Goalscoring question continues to hang over Plymouth Argyle
THE WORRY about Plymouth Argyle in pre-season was where they would get the goals from in League Two this term.
And, eight games into the campaign, that question continues to hang over the Pilgrims.
It was again highlighted in their 1-0 defeat against Scunthorpe United at Glanford Park on Saturday.
Argyle had more of the possession than their hosts but could not capitalise on that.
They had good passages of play, particularly at the start of the second half when the game was still goalless.
But, time after time, the final cross or pass into the opposition penalty area was simply not precise enough.
The Pilgrims were left to rue that lack of a cutting edge to their attacking play as they slipped to their fifth defeat of the season in League Two.
Scunthorpe had a good spell after Etienne Esajas put them into the lead in the 62nd minute.
But, overall, the home side were far from impressive and there was mounting frustration among their fans before Esajas delivered his match-winning intervention.
For Argyle, this was a game that was there for the taking, and that will have only heightened the sense of disappointment at their defeat.
Manager John Sheridan has seen his side score only six goals in League Two this term, and two of them have been penalties from Reuben Reid.
The striker also netted with a late header in the 1-0 win against Bristol Rovers at Home Park on September 7.
Otherwise, Argyle's only other goals came in a 3-1 victory at Cheltenham Town on August 17, when Marvin Morgan, Conor Hourihane and Rommy Boco were all on target.
The Pilgrims have now drawn a blank in four of their eight League Two games, and that has to be a concern for Sheridan.
He made moves in the summer to strengthen his attacking options, which included extending the loan of Reid from Yeovil Town for the whole of 2013-14.
Boco and Morgan were also signed, as well as Lewis Alessandra, but goals – as they have been in recent seasons – are hard to come by. That, plus the fact that the Pilgrims are struggling to keep clean sheets, is not a recipe for success, as the manager will only be too well aware.
Fans will now be asking why Argyle did not sign a proven goalscorer in the summer.
There were some available, such as Torquay United's Rene Howe, who ended up at Burton Albion, but he was almost certainly out of their reach financially.
Somehow, the Pilgrims need to come up with a solution to their goal-scoring problem or they will have another difficult season.
Either one or two of the existing players must get on a roll, or Sheridan will have to explore the loan market. It could also be the time to give 18-year-old Tyler Harvey his first start of the season.
Harvey, a proven goal-scorer at youth level, has been restricted to six substitute appearances for the first team in League Two this term.
It would not be fair on Harvey to expect him to solve Argyle's goal-scoring problem on his own.
He is only a few months into his first season as a professional and is still very much learning his trade.
However, he does have the ability to take chances when they fall to him in the penalty area.
Argyle had the better of the first half against Scunthorpe, but it took a fine save from goalkeeper Luke McCormick to prevent the Iron taking the lead in the 28th minute.
Esajas curled a free-kick into the Pilgrims' penalty area and Niall Canavan beat his centre-back counterpart Guy Branston to the ball.
Canavan got a good connection on his header but McCormick showed sharp reflexes to flick the ball over the crossbar.
After that, Argyle were the better team up until half-time and had some decent chances.
Boco had one shot blocked by Scunthorpe left-back Andy Dawson, while another one sailed too high after a cut-back from Alessandra.
Reid headed over the bar at the far post after a Hourihane free-kick was flicked on by midfielder Hamza Bencherif.
Then, on the stroke of half-time, right-back Durrell Berry's goal-bound drive hit Reid and was cleared away by home team.
Argyle stayed on top at the start of the second period, with Reid firing the ball into the net after a pass from Alessandra, but he was ruled offside.
Reid also had a close-range header saved at point-blank range by Sam Slocombe when Hourihane aimed a corner to the far post.
There was another chance for Reid in the 61st minute when his swerving 25-yard free-kick was beaten away by Scunthorpe's goalkeeper.
Moments later, and against the run of play, the Iron took the lead with a clinical finish from Esajas.
Striker Sam Winnall went past Berry and tried to fire the ball across the goal.
It hit Argyle centre-back Neal Trotman and broke to Esajas, who was not picked up by Bencherif, and he slotted past McCormick.
That goal gave Scunthorpe a lift and they pushed forward for a second one.
However, Argyle still carried an attacking threat and Reid was denied an equaliser in the 72nd minute, much to the annoyance of Sheridan.
Reid headed home from a Jamie Reckord cross, but referee Graham Scott ruled that the Pilgrims' striker had pushed Dawson to get to the ball and awarded Scunthorpe a free-kick instead.
Substitute Deon Burton should have wrapped it up for the home team soon afterwards, but the striker shot against the bar from close range following a cut-back from Winnall.
Argyle had penalty appeals for a handball by Dawson turned down by Scott in the 80th minute, when the defender blocked a cross from Alessandra.
Berry also went close to scoring in the closing stages with a long-range shot which curled narrowly wide of the far post.