THE Pilgrims concluded their pre-season campaign with a goalless draw against Tavistock AFC thanks to a goalkeeping masterclass by Lambs’ skipper Josh Oak.
A young Argyle side dominated territory and possession in torrential rain at Langsford Park, but could not find a way past the inspired Oak, who denied the Pilgrims several times, including saving a Klaidi Lolos penalty on 66 minutes.
Manager Ryan Lowe made wholesale changes from the side that narrowly lost out to Bristol Rovers at Home Park the previous Saturday, although there were a smattering of senior professionals included in the 16-man squad.
Former Everton and Sheffield United man Jose Baxter, stepping up his fitness regime after joining the Pilgrims on a six-month deal last week, was the most notable name in the starting eleven, while trialist Ben Hall started in defence.
Tavistock were winners of the final South West Peninsula League, which earned them promotion to the Western League Premier Division, alongside Plymouth Parkway and Buckland Athletic, previous opponents of the Greens during their pre-season campaign. A healthy crowd attended Langsford Park, braving the torrential rain, although you sense not as many as would have been in attendance if the game had been played in better conditions.
They say that conditions are a leveller, and they certainly impacted the early proceedings in Tavistock, but the Pilgrims had the lion’s share of possession and territory. Ben Hall attempted a potshot from range which was well saved by home ‘keeper Oak, before Jose Baxter also curled one over the bar.
As the half-hour mark approached, Argyle cranked open their opponents’ back-line with their best passing move of the game. Purrington, operating as a left-sided centre-back, drifted forward, feeding Cameron Sangster, whose through ball found Alex Fletcher. The young forward struck a cross-shot from a tight angle, which was deflected inches past the far post by Josh Robins.
As the rain temporarily subsided, the Pilgrims put together another lovely passing move. Smith-Brown, on the left touchline, found Baxter with his back to goal on the six-yard line. Baxter selflessly laid off to Fletcher, whose curled effort was bravely deflected over the bar.
The Pilgrims emerged unchanged for the second-half, and the patterns of play did not change much either. Swift movement from back to front from the Pilgrims was met with stubborn resistance by Tavistock’s dogged defensive shape.
The best opportunity early in the second-half fell to Fletcher, who was threaded through by Lolos, but a heavy touch saw his opportunity gobbled up by Oak. Moments later, Fletcher spun on the edge of the area and let off a vicious strike, but the Tavistock stopper was once again equal to the challenge. At the other end, Jack Crago had the hosts’ first attempt on goal, but his left-footed strike was comfortably held by Mike Cooper.
If Argyle had been waiting for a clear opportunity, they could expect no better than the one that arrived on 66 minutes. Lolos broke in behind the Tavistock back line and beat goalkeeper Oak to the ball inside the box. The Greek striker nudged the ball beyond Oak, who went to ground, and was adjudged to trip the Pilgrims’ teenager.
Among protests from the home players, Lolos dusted himself off to take the spot-kick. However, Oak made amends for conceding the penalty, diving low to his right to parry the ball away to safety. Moments later, Oak came out on top of the emerging duel once again, denying Lolos’ well-timed header at his near post, making a strong play for player of the match in the process. Tavistock made a rare foray into the Pilgrims’ box as the game approached the final fifteen minutes, but Liam Prynn, formerly of Torquay United, hit his effort too close to Cooper to cause any real concern.
Argyle continued to search for a goal as the game drew to a close, as efforts from Purrington, Wilson and Sangster all came and went. Oak and Tavistock, though, deserved a clean sheet for their efforts.
On to Crewe.
Tavistock (4-4-2): 1 Josh Oak (capt); 2 Ben Cross, 5 Matt David (15 David Slade 72, 7 Hayden Greening 78), 6 Warren Daw, 3 Josh Robins (17 James Desforges 85); Dan Evans, 11 Jack Crago; 9 Liam Prynn, 10 Luke Cloke (19 Brannon Roberts 50). 16 Reece Shanley (20 Alex Hennicker 67), 14 Callum Watson (8 Dave Hallett 85). Substitutes (not used): 18 Alex Cairo (gk).
Argyle (3-5-2): 31 Mike Cooper; 4 Ben Hall, 28 Michael Peck, 30 Tom Purrington; 22 Tafari Moore, 14 Jose Baxter (11 Isaac Burdon 59), 20 Adam Randell (8 Jude Boyd 63), 26 Cameron Sangster, 23 Ashley Smith-Brown (3 Reuben Collum 72); 19 Klaidi Lolos (25 Rubin Wilson 80), 29 Alex Fletcher. Substitutes (not used): 13 Tyler Coombes (gk).