Cowan-Hall 1, Gurrieri 30
Aldershot Town 1
by RICK COWDERY
IT is not often that the Pilgrims enjoy a cup run of any sort, so making it through to the area quarter-final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy should not be sniffed at.
The first ever goal in English football from Argyle’s first ever South American proved the difference between the two sides, Andres Gurrieri netting a sublimely hit clincher on the half-hour.
The much-changed and nowhere-near-full-strength Pilgrims’ evening had got off to the pluperfect start when Paris Cowan-Hall put them ahead after just 33 seconds.
However, Aldershot soon levelled through Craig Reid’s slightly fortuitous strike and twice hit the woodwork before Gurrieri settled the tie, and put Argyle into Saturday’s Soccer AM draw.
Argyle manager Carl Fletcher had made six changes from the starting line-up that had begun the 2-1 home defeat by Wimbledon three days earlier, though neither totally out of choice nor of disrespect to the competition.
With Darren Purse suspended, Onismor Bhasera on international duty, Maxime Blanchard and Robbie Williams recently injured, and the loans of Guy Madjo and Alex MacDonald having expired, Fletcher’s hand was somewhat forced.
The side showed three debutants, with goalkeeper Rene Gilmartin making his first appearance since joining from Watford in the summer, and centre-back Jamie Richards, barely 18, making his professional bow.
Neither had come as far, as quickly, as the third new man, Scott Griffiths, who had begun his day in Peterborough with his parent club, before travelling the 284 miles to Home Park after agreeing a one-month loan.
Joe Lennox and Gurrieri were recalled to the midfield, while Nick Chadwick made his first start since August just ahead of the Argentinean in the lone advanced striking role.
Apart from Rhys Griffiths, the home bench was young, inexperienced, and home-grown: Ollie Chenoweth, Jared Sims, Jordan Copp and, for the first time in a senior squad, Tyler Harvey.
Aldershot limited themselves to just the four changes from the side beaten 1-0 at home by Chesterfield the previous Saturday.
Manager Dean Holdsworth also switched his goalkeeper, bringing in Glen Morris for Jamie Young, and made two changes to defence, replacing Ollie Lancashire and Falmothian Anthony Tonkin with Myles Anderson and Kieron Cadogan.
The fourth change was in midfield, where the free-from-suspension Peter Vincenti came in for Alex Rodman.
None of Argyle’s debutants had a meaningful touch of the ball before the Pilgrims took the lead.
Chadwick, no stranger to an early Home Park strike himself, began the right-wing move which saw Lennox drive past Myles Anderson into the box and curl a pass to the feet of Cowan-Hall that cut out Morris and allowed the Argyle forward a tap-in with a low difficulty tariff.
The five-minute period between the 11th-15th minutes has been a bit sticky recently and it proved so again when Reid levelled the scores.
He had some luck when the rebound from an instinctive Argyle boot intercepted Vincenti’s shot on the edge of the penalty area and the ball stuck at his feet. However, Reid’s finish was anything but fortunate.
Unlike the big break that went Argyle’s way a few minutes later. Double break, actually.
First, Troy Brown, scorer of one of the Aldershot goals in their 2-0 npower League 2 opening day win at Home Park, hit the bar with a loopy little header, before Reid, following up, nodded the ball against the same piece of woodwork.
No point in having the breaks if you do not profit from them, and the Pilgrims ensured they made the most of their fortune after Lennox again caused tremors down the Argyle right.
Chadwick was again involved before Gurrieri delivered the coup de grace, spinning just outside the D of the penalty area and firing home a low drive that had the beating of Morris from the moment it left his boot.
On the subject of a beating, Aldershot manager Dean Holdsworth immediately threw in the white towel on behalf of Myles Anderson and substituted him for Tonkin, who will probably see Lennox bearing down on him when he closes his eyes to try to sleep tonight.
It was Gurrieri’s first goal in English football, in his 21st game, and regaining the lead visibly pepped up the Pilgrims whose goalscorers both had opportunities to extend the advantage before half-time.
Gurrieri was unlucky to see another low shot bounce back off the foot of Morris’s post following his own beautifully worked opening, while Cowan-Hall was thwarted by the Shots’ goalkeeper after the Argyle man had picked Ben Herd’s pocket to run through on goal one-on-one.
It was Cowan-Hall’s last contribution of the night as the Pilgrims began the second half with Sims in his stead.
Man of the match Lennox, however, straightaway carried on where he had left off, menacing the Aldershot back four. Sims played him in and the cut-back for Chadwick deserved a goal, but the skipper’s shot was well saved by Morris.
Gilmartin had few moments of alarm as the largely callow line in front of him held their shape and stuck to their disciplines. Nelson’s clearance from Danny Hylton’s cross was the pick of some choice clearances.
Chadwick gave way to Griffiths with 20 minutes to play, with the captain’s armband passing to Conor Hourihane, as both sides sought the game-changing goal.
It nearly came from Sims’ audacious 25-yard first time lob-drive which dipped narrowly wide of the Devonport goal with Morris well beaten.
The ubiquitous Reid, too, went close, when his measured shot after Argyle’s tiring defence made a rare mistake needed Gilmartin’s intervention.
It was as close as Aldershot came to taking the game to penalties, as Argyle saw the match out to its pleasing conclusion.
Que sera, sera, and all that.
Argyle (4-5-1): 20 Rene Gilmartin; 2 Durrell Berry, 17 Curtis Nelson, 23 Jamie Richards, 33 Scott Griffiths; 19 Joe Lennox, 8 Luke Young, 27 Andres Gurrieri, 6 Conor Hourihane, 7 Paris Cowan-Hall (22 Jared Sims half-time); 9 Nick Chadwick (10 Rhys Griffiths 73). Substitutes (not used): 13 Ollie Chenoweth (gk), 24 Jordan Copp, 29 Tyler Harvey.
Booked: Young 52.
Aldershot Town (4-5-1): 29 Glenn Morris; 2 Ben Herd (c), 5 Troy Brown, 15 Guy Branston, 24 Myles Anderson (3 Anthony Tonkin 31); 4 Aaron Morris, 20 Craig Reid, 11 Peter Vincenti, 28 Kieron Cadogan (17 Adam Mekki 55), 10 Danny Hylton; 26 Scott Donnelly 6 Ollie Lancashire 85). Substitutes (not used): 21 Jamie Young (gk), 23 Sonny Bradley.
Booked: Branston 20, Mekki 82.
Referee: Dean Whitestone.
Attendance: 2,590 (78 away).