2018/19 Season Review:

Argyle’s best month of the season came at the turn of the year, with the Pilgrims picking up 12 points out of a possible 15 on offer. Derek Adams’ side started the month of January rock bottom of League One, with only 21 points from their first 25 games, and via positive results attained throughout the month, reached 17th spot at its conclusion. There were some real positive signs throughout, with many a fan thinking we’d turned the corner, though it all came crashing back down to Earth in the cruellest of ways.

Starting Brightly

The New Year’s Day fixture saw Oxford travel to Home Park, and Argyle could not have asked for a better start to 2019. A 3-0 victory was punctuated by a thoroughly excellent display from Ruben Lameiras. Argyle made one change going into the fixture, with Ashley Smith-Brown replacing the injured Joe Riley.

Antoni Sarcevic opened the scoring, after some well-worked play from Smith-Brown, and his deflected effort fell perfectly for Sarcevic to drill home in the 9th minute. Some good work to recover the ball from Graham Carey led to Argyle’s second. Clinical passing across the front three helped Lameiras take advantage of some woeful Oxford defending once the ball was lost. The Portuguese made no mistake from 12 yards.

The third goal is arguably one of the best I have seen at Home Park; Lameiras picked up a loose ball after Carey was seemingly fouled on the half-way line and made a beeline for goal. He beat one player, danced towards the penalty area, shifted to his favoured left avoiding the two Oxford defenders with ease and rifled home a low shot to the opposite corner. Well worth a watch if you’re yet to see it.

A vital three points that lifted the Pilgrims off of the foot of the table, with a clean sheet as well; only the second Argyle had recorded at that stage of the season.

Derek Adams continued his tradition of refusing to change a winning team by naming an unchanged lineup for the trip to Southend. After an uneventful first 15 or so, both teams started to work things and Argyle were rewarded with a second goal for Sarcevic in as many games; a wayward header from a Southend defender, slotted away in the bottom corner.

Southend started the second half brightly until a long pass from David Fox down the channel enabled Freddie Ladapo to break free and calmly slide the ball past the opposition goalkeeper. For Argyle’s third, a ball played across from the left by Gary Sawyer was met by Ladapo and after his initial shot was blocked, he managed to maintain possession among a sea of blue shirts, lofted the ball into the air, and after a potential penalty shout, the man of the moment Lameiras popped up at the back post to put away Southend. Or so we thought.

Following a brief spell where tempers boiled over and 5 players received yellow cards within 8 minutes; a Southend shot was adjudged to have struck Ryan Edward’s hand. The following penalty was converted. Shortly before the conclusion, after Yann Songo’o was dispossessed 5 yards into the Southend half, Charlie Kellman launched a long ball from the half-way line, which ended up in the back of Argyles net. A 3-2 victory which flattered the home team, as barring a few strokes of luck, Argyle could quite easily have been sailing to a second consecutive 3-0 victory.

Ruben’s Revenge

Ruben Lameiras seems to love playing against his former side, as due to a brace from the Portugese playmaker, Argyle recovered 3 points and continued their winning ways in Januuary. Another game unchanged for Argyle for the visit of Coventry City, saw a red-hot Lameiras leading the attack, with 6 goals in his last 4.

After conceding a Conor Chaplin free-kick 10 minutes after the break, Lameiras took over once again to rescue the Pilgrims from defeat. After some interplay between Sarcevic and Lameiras, Coventry failed to clear their lines and Lameiras’ speculative strike ended up in the away side’s net. The second came from a set piece and after a poor punch from the goalkeeper. A fantastic first touch from Lameiras set himself up to drive a low shot in the back of the net, sending the Devonport End into hysterics.

The next outing saw Walsall visit Home Park, and again the visiting team failed to come away with a result. Two set-piece goals from both centre-halves saw Argyle maintain their unbeaten start to the new year.

Derek Adams named another unchanged line-up for the Pilgrims in what was some absolutely horrid weather. It took until the 54th minute for the Pilgrims to break the deadlock, with Ryan Edwards scoring a headed effort, mirroring the effort he scored in the reverse fixture which opened the campaign. This was followed up by superb diving header from Niall Canavan, who doubled Argyles lead 10 minutes later. Argyle failed to achieve their third clean sheet of the season when Walsall’s Andy Cook scored a superb solo goal. Cook brought the ball down with his chest, and after somewhat losing control, he made his way around the box, helped by some questionable Argyle defending and slid one past Kyle Letheren.

These two victories felt extra sweet, as Argyle lost both the reverse fixtures in the first two away games of the season. Argyle were unlucky in both, and played relatively well throughout, and so taking 6 points from the two midlands teams was not only crucial but inherently satisfying.

Way of the Wycombe

Argyle found themselves outside of the relegation zone for the first time since August before the trip to Wycombe, and were currently in the midst of a 5-game unbeaten run. Argyle have always had troubles against Wycombe, however, and failing to learn from past mistakes cost the Pilgrims in the final game of January.

Wycombe opened the game brighter as Argyle never really got going. After a number of close calls from Adebayo Akinfenwa, the deadlock was broken by a Yann Songo’o own goal. Songo’o, who was put under pressure by Akinfenwa, turned the corner past a helpless Letheren and Argyle never really recovered. Argyle have had trouble with the journeyman striker before and failed to deal with him again, which proved costly as he out-muscled the Argyle back-line with regularity.

Wycombe have a bit of a reputation as so-called “masters of the dark arts”, and this was in full effect. A frustrated Argyle team failed to recover and Wycombe saw out the game with their tricks and turns. Though frowned upon by the rest of the league, it proves an effective tactic, and Argyle can have no complaints as being victims of this before.

A thoroughly disappointing away day result, which cast a dark shadow on what was shaping up to be a thoroughly positive month; one of the best in recent memory. With the blemishes in mind, Argyle were out of the relegation places and in good shape for survival, proving that they had the talent to stay in the division. In hindsight, the Wycombe game should have been looked at as a sign of things to come.