ON Saturday, Argyle play host to neighbours Exeter City.
The Devon Expressway Derby will always be a much-anticipated affair, no matter the situations each team find themselves in. This season, however, there is even more significance on the tie.
Argyle, in second place, meet a City side who are unbeaten in 12 matches, and have surged into fourth spot.
As we build towards Saturday's mouthwatering clash, we look at the last five visits Exeter have made to the Theatre of Greens for EFL action...
December 11, 2010. Sky Bet League One.
Wright-Phillips 28, 57
A RARE high for the Pilgrims in what was a hard season for the club. Only two positions separated Argyle from City at this point in the season; the Greens, in 15th, were two places behind the Grecians, in 13th.
A crowd of 14,347 flocked to Home Park to witness a strong Argyle performance. The sides had met in Plymouth earlier in the season, and Exeter had prevailed in a stormy affair. Not so on this occasion, as two impressive goals from Bradley Wright-Phillips saw a galvanising Pilgrims win, particularly during the difficult times that everyone associated with the club were facing.
A hooked shot from a corner and a strong header was enough on the day to see off Exeter. Bradley would go on to play for Charlton, then move to New York Red Bulls, for whom he has won two MLS golden boots.
Argyle would ultimately be relegated in 2010-11, after a 10 point deduction for going into administration meant they plummeted into the drop zone alongside Swindon Town, Dagenham and Redbridge, and Bristol Rovers. Brighton and Hove Albion went up as champions that year, with Southampton finishing second, and Peterborough being promoted via the play-offs. Exeter would finish the season in eighth place, just a point outside the play-off positions. It was their highest finishing position in 30 years.
Argyle: David Button, Stephane Zubar, Curtis Nelson, Reda Johnson, Onismor Bhasera, Kari Arnason, Craig Noone, Conor Clifford, Rory Patterson (Yannick Bolasie), Bradley Wright-Phillips (Chris Clark), Joe Mason (Carl Fletcher). Substitutes (not used): Romain Larrieu, Karl Duguid, Bondz N'Gala, Jim Paterson.
March, 30, 2013. Sky Bet League Two.
IT was another two seasons before the Devon rivals would meet again at Home Park, and when the fixture came around, it was as game that ultimately proved pivotal in Argyle’s survival that season.
While Exeter had their eyes on a play-off position, looking to bounce back into League One at the first attempt, Argyle sat near the bottom of the league, in 20th place, clinging once again to their football league future.
The clash marked Argyle’s 3,800th football league game, and 1,900th home league game. It also turned out to be the 60th Devon Derby between the two sides. The attendance of 13,251 (1,635 away) was the biggest of the League Two season – and the result might have been the biggest of Argyle’s.
Jason Banton got the only goal of the game, with a low strike in the dying minutes of the first half. With a resolute defensive performance, the Pilgrims saw out the rest of the game and got the all-important three points. Argyle finished 21st by the end of the season, staying above the relegation zone by a point. Exeter came tenth, five points from the play-offs. Gillingham went up as champions that year, closely followed into League One by Rotherham and Port Vale. Bradford beat Northampton 3-0 at Wembley in the Play-off final. It would be Barnet and Aldershot to go down come the end of the season.
Argyle: Jake Cole, Maxime Blanchard, Paul Wotton, Guy Branston, Onismor Bhasera, Andres Gurrieri (Paris Cowan-Hall 76), Conor Hourihane, Jason Banton (Ronan Murray 72), Lee Cox (Luke Young HT), Joe Bryan, Reuben Reid. Substitutes (not used): Nick Chadwick, Curtis Nelson, Rene Gilmartin, Tyler Harvey.
March, 25, 2014. Sky Bet League Two
Reid pen 45
Sercombe 69 Richards 83
MOST likely to be one of the least memorable derby games for Argyle fan, in what turned out to be a fairly average season for both teams. Exeter finished the campaign with bragging rights, with two Devon Derby wins over the Greens – the first time they had achieved this since 1992-93 - despite finishing six places lower than Argyle come the end of the campaign.
Reuben Reid, who these days is a Grecian, gave the Pilgrims a first-half lead from the penalty spot after a blatant hand ball in the area, but that is about as good as it got for Argyle that day, with Exeter dominating the rest of the match. A shot from Liam Sercombe drew City level, after a looping deflection saw the ball clear Jake Cole and nestle into the top corner.
