Argyle Grab Vital Point
Argyle 1 - 1 Swansea City
D. Johnson 87. Pratley 87.
We'll take that!
Another come-from-behind-game to gain pointage!
A battling first half performance from Argyle was wasted when a poor second half display gave the initiative and possibly three points to Swansea but in a dramatic finish Damien Johnson secured a precious point after his penalty was saved.
The game was all about the two goalkeepers with Argyle's David Stockdale putting in a fantastic Man of the Match performance.
Argyle Head Coach Paul Mariner tinkered with his side after the superb win against Barnsley; Craig Noone was replaced on the right-wing by Luke Summerfield while Bradley Wright-Phillips took his place on the bench.
Swansea had the first chance of the game when a mix-up between Karl Duguid and Kari Anson allowed the ball to run free to Darren Pratley, Argyle defender Reda Johnson failed to clear allowing Pratley a clear shot on-goal; however Stockdale pulled of a great low save to spare the blushes of Duguid, Arnason and Johnson. A real comedy of errors from the three Argyle defenders.
Swansea were getting a lot of joy down their right channel with the midfielders timing their runs to perfection in behind Chris Barker at left-back. Gorka Pintado twice had two goal-bound efforts saved by the impressive Stockdale; Swansea really should have been at least two goals to the good.
Although Argyle rarely threatened the Swansea goal, Damien Johnson's tame 20-yard shot saved by Swansea keeper Dorus De Vries being a rare effort, the Greens did at least harry and close down Swansea whenever they had the ball.
The contrast in the two styles used by both teams was interesting, Swansea played the ball around well and looked for an opening with speed and guile upfront, while Argyle relied on the long-ball to the two strikers and the long throw into the box. Indeed, Arnason's stomach muscles took a battering in this game, but for all the long-throws, and there were shedloads, Argyle didn't threaten that much from them.
The half ended with the referee Keith Hill taking a ball into his face and collapsing like a Jamie Mackie looking for a penalty. The ref was treated by Argyle's male physio with Clare Turner restricted to dugout duty only.
A good first half from Argyle, although the goal threat was just about as rare as a Bradley Wright-Phillips appearance, they did have the majority of possession and more than matched Swansea for grit and determination.
But all that good work was undone in the first minute of the second half.
Angel Rangel ( his mum and dad were having a laugh) threaded a simple ball through the gaping chasm called the Argyle central defence to find Pratley galloping through simple as you like, he took aim and fired past Stockdale from 20 yards out. 1-0 to Swansea, so easy.
Inconsistent and mistake-ridden, the story of Argyle's season.
Lee Trundle was replaced by an even bigger lump upfront when Swansea brought on Shefki Kuqi while Mariner reverted to Plan B and brought off the anonymous Luke Summerfield for Yannick Bolasie.
Argyle had lost their spark from the first-half, too many passes didn't find their target and the closing down and harrying had disappeared, we looked a beaten side. Pratley nearly had his second goal of the game but Stockdale saved his angled shot to keep Argyle in the game by his/their fingernails.
Mariner's Plan B was quickly superseded by Plan C when Kenny Cooper replaced Rory Fallon in attack, while Chris Clark and Bolasie swapped wings to try and get something good going for the Greens.
A poor headed clearance from Arnason (a bit of a pattern developing lately) was redeemed by Reda Johnson who surely saved a certain goal with his tackle on Kuqi.
Slowly Argyle were getting back into the game, a Bolasie free-kick found Arnason, his shot was cleared but not before a goal-mouth scramble had the fans on their feet.
Joe Mason came on at the expense of Barker; Mariner now went with three defenders with Carl Fletcher dropping back as a sweeper allowing Karl Duguid to move into midfield in a 3-3-4 formation. Desperate times brings desperate measures.
But the bold move from Mariner proved to be a stroke of tactical genius because it was now Argyle who were applying the pressure and then from a Bolasie corner Andrea Orlandi very kindly put his arm up to touch the ball and give Argyle an obvious penalty.
After a short delay Jamie Mackie stepped up to thump the ball straight down the middle, oops De Vries saved it, that wasn`t meant to happen. The ball was cleared to safety with the Swansea fans dreaming of playing in the Premier League next season. Hold on, the ref is signalling for something, what's that? He wants the penalty retaken!! A decision that could save Argyle's relegation skin.
Mackie very wisely made way for the experience of Damien Johnson, different penalty taker but same result when De Vries saved again but the Gods were smiling on the Greens because the ball rebounded to Johnson who tapped it in and make it all square. What drama!
Mariner quickly instructed the players to get back into a 4-4-2 formation with Clark moving to left-back, his fourth position during the match.
With Stockdale taking his time with goal-kicks it was clear the instruction from the bench was to hang on for the point, Argyle did just that to pick-up a valuable point when all seemed lost.
We do hit the self destruct button too much this season and here was another game when it was evident. Just when we contained Swansea and their passing game we threw it all away in the first minute of madness of the second half, but credit to the players for getting a point because we looked dead and buried for large parts of the second period.
Playing Summerfield as a right-sided midfielder didn't work at all, he looked lost and playing two defensive full-backs in Duguid and especially Barker for a home game stifles any attacking play, these two rarely crossed the halfway line. It's not their fault or Summerfield's but for a home game we had two sets of four (including two central midfielders playing as wingers) sitting deep, there just wasn't any width. This must have been deployed to combat Swansea's passing game.
Bolasie looked out of his depth when he came on but posed some danger during the late rally from Argyle.
It's difficult to see what Cooper brings to the team, he rarely wins the ball, his passes go astray and he doesn't pose a goal threat. Perhaps it's the poor service or perhaps he's not quite fit but once he comes on as a sub Argyle's attacking threat suffers.
Damien Johnson and Fletcher are a fantastic team in midfield, without these two the task of escaping relegation would look impossible.
Mackie has blown hot and cold this season and tonight he was absolutely freezing and his penalty miss would not have helped matters, although De Vries must have committed some infringement for it to be retaken.
It was interesting that substitute Mason was selected ahead of Judge and Wright-Phillips.
Stockdale won this point almost on his own; he made a string of great saves and kept Argyle in the game, while Arnason's poor form is becoming a worry.
We need to keep this mini-revival going.
Stockdale 8, Duguid 6, Arnason 5, R. Johnson 7, Barker 6 (Mason 6), Summerfield 4 (Bolasie 6), Fletcher 7, D. Johnson 7, Clark 6, Fallon 6 (Cooper 4), Mackie 5.
Subs not used: Larrieu, Sawyer, Wright-Phillips, Judge.