Mayor 43, Telford pen 89
Salford City 2
Beesley 37, Touray 79
A LATE Dom Telford penalty salvaged a draw for Argyle against newly-promoted Salford City at Home Park in a game the Pigrims will be disappointed not to have won.
The Greens dominated vast swathes of territory and possession, but had to recover from a goal behind on two separate occasions to earn their draw. Jake Beesley headed the visitors in front late into the first-half, before Danny Mayor curled home a superb equaliser. Ibou Touray thought he had won it for the away side late on with another header, before Telford’s last-gasp spot-kick earned Argyle the minimum reward for their efforts.
Ryan Lowe’s Pilgrims landed back down on earth on the weekend, via a sobering Kyle Howkins header in the Welsh seaside city of Newport, having defeated all that came before them in the previous three games. Despite suffering his first loss on the weekend, Ryan Lowe opted for evolution rather than revolution with his selection, bringing Conor Grant in for his first Sky Bet League Two start, with Antoni Sarcevic the unfortunate midfielder to make way.
While this fixture represents the first meeting, competitive or otherwise, between Argyle and Salford, there was a familiar name in the Ammies’ match-day squad. Kyle Letheren, twice a Pilgrim, warmed the bench for City, although another former Green and fan favourite, Oscar Threlkeld, missed out on selection.
The Greens kicked-off attacking the Devonport End, with Salford winning the toss and opting to switch sides due to the low-hanging Devon sunshine. It seemed not to faze them, though, and a flurry of early pressure resulted in Dom Telford winning a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area. Joe Riley took it, opting for sheer power over placement, and his powerful drive zipped narrowly over the bar.
The Pilgrims continued to probe in front of a packed Devonport End, and a left-wing delivery from Callum McFadzean threatened Chris Neal’s goal, but neither Ryan Taylor nor a marauding Riley at the far post could get a decisive touch. Moments later, Argyle’s left-sided combination of Mayor and McFadzean made inroads down the left again, but on this occasion Argyle’s wing-back could not find a cross befitting his emerging reputation.
The Greens’ profligacy nearly cost them dear on 18 minutes, when Scott Wiseman drifted in from the right channel to fire off a shot from the edge of the area. Palmer was equal to it, parrying away from goal, but his clean sheet was only preserved by Rory Gaffney’s woeful effort on the rebound.
As the sun finally retreated behind the roof of the Devonport End, Argyle came close again. Telford, who netted on his last appearance at Home Park a week ago, burned away from Ammies’ skipper Nathan Pond in a fashion familiar to his goal against Orient, before curling a left-footed effort narrowly wide of the far post. Not two minutes later, Joe Edwards fizzed a rasping drive from 25 yards so close to goal that half of the massed Green Army thought it was in.
For all of their territorial dominance, the Greens could possibly have felt aggrieved not to be in front, but they found themselves behind on 37 minutes. A free-kick conceded by Gary Sawyer on the left touchline was whipped in by Ibou Touray and met sweetly by the head of Jake Beesley to tee up wild celebrations in the away end.
As a goal often does, Beesley’s opener breathed life into the match, but a frustrating evening it remained. Mayor, once again advancing into the Salford penalty area with consummate ease, teed up McFadzean for another drive, but no joy. At the other end, Beesley sprung the offside trap and should really have doubled Salford’s advantage, but for Palmer’s one-on-one heroics.
Eventually, though, the visitors’ decision to back off Mayor took its toll. The Pilgrims’ midfielder, who has threatened on multiple occasions to open his Argyle account since the season began a few weeks ago, did so in some style. Cutting in from the left touchline, advancing against a sea of back-pedaling defenders, the Pilgrims’ new no.10 shifted the ball on to his right foot and curled it emphatically, almost disrespectfully, into the top corner.
As the half drew to a dramatic close, Palmer was once again tested, diving away smartly to his left to deny Touray’s curled effort from the edge of the area. Referee Sam Purkiss’ whistle served as an opportunity for everyone in the capacity crowd to draw breath.
Argyle began the second-half as they had the first – with a flurry of attempts on goal. Mayor’s left-wing cross was held by Neal in the Salford goal, before Grant’s 25-yard effort was deflected away for a corner. Grant dusted himself down to deliver an inviting cross from the resultant corner to find Scott Wootton, but the Pilgrims’ defender could not keep his header down under heavy pressure.
The Pilgrims continued to probe, and Grant’s low pass to Joe Edwards on the edge of the area nearly led to a first goal in Green for the Pilgrims’ holding midfielder, but his low effort was deflected away to safety.
Another foray down the right saw Riley provide his best delivery of the evening, fizzing a delicious low ball across the face of Neal’s goal which evaded Taylor by inches. On the second entry, Telford raced behind a tiring Salford back-line to fire at the keeper from a narrow angle.
On 65 minutes, Riley, who was seeing plenty of the ball under the floodlights, struck the upright from a narrow angle. Whether it was a shot, or a cross, is open to interpretation, but it certainly caught Neal by surprise, who scrambled across to his near post just in time to hear the unmistakable clang of ball against post.
You got the feeling that it might become one of those nights for the Pilgrims, and that primal ache got a little stronger shortly afterwards when Telford, once again foraging his own space on the edge of the Salford area, saw his goal-bound effort deflect wickedly off strike partner Taylor and narrowly wide of Neal’s goal.
Those fears were confirmed on 79 minutes when, summoning their first meaningful attack since the second-half began, Salford re-took the lead. A looping Joey Jones cross from the right wing was met by the head of Touray, who, having assisted the Ammies’ opener, headed past Palmer and into the net, via a desperate lunge from Niall Canavan.
When all hope of a positive result seemed lost, McFadzean conjured something out of nothing. Racing into the Salford area, he danced past Lois Maynard, who dangled an errant leg in front of the wing-back. Telford kept his head as all around him lost theirs to slot the spot-kick into the corner, despite Richie Towell kicking a lump out of the penalty spot in the build-up.
Argyle (3-5-2): 24 Alex Palmer (gk); 5 Scott Wootton, 6 Niall Canavan, 3 Gary Sawyer (capt); 2 Joe Riley (7 Antoni Sarcevic 88), 15 Conor Grant (14 Jose Baxter 78), 8 Joe Edwards, 10 Danny Mayor, 21 Callum McFadzean; 9 Ryan Taylor (19 Klaidi Lolos 78), 11 Dom Telford. Substitutes (not used): 1 Mike Cooper (gk), 20 Adam Randell, 22 Tafari Moore, 25 Josh Grant.
Booked: Lolos 90.
Salford City (3-5-2): 1 Chris Neal (gk); 23 Nathan Pond (capt), 25 Joey Jones, 6 Carl Piergianni; 2 Scott Wiseman, 17 Richie Towell (11 Tom Walker 90), 8 Lois Maynard, 18 Danny Whitehead (24 Martin Smith 78), 3 Ibou Touray; 29 Jake Beesley, 30 Rory Gaffney (20 Mani Dieseruvwe 64). Substitutes (not used): 9 Adam Rooney, 12 Kyle Letheren (gk), 22 Dan Jones, 34 Alex Doyle.
Booked: Dieseruvwe 73, Towell 88
Referee: Sam Purkiss
Attendance: 11,405 (143 away)