Argyle 3 Exeter 0 - Report
Harvey 14, Reid 36, Nelson 82
THREE players that have been nurtured by Argyle’s youth system completed a memorable, comfortable victory over nearest rivals Exeter City.
Goals from Tyler Harvey, a Plymothian boy; Reuben Reid, a Bristolian that emerged from the Argyle academy, and Curtis Nelson, a Stokie by birth but now captain of the team he finished his footballing education with, gave Argyle their first win of the season.
None will feel sweeter.
Harvey was called into the starting eleven in place of the injured Lee Cox, and lined up with Lewis Alessandra and Jason Banton as a three-man support system for frontman Reid.
Ollie Norburn and Anthony O’Connor sat deeper in the centre of midfield, protecting a back four of Kelvin Mellor, Nelson, Peter Hartley and Carl McHugh.
Argyle got off to a flying start, earning a early corner and striking the crossbar through captain Curtis Nelson, who thundered a header just inches too high.
The Pilgrims forced a series of corners before the game was ten minutes old, with Harvey, Alessandra and McHugh all having efforts that did little to concern City’s backline.
In between times Exeter had a sighter of goal via Liam Sercombe, which troubled block five more than Luke McCormick, before the same player went down under a nibble from Hartley. There looked to be little contact, but at the risk of setting off football’s omnipresent cliché klaxon – you’ve seen ‘em given.
Argyle, however, were awarded a free-kick for a foul on Banton on the corner of the edge of the area, which itself was a little dubious. However, there was no uncertainty over Harvey’s dead-ball. Hit with power and swerve toward Christy Pym’s near post, the flailing City keeper was powerless to stop Harvey’s bullet strike.
The trio of Harvey, Banton and Alessandra were fluid, and allied with the battering-ram presence of Reid, caused Exeter’s three-man defence serious issues. Goal hero Harvey, though, probably ought to have fed Alessandra when the latter was in space to his left. The young man, though, buoyed by the adrenaline of scoring in a game he not long ago watched as a fan, took a chance missed the target.
Alessandra shot wide when feeding off of the scraps of yet another Argyle corner, before Exeter raised an alarm for the first time in some time when Woodman’s bundled cross was bravely headed away by Hartley.
Banton, the man who scored a vital goal two season previous in the same fixture, then went on a run in which he seemed to have a forcefield surrounding him. Evading defenders at will, he passed the ball and his powers onto Reid, who also seemed to repel all around him. When the ball ended up back with Banton inside the area, he elected to attempt to feed Reid rather pull the trigger, and Pym gratefully gathered.
The affliction seemed to stay with Banton as he was played in beautifully by Reid, but unselfishly – to a fault - squared to Harvey, whose deflected effort dribbled wide.
Banton was, though, looking the part, and a tearing run down the left led to the Pilgrims’ second. The entire front four, who had to that time had a scintillating and dominant time, displayed their class. Banton, leaving yellow shirts in his wake, fed inside to Alessandra, who in turn played to Harvey.
The goalscorer’s through-pass was incisive, and as a confident Reid glided into space behind Exeter, the outcome was never really in doubt. Reid had his third in as many games this season, and Argyle had a comfortable lead to take into half-time.
City boss Paul Tisdale’s response was to change personnel and system at the break. David Wheeler and Graham Cummins – the latter having signed on Friday after Exeter’s transfer embargo was lifted – replaced Danny Butterfield and Jordan Tillson, with Exeter switching to a 4-4-2 system.
Initially, it worked. Exeter had more chances in the first ten minutes of the second half than the entire first period. First, a free-kick from Matt Grimes meant McCormick had to be alert at his near post, then Wheeler clipped one into the side-netting as the visitors began to stir.
McCormick saved well from substitute Cummins after he had suddenly found space in the box, before Reid tried to rouse Argyle with a typical weaving run that concluded with a shot that went inches wide with Pym beaten.
Argyle began to adjust to Exeter’s shift in tactics, although City remained a threat. From an extended period of Exeter possession, Argyle broke via Alessandra, who picked out Reid. Harvey had found space, and Reid gave him the opportunity to take advantage of it, but the 19-year-old lacked the composure of the first half, and shot into the Devonport End.
John Sheridan introduced Marvin Morgan for Reid with twenty minutes to go, and his first touch was a flick to get Alessandra moving. He and Banton worked the ball to O’Connor, whose shot from the edge of the area looped into the hands of Pym.
Captain Nelson then strode out from the back, and with no options available to him, had a go himself, and it only just trickled wide.
From a trickle to a River; Allen, of that ilk, in fact, who replaced Harvey with a quarter hour to go, janner for janner.
Cummins shot on the turn was not far wide, reminding us all that Exeter were still in it, but that was no longer the case when Nelson made it three for the home side.
A free-kick was floated into the area by Norburn, contested by Nelson, Hartley, a pair of defender and Pym – but the latter got little on the ball as it evaded his clutch and fell to the floor. Nelson worked hardest to free the ball from the octopus of legs that surrounded it, and clipped it, left-footed, into the top corner of the net.
Third game, three goals, three points. That’s what we call a magic number.
Argyle (4-2-3-1): 23 Luke McCormick; 2 Kelvin Mellor, 5 Curtis Nelson (capt), 29 Peter Hartley, 16 Carl McHugh; 28 Anthony O’Connor, 6 Ollie Norburn; 8 Jason Banton (19 Nathan Thomas 85), 14 Tyler Harvey (24 River Allen 75), 7 Lewis Alessandra; 9 Reuben Reid (10 Marvin Morgan 70). Substitutes (not used): 1 James Bittner (gk), 3 Ben Purrington, 11 Dominic Blizzard, 22 Deane Smalley.
Booked: Norburn 54, McHugh 77, Morgan 80.
Exeter (3-5-2): 30 Christy Pym; 4 Scot Bennett, 26 Jordan Tillson (31 Graham Cummins half-time), 5 Pat Baldwin; 2 Danny Butterfield (22 David Whee half-time), 7 Liam Sercombe, 8 Matt Oakley 14 Matt Grimes, 3 Craig Woodman; 10 Jimmy Keohane, 20 Tom Nichols (29 Ollie Watkins 73). Substitutes (not used): 11 Arron Davies, 16 Aaron Dawson, 21 James Hamon (gk), 27 Matt Jay.
Booked: Bennett 44, Nichols 61.
Referee: Roger East.
Attendance: 11,418 (943 away).