10 – Plymouth Argyle 2-1 Crewe (29th April 2017)
Argyle had already secured promotion by the time Crewe became the final visitors to Home Park of the 2016/17 season. As such, there was already a party atmosphere around the ground as over 13,000 people saw the Greens line up at home in League Two for the last time in at least a little while. That mood was to become even more buoyant, however, at the final whistle.
The occasion initially looked like it would be a damp squib, as James Jones volleyed in beautifully to give the visitors the lead after just 6 minutes. It was a lead they’d hold deep into the second half – Ryan Taylor’s 74th minute equaliser levelled the scores, the Argyle striker finding himself in the right place to fire home after Gary Sawyer’s scuffed shot. There was even better to come as Nathan Blissett headed home a Graham Carey cross just five minutes later to score the winner.
There was pandemonium in the stands, but not necessarily due to the turnaround win. As full time approached, news filtered through that Argyle had been handed a big favour by local rivals Exeter – the Grecians’ 3-1 win at Doncaster meant Argyle went top of the league with one game to play, and put them in pole position to be promoted as champions. It wasn’t to be, but this afternoon was one to remember.
9 – Crawley 1-2 Plymouth Argyle (8th April 2017)
Promotion had been secured by the time Crewe visited Home Park, but despite a good season it was by no means a certainty heading into the back end of the campaign. Argyle won away at Doncaster to put themselves in an excellent position, but a 1-0 home defeat to Accrington allowed the jitters to set in once more. With a trip to Portsmouth ahead of them, another side in the promotion battle, Argyle’s trip to Crawley was big.
When Dean Cox scored his first goal for Crawley to give them a 1-0 lead at the interval, the Green Army were more jittery than ever. Then followed a mad second half. First, Graham Carey equalised from the penalty spot after a foul on Antoni Sarcevic. Then, Crawley striker James Collins was sent off for a second bookable offence whilst challenging with Yann Songo’o for the ball. Moments later Craig Tanner, who was subbed on at half time, was subbed off with four minutes to play. Finally, deep into stoppage time, Ryan Taylor wrestled his way through and found the top corner to secure a vital win.
Cue a mini pitch invasion from the away end. It wasn’t surprising – the result left Argyle 12 points clear of 4th place with 5 games to play. After six years languishing in League Two, the Greens were all but promoted.
8 – Plymouth Argyle 4-0 Southend (30th March 2018)
The previous two results featured late turnarounds in Argyle’s favour at key points in the season. This one, however, was much more emphatic. Arguably, it was the best single performance from Argyle in the entirety of Adams’ reign.
It was perhaps the most prominent example of how building the team around Graham Carey and Ruben Lameiras worked wonders for Argyle. Both netted a brace, both with a goal in each half as Argyle swept their opponents aside. Argyle developed numerous chances for their best finishers in superb positions, and the margin of victory really didn’t flatter Adams’ side at all. Graham Carey missed a penalty which could have made the result even more emphatic.
It was also important, leaving Argyle in the final play-off place with seven games to play, and vastly improving their goal difference.
7 – Plymouth Argyle 3-0 Exeter (11th February 2017)
Wins against your local rivals are always ones to savour. But when they have so much riding on them, they are even more special. This was one of those occasions.
Exeter fell to the bottom of League Two following a 3-2 defeat to Carlisle in November 2016, but turned their fortunes around with a 12-match unbeaten run which saw them challenging for automatic promotion alongside Argyle. The visitors were full of confidence, but the Greens put them to the sword and ensured their local rivals would be kept at arm’s length for the rest of the campaign.
First, loanee Matty Kennedy got on the end of a gorgeous through ball from Carey to put Argyle in front. Then, Kennedy turned provider for Ryan Taylor, who produced a smart finish on his weaker right foot on the stroke of half time to double Argyle’s advantage. Exeter goalkeeper Christy Pym gave away a penalty in stoppage time with a two-footed lunge on Jake Jervis. Jervis stuck the penalty away himself to add some gloss to the scoreline.
6 – Plymouth Argyle 2-1 Peterborough (7th April 2018)
Thanks to a postponement in Scunthorpe, this game followed the Southend game we discussed earlier. As such, Argyle were still in the promotion hunt. However, the postponed game meant that Peterborough had snuck ahead of Argyle in the league. As cliched as it is, this was just about as close to a six-pointer that Argyle could have faced.
When Jack Marriott pounced on a mistake from Sonny Bradley to give the visitors the lead, things looked worrying. Argyle hit back, however, as Gary Sawyer’s cross was met by Taylor, who directed the ball into the far corner of the net. Then things truly kicked off with 15 minutes to play. First, Liam Shepherd was sent off for Posh after an incident off the ball – the suspension would later be overturned on appeal. Then in stoppage time, Argyle were awarded a penalty following a foul on Oscar Threlkeld, and Peterborough’s Stephen Taylor received his marching orders for gamesmanship in the lead-up to the penalty. This didn’t affect Carey, however. Argyle’s talisman sent Conor O’Malley the wrong way to secure the points for the Pilgrims.
