Lameiras 3, 88, Carey 34, 52
Southend United 0
GOOD Friday became Feelgood Friday at Home Park as Argyle bounced back from their Valley depression to re-fan the flames of their Sky Bet League One promotion desires.
Less than a week after they lost their eight-game unbeaten run at Charlton Athletic, the Pilgrims lived up to their post-match promise to start another streak with a ninth win from their last ten matches at Home Park.
Graham Carey and Ruben Lameiras both netted twice against the Shrimpers, Carey taking his tally for the season to 13 after Lameiras had given the Pilgrims a nerve-settlingly early lead and then rounding off the scoring, top and tailing matters with his fifth and sixth goals in his last 14 matches.
Carey later missed an opportunity to become the first Pilgrim to score a league hat-trick at Home Park for 12 years (Vincent Pericard, anyone?) when he struck a penalty against the crossbar.
The victory – the fifth time in their last nine home matches that Argyle have scored three or more goals – took them to 60 points, intriguingly the precise same amount as Easter Monday’s hosts Scunthorpe United, who have played a game more.
Both Argyle and Southend had made one change following their differing fortunes six days earlier.
Argyle welcomed the return of central defender Sonny Bradley after having lost him to illness for the previous three matches.
Southend were able to bring back right-back Jason Demetriou after international duty with Cyprus, ostensibly strengthening the 11 that had beaten Rotherham 2-0 at Roots Hall the previous weekend, at the expense of Elvis Bwomono.
Any concerns that Argyle might suffer a hangover from the Valley were dispelled within three minutes of the game's start when Lameiras continued his rich vein of form since being recalled to colours just before Christmas.
Ryan Taylor was, as so often, the key link man, latching on to a ball from deep and taking it wide before turning and playing it into the space his clever run had created.
Lameiras read the play superbly and arrived with enough time to compose himself before passing the ball into the net past a stranded Mark Oxley in the United goal.
Having done to Southend what Charlton had done to them the previous week and scored so soon, Argyle settled in for the long haul.
They did so to such effect that more than a quarter of the game went by before the opposition fashioned their first opportunity, when the Pilgrims were unable to clear their lines and Anthony Wordsworth stole in at the far post.
A yard or less in from the bye-line, his touch sent the ball across the goal. Whether it was a shot or a cross, only he will know but, fortunately for Argyle, with Simon Cox stealing at the opposite upright, it turned out to be neither.
Cox fluffed his lines a short while later, after reacting quickest when Remi Matthews could not hold on to a raking drive from Dru Yearwood. The ball spilled kindly but Cox’s effort was weak and Oscar Threlkeld arrived to make sure the Southend man did not get another opportunity.
Again, reverse echoes of the Charlton game. At the Valley, at one down, Argyle had narrowly failed to get a foothold in the game when Taylor’s shot hit a post and then almost immediately found themselves 2-0 in arrears.
This time, Southend were still ruing Cox’s profligacy when Carey rounded off some great foraging and keeping-the-ball-alive play by the Pilgrims with a shot from outside the right-hand edge of the penalty area.
The ball looked destined for the top far corner of the goal when it left his left foot but, with the helping hand – or, more accurately, backside – of Sam Mantom, the ball looped even further up and plopped deliciously over Oxley.
The first half ended with the visiting players in high dudgeon after a challenge between Taylor and his marker Michael Turner resulted in the later prostrate on the deck, clutching his face. Eventually, referee Brendan Malone decided that whatever had occurred merited only a yellow for the Argyle man.
Southend’s feeling of hard-done-by-ness increased seven minutes after the interval when Carey claimed his second of the game with as true a strike as his first had been skewwhiff.
Moses Makasi, who was never very far from the centre of things all afternoon, deserves credit for a sweet little ball down the side for the overlapping Threlkeld. When the ball was played into the six-yard box, Carey’s eyes lit up and his volley was simply sumptuous.
The Irishman proved that he has feet of clay, though, when he cracked a penalty, given for Turner’s foul on substitute Joel Grant, against the Devonport end crossbar.
Incredibly, for all his marvellous talent, it was the third time he had missed from 12 yards in his last four attempts.
No matter. The game was long since won by then, as evinced by Derek Adams’ substitutions. You know things are going well when you can afford to protect assets like Taylor, David Fox and Jamie Ness with plenty of time still to play.
Two of their replacements, Grant and Yann Songo’o, both came close to getting a touch on Lameiras’s delivery across the face of the goal after more outrageous skill from the Portuguese playmaker.
Lameiras then profited from a lovely block and counter from the third substitute, Aaron Taylor-Fletcher, rounding off a sweeping end-to-end move.
A hat-trick for either of the goalscorers would have made Good Friday an excellent Friday.
As it is, we will settle for nine out ten.
Argyle (4-3-3): 34 Remi Matthews; 18 Oscar Threlkeld, 22 Zak Vyner, 15 Sonny Bradley, 3 Gary Sawyer (capt); 14 Moses Makasi, 24 David Fox (4 Yann Songo'o75), 6 Jamie Ness (17 Aaron Taylor-Sinclair 82); 10 Graham Carey, 19 Ryan Taylor (16 Joel Grant 71), 11 Ruben Lameiras. Substitutes (not used): 8 Lionel Ainsworth, 25 Kyle Letheren (gk), 30 Paul Paton, 33 Cameron Sangster.
Booked: Taylor 45.
Southend United (4-4-2): 1 Mark Oxley; 24 Jason Demetriou, 48 John White, 6 Michael Turner, 3 Ben Coker (capt); 11 Stephen McLaughlin, 18 Sam Mantom, 16 Dru Yearwood, 4 Anthony Wordsworth (44 Josh Wright75); 10 Simon Cox (31 Theo Robinson 78), 9 Marc-Antoine Fortuné (7 Michael Kightly 57). Substitutes (not used): 5 Anton Ferdinand, 8 Michael Timlin, 13 Nathan Bishop (gk), 21 Shayon Harrison.
Booked: Wordsworth 42.
Referee: Brendan Malone.
Attendance: 11,965 (445 away).