by CHRIS PARSONS
ARGYLE kicked-off the eagerly awaited npower League 2 season with defeat at the hands of Aldershot.
A first-half header from Troy Brown, doubled by a Josh Payne penalty after the break, condemned the Pilgrims to their opening-day loss.
However, whilst the 2-0 scoreline suggests a comprehensive victory, it was far from that.
Argyle dominated possession and, as the stats will tell you, had more chances. Pilgrims’ goalkeeper Jake Cole’s two most prominent touches were when he plucked the ball from the back of his net.
The Pilgrims had chances, too, but could not quite find the killer instinct needed to hurt their opponents.
After the comfortable victory over Portsmouth's youngsters on Tuesday, Argyle manager Carl Fletcher opted to stick with the same XI that had calmly and professionally guided the Pilgrims into the Capital One Cup second round.
Even the seven on the bench were the same as Argyle looked to start the league season in the same ruthless fashion as they had addressed the League Cup.
Aldershot, on the other hand, had made several changes, with both Ollie Lancashire and Peter Vincenti ruled out with injury, thus elevating Josh Payne and Alex Rodman to the starting line-up.
The players came out to an expectant first-day Home Park crowd, over their Olympic blues and ready again for football to dominate their lives for the next nine months.
There were new nets, new dug-outs, a new pitch. There were even new pasties.
The atmosphere was jovial and, as the Argyle players split from their huddle, they were greeted with a louder than average roar from the Devonport End.
Sadly, though, within five minutes, that roar subsided to a whimper as the visitors took the lead.
Their goal was expertly executed, Antony Tonkin guiding a free-kick from the right to the back post and square on to Brown’s head. The centre-back instinctively nodded his effort towards the floor and watched as the bounce evaded Jake Cole and nestled into the top corner.
Argyle, to their credit, did not drop and, for the next ten minutes, were the better side as Nick Chadwick and then Andres Gurrieri both went close with long-range efforts fashioned from clever passing moves.
It was the latter who struck again soon after, holding his head in his hands after Jamie Young in the Shots’ goal initially fumbled his stinging effort, only to smother it before Matt Lecointe could pounce.
The Pilgrims’ best chance of the half fell to Paul Wotton who, after Chadwick was fouled on the edge of the box, saw his free-kick rebound off the foot of the post with Young wrong-footed.
Argyle were in total control now and it was Gorman, the tormentor of Portsmouth’s defence four days earlier, who pulled the strings of a move that was cleared from the feet of Chadwick just as he was about to strike.
Aldershot still occasionally showed their threat, with Craig Reid lashing a shot just wide from the corner of the six-yard box ten minutes before half-time.
It was not until the opening few minutes of the second period that Argyle created their next chance, with midfielder Conor Hourihane’s half-volley deflected away to safety by an Aldershot defender.
Despite the Pilgrims’ dominance, Aldershot doubled their lead eight minutes after half-time from the penalty spot after Bhasera and Blanchard combined to bring down Michael Rankine.
It was Payne who stepped up, pausing in his run-up to stroke the ball past Cole, who had dived the other way.
Almost straight from the restart, the Pilgrims tried threaten but Hourihane’s audacious half-vollied lob dropped just over the bar.
Having thrown on Luke Young after an hour, Fletcher decided to introduce Paris Cowan-Hall and Warren Feeney with just less than 20 minutes remaining.
It was Feeney who almost made an immediate difference, as Curtis Nelson’s smart cross from the right just evaded the Northern Irishman’s head.
Feeney was again involved five minutes later but this time as the provider, cutting back a ball that look destined for touch, into the path of Chadwick whose shot was well wide.
As the 7,000-plus crowd slowly streamed out of Home Park, the Shots wasted time with a number of convenient injuries and cameo substitutions until the referee Simon Hooper blew time.
On to Dagenham...
Argyle (4-4-2): 1 Jake Cole; 17 Curtis Nelson; 5 Darren Purse (capt), 4 Maxime Blanchard, 14 Onismor Bhasera; 27 Andres Gurrieri (7 Paris Cowan-Hall 73), 15 Paul Wotton, 6 Conor Hourihane, 28 Johnny Gorman (8 Luke Young 59); 21 Matt Lecointe (11 Warren Feeney 73) 9 Nick Chadwick. Substitutes (not used): 3 Robbie Williams, 18 Ladjie Soukouna, 19 Joe Lennox, 20 Rene Gilmartin (gk).
Booked: Purse 73, Wotton 90.
Aldershot (4-4-2): 21 Jamie Young; 2 Ben Herd, 5 Troy Brown, 23 Sonny Bradley, 3 Anthony Tonikn; 17 Adam Mekki (16 Douglas Bergqvist 70), 8 Josh Payne (30 Harry Cooksley 90), 4 Aaron Morris, 7 Alex Rodman; 20 Craig Reid (24 Myles Anderson 86), 9 Michael Rankine. Substitutes (not used): 19 Reece Connolly, 27 Guy Madjo, 29 Glen Morris (gk), 33 Jordan Roberts.
Booked: Payne 64.
Referee: Simon Hooper.
Attendance: 7,020 (298 away).