Report: Accrington 1 Argyle 1Accrington Stanley 1
by CHRIS PARSONS
JAMES Beattie's second-half strike for Accrington Stanley denied the Pilgrims victory at the Crown Ground.
The former Southampton, Everton and Sheffield United strike lashed home a seven minutes after half-time to cancelled out Onismor Bhasera's opener.
Stanley goalkeeper Paul Rachubka saved a Warren Feeney penalty midway through the second half and then turned from hero to zero after seeing red for a headbutt on Chadwick late on.
Despite Rachubka's dramtic afternoon, it was his opposite number Rene Gilmartin who stole the show, producing save after save to deny a variety of Accrington attacks.
On a wet pitch in the pouring rain, the game was played with a full-blooded spirit by both sides, either of whom could have walked away with the points.
On the back of a three match unbeaten run, injury and suspension forced Argyle manager Carl Fletcher in to three changes and a change of system.
The 4-4-2 which was so effective in gaining a point at Exeter seven days previously was employed with Chadwick replacing walking-wounded Andres Gurrieri to lead the line with Rhys Griffiths.
Meanwhile, injury to Mark Molesley the suspension of Maxime Blanchard led to the recall of full-backs Durrell Berry and Robbie Williams, pushing Curtis Nelson inside to partner Darren Purse and Bhasera to the left-hand side of midfield.
After incredibly heavy rain around the country over-night, this was one of only two npower League 2 fixtures to survive.
Referee Mick Russell, now in his ninth season as a Football League official, had a thorough look at the Crown Ground playing surface prior to kick-off and despite some concerns about the touchlines, deemed the pitch playable.
Much credit must go to Martyn Cook, the Stanley groundsman, who worked practically through the night to get the game on, despite other Lancashire fixtures, most notably Blackburn’s tie with Brighton, falling foul to the festive down pour.
Despite the dull drizzle and grey skies, the game lit up in the first few minutes, when Luke Young saw his fierce 20 yard drive tipped round the post by Rachubka.
Then, after Luke Joyce had fired just wide, former Pilgrim Lee Molyneux came close to scoring, curling a quickly-taken free-kick goalward that Rene Gilmartin scrambled across to save.
After a period of inactivity, Gilmartin again game to the Pilgrims’ rescue, making a fantastic diving save to deny Romuald Bocu from the edge of the box after good work from James Beattie.
But just before the half-hour mark, it was Argyle who took the lead.
When Griffiths was pulled down a full 30 yards from goal, it looked too far for anybody to try and shot at goal. But nobody had told Williams, whose exquisite left-footed effort cannoned off the post.
As is so often the case in football, you have to be in the right place at the right time and Bhasera was, reacting first to the loose ball to stroke home past the already beaten Rachubka.
They may well have been ahead, but it was Gilmartin who was proving to be the Pilgrims’ shining light and he again proved his worth, making a good save on the edge of the six yard box after Craig Lindfield’s clever run had left Williams standing.
The Pilgrims emerged for the second-half looking hungry to finish the job and Bhasera could have perhaps doubled his and Argyle’s lead had his shot, after a long run from his own box, not trickled agonisingly wide.
Young then again tried from distance but saw his effort, bound for the top corner, deflected wide.
Then, somewhat against the run of play, it was Accrington who scored, with Beattie firing across Gilmartin from just inside the area.
Understandably, the goal gave the home side a lift and yet again Gilmartin was to thank, this time for an incredible reflex save from a Peter Murphy free-kick.
On the hour, Fletcher introduced Warren Feeney and then, 12 minutes later, Paris Cowan-Hall was also added to the action.
Within minutes, Cowan-Hall had made a difference, ducking and diving inside to the penalty area before being dragged down by Michael Liddle.
Referee Russell had a good think before pointing to the spot and immediately, it was Feeney who took responsibility for the kick.
But, not wishing to be out done by his visiting ‘keeping counterpart, Rachubka saved the day for the home side, saving Feeney’s penalty low to his right.
Again, their slice of good fortune preceded a bit of Stanley pressure and once more Gilmartin shone out, getting one of his big hands to the top left-hand corner of his goal to stop Joyce’s free-kick.
It was turning into a really cracking end-to-end match with tackles flying in left, right and centre on the slippery surface.
And then, as the game came to a close, it all got nasty when a confrontation between Chadwick and Rachubka led to the Accrington ‘keeper seeing a straight red card.
After a shot by Hourihane, Rachubka spilt the ball and Chadwick went sliding in. The Stanley 'keeper took exception to this and threw a headbutt at the Argyle striker.
Confrontation between several players followed before ‘keeper trudged from the pitch.
It was a sour end to an otherwise thrilling encounter.
Accrington Stanley (4-4-2): 1 Paul Rachubka; 5 Aristole Nsiala, 6 Dean Winnard, 2 Peter Murphy, 3 Michael Liddle; 12 George Miller, 7 Craig Linfield (22 Andrew Dawber (gk), 4 Luke Joyce (capt), 24 Lee Molyneux (23 Padraig Amond 75); 21 James Beattie (19 Marcus Carner 80), 33 Romuald Boco. Substitutes (not used): 10 Will Hatfield, 14 Luke Clark, 15 Bohan Dixon, 18 Tom Eckersley.
Booked: Nsiala 62
Sent off: Rachubka 89
Argyle (4-4-2): 20 Rene Gilmartin; 2 Durrell Berry, 17 Curtis Nelson, 5 Darren Purse (capt), 3 Robbie Williams; 19 Joe Lennox (7 Paris Cowan-Hall 72), 6 Conor Hourihane, 8 Luke Young, 14 Onismor Bhasera; 9 Nick Chadwick, 10 Rhys Griffiths (11 Warren Feeney 60). Substitutes (not used): 1 Jake Cole, 16 Jamie Lowry, 21 Matt Lecointe, 23 Jamie Richards, 29 Tyler Harvey.
Booked: Bhasera 83, Chadwick 89
Referee: Mick Russell
Attendance: 2,012 (272 away)