Jekyll & Hyde Argyle Grab Win
Argyle 3 Bristol City 2
Clark 31. Maynard 58,78.
That's why we love this game called football.
Joy, despair, misery and finally elation are just some of the emotions felt during this game. Argyle produced a thrilling first half display capped by two fine goals but second half defensive lapses gave Bristol City two soft goals only for captain Carl Fletcher to scuff a winner in the 91st minute - you couldn't make it up!
The win snatched from the jaws of a demoralising draw closed the gap for relegation safety to four points - game on!
Argyle Head Coach Paul Mariner made one change from the eleven that started the game against Coventry City last Saturday with fit again Reda Johnson replacing the injured Richard Eckersley in defence.
The home and away dug-outs were swapped, a possible reaction to recent crowd trouble behind the home dug-out.
Argyle enjoyed some early pressure mainly due to some long throw-ins from Kari Arnason but the first goal scoring chance fell to Bristol City when Marvin Elliott tried his luck from 25 yards but his shot went wide.
Bristol gave a debut to 6 foot 8 inch tall ( or is it 8 foot 6 inch tall?) striker Stefan Maierhofer and for the long kick from the City keeper Argyle defended by placing Fletcher in front of the big striker and Reda Johnson marking him from behind. The tactic worked because Maierhofer never won much in the air.
Flying winger Yala Bolasie had Argyle's first chance of the game but his 25-yard speculative effort went straight into the arms of Dean Gerken in the Bristol goal.
Bristol did actually get the ball into David Stockdale's net but the "goal" was ruled offside by the excellent ref.
The movement and running of Jamie Mackie and Bradley Wright-Phillips was causing all sorts of problems to the Bristol defence but Argyle's front two did struggle when the ball was hoisted high and long from defence.
Argyle got their noses in front with one of the best goals seen at Home Park this season. Mackie beat three defenders out wide on Argyle's left side and looked to have lost the ball, however he recovered to slip the ball inside to Chris Barker who had made a move forward from left-back. Barker's cross was perfect for Chris Clark on the far side who volleyed home from 12 yards out, a superb goal! One nil to the Greens!
Mackie was again in the action soon after when his 30-yard shot was saved by Gerken.
Just before half-time Arnason took another long throw and just when you think "oh no, not another long throw, we never score from them" Wright-Phillips did just that! The ball was allowed to bounce in the area and there was Wright-Phillips with his back to goal, executing the perfect overhead kick to slam the ball past a pickled Gerken! 2-0 to the Greens!
Bristol did manage a shot before half-time but Stockdale was equal to Nicky Maynard's effort.
Argyle left the pitch to a deserved standing ovation.
However, as we all know Argyle are yet to produce 90 minutes of quality this season, often playing the match as Brazil for one half and the other half as Exeter City and sure enough this game was no different.
Instead of the attacking football seen during the first period Argyle or the managerial partnership of Marver opted to retreat and sit back and play the Alamo game - a big mistake!
It was all Bristol City as Argyle were content to defend deep and play on the counter attack except there was no counter attack just poor clearances that always found a red shirt.
Chris Clark gave away a free-kick on the edge of the area and up-stepped Maynard to fire in a low shot to get Bristol back in the game. Questions should be asked as to how did a low shot go through Argyle's defensive wall? 2-1 and nail biting time.
Soon after it was nearly all square when another Bristol City free-kick nearly found the net, this time it was Jamie McAllister who fired in from 30 yards but Stockdale pulled off a great one-handed save at the expense of a corner.
Argyle were still sitting back and defending, much to the frustration of the Green Army, a second goal for Bristol is not far away, surely?
Danny Haynes nearly pulled it level when his long-range shot flew just wide.
Marver then rolled the dice and replaced the tiring Wright-Phillips with the youth of Joe Mason in an effort to get Argyle moving forward.
Mason's first touch was to play in Mackie but his shot from a difficult angle went wide.
Just when it looked like Argyle had weathered the storm they gave away a silly goal and once again it was Kari Arnason who made his usual blunder. A long ball over the top of Argyle defence saw Arnason mis-time his header and send Maynard away with a free run on Argyle's goal, his angled shot flew past Stockdale and into the far corner to make it all square at 2-2 and a disaster for Argyle.
Again questions need to asked about Stockdale's positioning, should a keeper get beat from that acute angle?
Maynard almost grabbed a hat-trick but his header flew just wide of Stockdale's post. Argyle looked a beaten and demoralised team.
But somewhere in our team there is fighting spirit, the team may lack quality but they never give up and in the 87th minute came the turning of the game and possibly the season.
In he 87th minute Bristol winger Jamal Campbell-Ryce picked up a second yellow card for an awful tackle on Clark, the red card incident appeared to give the players and the fans hope. Clark hobbled off and was replaced by Alan Judge.
With the fourth official indicating 5 minutes of injury time Argyle were awarded a free-kick. Judge hoisted the ball into the penalty area, it was cleared to Fletcher on the edge of the area, he appeared to scuff his kick ( it doesn't matter) but his low shot crept past Gerken and trickled over the line. Chaos broke out as everyone knew this was the winner. 3-2 to Argyle, fantastic stuff!
However, there was still time for the traditional Stockdale howler because the keeper was still celebrating the goal and distracted when Bristol kicked off and shot towards goal from the halfway line with the keeper in no mans land, thankfully the long range shot sailed just wide of the post. Schoolboy stuff from Stockdale.
Late in the game Arnason trundled forward for a free-kick but was waved back by Mariner, Arnason made a gesture which Mariner responded to by punching the dug-out!
Argyle held out to win an exciting, rollercoaster of a game that should have been won at half time.
What a game, will the real Argyle please stand up! When will we see a consistent 90 minute performance?
You can judge how much Argyle are attacking by the two full backs. For the first half Barker and Duguid regularly crossed the half way line, resulting in Barker's perfect cross for Clark's goal, but for the second period and with Marver opting to defend both full backs stayed on duty in their own half.
The front two of Mackie and Wright-Phillips looked like Argyle`s best attacking combination this season. Their movement and running brings a new dimension to Argyle's game but the team lets them down by continually hoofing high balls which the centre-backs easily deal with. A work in progress.
I like Damien Johnson. Black boots. No frills. No nonsense. Job done. He has the perfect partner in Fletcher, we need these two to stay for next season.
Chris Clark, along with Chris Barker, is an unsung hero in the Argyle side. His volleyed goal is a difficult skill but he executed it perfectly.
Reda Johnson was a rock at the back and dealt with most of the ariel battles, he was outstanding.
Stockdale makes some good saves and crosses but we all know there is one mistake each game, sometimes he gets away with, like in this match but on other occasions he doesn`t.
A special word for Barker - his tackling and positional play was superb and he helped out Bolasie who played in front of him. The winger himself did a lot of defending and never let his team down.
Special praise for the ref Mr Kettle, the best for a long, long time.
Mission impossible is still possible.
Stockdale 6, Duguid 7, Arnason 5, R. Johnson 8, Barker 8, Clark 7 (Judge), Fletcher 7, D. Johnson 7, Bolasie 7, Mackie 7, Wright-Phillips 7 (Mason 6).
Subs not used: Larrieu, N`Gala, Summerfield, Cooper, Fallon.