Report: Cheltenham 1 Argyle 3Cheltenham Town 1
By CHRIS PARSONS
AN inspired first-half display from a goal-thirsty Pilgrims side helped them to a comfortable 3-1 victory over Cheltenham Town.
Argyle manager John Sheridan had said in the build-up to match that he believed in his players and here at the Abbey Business Stadium, they certainly showed all the signs that they believed in him, too.
The Pilgrims were unrecognisable from their 2-0 defeat to Fleetwood. They were strong, clinical and at time unplayable against a side who, for the last two years, have qualified for the League 2 play-offs.
Marvin Morgan was the man who got the ball rolling, opening Argyle’s goalscoring account for the season when he reacted first to a rebound, before Conor Hourihane made it two with a low drive.
Romuald Boco then netted the best of the three when he finished an inch perfect Reuben Reid through ball to leave Argyle three goals to the good at half time.
Argyle continued their dominance into the second period and although Matt Richards grabbed a consolation for Cheltenham, the Pilgrims never once looked their relinquishing their winning position.
Still searching for the first points of the Sky Bet league 2 season, Sheridan made two changes to the side defeated by Fleetwood seven days previously.
The first swap came in goal, where a training Ground injury to Jake Cole allowed Luke McCormick to make his second league debut for the club. Sixteen-year-old apprentice goalkeeper Andrew Hannah sat nervously on a Football League bench for the first time as Luke’s nervous under-study.
Argyle’s second change came in defence where the fit-again Guy Branston, who played 60 minutes of a reserve game against Yeovil on Tuesday, stepped into the side for his first appearance on the season. To accommodate Branston, Curtis Nelson shifted to right-back, Durrell Berry slotted in on the left, whilst Andre Blackman was forced to settle for a place on the bench.
In fact, it was the new-look Argyle back five who were called into action first when McCormick was forced to punch away an in-swinging free-kick from the right within the open two minutes.
Argyle pushed forward then, with Reuben Reid and Marvin Morgan combining well for the former to see his shot deflected away.
The Pilgrims then survived a mini goalmouth scramble before McCormick did well to stop Steven Gillespie converting a smart Byron Harrison cut-back.
Captain Conor Hourihane registered the Pilgrims’ first shot on goal on the ten minute mark when his curling free-kick from 20 yards was well held by Scott Brown.
The Green Army have had little to shout about so far this season but were back to their glorious best on 18 minutes, when Morgan headed the Pilgrims in front.
The goal was the end product to a lengthily stay in the Cheltenham half that the home side had tried and failed on several occasions to repelled.
In finally came when an excellent piece of play by Boco on the right led to an exquisite cross that Trotman thundered against the cross bar. But, like all good strikers, Morgan was lurking to nod the ball into the top corner with Brown already beaten.
Ten minutes later, Argyle were celebrating once more when Hourihane opened his account for the season in style with a special little finish from way outside the box.
Whilst the end product was outstanding, credit must go to the work of Lewis Alessandra who, in the build up, provided Conor with the space and ball to tuck it away with a low drive from 22 yards.
Argyle’s were looking unplayable and after another ten minute spell of control, went three goals up through Boco.
Again, it was a great finish, as he slid the ball underneath the advancing Brown while under pressure from the recovering defender, but it was Reid’s perfectly weighted, defence splitting pass that created the opportunity for Boco to grasp with both hands.
It had certainly been an opening period to remember for Argyle who had scored three goals in the first-half away from home for the first time since October 2003, when goals from Marino Keith, David Friio and Steve Adams helped the Pilgrims to a 5-1 victory over Port Vale.
But as soon as the game restarted, Cheltenham should have really pulled one back only for Jermaine McGlashan to fire a volley over McCormick’s crossbar when unmarked and with the goal at his mercy.
Argyle soon found their rhythm and again began to take control by dictating the tempo with long periods of possession.
They had several chances to increase their lead, too, when Hourihane fired a 25 yard drive wide and Alessandra’s cross-turned-shot floated just adrift of the Cheltenham goal.
On the hour, Reid might have made it four but saw Brown make a great save to deny him on the angle after another of Alessandra’s smart passes.
Despite the Pilgrims domination, Cheltenham did manage to pull one back with just under 20 minutes to play when Morgan’s foul on Russell Pen resulted in a free-kick on the edge of the Pilgrims’ box.
Richard stepped up and wrong-footed McCormick with a deflection to give his side hope.
As the clock struck 90, Boco nearly topped off a man-of-the-match performance with a bending free-kick that narrowly sailed over the cross bar.
Argyle then coasted out five minutes of injury time to pick up their first points of the Sky Bet League 2 season.
Cheltenham Town (4-4-2): 1 Scott Brown; 20 Sido Jombati, 6 Steve Elliott, 5 Troy Brown, 22 Craig Braham-Barrett; 11 Jermaine McGlashin, 16 Russ Penn (capt), 14 Matt Richards, 8 Sam Deering (19 Zack Kotwica 56); 23 Steven Gillespie (21 Ashley Vincent 66), 9 Byron Harrison (24 Bobbie Dale 82). Substitutes (not used): 2 Keith Lowe, 4 Jason Taylor, 12 Connor Roberts (gk), 15 Ryan Inniss.
Booked: Braham-Barrett 49
Argyle (4-4-2): 23 Luke McCormick; 17 Curtis Nelson, 5 Guy Branston, 16 Neal Trotman, 2 Durrell Berry, 7 Lewis Alessandra (27 Andres Gurrieri 90), 6 Conor Hourihane (capt), 11 Dominic Blizzard (14 Luke Young 90), 8 Romuald Boco; 9 Reuben Reid (18 Tyler Harvey 68), 10 Marvin Morgan. Substitutes (not used): 3 Andre Blackman, 22 Jamie Richards, 25 Ben Purrington, 31 Andrew Hannah (gk).
Booked: Branston 37, Blizzard 50, Harvey 90.
Attendance: 3,460 (892 away)
Referee: Charles Breakspear.