Argyle Toil In Vain
There is still a glimmer of hope but in reality one point from two home games just about cements Argyle's place in League One next season.
Argyle's lowest ever crowd for a Championship game witnessed an entertaining game in difficult conditions on a bitterly cold night at Home Park. The Pilgrims drew the 'hitting the woodwork' game 2-2 but lack of composure in front of goal and the poor final ball meant that the hardwork was in vain, in the end Argyle had David Stockdale to thank for keeping a clean sheet with a series of fine saves.
Argyle Head Coach Paul Mariner gave a debut to new signing Onismor Bhasera at left-back with the ever dependable Chris Clark moving into central midfield alongside Damien Johnson. Craig Noone, who it was reported would miss the rest of the season, was deemed fit enough to be included on the bench, along with Yoann Folly who has just returned from a loan spell at Dagenham and Redbridge.
New Argyle captain Karl Duguid opted to carry on the recent tradition and kick towards the Devonport End after winning the toss; this meant the team were playing into a strong gusty wind.
The game got off to a very slow start but it was Barnsley who had the first effort on goal when a corner found Ryan Shotton and his shot hit the crossbar and was eventually cleared.
The ever-willing Jamie Mackie tried his luck from 25 yards out but saw his shot whistle wide of Luke Steele's post. Soon after it was Mackie again in the thick of the action, pouncing on a mistake by Tykes defender Stephen Foster, he pulled the ball back to the unmarked Yala Bolasie and from 18 yards out his shot clipped the outside of the post. From that distance the winger should have scored.
A flowing move from Barnsley finished with Jonathan Macken's close range shot being tipped away by Stockdale for a corner.
Barnsley were, let's say, strong in the tackle and used their arms to good affect, this went unpunished by the ref, indeed Mike Russell barely gave a decision Argyle's way all game. Have the rules changed? Is pushing, two-footed tackles and tackling from behind all now allowed? Does FIFA know that Mr Russell has changed the rules of football from tonight?
A foul on Bolasie brought some ironic cheers from the Green Army when Russell awarded Argyle's one and only free-kick during the game. Alan Judge took the set-piece which was very near the corner flag, his flighted ball found Reda Johnson unmarked in the area, the whole of Home Park stood waiting for the net to bulge, surely he couldn't miss from 6 yards out? Oh yes he did, he managed to direct his header onto the crossbar rather than complete the easier task of heading the damn thing into the net. Home Park sat back down in disbelief as the ball bounced out and away to safety.
Just before half time and a welcome hot cuppa Macken was put through on goal but there was Stockdale to save his shot and keep the tie at 0-0 or at 4-1 on aggregate to Barnsley.
Argyle started the brighter at the start of the second period, a Mackie shot was tipped away by Steele and an angled shot from Judge sailed well wide.
With the wind at the their backs it was Argyle who looked the more likely to score but they suffered a blow when Bolasie picked up an injury and had to go off, it wasn't clear how the injury happened but an educated guess would deduce that he was hacked down by the monsters in the Barnsley defence.
Joe Mason came on and slotted in on the left.
By now the strong wind had blown all the rubbish and paper bags from the Devonport End into Stockdale's penalty area and it resembled a good day at Chelson Meadow.
Barnsley substitute Iain Hume was ruled offside by everyone wearing green in the stadium but somehow the linesman didn't see it and kept his flag down. Hume was clear on goal but once again Stockdale came out on top in a one-on-one situation. An amazing let-off for Argyle and the lino.
Although Argyle looked the better side without creating much, it was Stockdale who was the busier keeper.
A long ball over the top by Bhasera sent Mackie away, he advanced on goal but with options in the penalty area he chose to shoot and Steele pulled off the expected save.
Judge was then replaced by Noone with Mason moving over to the right. We all love Nooney and he's probably playing with an injury but tonight we witnessed one of the worst substitute appearances ever seen at Home Park, nothing went right for the little winger. Time and time again he gave the ball away or was easily tackled, just when Argyle were getting up a head of steam ready for one final push.
A 30-yard shot from Hugo Colace was pushed onto the bar by Stockdale and then safely collected. Kenny Cooper, remember him, came on in the 88th minute for the tiring Bradley Wright-Phillips, the substitution was about 15 minutes too late. It was clear the Wright-Phillips couldn't continue, especially after playing an unexpected 90 minutes just three days ago. A decision straight out of the Paul Sturrock use of subs manual.
In injury time Bonz N'Gala had a shot tipped over by Steele, Noone took the resulting corner but hit it too low and the ball was cleared.
Game over and credit to both sides for providing some kind of entertainment in very poor conditions.
The trap door is open, we are about to step into it. Only a footballing miracle can save us now.
The players huffed and puffed and worked hard but it's obvious we have no quality, especially when it comes to the final ball.
Stockdale has been our best player in recent games, which says a lot. He's put his mistakes behind him, learnt a lesson and become a very good keeper.
Reda Johnson and Bonz N'Gala form a good partnership in central defence and could be our pairing for next season.
Bhasera did well considering he only arrived in the UK early this morning but will he want to play in League One? He did well to complete 90 minutes, we didn't see much attacking from him but he looks a bit pacey.
With the absence of Carl Fletcher in midfield we needed Damien Johnson to step up, he was very average against Blackpool and it was the same again tonight. His mind must be somewhere else, maybe a new club?
Bolasie performed better than he did against Blackpool but just when he looked like he had the beating of Shotton at full back, the defender would ease him off the ball and the chance to cross was gone.
Mackie was just Mackie, full of running, lack of awareness, shoots when a pass would be better and still looks our best striker.
Wright-Phillips drifted in and out of the game and should have been subbed much earlier.
Has Clark ever let Argyle down? He never gets noticed but he`s played in a variety of positions in recent games and did a job in central midfield tonight.
Barnsley looked a different team to the one that passed us off the pitch back in November, they are playing the long ball more now which is a pity.
We may be going down but we are going down fighting.
Stockdale 8, Duguid 6, N`Gala 6, R Johnson 7, Bhasera 7, Judge 6 (Noone 3), Clark 6, D Johnson 5, Bolasie 6 (Mason 6), Mackie 6, Wright-Phillips 5 (cooper).
Subs not used: Larrieu, Leonard, Folly, Fallon.