Bath City 0
ARGYLE were give a thorough work-out by their Conference South hosts on a balmy night in Bath.
Appropriately enough, given the venue, the Pilgrims were under the pump for several periods, most noticeably playing against the slope in the first half when Home Park Old Boy Andy Watkins was a constant menace.
For the first time since the 2013-14 warm-ups began, Argyle’s outfielders kindly allowed their goalkeepers a slice of the action and the clean sheet is satisfying proof that neither was found wanting.
First-half custodian Jake Cole was particularly solid, and he needed to be as Bath took the game to the Pilgrims from the first whistle.
Guy Branston featured in an Argyle squad for the first time since Survival Day 2013:Rochdale at the Pilgrims’ final away pre-season friendly.
Branston missed last week’s victories at Elburton and Tiverton after illness interrupted his preparations for the new League 2 campaign which kicks off on August 3 at Southend.
Also included, for the first time since his summer move from Morecambe, was forward Lewis Alessandra, who had been kept back up until now because of a thigh niggle.
Both players started the match – Argyle’s last on the road before the real stuff – at sunshine-drenched Twerton Park.
There was no place, again, for Argentinean midfielder Andres Gurrieri, who has been troubled by a similar problem which has limited Alessandra, and Nick Chadwick, who has a knee injury.
Trialist Martin John was again part of the 20-man squad, as was fellow leftie, first-year apprentice Ryan Lane, but ex-Pilgrim Ryan Dickson was conspicuous only by his absence.
The home side fielded a couple of players familiar to Pilgrims’ supporters: striker Watkins, who was briefly a pro at Home Park and who has since been a Truro long-server; and Ben Adelsbury, a young Pilgrim who has joined Bath from Salisbury.
Bath, who had drawn 2-2 with Bristol Rovers in their previous pre-season game four days earlier, started at a furious lick, helped by a couple of sketchy pieces of Argyle defending.
First, Branston trod on the ball, allowing Watkins through for a shot on Cole’s goal that hit the inside of the post before rolling to safety; then John conceded a free-kick on the left edge of the penalty area from which Aaron Brown tested Cole.
Brown’s in-swung corner from the right then found the head of Mark Collins, who made Cole save again, as the home side kept up the early pressure.
Argyle settled into things but, as comfortable as they looked on the ball moving forward, they found Bath’s quick breaks, with Watkins as the pivot, a proper handful. Twice more, Cole had to keep out the lively City man.
Noah Keats joined the party from another Brown dead ball, producing a genuine block by Cole, before Argyle had their first shot on target, from trialist John after a defence-parting run.
Argyle finished the half on something of a flourish, with Reid threatening and Alessandra then seeing Dominic Blizzard’s astute pass and taking the ball around Bath goalkeeper Jason Mellor before being forced wide.
Argyle changed half their side at half-time, with their new line-up including out-of-contract Warren Feeney alongside Morgan, who sent Mellor full length to win a corner.
From the set-piece, Argyle hit the woodwork with successive shots. Conor Hourihane’s grubber wrong-footed Mellor to clunk a post, with the ball rebounding to Curtis Nelson whose instinctive prod goalwards crashed against the crossbar.
Fourth-quarter substitute Jamie Richards fed a ball in from the left which Mellor spilled but the goalkeeper redeemed himself immediately by blocking Feeney’s predatory shot.
Luke McCormick, too, showed he is bang in form when he turned away successive goalbound attempts from Lewis Shipp and Dave Pratt.
Richards then cleared Danny Ball’s shot off the goal-line after McCormick had forced him wide.
That was as close as either side got to breaking the deadlock on a night when the Pilgrims enjoyed another useful build-up to their eagerly-anticipated League 2 season.
Bath City, first half (4-4-2): 1 Jason Mellor; 2 Sekani Simpson, 5 Mark Preece, 4 Joe Burnell, 3 Aaron Brown (capt); 6 Matt Collins, 7 Chris Allen, 8 Noah Keats, 10 Will Helston; 9 Andy Watkins, 11 Josh Low.
Argyle, first half (4-4-2): 1 Jake Cole; 17 Curtis Nelson, 5 Paul Wotton, 8 Guy Branston, 3 Martin John; 11 Luke Young, 6 Conor Hourihane (capt), 4 Dominc Blizzard, 7 Lewis Alessandra; 9 Reuben Reid, 10 Marvin Morgan.
Bath City, second half (4-4-2): 1 Jason Mellor (17 Oli Barton); 2 Sekani Simpson (21 Dan Bowman), 16 Andy Gallinagh, 4 Joe Burnell (10 Jim Rollo), 20 Danny Ball; 8 Noah Keats (22 Lewis Shipp), 12 Ben Adelsbury, 7 Chris Allen (17 Alex Russell), 15 Adam Connolly; 18 Ross Stearn, 19 Dave Pratt.
Argyle second half (4-4-2): 23 Luke McCormick; 14 Durrell Berry, 17 Curtis Nelson, 15 Max Blanchard, 3 Martin John (2 Matt Lecointe); 7 Lewis Alessandra (20 Ryan Lane), 11 Luke Young, 6 Conor Hourihane (21 Jamie Richards), 18 Isaac Vassell, 19 Warren Feeney, 10 Marvin Morgan (16 Tyler Harvey).
Referee: Adam Penwell.
Photos by Dave Rowntree, sponsored by the 50-50 Lottery