Match report: Exeter City 1 Plymouth 3Plymouth Argyle were 3-1 victors in the Devon Derby at St James Park, with their performance capped by a Reuben Reid hat-trick.
A to-and-fro start in front of a near-full house at St James Park was edged in Plymouth’s favour when Argyle top scorer Reuben Reid was the benefactor of a miscued Bobby Reid touch. Reid should have scored again moments late when he had time to turn and shoot, but was punished for not doing so when Arron Davies made it to Jordan Moore-Taylor’s cross in what was the last meaningful action of the first half, and the first time Plymouth had conceded in their last four games.
A penalty conceded by Matt Oakley allowed Reid the chance for his second of the game, and that was the catalyst for a classic derby ruckus – Olly Lee was shown a straight red card for a foul on Tom Nichols, shortly before Clinton Morrison had a goal chalked off for offside. Reid completed his trifecta on 71 minutes, and the points were sealed in the visitors’ favour.
Five ex-Academy players started the second Devon derby of the season for the Grecians, with Christy Pym, Jordan Moore-Taylor, Liam Sercombe, Scot Bennett and Tom Nichols the home-grown Exeter City players in Paul Tisdale’s line-up to meet John Sheridan’s Argyle. Bennett returned to the XI in place of Danny Butterfield, who was sidelined with injury, while Clinton Morrison took a place up front with Alex Nicholls starting this one on the bench.
For the 100th competitive meeting between these two sides, Argyle fielded an unchanged line-up to that which beat Cambridge United 2-0 at Home Park last time out, the Pilgrims’ third win in a row.
A raucous crowd greeted the two Devon sides, with Clinton Morrison looking to head Tom Nichols into space to shoot with less than two minutes on the clock, and those two linked up again three minutes later; Morrison seeking Nichols with a left-footed, right sided cross that Argyle captain Curtis Nelson’s reached with his head before the Exeter City striker could make any contact.
At the other end, twice Plymouth tried to find Olly Lee, only for the Birmingham loanee to come just short of pulling the trigger each time. Pym made a timely interception to redirect a cross away from the lurking Argyle frontline, a move which saw the Pilgrims’ second-top scorer this season, Lewis Alessandra, end up on his rear end in the goal without the ball.
A miscommunication between Jordan Moore-Taylor and Pym saw the defender head out for a corner, from which Reuben Reid attempted an acrobatic swing but didn’t manage to make contact with the in-swinging set piece. Namesake Bobby ghosted right before shooting wide to the left as Plymouth upped the ante around the half-way mark of the first half.
Reuben Reid had an effort blocked from a dangerous position, before Sercombe’s cross seemed to evade everybody in the opposing penalty area; Nichols did manage an errant foot on the ball, but it rolled harmlessly away for Carl McHugh to clear.
Frequently presented with opportunities in the box, Reuben Reid made good in the 26th minute when sent through by a mishit Bobby Reid connection. The Plymouth frontman took time to set himself before side-footing the ball past Pym for the breakthrough with his 15th strike of the campaign.
The visitors almost doubled their lead quickly, but Bobby Reid couldn’t gather a through pass on the turn, allowing Pym to claim it uncontested.
Lewis Alessandra had Christian Ribeiro to beat on the corner of the box six minutes after the goal, and the Plymouth man managed to fashion the smallest of pockets of space from which to force Pym into a spectacular save.
After a collision that saw Argyle goalkeeper Luke McCormick taped up with a bandage, Reid really should have scored his second of the game, or at least tested Pym. The Plymouth striker was afforded enough space and time to take a number of touches, only to produce an effort which went tamely wide of the target.
A fine cross from Moore-Taylor was crying out for an Exeter City boot to knock it goalwards. Sercombe arrived from the right flank, but not nearly enough to beat Tareiq Holmes-Dennis to the touch. Clinton Morrison’s ball for Nichols was again intercepted at the last minute soon after.
But another great cross from Moore-Taylor, this time driven low across the ground, found Davies gambling at the far post, and the Welshman smashed the ball into the roof of the net to send both sides in level at half time.
Half-time: Exeter City 1 Plymouth Argyle 1
Paul Tisdale sent on Jamie McAllister for Craig Woodman at the break, with the former Bristol City man taking his place on the left side of defence. An error and slip by Argyle’s Curtis Nelson was fortunately timed, as no Exeter City players were on hand to take advantage of an opportunity whereby they would only have had McCormick to beat.
Stellar work from McAllister and Moore-Taylor along the left flank enabled Morrison to set up Ryan Harley for an effort that was deflected to safety as far as the visitors were concerned. Bobby Reid chose the wrong option when he elected to take his first touch from Alessandra’s pass away from goal, as Bennett was on hand to boot the ball clear.
Alessandra, though, was tugged down in the box by Matt Oakley in Argyle’s next attack, prompting referee Graham Scott to award John Sheridan’s side a penalty. Reuben Reid stepped up to put his laces through the spot-kick, a finely struck penalty re-establishing Plymouth’s lead.
What to that point had been a good-mannered derby erupted on the hour as Lee was shown a straight red card for putting a boot through Nichols. In the melee that ensued, Moore-Taylor, Morrison and McAllister were booked for City, while Argyle’s Peter Hartley and Anthony O’Connor joined them in the referee’s notebook. Morrison had a goal ruled out for offside as the action got back under way, with Christian Ribeiro the man that was ahead of play after when Bennett flicked on.
Lee Cox replaced Alessandra in Argyle’s first change, before Tom Nichols swivelled to head Ribeiro’s cross over the bar. David Wheeler came on for Clinton Morrison on 70 minutes.
Despite their ten men, the visitors got a third just two minutes later. It was Reuben Reid again, as the striker completed his hat-trick by holding his finish and then releasing just as a despairing Moore-Taylor tried to make the save.
Alex Nicholls replaced Scot Bennett in City’s final switch, a few minutes before Dave Wheeler had an effort blocked. The imposing Ryan Brunt replaced Reuben Reid, who had injured himself scoring Plymouth’s third goal, while Nicholls smashed one over soon after.
With Dominic Blizzard replacing Bobby Reid, Nicholls headed softly for McCormick with the clock ticking over into the six minutes of added time. Wheeler did the same a minute later, before Oakley got his feet mixed up, Pym saving from Brunt in a one-on-one as a result.
There seemed an invisible wall on Luke McCormick’s six-yard line as Tom Nichols, Davies and Wheeler all failed in their attempts to direct crosses goalwards, but that was the closest City came, as Argyle were 3-1 winners at the Park for their first win at Exeter in five attempts.
Full-time: Exeter City 1 Plymouth Argyle 3
Exeter City: Pym; Davies, Ribeiro, Moore-Taylor, Woodman (McAllister 46); Oakley, Sercombe, Harley; Bennett (Nicholls 77), Morrison (Wheeler 71), Nichols.
Subs: Hamon, Keohane, Tillson, Cummins.
Goals: Davies (45).
Plymouth Argyle: McCormick; Nelson, McHugh, Hartley; Talbot, B. Reid (Blizzard 86), O’Connor, Lee, Holmes-Dennis; Alessandra (Cox 65), R. Reid (Brunt 73).
Subs: Bittner, Purrington, Norburn.
Goals: Reid (28, 58, 71)
Attendance: 7,440 (1,682 away)
Referee: Graham Scott