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Cambridge match report
14 February 2015 18:00 Post ID: #71116
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Late goals from Ryan Brunt and Lewis Alessandra sealed Argyle's third successive win in a week against a very good Cambridge United team.

The two goals in the 81st and 84th minutes cemented Argyle's place in the League Two play-off places.

What a difference a week makes!

Nine points, five goals scored, three clean sheets and a place in the play-offs, not a bad week's work!

This game could have gone either way and I felt one goal either way would decide it, instead a late tactical change and substitution by manager John Sheridan resulted in two goals, a shout for a penalty and more importantly the three points in the bag. Credit to Sheridan for the changes.

We started really well and pressed Cambridge high up the pitch, closing them down and not letting them settle on the ball.
Olly Lee and Bobby Reid were playing very high, Lee was almost a third striker and was lurking on the edge of the box for any loose balls.
The downside was that this style of pressing gave the excellent Anthony O'Connor a lot of work to get through because if the pressing didn't work Lee and Bobby Reid were out of the game and Cambridge were onto O'Connor and the back three with ease.
This happened on several occasions and we could have been 2-0 down within the first 20 minutes.
Sully Kaikai hit the crossbar from a free-kick with keeper Luke McCormick stranded and Jordan Slew had a one-on-one with McCormick but he pulled off an excellent save.

In response Lee had our best efforts with an overhead kick that was well saved and a curling shot that looked like it would nestle in the far corner but whistled just wide.

Our midfield, which was basically O'Connor on his own, couldn't cope with the passing game played by Cambridge and the defence struggled against the two strikers in Slew and Elliott.

Tareiq Holmes-Dennis was reluctant to get forward despite acres of space in front of him so our first half performance was very disjointed all over the pitch. It could have been 3-2 to Cambridge at half time.

The second half continued in much the same way, we were not helped by a referee who appeared to give most 50/50 decisions to Cambridge.
Once again Cambridge passed the ball well but for the second half they didn't carve out any chances and we looked comfortable at the back.

Holmes-Dennis was now getting forward and added a new attacking dimension to the team, on the other side Drew Talbot did the same, as he did in the first half, and supplied a steady stream of crosses into the box.

With the team huffing and puffing Sheridan replaced Reuben Reid with Ryan Brunt and although there was no instant success it was the introduction of Cox for Lee soon after that brought the goals.
Lee Cox joined O'Connor by sitting deep and this allowed Bobby Reid to play even further forward and he sprang to life after previously having a very average game.

Bobby Reid jinxed his way through and let fly, the keeper couldn't hold his shot and there was Brunt to smash home the loose ball and blow the roof off Home Park.

Soon after Bobby Reid went on another run and was just just about to shoot but appeared to be fouled, surely a penalty ref? Nope, a corner to Argyle, no matter we'll just score from it!
The corner fell to Alessandra who twisted and turned and fired home from close range. 2-0 and game over!

With Cox and O'Connor now protecting the defence there were no last minute problems and the game was won.

O'Connor once again gave a masterclass in defending, tackling, covering, tracking back and passing. He must have touched the ball more than any other player because he was the link in the middle of the pitch, passing wide or into the strikers. My man of the match.

Up front Reuben Reid struggled and was rightly subbed, although he will come good. Brunt took his chance well but would you start him over Reid in the next game? I wouldn't.

Alessandra had another good game and is on fire in front of goal.

The back three in Peter Hartley, Carl McHugh and Curtis Nelson had some worrying moments in the first half but were solid for the second half.
Holmes-Dennis rarely crossed the halfway line for the first 45 minutes, however he spent most of the second half camped in the Cambridge half.

Bobby Reid was out of sorts until he had the protection of O'Connor and Cox behind him and it was him who had a hand in both goals.
Talbot was reliable and gave us the width for the whole 90 minutes.
Lee didn't really play as an orthodox midfielder, he was more of a third striker and could have scored at least two goals and was unlucky with several shots blocked.

If Cambridge had more of a cutting edge up front we might have not have won but huge credit to the team for not giving up and winning the three points late in the game.
Another clean sheet since the return of Hartley and O'Connor.

To sum up, the tactical change of an extra body to help O'Connor, the release of Bobby Reid further forward and the introduction of Brunt won us the game. Well done Sheridan.

No John Harbin in the dugout again.

Man of the match: O'Connor.

McCormick 7, Nelson 6, McHugh 7, Hartley 7, Talbot 7, Holmes-Dennis 7, O'Connor 8, Bobby Reid 7, Lee 6, Reuben Reid 5, Alessandra 7, Brunt 7, Cox 7, Purrington?
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