This was one of those games that meant so much before it – but the football ended up becoming pretty meaningless after the head injury to Nicky Hunt.
Billed as a six-pointer and a battle against the drop at the start of the clash at Home Park, by the end the main question was how serious Hunt’s injury was.
In light of the collapse on the pitch of Bolton’s Fabrice Muamba and, closer to home, Stanley’s Tom Bender in recent years it is always a worry when a footballer falls heavily – and doesn’t move.
When a team-mate, in this case Dean Winnard, signals immediately for the physio and doctor you know it is bad and then it’s a case of watching the drama unfold on the most public of places, a football pitch, and hoping.
For Rotherham loan defender Hunt, thankfully, it turned out to be nothing more than serious concussion after a clash of heads in an innocuous incident in the 50th minute, where he fell heavily and had treatment for a good 10 minutes on the pitch before being taken to the local Plymouth hospital.
He came around in Derriford Hospital, apparently asking what the score was at Plymouth and still thinking he was dreaming that the Reds had kept a clean sheet!
But, after Hunt had been carried around the ground to a waiting ambulance, it is hard watching the football continue and tricky to care too much about the score when someone’s life looked in danger.
But play went on and, if James Beattie’s 105th-minute free kick had not been kept out by sub goalie Jake Cole’s quality save, then Hunt might have woke up with less of a headache and a bigger smile.
However a goalless draw maintained Stanley’s breathing space off the bottom two – and kept Plymouth below them – and boss Leam Richardson admitted: “I dedicated the point and clean sheet to Nicky.
“That result is for him as, knowing the person he is, the first question he asked was about the score.
“It is not nice watching things like that unfold on the pitch but you know he is in good hands thanks to the medical staff in the ground, with the best equipment and facilities and you place your trust in them.
“He was up, moving and talking in hospital soon after and there were just a few precautionary scans but he got the all-clear after an overnight stay.”
The injury overshadowed what was a more attacking, solid show from the Reds in a game they can count themselves unlucky not to take three points from. They got at the Pilgrims, under new boss John Sheridan, from the off and used the width well with Craig Lindfield and Laurie Wilson playing some decent balls into the box.
Rommy Boco was a handful for the experienced Guy Branston and co while Beattie also put himself about to make sure that the Reds were always on the front foot.
A great ball from Lindfield on the right in the opening minutes just failed to find the inrushing Boco while the Pilgrims had a similar attack but it was Paris Cowan-Hall who couldn’t stretch for the loose ball.
Beattie turned and fired wide while the former England international had a bullet header cleared off the line by Onismar Bhasera.
Plymouth did carve out a couple of decent opportunities – with Lindfield racing all the way back just before the break to stop the tricky Reuben Reid having a shot on the break.
And the home side did suffer a setback when keeper Rene Gilmartin hobbled off injured, replaced by Cole but, according to most Plymouth fans, there is little to choose between the two stoppers anyway.
After the break, Reds loan keeper Cameron Belford did well to turn away Bhasera’s effort in a lively encounter until the long wait for Hunt’s treatment halted the pace.
After seeing Hunt stretchered around the ground to a round of applause from both sides – and not knowing the extent of his injury except he hadn’t seemed to move – the football then became largely irrelevant in a somewhat muted atmosphere initially.
It then was a series of stop-start actions with Lindfield needing several minutes of treatment before he too limped off in the second half.
The Plymouth fans got on their side’s backs but then also had a go at the referee Mick Russell for allowing treatment to Stanley players – although in light of what had happened earlier it did seem harsh on the visitors.
And both sides could have grabbed a win but, while the three points would have been significant a couple of days later, at the time it did seem less of a worry.
Pilgrims striker Reid hammered well over the bar when he found himself unmarked in good position and then he did find the target but Belford stuck out his foot and it was a superb save to keep the home side out.
The Reds forced a succession of corners and there were a few goalmouth scrambles as Stanley fought for everything.
There was an ‘oh no’ moment when defender Anthony Charles found the back of the net with a header but thankfully his push on Peter Murphy was spotted by the referee.
Then came Beattie’s free kick to finish off proceedings and Richardson admitted he expected that to be the winner.
“I thought it was going in,” said the Reds boss. “Beats hits those well but it was a great save by the keeper.
“You have got to say though it’s a good point away from home. We dominated the first half but injury-wise, we had to rejig and reshape, but we coped with it well.
“Plymouth came into the game but we still felt we could catch them on the counter attack and we almost did from the free kick.
“We were relaxed, proactive and positive and we talked about getting the ball down the wings and more balls into the box and we did create a number of chances that, on another day, could have gone in.
“The emphasis all week had been coming down here to get a result of some kind.
“I felt like we could win and we certainly did not want to lose and there were some good individual performances and a good team effort and a draw was the least we deserved on the day.
“The big thing is also a clean sheet which will give the lads belief in what we have worked on during the week. They can take that and build on it.”