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Match Report


Posted Sat 13 Mar 10 at 17:04 PM


Coventry City 1
McIndoe 49

Argyle 1
Árnason 45

APART from about four minutes disparity in favour of Argyle, there was nothing to separate the Sky Blues and the basement Greens at the Ricoh.

It was arguably a tremendous result for the Pilgrims, when measured against Coventry's current form, but one that does little to ease their relegation concerns.

They took the lead through Kári Arnason's headed goal in first-half injury-time, but that was chalked off shortly after the break by Michael McIndoe.

Argyle have suffered just two defeats in their last seven games, which is a good enough stat; however, they, have won just one in ten, which, from their position, is not.

There was no faulting the great majority of what they showed in the West Midlands - and they thoroughly deserved at least a draw. It is just that, at this stage of this season, they need wins more than a succession of hard-earned points.

Desperate situations require desperate remedies, to paraphrase the most famous son of the county that surrounds the Ricoh, and only the most ardent Green would stop short of describing Argyle's grasp on the Championship as desperate.

In seeking a potential remedy, head coach Paul Mariner's thoughts had turned to Bradley Wright-Phillips and Yala Bolasie, both handed long-anticipated full debuts against a side with five victories from their six previous games and unbeaten at home since early December (and that by leaders Newcastle).

Wright-Phillips was, of course, going to be the man whose goals were going to fire us to the play-offs this season. That was until a behind-closed-doors game at Exeter's Cat & Fiddle training-ground on the very cusp of the campaign put paid to any chance of his early involvement.

With Chris Barker - another player who would have been earmarked for at least 30 starts this season - similarly rendered hors de combat during the warm-up before the Home Park Hearts friendly in August, it could reasonably be argued that Argyle began the season with their boot-laces figuratively tied together.

BWP was joined in the Pilgrims' starting 11 by Bolasie, a young man of frightening pace and latent talent, but whose loss to the game during his formative years has hampered his development - for Yala's own interesting take on that situation, see Tim Herbert's interview with him in Tuesday night's Bristol City match-day programme.

Mariner made one further change to personnel, as well as a tactical switch, from the line-up that had started Tuesday's disappointing capitulation at resurgent Queens Park Rangers: Chris Clark returned on the right side of midfield, Karl Duguid dropped back, and Richard Eckersley swapped from right full-back to left.

Coventry manager Chris Coleman is in the if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it zone at present and contented himself with merely recalling Richard Wood for Marcus Hall in the Sky Blues back-line.

Thankfully, Argyle - again in all white - appeared to be back on their mettle after their Loftus lethargy and, without the availability of an obvious 'out' route to Rory Fallon, were forced to work the ball, which they did rather well.

They were indebted to goalkeeper David Stockdale's alertness for closing down Jonathan Stead after the tall forward had been played in by partner Clinton Morrison, and hit back with some forward interplay of their own that saw Jamie Mackie unable to get off a clean hit after linking with Wright-Phillips.

It took a marvellous one-handed save from Coventry goalkeeper Keiren Westwood to deny Mackie from an acute angle when the Pilgrims' leading scorer did let loose.

Coventry were made to toil and rarely threatened the Pilgrims' goal. When they did, such as when Carl Baker cut inside to sling over a decent cross, McIndoe headed wide of a large and open target.

Morrison tried his luck on the half-hour mark, swinging a leg at the ball as he fell backwards after a sweet turn on the edge of the Pilgrims' penalty area, but, again, the ball sailed wide.

These were, though, small blips on a pretty healthy radar screen which showed a peak just before half-time was whistled in.

The Pilgrims have been guilty of conceding late goals in either half this season, so it is good to report that they managed to inflict a similar psychological blow on opponents for a change.

Mackie's running battle with Coventry captain Stephen Wright earned Argyle two free-kicks in promising positions within a couple of minutes of each other.

The first, a drive from Carl Fletcher, was repelled by the defensive wall, but the second saw Damien Johnson curl over a free-kick that compelled Westwood to come for it.

Such ­was the precision of Johnson's delivery, however, that the goalkeeper's decision was immediately made to look foolish: all it required was a headed touch from a white-shirted player, and Árnason was that player.

Coleman clearly did not like what he had seen in the opening 45 minutes because he started the second half with substitutes Marcus Hall and Gary Deegan in his 11.

Within four minutes of the restart, Coventry were level. Not, though, before Argyle had come close to adding to their opener when Chris Barker's flick to an Árnason long throw was met by Wright-Phillips for a header that curled just wide.

The reprieved Sky Blues swept down the pitch and Morrison's low driven cross into the Argyle box was allowed to progress all the way to the far post, from where McIndoe returned it into the goal by way of Stockdale's legs.

On the subject of legs, there was no sign of the Pilgrims' collective lower limbs buckling. Quite the reverse, in fact. With Mackie and Bolasie willing to run like twin Forrest Gumps, anything was possible.

Fletcher was denied by a goal-line block from a close-range shot after he was teed up by, of all people, Chris Barker, and Argyle similarly survived going behind when Morrison failed by inches to tap in Steadman's driven cross-shot, which itself missed the target by a fraction.

BWP gave way to Joe Mason after a decent shift and the Pilgrims kept their foot on the gas without causing Coventry too many flutters. A Clark long-ranger, and similar from man of the match Bolasie, that both flew over the bar was about as close as they got to making Westwood break sweat.

That was until an injury-time scramble, when both Bolasie and Johnson had penalty area shots blocked, the fprmer by team-mate Mackie, inadvertently.

Coventry retorted through substitute Freddy Eastwood's header that was brilliantly tipped over by Stockdale.

Honours, then, even.

Rick Cowdery

Coventry City (4-4-2): 1 Keiren Westwood, 2 Stephen Wright (capt, 3 Marcus Hall half-time), 6 James McPake, 24 Richard Wood, 15 Martin Cranie; 18 Carl Baker, 17 Aron Gunnarsson (12 Gary Deegan half-time), 4 Sammy Clingan, 21 Michael McIndoe; 9 Jonathan Stead, 11 Clinton Morrison. Substitutes (not use): 7 David Bell, 10 Freddy Eastwood, 13 Dimi Konstantopoulos (gk), 19 Freddy Sears, 34 Jermaine Grandison.

Argyle (4-4-2): 21 David Stockdale; 2 Karl Duguid, 11 Kári Árnason, 15 Chris Barker, 23 Richard Eckersley (18 Gary Sawyer 57); 6 Chris Clark, 7 Damien Johnson, 4 Carl Fletcher (capt), 36 Yala Bolasie; 8 Jamie Mackie, 10 Bradley Wright-Phillips (32 Joe Mason 74). Substitutes (not used): 1 Romain Larrieu (gk), 14 Rory Fallon, 20 Luke Summerfield, 25 Alan Judge, 33 Kenny Cooper.

Booked: Bolasie 80.

Referee: Andy Haines (London).

Attendance: 18,127 (734 away).

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