Bath City 3 Argyle 3
Bath City 3
Davies 38, Pratt 67, Watkins 75
Jervis 7, 30, Brunt 23
IF the evidence of pre-season so far is anything to go by, Argyle fans are not likely to suffer from boredom during the forthcoming campaign.
Tuesday night’s draw at Twerton Park took the aggregate scoreline in their unbeaten three games so far under Derek Adams– two wins and this draw – to 10-6. Of the 10 goals scored, all but the first have come from forwards Jake Jervis and Ryan Brunt; their top scorer of the last two seasons, Reuben Reid, one of Sky Bet League 2’s most dangerous marksman, is yet to contribute as he gently returns from injury.
That is the good news; the bad is they were 3-0 up after half-an-hour and cruising at Bath, thanks to two goals from Jervis and one from Brunt, but failed to close out the game against a home side that is little more advanced in their preparations for the new season.
For their third game of pre-season, Argyle reverted to the same outfield 10 that had done duty in the first one at Elburton. Only between the posts did their team vary from that at Haye Road, where goalkeeper Luke McCormick had been absent through injury.
That meant returns for new dad Kelvin Mellor at right-back; fellow full-back Gary Sawyer; and, in his new defensive midfield role, Carl McHugh. Aaron Bentley, Ben Purrington and Lee Cox made way.
National League South Bath came into the match with a 2-0 victory against Argyle’s League 2 rivals under the pre-season belts. Two years ago, at a similar stage of preparations, they had held John Sheridan’s Pilgrims to a goal-less draw in which former Argyle pro Andy Watkins put the defence under the pump.
A lot of water has flowed in the two years since Argyle’s last Bath visit: of the 20 Pilgrims on duty that evening, only Curtis Nelson and McCormick started this time, although Reid and Ryan Lane were on the bench and the injured Tyler Harvey is still at the club. As is, in a different capacity, Paul Wotton.
Argyle, playing down the hill and with a strong setting sun at their backs, continued their happy habit of striking early when Jervis got them off the mark inside the first five minutes. His far-post header fell into the meat-and-drink category for a player of his calibre thanks to Gregg Wylde’s precise cross after a breakaway run down the left flank.
If Wylde’s carefree gallops down the wings are being recognised as a hallmark of Adams’ desired methodology, so, too, are Graham Carey’s dead-ball deliveries. After rattling the frame of Bath goalkeeper Steve Phillips’ goal from a free-kick, he laid on the Pilgrims’ second from a left-side corner, Brunt following Jervis by netting for the third game in succession.
Jervis then edged ahead of his forward partner in the pre-season goalscoring charts when he snaked out a long leg to hook home the ball after Bath failed to deal with Wylde’s cross from the right. Brunt and Jervis may never be able to rival Messi for finesse or Suarez for pace but, with the promptings of Carey and Wylde, they are as potent a goal-threat in their own environment.
Bath were in danger of being overrun but regrouped to reduce the deficit seven minutes before half-time when Jon Davies delightfully flighted a shot past McCormick, who then preserved the Pilgrims’ two-goal advantage with a fine close-range save from Watkins.
The home side kept up the pressure in the second half and, after one or two close things against a defence that had lost its earlier composure, further reduced the arrears when substitute Dave Pratt hooked home midway through the second half.
A resurgent Bath then drew level with 15 minutes to play when Watkins finished off free-kick into the penalty area, leaving one to conclude that Argyle already look fit beyond previous measures but they do not yet look match-sharp.
There is time enough to rectify that before August 8.
Bath City (4-4-2): 1 Steve Phillips; 2 Andy Gallinagh (capt, 12 Dan Bowman half-time), 4 Dan Ball, 5 Luke Matthews, 3 Kevin Nicholson; 9 Jon Davies, 8 Ash Kington, 6 Chas Hemmings, 7 Frankie Artus (15 Bradley Williams half-time); 10 Nick McCootie (14 Dave Pratt 53), 11 Andy Watkins (16 Jake Sloggett 79). Substitutes (not used): 17 Ryan Bole, 18 Louis Perry, 19 Jim Rollo.
Argyle (4-3-3): 23 Luke McCormick (82); 2 Kevin Mellor, 5 Curtis Nelson (capt), 6 Peter Hartley, 3 Gary Sawyer; 8 Josh Simpson, 4 Carl McHugh, 10 Graham Carey; 11 Gregg Wylde, 17 Ryan Brunt, 14 Jake Jervis (9 Reuben Reid 69). Substitutes (not used): 7 Lee Cox, 16 Ben Purrington, 18 Louis Rooney, 19 Callum Hall, 20 Ryan Lane, 23 Cory Harvey (gk).
Referee: Richard Hulme.