon-Williams; 2 Sean Clohessy (19 Scott Kashket 70), 15 Nigel Atangana, 8 Lloyd James, 17 Blair Turgott (30 Calaum Jahraldo-Martin 86); 27 Jay Simpson, 32 Armand Gnanduillet (9 Ollie Palmer 62). Substitutes (not used): 12 Jack Payne, 14 Sammy Moore, 29 Sam Sargeant (gk), 36 Peter Ramage.
Booked: Turgott 64.
Argyle (3-5-2): 23 Luke McCormick; 5 Curtis Nelson (capt), 4 Carl McHugh (28 Jordon Forster 56), 6 Peter Hartley; 2 Kelvin Mellor, 32 Jordan Houghton, 10 Graham Carey, 20 Hiram Boateng, 16 Ben Purrington; 19 Jamille Matt (11 Gregg Wylde 90), 9 Reuben Reid (14 Jake Jervis 37). Substitutes (not used): 3 Gary Sawyer, 15 Tyler Harvey, 27 Craig Tanner, 31 Vincent Dorel (gk).
Booked: Boateng 62, Forster 82.
Referee: Kevin Johnson.
Attendance: 4,908 (1,037 away).