Torquay United 1 Plymouth Argyle 1
Former Gull Reuben Reid netted his fifth goal in three games, and eighth of the season, to preserve Argyle’s now eight-game unbeaten run as the Pilgrims stole a point from their near neighbours, writes Rick Cowdery.
Torquay had taken the lead in the sixth minute when Elliot Benyon had seized on some hesitancy in the Argyle defence to fire the home side ahead.
The Pilgrims were quickly back on terms, however, when Reid, who had a loan spell at Plainmoor during his first stint as a Pilgrim, netted his fourth penalty of the campaign after Luke Young’s free-kick had been handled.
After that, the Pilgrims struggled to get a real grip on the game and, although they were never overly stretched, had to defend stoutly throughout an entertaining derby.
They might have smuggled greater booty out of Plainmoor had not a post kept out an improvised header from substitute Caolan Lavery late on, but that would have been a real heartbreaker for the game home side.
Argyle manager John Sheridan had sent out the same starting 11 for a third consecutive match, maintaining faith with the 4-4-2 formation that had taken the Pilgrims to successive home victories over Lincoln City, in the FA Cup with Budweiser, and Dagenham & Redbridge, in the league.
Ex-Gull Guy Branston missed out again, as did Hamza Bencherif, news of which, given his previous habit of scoring against Torquay, will have been greeted with relief on the Pop side.
Torquay manager Alan Knill limited himself to one change to the United side that had lost 2-1 at Accrington the previous Saturday. West Ham loan player Paul McCallum, who scored their goal at the Crown Ground, also injured his back and returned to Upton Park.
His place was filled by another on-loan Eastender, Millwall forward John Marquis, who had already played 90 minutes against Argyle this season, while on a temporary spell with Portsmouth.
Nathan Craig made headway down the right and, when his cross was cleared to Damien Mozika on the edge of the penalty area, Luke McCormick was on his toes to make a splendid save low to his left from the midfielder’s powerful shot.
However, Benyon reacted more swiftly that anyone in blue to the loose ball and returned it with interest, squeezing it between McCormick and his post.
Argyle were not behind for long. Less than three minutes, in fact. Tope Obadeyi won a free-kick from Dale Tonge on the left, about ten yards diagonally in from the corner flag. Craig, one of two Gulls in the wall, jumped into Young’s delivery and had no argument when the ball struck his raised hand.
Reid added to his three successful penalties this season, planting the ball down the middle of the goal while Martin Rice dived to his left – where Reid had placed his previous spot-kick a week earlier.
The pace of the game did not relent for a second, but Argyle’s growing confidence and comfort on the ball allowed them a measure of control.
For all the effort on display, clear chances were few and far between in the opening quarter until Reid’s low first-time shot from Curtis Nelson’s nod-down scudded narrowly wide of the target.
Benyon thought he had put Torquay back ahead only to be doubly denied. His looping header from a left-wing cross was finger-tipped away athletically by McCormick, and the chance was anyway from an offside position.
Craig then fired one from 25-yards that never asked more of McCormick than to wave the ball on its way as it started wide and moved wider.
The momentum towards half-time was certainly with the home side and they came within millimetres of taking the lead for a second time five minutes before the break though Jordan Chapell’s unassisted enterprise.
The midfielder cut in from his right wing and, although the ball was never truly under control, he took it around several tackles before shooting from 25 yards. McCormick brilliantly tipped his admirable solo effort on to the crossbar.
The effect of Chapell taking the game by its scruff was to galvanise Torquay, and Neal Trotman twice had to show a cool head in the mini-crisis to deal with a more accurate Craig shot and the subsequent corner.
Argyle endured a testing start to the beginning of the second period, too, unable to settle on the ball because of Torquay’s enthusiastic pressing.
On of their occasional forays forward nearly saw them take the lead when Young’s corner to the far post was headed goalwards by Curtis Nelson but hit Rice, rather than being saved by him.
After another Craig long-ranger, which was pouched low by McCormick, Sheridan sent on Dominic Blizzard in what could be viewed as an attempt to take charge of the middle of the park.
Maintaining attacking option, though, the Argyle manager then swapped Andres Gurrieri for on-loan Sheffield Wednesday forward Lavery.
It was Torquay who continued to pose the greater menace, however, and, not for the first time, Trotman was Johnny on the spot to make vital clearances as the Gulls crossed and shot with abandon.
Argyle kept on keeping on and, when Blizzard was tripped, Rice had to pull a save out of the top drawer to keep out Conor Hourihane’s fierce rising drive from the resultant free-kick.
Suddenly, a little momentum was now with the Pilgrims and only a post denied them a second when Lewis Alessandra’s corner found Lavery at the far post for a cute header that bounced back off the frame.
Proving they were not a spent force, Aaron Downes strode up from centre of defence to flick-head a cross just wide of a sprawling McCormick, and the post.
Downes had a better opportunity, but put the ball further wide, a few minutes later when Craig’s well delivered free-kick found him in space for a header that he failed to make the most of.
Torquay United (4-4-2): 13 Martin Rice; 2 Dale Tonge, 4 Aaron Downes, 29 Anthony O'Connor, 21 Thomas Cruise; 20 Nathan Craig, 36 Damien Mozika, 7 Lee Mansell, 12 Jordan Chapell; 16 John Marquis, 26 Elliot Benyon (23 Ade Azeez 81, 9 Karl Hawley 87). Substitutes (not used): 1 Michael Poke (gk), 5 Krystian Pearce, 11 Courtney Cameron, 17 Jak McCourt, 31 Daniel Sullivan.
Argyle (4-4-2): 23 Luke McCormick; 4 Maxime Blanchard, 16 Neal Trotman, 17 Curtis Nelson, 2 Durrell Berry; 27 Andres Gurrieri (13 Caolan Lavery 65), 14 Luke Young (11 Dominic Blizzard 63), 6 Conor Hourihane (capt), 26 Tope Obadeyi (8 Rommy Boco 85); 7 Lewis Alessandra, 9 Reuben Reid. Substitutes (not used): 1 Jake Cole (gk), 15 Paul Wotton, 18 Tyler Harvey, 28 Jamie Reckord.
Booked: Hourihane 57, Boco 88.
Referee: Roger East.
Attendance: 3,866 (1,520 away).
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