2018/19 Season Review:

After a January and February both of which contained far more good than bad, March was where Argyle’s fortunes really began to turn sour. It was not the month of apocalyptically bad form (check back tomorrow to see that one) that secured our relegation but it was the month where we ultimately didn’t secure the points that would have been needed to keep us in League One. Argyle played a total of 6 fixtures throughout the month, all in the league of course, resulting in only one victory. Two losses and three draws rounded off a month that was underwhelming if not disastrous.

Tough Start

It was always going to be a tricky start to the month, with games against Sunderland and Luton. The former were going for automatic promotion and had been a strong side throughout the season, especially on their intimidating home turf. They had only lost three games in the entirety of the season up to that point. Luton had gone one better, being unbeaten in over 20 games. Any bonus on 0 points from those two games would surely be seen as a bonus.

In the first half of the Sunderland game Argyle started playing in a very defensive style. They did play the superior 4-3-2-1 shape but it was with Songo’o as one of the more advanced central midfielders. He began to roam frequently out of position and did not do much to regain the ball, leaving regista David Fox badly exposed. Sunderland were resultantly able to overload Argyle’s left hand side, which is how they scored their first goal. Argyle went to a more attacking but more exposed 4-2-3-1 after half-time and Sunderland eventually took control of the game, scoring their second goal. A loss but not the humiliation that some perhaps feared.

Against Luton at home the following Saturday. Adams did what he very rarely does and tried an entirely unusual formation: 3-5-2 on this occasion. It worked perfectly. Luton are a side who make great use of their full-backs overlapping and stretching the wide areas. Joe Riley and Gary Sawyer did a good job of nullifying this threat and Argyle managed to get a deserved 0-0 draw where many anticipated a loss. Adams made a lot of errors this season, so it is only fair to credit him on the occasions he was successful tactically. This was one.

Adams’ Last Win

The Tuesday after the Luton game, Argyle entertained Shrewsbury Town at home in what turned out to be the final win of the Derek Adams era as manager. If only we knew it at the time, we all may have celebrated that little bit more vigorously. The visitors were very poor on the day. Argyle’s return to their usual 4-2-3-1 set up did the job, as it often did against poor quality sides at home. Freddie Ladapo opened the scoring in the 8th minute and Argyle had several chances to put the game to bed.

Disaster struck shortly after half-time as the hosts gave away a penalty with an ill-timed tackle from Graham Carey. Matt Macey, newly returned to the side after the injury picked up by Kyle Letheren at the Stadium of Light, had been on good form in his first two games back. He was able to stop the spot kick from going in but former green Oliver Norburn was straight on hand to tap in the rebound. Argyle huffed and puffed but weren’t able to carve the shrews open until they got a penalty of their own with almost the last kick of the game. Ruben Lameiras was brought down and Graham Carey made no mistake, smashing the penalty into the net.

Argyle ended this match 12th, five points clear of 21st place and with a superior goal difference. Surely there was no way we could mess it up from here? We would not win again until the final day of the season, with our fate out of our own hands.

Lightning strikes twice

Back to March and Argyle travelled to play Fleetwood Town in one of the longest away trips of the season. A miserable game ensued. It was far from one of the leakiest Argyle displays of the season. Fleetwood did not have a good deal of clear cut chances until the last quarter of an hour of the game. A quickfire double, both from Argyle’s left hand side (fast becoming a problem area) sent Argyle home once again in a miserable mood. Remarkably, due to results elsewhere, Argyle did remain in the top half but with now only three points separating 12th from 21st.

Argyle then went on to face Bristol Rovers at home in what was one of the most unusual mid-table clashes imaginable. 12th played 13th but both in severe danger of relegation. It was another one of those games typical of Argyle against low calibre opposition. Argyle played fairly well going forward and created some good chances, but few great ones. Rovers did not create a great deal but did force Matt Macey into a stunning save on the brink of half-time. Some Ruben Lameiras magic after a good one-two with David Fox put Argyle ahead.

Jonson Clarke-Harris left Macey with no chance with a stunning equalising goal but Argyle soon regained the league, courtesy of a comedy own goal from Tony Craig. Argyle looked set to hold on for a vital win but a last minute header from substitute Gavin Reilly blindsided Macey and late heartbreak ensued. Argyle were still looking over their shoulders.

They then travelled to Blackpool and Bloomfield Road, a stadium that has been a relatively happy hunting ground for Argyle in recent years. They’d lost just one of their last six games there going into this fixture. Howveer, last season, whilst Argyle didn’t lose, the occasion was still painful. A 2-0 lead at half-time was pegged back to 2-2 with the equaliser coming in the game’s dying embers. Surely, after the sucker punch of the week before, the same couldn’t happen again. Could it?

Ladapo put Argyle into the lead early on with the Fox-Ness-Sarcevic trio doing a good job in the midfield. It was a close encounter but the Greens looked like confirming all three points when Ryan Edwards whacked home a header to make it a 2-0 lead. It all looked so comfortable going into the last 6 minutes. Argyle lost their nerve and a quickfire double sent them home to Devon licking their wounds with a point.

Was there cause for concern? Even the most ardent green-tinted supporter couldn’t honestly say they were happy with how the month turned out. Four points surrendered by late lapses in concentration left us far too close for comfort. However, at this point, we’d still only lost twice in 2019. We were a side who were at least scraping draws even if we couldn’t get wins. We all knew it’d still take a pretty big collapse to take us down from here.

Cue April…