Argyle 2 Carlisle 0 - Report
Carey 21, Jervis pen 45
Carlisle United 0
By Rick Cowdery
MUCH has, rightly, been made of Argyle’s new signings this season, and especially those that came in through the January transfer-window, but it was two of the old guard who reignited the Pilgrims’ Sky Bet League Two promotion push against rivals close in the table but distant in every other way.
First-half goals from Graham Carey, his 11th of the season, and Jake Jervis, who reached double-figures for the campaign, brought to an end a run of four games without a win and strengthened Argyle’s position tucked right in behind leaders Doncaster Rovers.
They were, in some way, hallmark goals from the two of manager Derek Adams’ first signings on arriving at Home Park in the summer of 2015: Carey picked a midfield pocket before striding on to score midway through the half; Jervis slammed in a penalty in time added on.
Argyle manager Derek Adams, who had never before suffered five successive winless games in his Home Park reign, had welcomed back David Fox to the Pilgrims' starting line-up following an ankle injury that ruled him out of Tuesday's 1-0 home defeat by Notts County.
Although Argyle returned to the 4-2-3-1 shape from the 4-1-4-1 that they have employed recently, Antoni Sarcevic was Fox’s central defensive midfielder, with Yann Songo'o making way and thus being deprived of a 100% league starting record.
The other change was in the attacking part of the midfield, to which Jervis - was recalled on the right side, displacing Craig Tanner. All but one of Jervis's nine goals this season prior to the game had come at Home Park.
The visitors, who had stayed in the Westcountry following a 1-0 defeat at Cheltenham Town in midweek, also showed two changes. Captain Danny Grainger returned to the defence after injury, instead of Macualey Gillesphey, and was joined in the back four by Tom Miller, who replaced George Waring.
After bright start by Argyle which saw their visitors struggle to deal with a succession of well-delivered corners, Carlisle twice headed the ball past Luke McCormick into the net inside the first 15 minutes. Both came under the raised flag of the assistant referee, though, with the second effort, from Reggie Lamb, much closer to legality than Jamie Proctor’s first.
The Pilgrims responded down their left-hand side, with Gary Sawyer making the most of an ocean of space to stand a cross up that Ryan Taylor headed against the crossbar, with goalkeeper Mark Gillespie beaten for pace.
There was much more fizz and purpose about the Pilgrims than there had been the previous Tuesday – perversely, against opponents who had a lot more about them – and their sharpness reaped rewards after 20 minutes.
As Carlisle tried to play out from the back, Carey turned terrier, snapping at the heels of Luke Joyce and nicking the ball off him 35 yards from goal. He offloaded to Taylor, who waited on, and weighted, the return pass so deliciously that the finish was the easiest part of the entire move.
The Carey Song was still echoing around a packed Home Park when the Irishman went close to doubling up, curling a free-kick up and over the Carlisle defensive wall and obliging Gillespie to make an excellent save.
United hooked the hapless and obviously unhappy Joyce in favour of Jamie Devitt, who had obviously been given a roving brief, and his ability to pop up, Johnny Hore style, here, there and everywhere, needed watching.
So, too, did plenty of Pilgrims, who seem to relish the big-match occasions more than they do the scraps against sides at the wrong end of League Two.
No-one likes a physical battle more than Taylor, though, and he uncomplainingly negotiates his way through matches with very little protection from referees.
Such is the expectancy from players – on both sides – and Green Army alike for officials to ignore opposing defenders’ myriad misdemeanors inflicted upon Taylor that it was something of a surprise when whistle-blower Mark Haywood pointed to the penalty-spot after Shaun Brisley had clambered all over the Argyle forward in the final minute of the first half.
After a small debate between Carey and Jervis about who should take the kick, Jervis, who had scored the Pilgrims’ previous penalty, against Exeter, put a huge exclamation point on the end of the conversation.
Songo’o’s absence from the team proved short-lived as he was introduced at half-time in place of the presumably injured Jakub Sokolik, while Carlisle also made a change, to give themselves an extra man up front, Jabo Ibehre replacing Lambe.
Ibehre made an immediate, although illegal, impact, fisting a cross past McCormick, and was summarily cautioned.
The game, already fairly open, suddenly became full of space. Matt Kennedy was downed in the penalty area and appeared to have a better shout for punishment than Taylor had earlier, but Haywood waved away the appeals.
Reprieved, Carlisle poured forward in numbers and came as close as they had up to that point of scoring when James Bailey sent powerful low shot just wide of McCormick’s left-hand post.
However, the game settled down into predictable pattern: Carlisle chased every lost cause; Argyle cancelled their efforts; and Taylor went back to receiving plenty of attention from defenders and none from the referee. Fellow hard-as-nails Yorkie Jimmy Spencer was brought on for the last quarter to relieve him of his pain.
Jervis nearly found a spectacular nerve-settler when he shimmied inside from the right wing and let fly with a left-foot shot that had the beating of Gillespie but which clattered against the crossbar.
Carlisle had their moments but Argyle were as solid as they had been sloppy just a few days earlier, and could have added to their tally, too.
Substitute Ryan Donaldson pulled a good save out of Gillespie, with Spencer hovering menacingly for any spillage, but the way Argyle defended, to a man, saw them through to three points, the value of which should not be underestimated.
Argyle (4-2-3-1): 23 Luke McCormick (capt); 18 Oscar Threlkeld, 31 Jakub Sokolik (4 Yann Songo'o half-time), 15 Sonny Bradley, 3 Gary Sawyer; 7 Antoni Sarcevic, 24 David Fox; 14 Jake Jervis (11 Ryan Donaldson 81), 10 Graham Carey, 16 Matty Kennedy; 19 Ryan Taylor (9 Jimmy Spencer 68). Substitutes (not used): 8 Jordan Slew, 13 Nathan Blissett, 21 Vincent Dorel (gk), 27 Craig Tanner.
Booked: Spencer 74.
Carlisle United (4-5-1): 1 Mark Gillespie; 23 Tom Miller, 28 Gary Liddle, 15 Shaun Brisley, 3 Danny Grainger (capt); 19 Reggie Lambe (14 Jabo Ibehre half-time), 4 Luke Joyce (17 Jamie Devitt 31), 8 Mike Jones, 16 James Bailey (18 John O'Sullivan 74), 10 Nicky Adams; 9 Jamie Proctor. Substitutes (not used): 12 Macauley Gillesphey, 22 Max Crocombe (gk), 27 George Waring, 44 Alexander McQueen.
Booked: Ibehre 48, Brisley 76, Proctor 83.
Referee: Mark Haywood.
Attendance: 10,381 (326 away).