Goal-shy Plymouth Argyle continue to cry out for cutting edge
WHEN your top scorer in all competitions has got four goals at the turn of the year, you know you have problems.
That is the case with Argyle as 2012 ends and they prepare to enter 2013.
Paris Cowan-Hall has netted four times for the Pilgrims this season, but only a couple of them have come in League Two.
That is one less than Warren Feeney, Rhys Griffiths and former Aldershot Town loanee Guy Madjo.
It is stating the obvious but Argyle must improve their goalscoring record if they are to start moving away from the bottom of the table.
The 1-0 defeat by injury-hit Wycombe Wanderers at Home Park on Saturday was a sobering reminder of that.
Argyle had a lot of the possession but were sorely lacking when it came to any end product to their attacking play.
Far too often, their crossing was inaccurate and their touch on the ball in and around the penalty area was clumsy.
They had plenty of shots but usually they were from outside the penalty area and Wycombe's 19-year-old goalkeeper Jordan Archer was rarely tested.
Archer, on loan from Tottenham Hotspur, did not have a save to make in the second half as the visitors defended a lead given to them as early as the 11th minute.
Cowan-Hall had the beating of Wycombe left-back Sam Wood but the Pilgrims could not turn that to their advantage.
Argyle were also up against two inexperienced centre-backs in 18-year-old Kortney Hause and Anthony Stewart, 20, and it showed in the first half.
They struggled to cope with the physical presence of striker Nick Chadwick, but grew in confidence as the game went on and the home side did not get on the scoresheet.
In all honesty, Argyle could have probably have played for another 90 minutes and not got a goal.
As for Wycombe, they created only a couple of chances but striker Matt McClure demonstrated the finishing touch which the Pilgrims were crying out for.
Argyle are clearly in need of someone who can regularly get among the goals but those sort of players do not come cheap.
When, like the Pilgrims, you have little or no money to spend, you have to hope to strike lucky with a cast-off from another club or a young loan signing.
Argyle started against Wycombe with the same side who had drawn 1-1 at home to Torquay United on Boxing Day.
That meant 17-year-old striker Tyler Harvey, who scored a late equaliser on his full debut against the Gulls, again led the attack with Chadwick.
The Pilgrims were positive from the kick-off and created some good early chances.
Archer could not hold onto a right-wing cross from Cowan-Hall and both Chadwick and Onismor Bhasera tried to stab the ball into the net.
In the end, though, Hause flicked it away from inside the six-yard area.
Cowan-Hall fired over the crossbar after speeding past Wood before Bhasera sent a 20-yard drive into the Barn Park End.
Chadwick then collected the ball from Cowan-Hall and his shot on the turn hit the base of the left post.
All of this action had occurred before 10 minutes had elapsed as Argyle dominated.
Then, totally against the run of play, Wycombe captain Stuart Lewis set up McClure for a chance he readily accepted.
Showing a poise in front of goal Argyle could not match, McClure fired low to the left of 'keeper Rene Gilmartin and into the far corner of the net.
It took time for the Pilgrims to recover from that setback, but Cowan-Hall did shoot wide from a good position in the 21st minute.
As half-time approached, Argyle applied some sustained pressure in the search for an equaliser.
A close range attempt from midfielder Conor Hourihane in the 35th minute would have been on target had it not hit Harvey.
Defender Maxime Blanchard then headed over the bar after Archer failed to deal with a corner taken by Young.
Left-back Robbie Williams also tried two shots from distance but, on both occasions, the ball flew past the outside of the right post.
Deep into stoppage time, Wycombe had the chance to extend their lead when midfielder Bruno Andrade broke clear.
The loan signing from Queens Park Rangers was closely chased by Argyle right-back Curtis Nelson and dragged his shot well wide across the face of goal.
There was an early scare for the home side in the second half when a corner from Wycombe midfielder Matt Spring hit the outside of the near post.
Moments later, a cross-shot from Cowan-Hall bounced off the top of the bar at the Devonport End of the pitch.
Argyle remained on top, with captain Darren Purse heading wide from a Young corner in the 54th minute.
Cowan-Hall then teed up Chadwick with a precise cross into the penalty area but his header from a good position was some way wide.
Soon afterwards, Warren Feeney was sent on to partner Chadwick in attack.
Harvey was the player to make way for him, much to the displeasure of many of the Green Army.
Manager Carl Fletcher explained after the game that Harvey had been suffering from a sore calf.
A double substitution followed in the 70th minute, with Bhasera and Chadwick replaced by Mark Molesley and Rhys Griffiths.
Molesley was a surprising choice to play out wide, instead of Andres Gurrieri or Joe Lennox, who were also on the bench.
By then, Argyle had lost their attacking momentum and Wanderers defended with increasing assurance.
They took every opportunity they could to waste time, with Marvin McCoy and Andrade booked by referee Brendan Malone for doing so.
Hourihane wastefully volleyed over the bar from close range as frustration set in for Argyle.
Six minutes of stoppage time were added on by Malone after a series of breaks in play but there was to be no late reprieve for the Pilgrims as there was against Torquay.
This, by any standards, was a dreadfully disappointing result against opponents without several of their better players.
It leaves Argyle facing the prospect of a fight against relegation from League Two in 2013.