Sunday, 30 October 2011

Halting the Pilgrims' progress - just

I don't quite know where to start after that, if I am totally honest.
I think the best way to sum it up is that we got the win.
That's the most important thing after Tuesday's loss, and with their takeover all but done, it may be one of the last times Plymouth have to field such a young side.
But all credit to them, especially their centre halves Ben Gibson and Curtis Nelson, for constantly putting their bodies on the line and almost keeping us out.
Much was made of Argyle's young side, but remember also we have an 18 year old goalkeeper, our left back is 19, we ended the game with an 18 year old left winger, and our starting midfield pair are 20 and 23, while our 19 year old striker was banned, so it evens itself out.
However thanks to Darryl Duffy's accuracy and composure, first from the spot then from the rebound after Romain Larrieu saved his first effort, we got out of jail.
Mark Yates opted to change the formation which has been the bedrock of our successful October, mainly, I suspect, due to Jimmy Spencer's ban for five bookings.
Whether that means he doesn't feel Jeff Goulding or Duffy can play that lone-striker role, I don't know, but it also meant Russ Penn was relegated to the bench.
That left Marlon Pack and Luke Summerfield in midfield, and we saw in some of the early games when they were paired together that they don't really work as a duo, and we do miss Penn's energy and bite. A dilemma for Yates if he wants to persist with 4-4-2 - he has to bite the bullet and find his best pairing.
But the key to 4-4-2 is, I feel, the wide men, and neither of them contributed much to the game and were both rightly taken off.
The only time Josh Low played as an orthodox winger, he got in the cross which led to Goulding's amazing under-the-bar header over. Whether Duffy's effort was going in I don't know (he said afterwards he felt it would have hit the post) but what a howler.
Kaid on the other flank was just as poor. Never took on his man, didn't get a decent cross in, and so didn't give us an option.
They have both also developed his irritating habit of drifting infield when the full-backs come forward.
I don't know if this is tactical or not, but if so it needs to be stopped as it leaves Sido Jombati and Luke Garbutt with no option other than to sling a ball hopefully into the box, or to run down a blind alley, losing possession and leaving us short of cover.
Then, with Low and Mo in the middle, it just crowds things on the edge of the box when the ball is played in, leaving to over complication, and probably contributed to us failing to create much in the way of clear cut chances.
Contrast that with when Bags Graham came on - practically every time he got the ball he ran at his man, and there was a cross of some sort at the end of it, or we won a corner or throw from his efforts.
Yes, we know what Kaid and Josh can do on their day - but we need that 'day' to be every week, not just once in five or six games. If we are to maintain our start and get better, they have to be consistent. If they can't do that, then Mark has to change things.
Despite our territorial domination, I cannot remember us forcing Jake Cole, and then Larrieu into many saves, with many of our shots going wide or hitting flying white bodies.
Seconds after Goulding's miss, we fell behind with Jared Sims' header looking simple for Jack Butland, but it slipped from his hands and went in off Steve Elliott's toe. Imagine if Scott Brown had done that....
We huffed and puffed until half time without looking remotely like equalising, but I thought we were better after the break and it was almost constant camping in their half and seemed to be a matter of time before we scored.
Again though, there were few direct shots to test Cole and then Larrieu, while Butland kept us in it with a fantastic save in a rare Argyle break.
We got our lifeline with the penalty decision; I saw it live and thought penalty - then saw the Football League show and wasn't so sure, but after some shenanigans, Duffy put it away confidently.
Relief, but could we go on and win it?
Jamie Griffiths' rash challenge on Garbutt - who was then saved by Elliott from doing something silly in retaliation - helped our cause but still it seemed Argyle would hold out.
But up popped Duffy again. His first shot was saved brilliantly, but when it came back to him his aim was unerring in a crowded box, and we had our win. Just.
Now we go to Bradford, followed by the FA Cup. But after that comes a run of games which, I feel, will make or break our season.
Port Vale, Oxford, Southend, Barnet, Shrewsbury, Rotherham, Vale again and Crawley. All bar Barnet are in the mix, so by January 7, we might have a clearer picture of where we are going.


Player-by-player
Jack Butland - Mixed bag, with one great save and one error which cost a goal. Not much else to do.
Sido Jombati - Man of the match. defended well, got forward well despite lack of support from his 'wide right' colleague.
Luke Garbutt - Steady game, again no support from his 'wide' colleague. Good free kicks and corners.
Steve Elliott - Mixed day for his 33rd birthday with an own goal, then winning the penalty and saved Luke Garbutt from trouble...
Alan Bennett - Usual consistent display. Nearly scored with a second half header and continues to impress me.
Josh Low - Another casual display. Kept drifting infield when we were looking for a wide option. Time for a 'rest'
Marlon Pack - Struggled I thought. Felt Carl Fletcher and Simon Walton won the battle with him and Summerfield.
Luke Summerfield - See above. Thought he was just trying too hard to impress against his former club.
Kaid Mohamed - See Josh Low. Little threat to his full back and offered little to the side.
Jeff Goulding - Disappointing display capped by his horrendous headed miss.
Darryl Duffy - Took his goals well and never stopped running and looking to give us a spark.

Substitutes
Russ Penn (for Josh Low 63) - Gave us much-needed bite and energy. Could have won another penalty late on and unlucky not to score but for a great save.
Bags Graham (for Kaid Mohamed 63) - Thought he was a breath of fresh air. Came on, stayed wide, and ran at players, looking to get crosses in. Not the finished article by any means, but why not give him a start??
Junior Smikle (for Luke Summerfield, 75) - Usual sub appearance, and usual effort and commitment. Also pushing for a start next week??