The winning goal came in the 83rd minute when a square ball was prodded home by Eliot Richards, sinking the Greens in front of a crowd of 13,442 (826 away). Argyle would beat Exeter in the overall table by five points, and six places, as the Pilgrims finished in 10th, and City in 16th.
Chesterfield were crowned champions that season, with Scunthorpe and Rochdale accompanying them in League One the following season. Fleetwood went up via the play-offs, beating Burton Albion 1-0 at Wembley. Current Pilgrim Antoni Sarcevic scored the winner that day. It was not such a good season for the rest of the South West that year, Torquay United finished bottom of the pile, closely followed by Bristol Rovers.
Argyle: Jake Cole, Maxime Blanchard, Neal Trotman, Curtis Nelson, Andres Gurrieri, Luke Young, Paul Wotton (Jason Banton 79), Conor Hourihane, Matt Parsons (Durrell Berry 73), Tope Obadeyi (Marvin Morgan 73), Reuben Reid. Substitutes (not used): Rommy Boco, Dominic Blizzard, Tyler Harvey, Cameron Dawson.
August, 16, 2014 Sky Bet League Two
Harvey 14, Reid 36, Nelson 83
ARGYLE faced Exeter at a rapturous Home Park for the first home league game of the 2014-15 season.
A crowd of 11,418 (943 away) saw an impressive outing for the Greens as they eased to a 3-0 victory. Tyler Harvey opened the scoring early with a sweetly struck free-kick on 14 minutes, before Reuben Reid scored once again in a local derby, doubling Argyle’s lead 10 minutes before half-time. Argyle skipper Curtis Nelson swept the third home from the centre of the box, completing a great all-round performance from John Sheridan’s men.
Exeter had come out of a transfer embargo just the day before, and understandably struggled at the beginning of the season, before rallying to come 10th. Argyle finished the campaign in seventh place, claiming the last play-off spot. After coming off worse in a two leg play-off semi-final against Wycombe Wanderers, the Greens failed to make it to Wembley or League One that year, but it was a positive sign of things to come for the club.
Burton finished top, accompanied in the automatic promotion places by Shrewsbury and Bury. Southend beat Wycombe in the play-off final on penalties after a last gasp equaliser from United. Cheltenham and Tranmere filled the bottom two places, dropping down to the National League for the following season.
Argyle: Luke McCormick, Kelvin Mellor, Curtis Nelson, Peter Hartley, Carl McHugh, Lewis Alessandra, Tyler Harvey (River Allen 76), Anthony O'Connor, Ollie Norburn, Jason Banton (Nathan Thomas 85), Reuben Reid (Marvin Morgan 71). Substitutes (not used): James Bittner, Ben Purrington, Dominic Blizzard, Deane Smalley.
November, 21, 2015. Sky Bet League Two
Harley pen 30, 39
THE last meeting between the two sides at Home Park came when an in-form Argyle sat top of the league at the time, but lost 2-1 to the Grecians. An injury-plagued squad meant that the Greens set out without the likes of Luke McCormick, Reuben Reid, Carl McHugh, Hiram Boateng or Peter Hartley. Christian Walton made his Argyle debut in goal, and Luke Croll also played his first Pilgrims match. He is now on loan at City.
It was ultimately a Ryan Harley double in ten first half minutes that sank Argyle, the first coming on 30 minutes from the penalty spot. A tricky run nine minutes later saw Harley somehow weave between several green shirts, and dispatch another clean finish, this time to the bottom left corner.
Oscar Threlkeld’s first goal for the Pilgrims gave the Green Army a slight consolation, but the three points went back to Exeter, who finished 14th overall. Argyle went on to reach the play-off final at Wembley Stadium, losing out on promotion to AFC Wimbledon.
Northampton, Oxford and Bristol Rovers gained automatic promotion, whilst Argyle’s defeat meant Wimbledon clinched the fourth spot. York City and Dagenham & Redbridge occupied the bottom two places, condemning them both to non-league football for the following season.
Argyle: Christian Walton, Kelvin Mellor, Curtis Nelson, Luke Croll, Gary Sawyer, Oscar Threlkeld, Josh Simpson, Craig Tanner (Tyler Harvey 81), Graham Carey, Gregg Wylde (Ryan Brunt half-time), Jake Jervis. Substitutes: Lee Cox, Ben Purrington, Aaron Bentley, James Bittner, Louis Rooney.