2018/19 Season Review:
- 10 reasons why Argyle were relegated
- July (pre-season)
After a disastrous September, Plymouth Argyle needed a swift turnaround in the month of October to have any chance of salvaging some success from their 2018/19 campaign. Did they get what they needed? Yes. To a point.
Argyle played eight first team games in all across the month of October, but two of those came in the Checkatrade Trophy, so we’ll focus on the six League One matchdays. In those games, Argyle achieved three wins and a draw, and were defeated twice.
So yes, a turnaround of sorts did occur, but that didn’t mean October was devoid of lacklustre performances from the Greens. And, with the omnishambles of September’s results, the mood at the end of October was one of relief rather than optimism.
Argyle came into October with just three points from their opening ten league games. They had lost their last three in a row, and their first challenge of the month was a trip to Barnsley. Many had this down as a home banker – Barnsley would after all go on to win automatic promotion. Indeed, the hosts dominated much of the early proceedings. When Alex Mowatt found the top corner from range after just eight minutes, it looked like the Pilgrims were set for a very long evening.
However, the hosts didn’t have it all their own way. They still maintained control, but Argyle lined up on this occasion with Graham Carey and Ruben Lameiras on the wings, which always allowed them to be a threat in an attacking sense. And so it proved. Just before the break it was Lameiras who drew Argyle level with a superb solo effort. The Greens may even feel they ought to have won the game – Freddie Ladapo missed two huge one-on-one opportunities before the equaliser. But, considering the circumstances, a 1-1 draw was sufficient.
Just four days later Argyle were back in action, at Home Park this time. AFC Wimbledon were the visitors, a team who also found themselves at the wrong end of the table heading into the fixture. And, in truth, it showed. Neither side found themselves able to control the game, both perhaps demonstrating why they were struggling in the league table, and would indeed continue to do so.
Wimbledon could have stolen the points when Jake Jervis, a familiar face in these parts of Devon, missed a golden opportunity when it looked easier to score. The game would eventually be settled by Graham Carey – how often have we said that across the last four years? After a quick corner routine, Carey looped a delicious cross towards the back post. Ladapo was a yard out, and could hardly miss.
Argyle had secured their first league win of the season. That wasn’t only significant in a psychological sense; it also helped Argyle in the league standings. For the first time in what felt like forever, the Greens ended a matchday off the foot of the table.
Back to reality
Unfortunately, it couldn’t last.
The previous two fixtures had seen Argyle claw their way off the bottom, and that made their next game very significant. The Greens travelled to face Oxford, the only team at that point below them in the league. Argyle therefore had the opportunity to put daylight between themselves and their relegation rivals. And, in a way, they did. But it was far from a joyous occasion.
Argyle went on to deliver one of their worst performances of the season, and indeed of recent years, at the Kassam Stadium. The defence gave off the impression that they had just met each other ten minutes before kick off, and Oxford took full advantage. Former Pilgrims Jamie Mackie and Curtis Nelson scored the goals as Argyle slumped back into last place. Yann Songo’o picked up a late red card for a second bookable offence to compound the Green Army’s misery.
Things got even worse. A week after the Oxford debacle, Burton were the visitors to Home Park. And, for a while, it looked like Argyle may come away with a positive result. Ladapo gave Argyle the lead with one of the best goals of the season at Home Park, and the man who would end the season as Argyle’s top scorer notched another one to cancel out Burton’s swift equaliser and make it 2-1.
The joy wouldn’t last, however. Defensive frailties came to the fore again; Burton scored all of their goals from set piece situations, and left Home Park with the points following a 3-2 victory.
Argyle were desperate. The late defeat to Burton left them bottom of the league, of course, and three points adrift of anybody else. Fortunately, what followed was undoubtedly the Greens’ best week of the season to date.
First came the visit of Gillingham to Home Park. Usefully, they arrived just three days after Burton left, giving Argyle a quick opportunity to put things right. They did just that. Two goals from Freddie Ladapo and one from Ruben Lameiras secured Argyle the points, with Luke O’Neill drilling in a consolation for Gillingham from range. Argyle lined up with their best midfield personnel that evening, and whilst they weren’t in their perfect positions, Gillingham’s diamond allowed Argyle to take control, and expose the visitors’ lesser-protected full backs.
After that win came a trip to Scunthorpe. Never a fun experience, but Argyle made the best of their day. Goals from Ladapo, Niall Canavan, Joel Grant and Antoni Sarcevic sandwiched one from Lee Novak for the hosts, and secured a 4-1 victory.
The gap between the sides was certainly not as large as the scoreline suggested – but for a superb diving save from Matt Macey at 2-1, Argyle may have lost the points. But they managed to get over the line, something they had so often failed to do up to that point in the season. We had to be pleased.
And that marked the end of October for Argyle in the league. They were still in the relegation zone, but things certainly looked brighter. Tough games were to come in November, but at least Argyle could go into the month with a little confidence.