PILGRIMS keep clean sheet against Premier League opposition to round off unbeaten pre-season.
West Brom 0
by Haden Tye
ARGYLE finished their pre-season preparations with an impressive 0-0 draw against Premier League opposition on a sunny afternoon at Home Park.
The Pilgrims were good value for a draw against the Baggies, with a determined performance that bodes well for when the season begins properly in seven days time. Whilst not a thriller, both sides had opportunities for a victory at Home Park.
Argyle's line-up saw eight new players from the team that lost at Wembley at the end of May, with Luke McCormick, Gary Sawyer and Jake Jervis the only survivors. The bench included four of the team that would have been in the squad that day; Graham Carey, Ben Purrington, Louis Rooney and Vincent Dorel on the bench for the Pilgrims. Oscar Threlkeld was the only other player who had played for Argyle before, and he sat in front of the new-look back four.
The faultless turf at Home Park was brightened by the glow of the sun which coated the stadium from end to end. Argyle sported their new green kit which was a shade darker than the pristine pitch below them and faced an opposition that ply their trade in the top-tier of English football.
Despite top-tier West Brom fielding a full strength line-up, Argyle had the first opportunity of the afternoon when Jimmy Spencer was released down the right and whipped a dangerous cross into the West Brom box, that Craig Dawson had to head just wide of the back post for an Argyle corner.
The visitors had a golden opportunity to take the lead just before the 20-minute mark. Claudio Yacob won a fifty-fifty battle in the middle of the park, and played the ball into Salomon Rondon. West Brom's big number nine swiveled on the ball and played a cutting pass through the Argyle defence to James McLean. The Baggies winger had the whole goal to aim for but scuffed wide from just inside the box.
Argyle remained patient on the ball however and were gifted a chance to take the lead. Dawson played the ball back to Ben Foster in the Albion goal, who picked up the back-pass for an Argyle free-kick in the West Brom penalty area. Jake Jervis stepped up for the Pilgrims, but his close-range effort went well over the bar.
The Pilgrims looked sharp and had been holding their own throughout the first-half. On the cusp of half-time the visitors nearly took the lead from a corner, when Jonas Olsson poked a shot goal wards, but Gary Sawyer was there to scramble it away to safety. Moments later, it was West Brom who were on the back foot. Jimmy Spencer whipped a cross in from the right-hand side, which evaded everyone except the oncoming Ryan Donaldson, but Argyle's number 11 could only find the side-netting.
Argyle made five changes at half-time, and shortly after a substitute was in the thick of the action. Dawson broke down the right for the Baggies and fizzed a powerful cross into the six-yard-box. The ball hit of the back leg of a surprised Nauris Bulvitis and looked as if it was heading into the back of the Argyle net, until Vincent Dorel made a superb reflex save to dig the ball out of the ground and away from trouble.
The visitors came close again just before the hour mark, as Darren Fletcher whipped a pass into Matt Phillips, who turned on the edge of the Argyle box and struck a curling effort just wide of the right-hand post.
It wasn't only the visitors that had chances though. Olsson played a powerful back pass to Ben Foster who struggled to gain control of it and only just scraped it away from the oncoming David Goodwillie, with some half-hearted penalty claims echoing around Home Park, which the referee ignored.
After a number of substitutions, the visitors looked to be upping the pressure. Argyle came close again though. Oscar Threlkeld made a brilliant tackle to dispossess West Brom youngster Kane Wilson, and then whipped a cross into the box from deep. Spencer rose highest to connect with the cross, but his glancing header wasn't a threat to Foster in the Baggies' goal.
In the dying embers Matt Phillips hit a curling shot into the grateful arms of Dorel, who held onto the ball with reasonable ease; a microcosm of the performance that his fellow Pilgrims produced on a warm Saturday afternoon against favoured opposition.
With the sun still shining bright over Home Park, it was a fitting tribute to a commendable display from the Pilgrims on the pitch and the Green Army off it; with over 8,000 there to see the last of Argyle's pre-season campaign.
Bring on Luton, in seven days time.
Argyle (4-3-3): 23 Luke McCormick (21 Vincent Dorel half-time); 2 Gary Miller (16 Ben Purrington 63), 5 Nauris Bulvitis, 15 Sonny Bradley (4 Yann Songo'o half-time), 3 Gary Sawyer; 18 Oscar Threlkeld, 11 Ryan Donaldson (10 Graham Carey half-time), 22 David Ijaha; (24 David Fox half-time), 8 Jordan Slew (17 Jordan Bentley 85), 9 Jimmy Spencer (20 Louis Rooney 79), 14 Jake Jervis (7 David Goodwillie 45).
West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): 1 Ben Foster; 25 Craig Dawson, 23 Gareth McAuley, 3 Jonas Olsson (49 Kane Wilson 63), 6 Jonny Evans; 10 Matt Phillips, 5 Claudio Yacob, 24 Darren Fletcher (8 Craig Gardner 66), 14 James McClean (45 Jonathan Leko 56); 9 Salomon Rondon (7 James Morrison 68), 18 Saido Berahino. Substitutes (not used): 4 James Chester, 38 Jack Rose, 47 Sam Field.
Attendance: 8,021 (716 away).