Morecambe 2 Argyle 1 - Report
Rose pen 20, Murphy 63
by Rob McNichol
A THIRD defeat in a week not only ended Argyle's record-breaking seven-match winning run away from home, but meant the Pilgrims lost their place atop Sky Bet League Two.
After Argyle started the brighter of the teams, Morecambe made a series of corners pay, as they won a penalty, which was converted by Michael Rose. Argyle equalised through Oscar Threlkeld on the stroke of half-time, but lost Jordan Slew to a second caution in the opening minutes of the second period.
Morecambe made their advantage pay with a headed goal from their captain Peter Murphy, and held on to record a precious victory that ended an unwanted run of their own. The Shrimps had not won at home in the league for more than three months.
Derek Adams rested a pair of Davids - Fox and Goodwillie - preferring to start instead with Ryan Donaldson and Jordan Slew. Perhaps the more significant omission was that of Fox. The midfielder is so often Argyle's metronomic heartbeat, setting the Pilgrims' tempo with his passing repertoire, but judging by Adams' arched eyebrow when studying the pitch before the game, perhaps he felt that Fox's ground game was not suited to the somewhat patchy Globe Arena pitch.
Morecambe would kill for their form to considered 'patchy', like their pitch. Financial troubles off the pitch have been echoed by poor form on it - Argyle arrived in the Bay to meet hosts with just two points from the previous six league games, hovering just two points above the drop zone, with the worst goal difference in the division.
Argyle, of course, arrived having lost two in two themselves, and both sides showed early intent by having decent chances inside 90 seconds. Forward Cole Stockton cut inside and bent an effort at goal that Luke McCormick easily caught, before Jake Jervis skipped down the right flank and crossed low to Slew, whose flick on the turn was not too far over.
Jervis, as he did in the first half against Barnet on Tuesday, caught the eye with his intent down the wing, and was soon cutting inside and shooting on goal on his left foot. His effort rather dribbled wide following some good build-up work, but for a second draft he repeated the routine with a better strike, but Barry Roche in the Morecambe goal was equal to it.
Kevin Ellison, the veteran Morecambe wide-man, won the Shrimps a corner on the left flank that would lead to their opening goal. Well, eventually it would. One corner kick led to another, and another, and another, as Morecambe continued to deliver a ball well, and ensure they were first to any clearance. From one Argyle header out, Aaron Wildig rattled in a tremendous effort, only bettered by McCormick's terrific save, seeing the ball late through a crowd and strongly palming away.
Eventually the Shrimps pressure told, though, as referee Darren England pointed to the spot having seen an infringement by Gary Miller on Dean Winnard. Midfielder Michael Rose looked assured as he stutter-stepped his way to converting the penalty kick.
There then followed a rather ugly - though bloodless - sequence in the game, as two players from each side were cautioned by the now very busy referee within four minutes of the goal. Firstly, goalscorer Rose ploughed his shoulder into Donaldson's face, rather more by way of clumsiness than thuggishness, and was rightly booked for his indiscretion.
Donaldson was next to go into the book; it could have been for a tackle he made on the edge of Argyle's area - not given as a foul, but then Morecambe had the advantage - or perhaps for something said, as the Argyle number 11 was clearly perturbed at seeing Bradley going down in the box from an attacking free-kick for the Greens. Why, Ryan seemed to be saying, was it a penalty in one area, but not the area?
Next into the notebook was Slew, for rather energetically putting a Morecambe player on the deck in a challenge. It was definitely a foul; a tackle some refs would caution a player for, and some would be happy with a telling off. This official was clearly going to go with a yellow card, so why Ellison, who has not learned the art of restraint in his 37 years on the planet, felt the need to get in Slew's face will be a mystery never resolved. Needless to say, his getting involved in something that had zero to do with him earned him a caution, too.
It was a merciful change, then, when the focus went back to the football. Perhaps not for Argyle, though, as the goal had given a huge boost to the Shrimps, without a win at home in Sky Bet League Two since a 2-0 win against Portsmouth on August 16, and they missed two gilt-edged chances to double their advantage. First, Rhys Turner blasted against the crossbar from no more than four yards with the goal at his mercy, then it took a very good block by Nauris Bulvitis to stop Rose, who one still feels ought to have done better.
