It was very much backs to the wall for Plymouth Argyle as they climbed off the foot of the League One table courtesy of a late Toumani Diagouraga winner at Home Park on Saturday.
Once again the tactics of manager Derek Adams were a key talking point with many lamenting the negative style of his side sitting deep and inviting opposition pressure following Joel Grant’s opener shortly after half-time. Whilst rarely threatening, Argyle allowed Gillingham more time and space whilst in possession and were clearly more concerned with keeping a clean sheet rather than pushing for a second goal and effectively killing the game off. It was reminiscent of the home game against Shrewsbury earlier in the season where the side could have picked up all three points following Graham Carey’s opener but sat back to protect the lead with 30 minutes remaining and were made to pay.
Whilst the defensive strategy worked so well in League Two last season, better sides, like many in League One will have the capacity and quality to eventually break through and take their chances like Gillingham did yesterday, albeit via something out of nothing finish. It will be somewhat interesting to see whether Adams will perhaps change these tactics following the January transfer window as with Nadir Ciftci and a number of others poised to exit the club there will be room in the budget to perhaps bring in a better calibre of player who has the instincts to kill off matches.
The result leaves the club still in the relegation zone, but only on goal difference with themselves, Gillingham, Wimbledon and Rochdale all on 20 points although the latter duo still have a game in hand as do now bottom side Bury. Whilst Argyle are by no means safe it is a far cry from the perilous position that saw them six points adrift from safety prior to their 1-0 win over Wimbledon in October on the back of eight defeats in nine matches. The festive period offers a great chance to pick up points with MK Dons, Walsall, Bury and Oldham, all in the lower bottom half of the table coming up over the next six games.
There were positives to take from the game, particularly the return of forward Ryan Taylor, making his first league appearance since the opening day defeat to Peterborough. The 29-year-old was impressive with his clever hold up play and ability to bring other players into the game which was perfectly demonstrated as he provided the assist for Grant’s goal. Whilst he didn’t get the goal he perhaps deserved to compliment his performance, his return comes at an important time with the likes of Ciftci and Nathan Blissett hardly setting the world alight as well as Alex Fletcher who doesn’t quite yet have the experience to be a reliable spearhead to the Pilgrims attack. Adams will be almost certain to add another forward to the ranks in January and hopefully this will bring about more competition for places with a distinct lack of that so far this season in that position. With Jake Jervis often deputising as a lone forward at the expense of Blissett, Ciftci and Fletcher it is clear that a new addition will be key over the next month.