ARGYLE manager John Sheridan has dedicated his side’s dramatic 3-1 victory against Exeter City to the Green Army.
The 1,682 fans who made the short journey up the A38 for the 100th competitive Devon Expressway Derby certainly got their money’s worth at St James Park, bearing witness to four goals, plenty of drama, some historic moments, but most importantly: a win over their biggest rivals.
The Greens were able to strike first, as a scuffed volley from Bobby Reid managed to evade the Grecians’ defenders and fall straight to Reuben Reid, who serenely guided the ball past Christy Pym and into the far corner.
However, a stoppage in play caused by an injury to Luke McCormick that required two stitches to a cut in his head allowed the hosts to re-gather themselves, and they responded with a goal just before the half-time break from Arron Davies.
“I thought we were excellent for 35 minutes, and I had a go at them at half time for allowing Exeter back into the game,” said John.
“It is about just seeing how we are affecting the game and why we are getting a bit of joy. We switched off a little bit towards the end of the first half. They had one or two crosses going across the box and eventually one goes in the back of the net.
“So you go in really disappointed and angry, but at the same time, I was pleased with the way we were playing. I thought they responded really well, the players, so full credit to all of them.”
Indeed, the lads re-established their dominance in the second half, and a through ball from the left flank from Bobby Reid let Lewis Alessandra breeze past Matt Oakley, until the veteran midfielder-turned-defender brought down the in-form striker, in what Sheridan described as “a definite penalty.”
Reuben stepped up to double his, and Argyle’s tally, but Paul Tisdale’s team were handed a lifeline shortly after, as Olly Lee was controversially sent off after challenging for a loose ball with Tom Nichols.
The visitors refused to be intimidated, though, and Reuben muscled his way behind Exeter’s back line, rounded the keeper and jinked past back-tracking Grecians to complete a sensational hat-trick – the first ever by an Argyle player at St James Park - before having to leave the field due to a foot injury.
An expected flurry of pressure and balls into the box from City followed, but Argyle stood firm to record the first win at the stomping ground of their rivals since their title-winning 2001-02 campaign.
“Most importantly, it is for the supporters,” said John. “Derby games are always about the supporters and bragging rights. I hope they enjoyed their day.
“It was great support again and I know what it means to them. Exeter beat us twice last season, and we have beat them twice this year. It is a great achievement to get a double over your local rivals, and the fans are very pleased. I know what it means to them today.
“I think we fully deserved the victory as well. Again, the most important thing is three points and the result, obviously playing your nearest rivals. To win it the way we did, going down to ten men, you are a bit worried, but full respect to the players: they put a right shift in.
“I thought we looked a good team. We went about the game the way we wanted to, and you get the goal. Our shape and everything about us was very good. We used the wing backs a lot in the first half.
“It gets confidence into the players, more than anything. It is a great response from them after a poor run, to win their last four. I applaud them.”