Plymouth Argyle overcome 'off-day' to dig out draw at Crown Ground
MANAGER Carl Fletcher was pleased with 'a hard-earned point' from Argyle's League Two trip to Accrington Stanley.
The Pilgrims took the lead in the first half before conceding an equaliser after the break.
Substitute Warren Feeney then had a 79th-minute penalty saved by Accrington 'keeper Paul Rachubka, who was sent off in the closing stages.
Fletcher admitted his team had not been at their best in the incident-packed encounter.
However, he praised his players for digging deep in difficult conditions, with the match played on a rain-soaked pitch.
Fletcher said: "We didn't play that well today but it's a great point for us.
"We were all the way up here, with the rain and the wind, and we had six-and-half hours on the coach yesterday.
"The lads rolled their sleeves up and dug in for one another, and could have won it at the end.
"But we will take a point. I'm really delighted with the lads' efforts today," added the Pilgrims' boss.
Onismor Bhasera gave Argyle the lead in the 26th minute with his first goal of the season.
A free-kick from left-back Robbie Williams hit the right post and Bhasera was the first to react as he followed up to score from close range.
Fletcher said: "When you go a goal up away from home you know the home side are going to come at you.
"There were certain things we didn't do great. There were certain basic things we could be better at.
"We recognised the fact it was a bit of an off-day for us, but we dug in and worked hard. It's a great point for us.
"We will get back on the coach and look forward to Wednesday (the Boxing Day visit of Torquay United to Home Park)."
Fletcher continued: "After going in front, I'm disappointed we didn't hang on to all three points but you have got to give credit to Accrington.
"They came at us and put us under a lot of pressure but we dug in for one another in a real tricky game."
Feeney had scored two, late penalties when Argyle came from behind to win 3-2 away Morecambe in September
On Saturday, however, after Paris Cowan-Hall was fouled by Accrington left-back Michael Liddle, Feeney's weak spot kick was saved by Rachubka.
Fletcher said: "Feeno took two (penalties) at Morecambe and he's always really very good. It's just the way it goes."
The match ended in controversy as Rachubka was red-carded by referee Mick Russell in the 89th minute.
Argyle striker Nick Chadwick slid in when Rachubka failed to hold onto a shot from Cowan-Hall and made contact with the on-loan Leeds United 'keeper.
With the pair sat on the soggy ground, and the ball out of play, Rachubka put his forehead onto Chadwick's.
There was no force involved but Russell deemed it as violent conduct and produced a red card while also booking Chadwick for his challenge.
Fletcher, when asked his opinion of the incident, said: "The 'keeper pulled off a great save from Paris.
"The ball spilled loose and Chads has gone to try to get it. They have both gone in together and it was something off the ball, I think.
"I'm not 100 per cent sure but, obviously, the ref felt it was enough to deem it a red card."
Rachubka had also been slid into by Feeney earlier in the second half when he spilled a shot from Bhasera.
So it could have been frustration at being on the receiving end again which led to Rachubka's reaction when he was caught by Chadwick.
Fletcher said: "That's what I want my strikers to do. If the ball is skidding about, or whatever, you want them to go in there and compete."
Argyle 'keeper Rene Gilmartin had a busy afternoon and made a series of excellent saves.
Perhaps the pick of them came in the 83rd minute when he clawed away a curling free-kick from midfielder Luke Joyce.
Fletcher said: "Reg (Gilmartin) did well today. He's a big frame and has got a good presence.
"Most of them I would expect him to save but he pulled out a couple of good ones. That's what he's there to do."
Another fine instinctive save from Gilmartin came when Joyce fired a low free-kick into the six-yard area in the 57th minute.
A goalmouth scramble ensued, with Gilmartin making a crucial block before the ball eventually went out of play for a corner.
Fletcher added: "It was skiddy and wet and the ball was bouncing about.
"I think we had four or five people around him (Gilmartin) as well, putting their bodies on the line to keep the ball out of the goal.
"I'm really pleased with the lads' commitment and desire, and their hunger to do well for one another."