Reid 1, Morgan 66
MARVIN Morgan’s first goal since he netted the Pilgrims’ Sky Bet League 2 opener last season was the highlight of the Pilgrims’ easy victory in their final warm-up game before this year’s league campaign begins.
Morgan, whose contribution to Argyle’s 2013-14 season following his strike at Cheltenham last August was severely curtailed by injury, netted midway through the second half to seal a win that was never really in doubt from the 31st second, when Reuben Reid fired the Pilgrims ahead.
Weston pulled one back late on through Bradley Ash, but the result completed a satisfactory pre-season for John Sheridan’s much revamped squad which can now look forward to their first proper test at newly-promoted Cambridge on August 9.
With just one week to the start of the Sky Bet League 2, there were some notable absentees from the Pilgrims’ starting line-up. Goalkeeper Luke McCormick and in-form winger Jason Banton picked up knocks in the midweek home game against Yeovil and were not in the party; forwards Deane Smalley and Matt Lecointe travelled only to take part in a pre-match fitness routine, as did midfielder Dominic Blizzard.
Ben Steer, who had made a fleeting, almost surreal substitute appearance against Swansea a week earlier, was among six apprentices in the squad, one of which – Jake Miller – started the match at right-back.
Reid, a former Home Park apprentice himself, put the Pilgrims ahead before the shrill of the referee’s whistle to signify kick-off had been carried off by a stiffish breeze.
Latching on to a ball that sat up sweetly to invite a shot, he obliged by creaming a full-blooded strike past goalkeeper Luke Purnell from the edge of the Weston penalty area.
It was a second picture goal in successive games for last season’s leading scorer, who has returned to Home Park looking leaner and meaner than ever and already appears to be reaping the benefits for his summer diligence.
Argyle’s young side – five teenagers and another three barely in their 20s – looked comfortable for the most part but found it difficult to re-create the type of chance that led to Reid’s early strike.
In fact, it took until the last two minutes of the first half before they fashioned a comparable opportunity, through Reid again. This time, he exhibited great close control to take the ball through several attempted tackles before just failing with an attempt to curl the ball inside Purnell’s right-hand post.
Purnell then dived bravely at the feet of Morgan to prevent Argyle adding a last-minute second to their first-minute opener.
Five changes at half-time, to ensure the whole squad benefited from a final work-out, meant the last first-half momentum was lost. Weston’s Alec Fiddes took advantage to fire off a shot that was too high to trouble Bittner before the same player went closer when he attempted to curl a low shot into the corner of the goal.
As Argyle started introducing their young benchmen – apprentices Ben Steer and Jamil Roberts were first into the fray – so Weston fancied something, and Ash asked Bittner a question that was answered with a smart stop.
The Pilgrims, though, put a stop to fanciful thoughts of a home-side fightback when Morgan seized on hesitation in the Weston back four to score his first goal in the best part of a year with a precise finish from the left.
As the age of the Pilgrims’ 11 diminished considerably – further apprentices arrived in the shape of Jason Vincent and Billy Palfrey – Weston kept plugging away and were rewarded for their endeavour when Ash halved the deficit, to the joy of the home crowd.
Argyle (4-3-3): 1 James Bittner; 8 Jake Miller (2 Kelvin Mellor half-time), 5 Curtis Nelson (capt, 13 Aaron Bentley half-time), 16 Carl McHugh (6 Peter Hartley half-time), 3 Ben Purrington; 17 River Allen (11 Jamil Roberts 63), 14 Tyler Harvey (21 Ben Steer 63), 20 Ollie Norburn (4 Lee Cox half-time); 19 Nathan Thomas (18 Billy Palfrey 69), 9 Reuben Reid (7 Lewis Alessandra half-time), 10 Marvin Morgan (15 Jason Vincent 69). Substitute (not used): 23 Andrew Hannah (gk).