Plymouth Argyle will see Saturday’s scoreless stalemate at home to Dagenham and Redbridge as a missed opportunity to pick up three precious points in their fight for Football League survival.
The Daggers were determined and organised but, apart from a couple of good chances in the first 20 minutes, they posed no attacking threat.
The east London outfit were there for the taking, but the short-on-confidence Pilgrims could not capitalise on that. Had they won on Saturday, Argyle would have risen four positions in the npower League Two table to 19th.
Instead, only goal difference separates them in 22nd from the relegation zone. It promises to be a tense 12 weeks between now and the end of the season for the Pilgrims. It will be a test of their collective ability but also whether they can hold their nerve or not.
John Sheridan was appointed as Argyle manager the day after a 4-0 defeat away to title-chasing Port Vale. His first three matches have all been at Home Park, and the Pilgrims have picked up five points from them. That is a reasonable return, but given the opposition that they were up against, he had hoped for at least seven points.
They beat Morecambe 2-1 before drawing 0-0 with Accrington Stanley and then Dagenham. Those three clubs are the smallest in League Two, certainly in terms of attendances, but Argyle could only get the better of one of them.
Nine of their 16 remaining games this season will be on the road – starting against relegation rivals Aldershot Town next Saturday. The Pilgrims have only come up with two away wins all season and are going to have to improve on that poor record to stay up.
One of the four attacking players brought to the club by Sheridan since his appointment, Ronan Murray, came closest to scoring against Dagenham with a shot against the crossbar from close range in the 33rd minute, while last week’s new recruit Jason Banton, in the first senior start of his professional career, showed encouraging signs.
The on-loan Crystal Palace winger had one shot saved by Dagenham goalkeeper Chris Lewington and also set up Murray for his chance when he hit the bar.
Goalkeeper Rene Gilmartin (hamstring) and centre-back Curtis Nelson (groin) were both ruled out by injury against Dagenham. Jake Cole was between the posts for Argyle while, in Nelson’s absence, Guy Branston and Anthony Charles were paired in the centre of defence, with Onismor Bhasera moving from a midfield role to left-back.
Sheridan also opted to play Luke Young in midfield instead of Maxime Blanchard against Dagenham, who should have taken the lead in the fifth minute when Luke Howell, unmarked inside the six-yard area, headed wide of the near post.
Howell had another chance in the 18th minute but his fierce rising shot was pushed away by Cole. Soon afterwards, Argyle striker Reid miscued badly when he was set-up by Paris Cowan-Hall, with the goal at his mercy.
After a slow start, Argyle started to show signs of improvement as half-time approached. Banton did well to create some space and fired a low cross into the six-yard area in the 33rd minute, from which Murray stabbed the ball against the bar.
Reid then sent a glancing header wide of the far post after Banton picked him out.
Banton had the last chance of the first half, breaking into the penalty area and having a powerful shot saved by Lewington at his near post.
Argyle started the second half where they had left off before the break – by creating chances. Captain Conor Hourihane surged forward to get on the end of a pass from Bhasera, but his shot was blocked by Lewington.
Moments later, Murray’s inswinging corner found Reid and his downward header was stopped on the goal-line by a combination of Lewington and left-back Femi Ilesanmi.
After that early flourish, Argyle lost their way and some home fans responded by signing the name of 17-year-old apprentice striker Tyler Harvey. He had scored on his debut for the Pilgrims in the
1-1 draw against Torquay United at Home Park on Boxing Day.
Sheridan did make two substitutions as the game entered the last quarter of an hour, but Harvey was not one of them. Andres Gurrieri replaced a tiring Banton and Matt Lecointe was sent on for Murray, but Argyle could not gain a clear sight on goal.
Harvey entered the action in the 85th minute, with Reid making way for him, leaving the Pilgrims with two strikers with a combined age of 35.
Lecointe had one last chance for Argyle in stoppage time but sent his low shot wide of the left post and they had to settle for a point.