PLYMOUTH ARGYLE 3 NORTHAMPTON TOWN 2
PLYMOUTH Argyle rallied from a half-time deficit to secure their first win in League Two this season, writes Chris Errington.
They beat Northampton Town at Home Park this afternoon, despite trailing to a 26th minute goal from Alex Nicholls.
Summer signing Rhys Griffiths was sent on as a half-time substitute, to make his Pilgrims' debut after recovering from a calf injury.
And, after striker Warren Feeney equalised early in the second period, Griffiths slotted home in the 59th minute to put Argyle 2-1 up.
Griffiths had to be substituted soon afterwards because of an injury but his replacement, Curtis Nelson, headed home the Pilgrims' third goal in the 74th minute.
Northampton centre-back David Artell scored with a header deep into stoppage time to cut the hosts' lead to 3-2.
But the Pilgrims held on for their first league victory since beating Aldershot Town 1-0 at Home Park on Easter Monday.
Argyle were captained by centre-back Darren Purse, who had been ruled out of the Capital One Cup tie at Burnley last Tuesday by a calf injury.
The 35-year-old had not trained all week, but he declared himself fit for the game against Northampton.
Purse for Curtis Nelson was one of four changes to Argyle's starting line-up, with recalls for Onismor Bhasera, Feeney and Paul Wotton.
The latter had been rested for the long midweek trip to Burnley.
Dropping out of the side, in addition to Nelson, were Nick Chadwick, Johnny Gorman and Jared Sims.
Argyle's attacking options on the bench included Griffiths and Alex MacDonald.
Griffiths was included in a Pilgrims' matchday squad for the first time after recovering from a calf injury.
MacDonald, meanwhile, was starting a second loan spell at Argyle.
The 22-year-old had been re-signed from Championship club Burnley yesterday, after spending the final two months of last season with the Pilgrims.
Northampton were playing their second game in only three days.
The Cobblers had been beaten 3-1 at home by Championship club Wolves in the Capital One Cup on Thursday.
Their team included Plymouth-born former Argyle centre of excellence player Ben Tozer.
It was a gloriously sunny afternoon, but the start to the match could not be described as sparkling.
Both teams opted for 4-1-4-1 formations, and it was hard work for Feeney and his Northampton counterpart Adebayo Akinfenwa.
There was lots of endeavour, but not much end product to the play, with neither goalkeeper tested in the first 20 minutes.
Bhasera had a chance for Argyle in the 24th minute but the Zimbabwe international headed wide at the far post after a cross from Wotton.
Northampton took the lead two minutes later when Nicholls capitalised on poor marking inside the Pilgrims' penalty area.
Nicholls was surrounded by Pilgrims' players but was still able to turn and shoot low into the bottom right corner of the net from 12 yards.
It was a soft goal to concede for Argyle, who could have equalised four minutes later.
Bhasera made a good break into the box and cut the ball inside to midfielder Conor Hourihane, whose sidefoot shot went past the outside of the left post.
Argyle were forced into their first substitution in the 34th minute because of an injury to Paris Cowan-Hall and he was replaced by MacDonald.
Northampton had a good chance to extend their lead before half-time when Nicholls got on the end of a corner.
However, from only a couple of yards out, Nicholls steered the ball wide of the target.
Griffiths was a half-time substitute, with Wotton making way, as Argyle switched to a 4-4-2 system.
And, within a couple of minutes of the restart, the Pilgrims had drawn level.
Bhasera put in a good cross from the left and Feeney scored with a stooping header into the far corner of the net.
Argyle then took a 2-1 in the 59th minute with a goal from Griffiths on his debut.
A low cross into the penalty area from MacDonald was not cleared properly and Griffiths slotted home from 12 yards.
The 32-year-old raced across to take the acclaim of the Argyle fans in the Devonport End.
Griffiths' first appearance lasted until the 67th minute, however, before he made way because of an injury.
Curtis Nelson, usually a defender, was sent on as the substitute for Griffiths and played up front with Feeney.
And that tactic paid off in the 74th minute when Nelson put the Pilgrims 3-1 up.
Left-back Robbie Williams aimed a diagonal cross into the box and Nelson powered a header over 'keeper Lee Nicholls and into the net.
Northampton applied late pressure, with defender David Artell sending one header against a post.
And Artell did reduce the deficit to 3-2 with another header deep into stoppage time.
But referee Andy Davies blew for full-time soon afterwards and the Pilgrims could start their celebrations.
Argyle: Jake Cole; Durrell Berry, Darren Purse, Maxime Blanchard, Robbie Williams; Paul Wotton (Rhys Griffiths h/t, Curtis Nelson 67 mins); Paris Cowan-Hall (Alex MacDonald 34 mins), Luke Young, Conor Hourihane, Onismor Bhasera; Warren Feeney.
Substitutes (not used): Ollie Chenoweth (gk), Joe Lennox, Andres Gurrieri, Johnny Gorman.
Northampton: Lee Nicholls; Danny East, Kelvin Langmead, David Artell, Joe Widdowson; Luke Guttridge; Chris Hackett (Henoc Mukendi 79 mins), Ben Tozer, Ben Harding (Ishmel Demontagnac 69 mins) Alex Nicholls; Adebayo Akinfenwa (Clive Platt 51 mins).
Substitutes (not used): Anthony Charles, Dean Snedker, Lewis Wilson, Louis Moult.
REFEREE: Andy Davies (Hampshire)
ATTENDANCE: 6,037 (229 away)
GOALS – Argyle: Feeney 47 mins, Griffiths 59 mins, Nelson 74 mins; Northampton: A Nicholls 26 mins, Artell 90 +4 mins