Niall Ennis’ first goal for Plymouth Argyle earned his side a deserved point on Saturday as they drew 2-2 with a spirited Accrington Stanley at Home Park.
Joe Pritchard’s go-ahead goal was levelled by Luke Jephcott on the brink of halftime, and Niall Ennis equalised with his first goal for Plymouth after Dion Charles had snuck the visitors ahead early in the second half.
Both sides named an unchanged starting XI from their midweek victories, giving Ryan Hardie the nod less than 24 hours after he put pen to paper and signed a permanent two-and-a-half-year deal in green. High-flying Welshman Jephcott started alongside him, looking to add to his immense goal tally against an Accrington side who had conceded four times in their last three matches in all competitions.
Story of the match
Accrington started far brighter, and they could well have led after four minutes. Top scorer Charles displayed his awesome pace down the left wing and broke free of the defence before firing a low cross into the box. Pritchard stood awaiting at the back post, but snatched at the opportunity and scuffed his strike wide of the near post.
Moments later, Argyle had their first chance of the afternoon thwarted by a brilliant stop from Nathan Baxter. Chasing forward on a counterattack, Danny Mayor eluded the defence and slotted a delightful ball out wide to his captain, Joe Edwards. The 30-year-old rifled a powerful shot towards the top corner of the near post, but Baxter was equal to the effort and stretched well to tip the ball safely behind.
Despite appearing unsettled, the Pilgrims looked the more likely to score as the half-hour mark ticked by. Restricted to counterattacking football, Ryan Lowe’s side worked the ball beautifully up the pitch with a series of short, sharp passes.
Hardie came close to opening the scoring with 15 minutes left of the first half when he danced his way into the penalty area with clever footwork. Beating two men, the Scotsman struggled to draw the ball from under his feet for an attempt on goal and eventually the chance went begging.
Suddenly, the tie exploded into life. Argyle striker Jephcott broke free of the defence wide on the left and tried his luck with his left foot. The angle was always against him as he bore down on the byline and his shot flashed across the face of goal and wide of the far post.
Stanley reacted immediately and came agonisingly close to going ahead. Breaking clear wide on the right, Pritchard played an inch-perfect cross in towards Charles. The 25-year-old stretched a toe to the ball but his almost-certain goal was thwarted in style by a sliding Jerome Opoku challenge just yards from the net.
The visitors broke the deadlock on the brink of halftime. This time it was Northern Irishman Charles who played the ball in for Pritchard, and the 24-year-old did well to hold his wavering balance long enough to send a looping header beyond Michael Cooper for his fifth goal of the campaign.
Stanley’s lead lasted only a matter of minutes as Jephcott smashed home his 14th goal of the season from close range. The Welshman pounced on a stray ball five yards from goal after Panutche Camara’s cross had taken several ricochets off wrong-footed defenders. Baxter got a hand to the effort but it was not enough to halt the power behind the ball.
Less than 90 seconds into the half, Charles edged Accrington back into the lead with his eighth league goal this term. Argyle’s misshapen defence were all at sea as Tariq Uwakwe drilled a square ball in for his in-form colleague to tap home his second strike in as many games.
Camara had the ball in the net for the Pilgrims just before the hour mark. Breaking clear with sprightly teammates Hardie and Jephcott, they found themselves in a three-on-one with Hardie on the ball. The Scotsman squared it to Jephcott, who shaped up to shoot before selflessly playing the ball under the onrushing Baxter for Camara. Unfortunately for Argyle, the Bissau Guinean had strayed offside and the assistant on the far side brought the celebrations to an abrupt end.
Argyle soon began to build a lengthy period of pressure. Substitute Adam Lewis gave his counterparts a hard time as he littered the Stanley box with a plethora of sumptuous crosses, while Mayor asked questions of Baxter’s diving with a curling effort towards the top corner from 25 yards. The English goalkeeper parried the shot to Ben Reeves, whose rebounded shot was wide of the mark.
Plymouth drew level once more through substitute Ennis’ first goal for the club. Mayor surged into the box and received the ball through a slick backheel from youngster Ennis. The 21-year-old drifted into space and received the ball back on the penalty spot before firing home.
Had they held out for the win, Accrington would have pushed within a point of the playoff places. The dropped points see them fall to ninth. Argyle stay put in 13th, still unbeaten in League One this year.
Man of the match
Dion Charles – Accrington Stanley
Charles posed a real threat throughout and linked up excellently with Pritchard throughout. An assist and a goal to his name, it was a great day at the office for the 25-year-old.