Why do Plymouth Argyle make themselves so difficult to write about? One moment, we’re experiencing the hilarious farce that was the 4-0 defeat by Oxford United, the next, we have the best performance of the season by far as Northampton Town were put to the sword in Argyle’s first Tuesday night home win for two years. I’m aware many fans of other clubs may feel the same about themselves, but I honestly feel on occasions that I support the most inconsistent team in Britain.
Nonetheless, Argyle’s 2-0 win last night has given us a chance to be positive, so let’s grab that with both hands. It was a game which saw a return to all the good we’ve seen from Derek Adams during his tenure at Plymouth Argyle, and enough to give fans confidence in his abilities by invoking memories of the successes of the last two seasons.
Admittedly, the playing style still wasn’t the sort to get the supporters out of their seats on a regular basis, but what Argyle did do, they did very well. Northampton’s attacks were very limited by Argyle’s setup, with the Cobblers’ major chances coming with Argyle already 2-0 up, and the game effectively put to bed. Meanwhile, at the other end, Sonny Bradley was at his deadliest as the Northampton defence were powerless to resist Argyle’s prowess from set-piece situations. The game saw Bradley become Argyle’s third-highest scoring defender of the century, and reminded us all of what he can do after being so successful in the air during the promotion-winning campaign.
Argyle then defended well to ensure the comfortable victory, but that’s not to say that Adams converted to the ultra-defensive ‘park the bus’ style once the second goal went in. Argyle still created their fair share of chances – Jake Jervis was millimetres away from getting himself Argyle’s third goal – and a multitude of set-pieces had the Devonport End chanting Sonny’s name as he pushed for a hat-trick. Sadly, that didn’t happen, but the truth is Argyle were in cruise control at times last night, something which is very satisfying to say considering it’s the first time this season that it may well be true.
Why the sudden upturn? There are plenty of things we can look at as a potential cause. It must be conceded that Northampton really didn’t offer much, and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink will surely be furious at the lack of creativity in his side, and particularly their cluelessness when it came to set-pieces. But Argyle still had to beat what was in front of them, and the enforced return of Antoni Sarcevic went a long way in helping to achieve that. He allowed Argyle to control game further up the field, taking it to their opponents when required, but without sacrificing much of the defensive protection which has served Argyle so well since mid-October.
So, what does that mean going forward? For all the positive vibes coming from last night, Argyle are still 23rd in League One, and cannot afford to rest on their laurels. A trip to Portsmouth is up next, and judging by previous visits to Fratton Park, the chances are we’ll be looking at another case of soaking up pressure and trying to hit the hosts on the counter. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and indeed it has certainly played a role in the upturn in fortunes Argyle have experienced this season, but it’s important that yesterday’s performance isn’t simply a one-off.
But for now, we have at last had a match which we can feel truly positive about, and that is a truly wonderful feeling. My job would just be a whole lot easier if Argyle halted their consistent inconsistency and started doing this more often.