Sarcevic pen 44, Jephcott 83
Crawley Town 2
Palmer 27, 90
LUKE Jephcott’s amazing January continued with his fifth goal since 2019 disappeared over the horizon – and first at Home Park – as Argyle’s unbeaten Sky Bet League Two run continued.
Jephcott came off the substitutes’ bench to head the Pilgrims into a late lead against opponents who had opened the scoring before being pegged back by an Antoni Sarcevic penalty.
Frustratingly for Argyle, they were unable to turn the lead into victory as Crawley’s Ollie Palmer, who had nabbed the visitors’ first, claimed an injury-time leveller.
Jephcott had started on the bench as Ryan Hardie was handed his full debut after goals in each of his three previous substitute appearances, strikes from the bench at Carlisle, at home to Mansfield, and, last Saturday, at Stevenage – three goals in around 80 minutes playing time.
He came in for teenage Academy graduate Jephcott, who has been a revelation since returning from a loan spell at Truro City, with manager Ryan Lowe having previously hinted that his team selection must have been a close call.
“The kid’s done terrific,” he said, about Jephcott after Saturday’s 2-1 win at Stevenage, “and so has Ryan, and whoever plays in those positions, it’s what we want; we’re a team and we’re building.”
On the subject of the Argyle Academy, defender Jarvis Cleal became the latest youngster to be included in a match-day 18 this season, following in the studmarks of fellow scholars Rubin Wilson and Jude Boyd. The future’s green, indeed.
Argyle were soon into their stride, knocking the ball around with alacrity and probing at their opponents’ defences.
They came close to breaking through early after one of Sarcevic’s trademark bustling drives into the heart of the Crawley rear guard. Sarcevic laid the ball back for Josh Grant – one of two Argyle starters who was not born when opposite number Dannie Bulman made his professional debut – to send in a stinging drive.
The shot was too hot for Crawley goalkeeper Glenn Morris to hold and he palmed the ball to the lurking Byron Moore, whose immediate snap shot from close range whistled over the crossbar.
With George Cooper, especially, providing some sweet touches, Argyle looked to get their speedy front pair moving, Moore and Hardie finding little pockets to trouble their often floundering markers.
The first-half’s one-way traffic was rudely interrupted when Andy Nadesan broke down the right and sent a low cross in that pin-balled between Scott Wootton and Niall Canavan before Crawley’s Palmer toe-ended the ball past Argyle’s Palmer, Alex.
The Pilgrims regrouped, stuck to their game-plan and were quickly on the attack again. Edwards bombed down the right wing and sent in a snorter of a cross that was cleared only by a flying intervention to begin a sustained period of home-side pressure.
When the ball broke to Grant, the on-loan Chelsea midfielder shaped to shoot but instead sent over a powerfully driven cross that picked out Sarcevic, diving full length for a header that went narrowly wide.
Following some out-of-character miscommunication at the back between Alex Palmer and Niall Canavan, the Pilgrims peppered the Crawley goal.
A leveller looked certain when Hardie dropped a shoulder and left two markers for dead, only for Jordan Tunnicliffe to dive in and block his goalbound shot, with Morris saving the rebound at the expense of one of half-a-dozen first-half Argyle corners.
Given such persistence, an equaliser was only a case of when and not if, and Crawley’s resistance finally crumbled when Bez Lubala’s chase after Sarcevic ended with the Argyle man going down in the penalty area.
Referee Alan Young pointed to the spot; Sarcevic bounced back up and fired a powerful kick down the centre of Morris’s goal; the Devonport end erupted.
Argyle’s relentlessness, a perpetual penchant for attacking, was soon on show after the interval as Crawley were forced so far back at the Barn Park end of Home Park that stewards were nearly obliged to check whether they had tickets for the Family Stand.
Shots from Tyreeq Bakinson, Hardie and Cooper were all blocked as the Pilgrims sought to turn all their positive stats into the one that matters most.
Argyle temporarily lost captain Gary Sawyer after the skipper took a fierce shot from Lubala in the head from close-range. For the second game running, though, after looking like having to come off for injury, Sawyer returned to the fray battered, but unbroken.
Crawley kept Argyle keen and the Pilgrims’ Palmer saved well from Nadesan when the visiting forward stole a yard, before Jephcott came off the bench to partner Hardie.
Argyle maintained momentum and Sarcevic extended Morris full length after switching the ball quickly from right foot to left to create the space. Sarcevic then latched on to Cooper’s pass to send over a low cross into the six-yard box, with Bakinson unable to get off a clear shot.
With ten minutes to go, Hardie seized on a long-range pass back to steal in for a run on goal. With Morris rushing to meet him, Hardie elected to chip early and could not quite get enough leverage.
Home Park had no time to lament, though, with Argyle’s uncompromising belief in their game-plan finally paying dividends when Moore’s fantastic cross from the right was headed home by Jephcott.
‘He’s one of our own’, sang the Devonport end. What a one, too.
Crawley were not done, though, as Palmer popped up in injury-time in the six-yard box to head home and steal a point.
Argyle (3-5-2): 24 Alex Palmer; 5 Scott Wootton, 6 Niall Canavan, 3 Gary Sawyer (capt); 8 Joe Edwards (31 Luke Jephcott 73), 7 Antoni Sarcevic, 14 Tyreeq Bakinson (15 Conor Grant 85), 25 Josh Grant, 32 George Cooper; 17 Byron Moore, 18 Ryan Hardie (16 Joel Grant 86). Substitutes (not used): 1 Mike Cooper (gk), 19 Klaidi Lolos, 20 Adam Randell, 42 Jarvis Cleal.
Booked: Wootton 78
Crawley Town (4-4-2): 1 Glenn Morris; 25 Josh Cogley, 20 Jamie Sendles-White, 19 Jordan Tunnicliffe, 3 Josh Doherty; 10 Ashley Nadesan, 14 George Francomb (34 Jack Powell 90), 21 Dannie Bulman (capt), 17 Tarryn Allarakhia (13 Ricky German 88), 30 Bez Lubala (7 Reece Grego-Cox 85), 9 Ollie Palmer. Substitutes (not used): 6 Tom Dallison, 18 David Sesay, 27 Tom McGill (gk).
Booked: Lubala 43, Doherty 69.
Referee: Alan Young.
Attendance: 9,184 (87 away)