Cox Sucker Punch
Attendance: 12, 053
Argyle 0 - WBA 1
We didn't deserve that!
In a bad-tempered but entertaining game Argyle more than matched WBA and deserved at least a draw, ultimately it's still a defeat but if the team can play like they did today for the rest of the season the impossible might just be possible!
Argyle Head Coach Paul Mariner gave a debut to new signing midfielder Damien Johnson with Luke Summerfield dropping to the bench, the other new signing Kenny Cooper had to bide his time sat in the dugout, otherwise it was the team that everyone expected.
The game started at a frantic pace and was almost end-to-end from the first minute, the poor Home Park pudding of a pitch helped Argyle but hindered WBA's passing style of game.
Argyle had the first chance of the game, although to be fair it was more of a half chance, when a Kari Arnason long-throw was flicked on by Rory Fallon to Alan Judge who's goal-bound shot was blocked by WBA defender Joe Mattock.
The Pilgrims enjoyed a good start to the game and won a series of corners and free-kicks but couldn't create a clear-cut chance, a 30-yard free-kick from Judge flew just wide of Scott Carson's post. Indeed, it was Judge who was providing most of Argyle's attacking threat down the right-hand side and it was clear that Argyle's gameplan was to close down and harass the WBA players into making mistakes and this tactic was working well with several passes going astray.
A superb Argyle move involving Jamie Mackie, Judge, Chris Clark and Fallon ended with Damien Johnson shooting over from a good position, but it wasn't all Argyle because a mistake by Arnason let in Graham Dorrans but David Stockdale was able to save his shot.
Stockdale also did well to push away a shot from Roman Bednar at the expense of a corner, soon after came a pivotal moment in the game when Mackie was running against the last man in the WBA defence and went down in the area, it looked a penalty but referee Steve Tanner waved play-on. It could be argued that Mackie had a chance to get a shot away instead of trying to beat the last defender or that Mackie fell to ground rather too easily.
Argyle skipper Carl Fletcher tried his luck from 30-yards but the ball sailed high, wide and not so handsome.
Just on the stroke of half-time Karl Duguid went down in a heap and had to be stretchered off with David McNamee replacing him, when the half-time whistle went Mariner sprinted across the pitch presumably to check on Duguid before Judge stopped him and explained that Duguid was probably already on his way to hospital and that Mariner had to give a half-time team talk.
At the start of the second half Arnason dithered and let in Dorrans who had his shot saved by Stockdale with Gary Sawyer clearing the loose ball.
A long throw from Arnason found Mackie unmarked but his shot flew over the bar, from 12-yards out Mackie really should have buried that chance.
A bad tackle by Mattock on Damien Johnson saw a 22-man free-for-all in the middle of the pitch as tempers started to flare; will it be red for Mattock or yellow? Unfortunately the card was yellow.
The game was still end-to-end with both teams going toe-to-toe, for a neutral observer it would be difficult to determine which team was going for promotion or heading towards relegation.
Fallon was then replaced by American international Kenny Cooper who joined the Plymouth roster earlier this week; the striker led the Argyle offensive line until the end zone!
Cooper took over free-kick duties from Judge (would little Judge argue with him?) and his 25-yard free-kick flew just over the crossbar.
Just when Argyle looked comfortable disaster struck. Reda Johnson and Sawyer failed to deal with a Bednar cross and the ball dropped the Simon Cox who volleyed in from 8 yards out, 1-0 to WBA. Questions will be asked as to why Stockdale didn't come to collect Bednar's cross that dropped around the penalty spot?
A Judge free-kick found Arnason unmarked but his twisting, diving header went straight at Carson in the Baggies goal.
Judge was then replaced by Craig Noone with Clark switching to the right side.
Another Arnason long throw resulted in a goalmouth scramble but no Argyle player could get a shot in, WBA cleared and broke away and McNamee fouled WBA substitute Luke Moore in the penalty area. Tanner awarded a penalty and yet it looked no different to Mackie's "penalty". Dorrans stepped up but Stockdale was equal to his effort and pulled off a superb save to keep Argyle in the game!
With time running out the Greens were getting desperate and played Reda Johnson as striker but strangely when defending a free-kick Johnson stayed up the pitch while Cooper was back helping the defence!
A shocking tackle, no strike that, a case of GBH by Jerome Thomas on McNamee resulted in a red card and another ruck of players pushing and shoving each other, this time it happened by the touchline so both dugout's thought "what the hell" and joined in. The ref finally restored order and signalled five minutes of injury time but it wasn't to be for the Greens, so despite playing well and matching the Championship high-flyers Argyle again come away from a game empty handed.
A good entertaining match, the Argyle players were up for the game but even so clear cut chances were rare.
Damien Johnson made a difference to the midfield and used all of his experience to good effect; late in the game he took a yellow card "for the team" and "stopped" an Albion player from having a run at goal. Fletcher already looks a better player with an experienced midfielder alongside him.
Cooper looked lost; he took up some strange positions and was on a different wavelength to the rest of the team, time on the training ground should fix this.
In truth, replacing Fallon and Judge with Cooper and Noone hindered Argyle and their enterprising attacking play suffered.
Arnason and Johnson again formed a good barrier at the heart of defence but the Iceman is starting to make regular mistakes.
Mackie had another good game and looks to be Argyle's best hope of a goal, while Judge was easily Argyle's best player in the first-half. He may have been tired but surely deserved to stay on for longer?
Stockdale is proving to be an enigma, a good shot-stopper and made a great penalty save but fails to command his area; he could have collected the cross that led to the winning goal.
If Argyle can play like this against lesser teams then the Great Escape could be on.
Well played lads, keep it going!
Argyle: Stockdale 7, Duguid 7 (McNamee 7), Arnason 6, R. Johnson 7, Sawyer 7, Judge 8 (Noone 6), Fletcher 7, D.Johnson 8, Clark 8, Fallon 7 (Cooper 4), Mackie 8.
Subs not used: Larrieu, Barker, Summerfield, Wright-Phillips