Final Whistle: More than just a derby

Ah, the sweet sensation of success. We’ve had a fair bit of it at Argyle this season, but nothing has satisfied quite as much as yesterday’s demolition of Exeter City. Goals from Matty Kennedy, Ryan Taylor and Jake Jervis were enough to send our rivals from the east back up the A38 with their tails between their legs.

Believe me, I would be very happy to use this piece as an opportunity to gloat over our small-time neighbours. But after yesterday’s shenanigans, there is an awful lot more to be positive about than simply gaining bragging rights, and it would be wrong not to cover them as we bask in a more generalised form of glory.

The place to start in that regard would be looking at the game objectively, without all the connotations running alongside it. Yesterday afternoon, Argyle were facing the form team of the league, winning their last seven games and without a defeat since mid-November. Their run had seen them climb from rock bottom of the league to 4th place, and the game was therefore of vital importance to the automatic promotion race. Exeter looked unstoppable on their 12-game unbeaten run; an irresistible force going forward coupled with a defence which had conceded just twice in 12 outings. But then they met Plymouth Argyle. And Plymouth Argyle took them to the cleaners.

The manner of victory says an awful lot about Argyle’s character this year. The game yesterday was huge on a plethora of levels. We’ve made it clear by now that even if it wasn’t a derby, the game could easily have proved decisive in the race to League One this season. Many an Argyle side would have faltered in these circumstances in recent years, but it’s becoming more and more obvious every week that this squad is made of sterner stuff. Add in the ‘sell-out’ crowd, and the animosity between the clubs, and you can only take your hat off to Derek Adams, the management team and the players for dealing with the situation to perfection. It seems the mid-season excursion to Spain was just what the doctor ordered.

But that’s not all to be feeling great about the day after the derby demolition – the way the new signings are settling in is causing a new level of optimism to sweep Home Park. And why not? Last season we saw a stutter from the January transfer window onwards after renewing loans proved difficult, and the signings of Jordon Forster and Daniel Nardiello proved underwhelming. But this year, things could hardly be different.

Before Jake Jervis’ stoppage time penalty added some gloss to yesterday’s scoreline, the previous four Argyle goals had been scored by January additions, and all four had different goalscorers. In fact, £15,000 man Nathan Blissett is now the only January signing without a goal to his name. But it isn’t just goals the new blood has to offer. For instance, Ryan Taylor’s hold-up play is exactly what Adams’ system has been missing since the injury to Jimmy Spencer, Matty Kennedy has the ability to excite the fans as much as any other player Argyle have possessed over the years, and Antoni Sarcevic adds a certain dynamism to the midfield which scares defenders to death. Add in the tidy defensive play of Jakub Sokolik – his slight mistakes early on levelled by his supreme confidence with the ball at his feet – and the depth in the squad now provided by adding to it, and Argyle’s squad is arguably in its best shape since relegation to League Two in 2011.

Argyle didn’t just win the Devon Derby yesterday. They smashed their sorry opponents into submission, rocking them to the core, and putting them way back in the race for a promotion place. And that’s not even all there is to be positive about. There is of course a long way to go, and we will naturally take things one game at a time, but if you can’t be happy as a Plymouth Argyle fan at the moment, when can you?

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