Through a little bit of fortune and plenty of persistence, Argyle rode the storm and got back in the game. When Smith, Carey and Slew, in particular, got on the ball - and the same wavelength - they caused palpitations in Morecambe's reraguard, and on more than one occasion looked to get through. The closest came when Carey found space centrally following a slick passing move, and very nearly found the overlapping Threlkeld with a throughball. Roche just got his hands to the ball first, but Threlkeld was not to be thwarted for long.
An Argyle throw into the area was cleared, but only as far as Jervis. After taking one touch to set, Jervis sent over a far post cross that Roche looked favourite to pouch. He misjudged the flight, though, and Threlkeld was in like a flash, powering home the equaliser with a bullet header.
Roll out the cliches: Threlkeld's 44th minute leveller was the proverbial 'good time to score', and surely the league leaders would not allow struggling Morecambe so many chances in the second half.
And then Jordan Slew got a red card, and all bets were off.
Referee England had little choice but to send off the Argyle forward once he had whistled for the decision. England had decided that when Slew reached a loose ball before Roche and subsequently went to ground, that there was not sufficient contact for him to do so. The already-cautioned Slew was shown a second yellow for the simulation, and before two minutes of the second half had elapsed, Argyle's parity in the scoreline was no longer matched by the players on each team.
Morecambe, inevitably, were going to take the initiative, and they did so through Ellison primarily. His judgement of a flighted ball, followed by calm chest down, was impeccable. His left-footed volley was not so sweet, though, and his bobbling effort struck a post and went away.
The numerical advantage worked in Morecambe - and Ellison's - favour, shortly afterwards, as a slick one-two looked to have got the veteran in on goal. A superb piece of covering, and a perfectly-timed tackle, by Threlkeld prevented a near-certain goal.
But Argyle could only hold out for so long. A right-wing corner by Rose was met by Morecambe captain Murphy, who jumped above all to power home, and put his side in front.
Shrimps typically have rather large tails, and these ones were most definitely up. Wildig hit the bar, and it took a very good stop by McCormick to halt the clean-through Cole Stockton from putting Morecambe away and clear.
Adams withdrew Carey, brought on Arnie Garita, and teamed the big Cameroonian with Jervis, in the hope their combined heft might provide an outlet for a second equaliser to be scored. A second sub, shortly afterwards, saw Bulvitis replaced by Karleigh Osborne, the former seemingly succumbing to the injury that had recently kept him from appearing.
Through a succession of dead-ball situations, Argyle looked like salvaging an unlikely point. Jervis waited for a wall to jump before striking beneath them, only for Roche to kick to safety. Songo'o then had the ball in the back of the net following a free-kick lofted into the box but the whistle, for an earlier foul, had already sounded. Similarly, Bradley then headed another set-piece into the net, but this time an offside flag was the heartbreaker.
The next, despite Argyle's late flurry, was the final whistle.
Morecambe (4-2-3-1): 1 Barry Roche; 2 Liam Wakefield, 5 Ryan Edwards, 6 Dean Winnard, 21 James Jennings; 8 Peter Murphy (capt), 24 Michael Rose; 18 Rhys Turner (19 Ntumba Massanka 84), 15 Aaron Wildig (7 Paul Mullin 81), 11 Kevin Ellison (3 Aaron McGowan 90); 23 Cole Stockton. Substitutes (not used): 10 Lee Molyneux, 12 Danijel Nizic (gk), 14 Luke Conlan, 27 Luke Jordan.
Booked: Rose 22, Ellison 25.
Argyle (4-3-3): 23 Luke McCormick (capt); 2 Gary Miller, 5 Nauris Bulvitis (19 Karleigh Osborne 76), 15 Sonny Bradley, 18 Oscar Threlkeld; 11 Ryan Donaldson, 4 Yann Songo’o, 6 Connor Smith; 14 Jake Jervis (27 Craig Tanner 87); 8 Jordan Slew, 10 Graham Carey (26 Arnold Garita 72). Substitutes (not used): 7 David Goodwillie, 20 Louis Rooney, 21 Vincent Dorel (gk), 24 David Fox.
Sent off: Slew 47.
Booked: Donaldson 24, Slew 25.
Referee: Darren England.
Attendance: 2,500 (est) (350 away, est).