Both Plymouth Argyle and Bradford drew a blank at Valley Parade as the two sides shared the spoils. The 0-0 draw maintains the five point gap between the sides, with the hosts sitting in 23rd and Argyle up in 15th.
Midfield remains a concern
Bradford have been troubled all season, that much is clear. Their position of 23rd in the League One table speaks for itself. Looking at their squad alone, one may be surprised at City’s struggles during this campaign. Indeed, Argyle Life’s Ultimate Season Preview itself stated that the Bantams were “too good to go down”. The reason for such a prediction was that Bradford have plenty of players on their books who are capable of performing superbly at this level when used correctly.
However, the players who fit into that category have not been used correctly. At all. Bradford’s struggles this season generally stem from the fact that the system they have been utilising has not suited the players involved in it. Eoin Doyle, for instance, is a high-quality League One striker, but using him as a lone target man is always going to be an uphill battle. This should have been music to Derek Adams’ ears, and he should have known that a well set up Argyle side would have been able to come away from Yorkshire with all three points comfortably. Indeed, Edwards and Canavan won a combined 31/37 aerial duels this weekend.
However, whilst perhaps not to the same extent as their hosts, Argyle had system issues of their own at the weekend, and they have been the same ones that have plagued them for much of the season. The setup of the midfield meant that they were unable to manoeuvre Bradford’s players out of position as many teams have been able to this season. This meant that chance creation became very difficult, and Argyle had to rely on set pieces and half chances as a means of breaking through, which they could not.
Results may have taken an upturn this calendar year, but fail to correct the midfield flaws and Argyle may see gaping opportunities like Saturday’s encounter slip away.
Threlkeld is available
It took a while for us to finally see fan favourite Threlkeld line up in an Argyle shirt once more since his January loan move from Waasland-Beveren. However, the long wait finally ended at Valley Parade, and the 25-year-old took no time to remind us of what we were missing. Threlkeld slotted in at right back and it was like he had never been away, and members of the Green Army who saw him must surely be encouraged and excited about what he may be able to produce across the remainder of the season.
Whilst Threlkeld played at right back on Saturday, replacing the booked Ashley Smith-Brown, Adams stated in the media that he was brought in mainly to play in midfield. For many, the fact he hasn’t played there yet led to questions considering Argyle’s midfield struggles this season. This led some Argyle supporters to conclude that he can’t have been fit, a fair assumption considering his lack of game time in Belgium since August.
However, yesterday appears to have shown us that this is no longer the case. With Threlkeld available again, Adams’ excuses for lining up with a sorry excuse of a midfield are dwindling by the minute. Threlkeld simply must start against Rochdale next week if he is indeed fully fit.
Don’t underestimate Letheren
Many Argyle supporters have pointed to the inclusion of Kyle Letheren in the Argyle goal as direct evidence of his importance. This has been with particular reference the results since his introduction to the side at the end of December. Others, meanwhile, have been critical of the 31-year-old Welshman, stating that whilst he has been in place for the upturn in form, this is coincidental rather than consequential. These supporters do not believe Letheren is anything like a long-term solution to Argyle’s goalkeeping conundrum.
I have always considered myself to be a member of the latter group, and this remains the case. However, it would be churlish of me not to praise his display on Saturday afternoon. His performance was one of the most, if not the most important factor in Argyle escaping with a point. His save from Eoin Doyle’s header was fantastic, not only because he kept it out, but also because he pushed the ball away from the danger area.
I don’t think Letheren is a good goalkeeper for League One level – for me he isn’t nearly good enough when dealing with crosses to earn that description. However, his shot stopping is not something we should underestimate. He is perhaps the best at the club with regards to this particular attribute. Knowing there is a goalkeeper in place who can make these sorts of saves must give some sort of confidence to the defence.
Argyle can grind points out
At the start of the season, Argyle were criticised for their ability to collapse on a far too regular basis. It appeared that Adams’ side had no idea of how to win points when the chips were down. Indeed, Argyle picked up just one point from a losing position in their 18 league games up to December.
Whilst Argyle didn’t pick up their point from a losing position at the weekend, it was nonetheless refreshing to see that they were able to escape with a point they perhaps did not deserve. Argyle were under the cosh for much of the second half, particularly in the closing stages. This required some important organisation and ability to make crucial tackles, and this is exactly what Argyle delivered. Particularly through centre backs Ryan Edwards and Niall Canavan, the Greens put their bodies on the line. Both made vital interventions at key moments to repel anything the hosts tried to throw at them.
Ideally, these interventions would not be required. However, it gives everyone confidence to know there is a defensive pairing in place who can protect the goal. A far cry indeed from Argyle’s early season struggles.