The result was made sweeter by the rantings of Steve Evans towards the referee after the final whistle. The then-Posh manager ought to have looked at his own side – the visitors had just one shot on target across the 90 minutes.
5 – Plymouth Argyle 2-1 Rotherham (28th April 2018)
This game was awfully similar to the previous win over Peterborough, but sneaks ahead of it due to circumstances. Argyle were still in the hunt for the play-offs, but injuries threatened to derail their season and, following a 2-0 defeat to a Northampton side that would be relegated, the last thing they needed was a visit from Rotherham, a side who would go on to be promoted.
True to form, Rotherham controlled the first half and Richie Towell slotted home from David Ball’s square pass to give the Millers a half time lead. Joel Grant levelled early in the second half, but the visitors still looked the most likely to emerge with the win – they had two goals ruled out for offside across the 90 minutes. Incredibly, however, Argyle found a way to win. Graham Carey was once more the hero, converting a stoppage time penalty following a foul on him.
It meant Argyle knew they’d make the play-offs if they won their final two games. It wasn’t to be, but what an effort it was.
4 – Portsmouth 1-2 Plymouth Argyle (16th April 2016)
Argyle looked set for promotion for much of the 2015/16 season, but were derailed by a poor run of form as the campaign drew to a close. A visit to Portsmouth, where the hosts had won four on the spin, was an ominous prospect. Indeed, this was a game that went true to form too; Portsmouth deservedly had themselves in front at half time through a Michael Smith header. As things stood at that point, Argyle were 6th, a point behind their dockyard rivals.
Argyle toiled in the second half as they looked to get back into the game. Some poor set pieces put an end to any momentum they tried to build. But in the 86th minute when another corner looked like it was too close to the goalkeeper, Jamille Matt got a touch ahead of Paul Jones to draw Argyle level. Moments later, Gregg Wylde scuffed a shot under the body of Jones with his weaker foot to put Argyle ahead and spark delirium in the away end.
From a hopeless position, Argyle were suddenly back in the automatic promotion race. They didn’t manage it, but it meant there would be more drama against Portsmouth to come.
3 – Plymouth Argyle 6-1 Newport (17th April 2017)
Thanks to some of the games we’ve already discussed, Argyle found themselves in an excellent position in the race for promotion. All they needed was a point against relegation-threatened Newport to secure their place in League One for 2017/18.
It took a little time, but Argyle eased their fans’ nerves on 39 minutes, when Kennedy found the corner of the net with a looping header. When Jake Jervis pounced on a defensive error just three minutes later, Argyle’s place in League One was all but secure. It meant the second half was a procession – Carey and Taylor got in on the act, Kennedy and Jervis each bagged their second goals of the game, and Argyle were 6-0 up with more than a quarter of an hour to play.
Aaron Williams’ stoppage time consolation for the visitors did nothing to dampen spirits. Argyle had won promotion, and a pitch invasion duly followed.
2 – Liverpool 0-0 Plymouth Argyle (8th January 2017)
For most teams looking back on a manager’s reign, a goalless draw wouldn’t normally feature so prominently on a list of the finest games. This, however, was a special day for all in Green, and surely the best 0-0 in the club’s long history.
Argyle beat Newport 1-0 in an FA Cup replay which secured them a tie at Anfield in the third round. Liverpool weren’t expected to play their strongest side, and of course they didn’t. But their team on the day still cost over £111 million, and ought to have had too much for the League Two Pilgrims. Argyle, however, had other ideas, parking the bus to perfection and ensuring their illustrious hosts couldn’t find the net all game. Despite Liverpool having 28 shots across the 90 minutes, only four were on target. They had to be speculative after failing to break Argyle down.
Adams described it as “the best defensive performance Anfield has ever seen.” That was a little bit of a stretch, but as an occasion, this was one of the finest Argyle have experienced this century.
1 – Plymouth Argyle 1-0 Portsmouth (15th May 2016)
That Anfield experience may have reached the top of this list had Argyle won automatic promotion in 2015/16. However, their fall towards the end of the season meant they had to contend the play-offs, which led to two more meetings with Portsmouth. A 2-2 draw at Fratton Park set up an all-or-nothing showdown three days later.
In truth, Argyle were well on top in the game. Graham Carey had a fine effort saved after just three minutes, but they failed to score before the break. In the second half, Jamille Matt had one chance saved and put one narrowly over, and Jake Jervis hit the post from around seven yards when it looked easier to score. Extra time beckoned, but in stoppage time, Peter Hartley sparked delirium when he bundled in a Carey corner at the back post to secure a 1-0 win.
As single moments go, this one – a stoppage time winner to take Argyle to Wembley for just the second time in their history – may never be beaten. The fact Argyle didn’t win in London is irrelevant. I don’t remember feeling happier leaving a football match than I was that Sunday evening. I suspect many others would agree.