Missed opportunity against Dagenham and Redbridge could prove costly for Plymouth Argyle
ARGYLE will see this as a missed opportunity to pick up three precious points in their fight for Football League survival.
Dagenham were determined and organised but, apart from a couple of good chances in the first 20 minutes, they posed no attacking threat.
In other words, they were there for the taking, but the short-on-confidence Pilgrims could not capitalise on that.
Had they won against Dagenham, Argyle would have risen four positions in the League Two table to 19th.
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Instead, only goal difference separates them in 22nd from the dreaded drop 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.
Sheridan was appointed as Argyle manager the day after a 4-0 defeat at 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 they were up against, Sheridan 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 this 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.
The good news is Argyle have kept clean sheets in their last two matches. A solid defence is an imperative from now on.
The not so good news is they have not scored in either of those games and, to be blunt, chances have been few and far between.
Four attacking players have been brought to the club on loan by Sheridan since his appointment.
Ronan Murray has played three times, Reuben Reid twice and Jason Banton made his debut against Dagenham.
Gozie Ugwu has yet to feature, though, because of an ankle injury he suffered in a training session.
Murray came closest to scoring against Dagenham with a shot against the crossbar from close range in the 33rd minute.
Banton, in the first senior start of his professional career, showed some encouraging signs.
He had one shot saved by Dagenham keeper Chris Lewington and also set up Murray for his chance when he hit the bar.
Between them, Argyle's new attacking recruits are going to have to come up with some goals – and soon.
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, as he had been after replacing Gilmartin during the draw against Accrington.
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.
The Pilgrims boss had complained before the game about the amount of corners his new side had been conceding.
It took Dagenham less than 60 seconds to get their first one, with centre-back Scott Doe heading over the crossbar from it.
The visitors from east London went on to have eight corners before half-time but, fortunately for Argyle, the delivery of them was usually very poor.
Dagenham should have taken the lead in the fifth minute when midfielder 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, Reid miscued badly when he was set-up by Paris Cowan-Hall, with the goal at his mercy.
After a slow, nervy 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 of the Green Army responded by singing 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 get 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.
Next up is Aldershot away and, in the words of Sheridan, another 'massive game'. Too true.