DERBY WOE FOR ARGYLE
Rare win for Grecians at Home Park after Harley grabs double
Plymouth, missing the spine of their team due to injuries to five key players, started nervously in front of their biggest crowd since February 2002.
Jamie Reid, making his first start since September 2013, lashed a shot wide before Christian Walton, who was signed on loan from Brighton as a replacement for the injured Luke McCormick, suffered some moments of uncertainty.
Plymouth found some rhythm and Curtis Nelson made a lung-busting surge up field before sweeping past Troy Brown and bringing a smart stop out of Bobby Olejnik.
The Exeter keeper came to the rescue again when he gathered a glancing header from Jake Jervis.
Craig Tanner robbed Ollie Watkins on the edge of the box and then hit a stinging shot that was pushed away by Olejnik.
The visitors weathered the storm and took the lead on the half hour mark when David Wheeler charged down Kelvin Mellor’s clearance before the Pilgrims defender took a wild swipe and brought down the Exeter winger. Harley fired the spot kick into the bottom corner.
Exeter doubled their lead on 39 minutes thanks to a moment of magic from Harley when the playmaker tricked his way past two Argyle players before steering a delightful shot into the far corner.
Pilgrims boss Derek Adams brought on striker Ryan Brunt at the break and matched Exeter by deploying a 4-4-2 formation. But the hosts continued to struggle to create chances, although Mellor wasted a glorious chance to pull a goal back when he headed wide.
Argyle were thrown a lifeline after Gary Sawyer’s was not dealt with by the Exeter defence and the ball fell to Threkeld who bundled the ball in.
The visitors could have sewn it up after Watkins played in Harley but his shot flashed inches past the post.
Ryan Brunt drew a smart save out of Olejnik before Carey almost produced an explosive equaliser.
Tanner picked out the midfielder at the back post and Carey hit a blistering first-time shot that flew inches past the junction of post and bar.
Plymouth’s hopes of rescuing a late point were left in tatters when Carey’s free-kick flashed narrowly over the bar. Pilgrims boss Derek Adams said: “I think we deserved more. Given the chances we created and the amount of the ball we had in and around the area, we should have taken something.
“We gave away a poor penalty and we didn’t shut down on the edge of the box quick enough for their second goal.
“They had to defend resolutely and they got bodies behind the ball. It wasn’t a pretty game, they were not slick and they went very direct.
“I am not going to use the injuries as an excuse because I can only play with the cards I am dealt.”
SCRAMBLE: Panic in the Plymouth goalmouth as Exeter pile on the pressure and, right, David Noble and Oscar Threlkeld battle it out STAR MAN RYAN HARLEY