Yeovil 2 Argyle 1 - Report
Smith 62, Lacey 64
by Rob McNichol
DEVON'S premier football team are still yet to record a win in the EFL in neighbouring Somerset.
Yeovil, managed by confirmed Janner Darren Way, scored two goals from set-pieces in quickfire fashion just after the hour mark to make it two defeats and a draw from Argyle's three attempts to win at Huish Park in league matches.
Former Yeovil man Jakub Sokolik scored a consolation for Argyle, but it was not enough to stop the Pilgrims falling to their fourth away defeat of the season.
A run of wet Somerset days caused a small amount of consternation in the build-up to the game, but there was never any real danger of the game being...well, in danger. More rain than was ideal, though, would make the surface slippy, and increasingly heavy. Good to soft in places was long gone.
There was more than the usual amount of team news, too. Heartening news, to begin with, off the field. Days after completing a transfer from Oxford United to Argyle, Ryan Taylor was with his partner, welcoming a child into the world. Congratulations, Ryan!
No less heartwarming, in a footballing sense, was the return of Gary Sawyer, making his first appearance since the Pilgrims played Blackpool on August 27, following a lengthy injury. He was joined in the starting 11 by Craig Tanner; by Sokolik, returning to familiar territory; and by Nathan Blissett, who along with Jakub was making his first start for the Greens.
We say 'Greens'...this was a first time ever - and possibly last time - for a one-off burgundy kit sent to us by PUMA, since both first and second kits of Argyle's clashed with Yeovil's.
After the kick-off, more team-news, of the positional sort. A quick glance at the pitch - after the realisation that Argyle were actually the ones not in green - gave away the fact that Yann Songo'o had returned to a midfield berth after 15 games as Sonny Bradley's literal right-hand man. Sokolik took that spot, with Sawyer and Threlkeld as full backs. Songo'o sat in front, with David Fox, with Graham Carey to the left and Tanner to the right, in advanced roles. Ryan Donaldson, off of Blissett, completed the set.
The rain had not deleted the game, but it was always going to affect. Not one way or the other, necessarily, but the opening exchanges were dominated by scenes of players checking stride before receiving a ball, and very often losing their footing in doing so. When they did stay vertical, the pass that followed very often was overhit. Not to pick on him, but Artur Krysiak was struggling to even find the pitch with goal-kicks, such was the uncertainty of the conditions.
No matter - there was little anyone could do. Argyle found the aerial route to be a threat, from wide areas. Songo't headed onto the roof of the net not long before Tanner got one on target, but found the hands of Krysiak. Yeovil's best early moves usually were halted by an offside flag, although a nice incursion by Francois Zoko, when he bamboozled Threlkeld, looked dangerous, until Bradley intervened, as is his want.
Donaldson nearly capitalised on a gift from Matthew Dolan, who misjudged a pass in his own area, but enough Glovers colleagues lent a hand, and saw off the danger. Soon, though, Tanner was fizzing a deflected shot wide, and Blissett headed over the resultant corner, as Argyle upped it.
Seven minutes before the break, it seemed certain Argyle would break the deadlock, but got stuck in the six-yard mud-box. A Tanner corner zipped through some bodies, and lay prostrate just a couple of metres from goal. Bradley tried to bundle it in, and Blissett got involved too, but Yeovil's will was holding out. The ball fell to Threlkeld, who smashed one, but the defensive body count again won out.
Three minutes later, a similar situation. A Tanner free-kick hit the wall, but Carey received a smart ball from Fox, and crossed. Yeovil's defending was unconvincing, but certainly wholehearted. A half-clearance was poor, but the desire to stop Donaldson shooting in peace was admirable - and effective. The ball deflected over for another Argyle corner, which was again conjured clear.
When the half-time whistle sounded, it was more of a frustration for Argyle than anyone, as momentum seemed to be with the Pilgrims, but affairs remained goalless at the break.
Tom Eaves tried to alter this early in the second half, holding off Threlkeld and shooting low to Luke McCormick's near post, but the Argyle keeper gripped the slippery ball.
Derek Adams did not wait long to freshen his side up in search of a telling goal. He sent on wide men Jordan Slew and Jake Jervis for Blissett and Donaldson, asking Tanner to play the centre forward role. He nearly profited from the switch straight away, being sent through after Fox's cunning interception. Nathan Smith's pace allowed him to recover and slow the attack down sufficiently, and by the time Carey had a shot, there were green-and-white shirts in position to block.
It was Yeovil, though, who took the lead a shade after the hour mark. Ben Whitfield's well-delivered corner was met by Smith, who seemed to connect with the ball with his hip. No matter, his intervention was sufficient to deflect the ball past McCormick, and the hosts were in front.
The strike was Yeovil's first in Sky Bet League Two at Huish Park since December 3, when they put five past Crawley. Since then, the Glovers had drawn four blanks in league action. Predictably, to a pessimist drawn to cliche, the second soon followed, presumably unlike the buses in rural Somerset.
It was eerily similar; probably even more sickening to the Argyle players. A free-kick from very near the corner flag on the right wing was swung into the area, where several players seemed to swing and miss, before the ball reached Alex Lacey. Lacey's connection rather resembled a push between fourth slip and gully, reaching football's version of the boundary rope - the net.
Yeovil should have made it three in record time, after Sokolik and Bradley decided on an impromptu slapstick act, cannoning into each other and freeing up Whitfield. It took a good save from McCormick to spare their blushes.
Argyle brought on Sarcevic for Fox, switched to a diamond midfield, and immediately took matters to the sudden leaders. Carey and Slew tried from range, but found bodies in the way. Sawyer had more space, but sliced wide from 20 yards. A goal, one felt, could set up a grandstand final chapter.
The goal Argyle sought came, 13 minutes from time, from a source more familiar to the home fans than to the away faithful. Former Glover Sokolik appeared to be the final person to make contact with Jervis's excellently whipped-in free-kick, and the dramatic finale was on...
...but it failed to materialise. Argyle threw men forward, but could not get nothing to stick.
Yeovil (4-3-3): 1 Artur Krysiak; 2 Liam Shephard, 6 Alex Lacey, 3 Nathan Smith, 11 Ryan Dickson (capt); 7 Kevin Dawson, 16 Matthew Butcher, 4 Matthew Dolan; 28 Ben Whitfield (39 Shayon Harrison 90), 9 Tom Eaves (17 Omar Sowunmi 86), 13 Francois Zoko (19 Brandon Goodship 79). Substitutes (not used): 5 Bevis Mugabi, 12 Jonathan Maddison, 22 Oliver Bassett, 32 Thomas James.
Booked: Eaves 83, Krysiak 90, Dawson 90.
Argyle (4-2-3-1): 23 Luke McCormick (capt); 18 Oscar Threlkeld, 31 Jakub Sokolik, 15 Sonny Bradley, 3 Gary Sawyer; 24 David Fox (7 Antoni Sarcevic 68), 4 Yann Songo'o; 27 Craig Tanner, 11 Ryan Donaldson (14 Jake Jervis 56), 10 Graham Carey; 13 Nathan Blissett (8 Jordan Slew 56). Substitutes (not used): 5 Nauris Bulvitis, 20 Louis Rooney, 21 Vincent Dorel (gk).
Booked: Fox 24, Songo'o 87.
Referee: Kevin Johnson.
Attendance: 4,788. (1,747 away).