Kal Naismith’s early goal gave John Coleman and his men a hard-fought 1-0 win in his homecoming as Accrington Stanley manager.
The Scot swept the ball under Luke McCormick after 13 minutes and Stanley defended resolutely, particularly in the second half, to see out a narrow victory, their second in a row since Coleman and Jimmy Bell returned to the club.
The manager made two changes to the side for his first home game since his return with Aaron Chapman replacing Joe Lumley in goal for his home debut and Josh Windass coming into the team for Marcus Carver.
Meanwhile, loanees John O’Sullivan and Sean Maguire, the stars of last weekend’s 5-4 win away at Northampton, made their home debuts.
Despite a raucous atmosphere created by the Ultras in the Clayton End, Stanley started slowly and were fortunate not to be behind in the opening minutes as Marvin Morgan put a free header wide of the post from six yards out after meeting Lewis Alessandra’s perfect cross then shortly afterwards Nathan Thomas’ fierce strike was palmed over at the near post by the imposing figure of Chapman.
Kal Naismith was the spearhead of the team, operating in the lone striker’s role and it was he who had the Reds’ first effort of the afternoon, unleashing a shot from 25 yards that was not held by Plymouth goalkeeper McCormick but the visiting defence scrambled clear with Rob Atkinson, fresh from his brace at Sixfields last weekend, waiting to pounce.
When Naismith next got a sight of goal, though, he was not to be denied. The Scot was on the end of a slick passing move that involved Nicky Hunt, O’Sullivan, Maguire and Windass to coolly slot home at the near post for his fourth goal of the campaign.
Maguire, clearly full of confidence after a strong showing last weekend, ambitiously tried his luck from all of 40 yards after spotting McCormick slightly off his line but the stopper recovered to take a simple catch.
Stanley were soaking up the Plymouth pressure well but Curtis Nelson and Carl McHugh both sent headers from set-pieces over the bar to fire warning shots to the Reds, reminding them that just on mistake would see their lead wiped out.
Thomas was a constant threat on the left-hand side for John Sheridan’s men; he found space in the area but the shot was deflected over by Tom Aldred before finding the Clayton End crowd with a shot from distance.
On the stroke of half-time both teams traded chances as an Aldred clearance bounced through to Naismith but the attacker lofted ball wide of the target with McCormick stranded a couple of yards off his line. At the other end, Alessandra nipped in behind the defence and rounded Chapman but his effort from a tight angle could only find the side-netting.
The second half began as the first ended – with the Pilgrims on top and Chapman did well to save a Thomas drive with his legs.
Dom Blizzard surged down the left hand side and drilled a cross low across the area but Atkinson stuck out a telescopic leg to divert the ball away from danger and the Reds were then grateful to Naismith, who was on hand to clear a header off the goal-line to preserve the slender lead.
Stanley had spent most of the second half under immense pressure from their visitors but almost doubled their lead on the counter-attack as O’Sullivan met Naismith’s cross with a firm header but McCormick got a strong hand on the ball to palm it to safety.
There was a huge scare with four minutes left on the clock as Plymouth full-back Kelvin Mellor sashayed betweeen a number of challenges in the box and put his shot through the legs of Chapman but Nicky Hunt had covered his goalkeeper and made a superb, match-winning clearance on the line.
Stanley: Chapman; Hunt, Aldred, Atkinson, Winnard; Procter, Joyce; Naismith, Windass (Carver 68), O’Sullivan (Mingoia 84); Maguire (Hatfield 79).
Subs: Simpson, Goulding, McCartan, Bowerman.
Attendance: 1,511 (313 away)