DEVON Derby deadlock as Gulls hold Pilgrims at Plainmoor...
Torquay United 1
Blissett pen 54
By Rick Cowdery
A STROLL on the English Riviera in July is generally a pleasing way to pass a Saturday afternoon but Argyle found their latest pre-season game anything but a walk in the park as they were held by their Devon neighbours.
The step up to face Vanarama National League opponents after three no-sweat encounters against Carlsberg South Western League hosts was perhaps a timely reminder that there is still much work to be done before the 2016-17 Sky Bet League Two season.
They took the lead when David Goodwillie scored – for a fourth successive game – just before half-time, but were pegged back when Nathan Blissett converted a 54th-minute penalty.
The Pilgrims lined up with three central defenders, a formation they had used fairly often in their three previous warm-up games: Yann Songo’o was the middle man in a hefty unit, with Nauris Bulvitis on his right and Sonny Bradley to the left.
Three at the back; two up front. Goodwillie and Jimmy Spencer started in the van, with fellow marksmen Jake Jervis – five goals in three matches; Louis Rooney – three in three; and Jordan Slew – two in half a game before suffering injury – on the bench.
The midfield width came from Gary Miller, on the right, and Gary Sawyer; Graham Carey was, as ever, central to everything; with Ryan Donaldson and Oscar Threlkeld his fellow toilers in the engine-room.
Goalkeeper Luke McCormick, not for the first time since Argyle began their build-up to the season, wore the captain’s armband.
McCormick had little to do in the open quarter as both teams settled to their task. A long-range shot from former Pilgrim team-mate Luke Young was the only thing that stretched him, and then not much.
Argyle were not much more productive, with a couple of shots from the busy Goodwillie failing to truly test McCormick’s counterpart, Brendan Moore.
From midway through the first half, the green machine gradually shifted through the gears, with Carey, uncoincidentally, seeing more of the ball. When he did, he got the Pilgrims moving forward and increased their menace.
The Irish creator will have felt he should have given them the lead with ten minutes of the first half to play, when he burst through, only to drag a left-footed shot wide of Moore’s left-hand post.
The two moist prominent Pilgrims of the first half combined two minutes before the interval to put Argyle ahead. Carey provided a sublime corner for Goodwillie’s faintly ridiculous finish as the quality delivery hit the Argyle No.7, who was unsighted by his marker, and plopped over the goal-line.
The Pilgrims switched things around at half-time, with Threlkeld and Donaldson’s midfield roles being taken by Connor Smith and a trialist.
A deflected Spencer shot hit the post in the opening moments of the second half before a succession of Young corners gave the defence their most sustained test of the pre-season, which was probably not unwelcome.
Torquay levelled when Bulvitis’s pass back sold McCormick short, allowing Gulls substitute Sam Chaney to nip in and cannily draw the foul from the Argyle ’keeper while taking the ball past him. Blissett converted, becoming the second player this pre-season to beat McCormick from 12 yards.
The leveller gave Torquay something to bite on and, suddenly, the game assumed the edge of a genuine contest: Blissett had a fiery shot tipped over, easily, by McCormick, and Young curled one wide as Torquay clearly appeared to fancy handing their senior Devon neighbours an embarrassing defeat.
Argyle sent on Jervis and Slew, switching to a more attacking 4-3-3, and immediately forged decent chances for both. Slew, as if making up for lost time, was a constant menace.
Although, through all the inevitable substitutions, the Pilgrims remained a potent threat, they could not find the goal to continue their winning pre-season run before Tuesday’s visit over the Tamar to face Truro City.
Torquay United (4-4-2): 1 Brendan Moore (Cory Harvey 72); 12 Verma Aman (John Dollery 70), 5 Angus Macdonald, 15 Sean McGinty, 3 Lathaniel Rowe-Turner (33 Kevin Nicholson 78); 10 Courtney Richards, 4 Damon Lathrope (Talian Mitchell 72), 8 Luke Young (16 Charlie Duke 72), 11 Dan Sparkes; 9 Nathan Blissett (Jamie Chamberlain 72), Kaid Mohammed (7 Sam Chaney half-time).
Argyle (3-5-2): 23 Luke McCormick (capt, 21 Vincent Dorel 84); 5 Nauris Bulvitis (8 Jordan Slew 72), 4 Yann Songo’o 15 Sonny Bradley (16 Ben Purrington 81); 2 Gary Miller, 11 Ryan Donaldson (6 Connor Smith half-time), 10 Graham Carey, 18 Oscar Threlkeld (22 Trialist A half-time), 3 Gary Sawyer; 7 David Goodwillie (14 Jake Jervis 66), 9 Jimmy Spencer (20 Louis Rooney 81).
Referee: Adam Bromley.
Attendance: 2,464 (1,220 away).