Bradley 30, 52
SONNY Bradley reached double figures as an Argyle goalscorer by launching a headed double strike on Northampton Town.
The Pilgrims defender, scored his second and third goals of the season either side of half-time as the Pilgrims won for the first time in the league at Home Park since beating Charlton Athletic on August 12.
On that occasion Jake Jervis was on target with both goals; this time Bradley's brace proved the difference. He headed home from a David Fox free-kick in the first half, and from a Graham Carey dead-ball in the second, to get the Pilgrims back to winning ways after a weekend disappointment against Oxford United.
Messages from the past and the future were everywhere. Max Childs, at 16 years and 200 days, became the first player born in the 21st century to feature in an Argyle squad. He was present on the bench because Michael Cooper, still just an apprentice himself, dislocated his finger on Monday, becoming the fourth goalkeeping name on physio Paul Atkinson's crocked list.
To the past...the last win at Home Park on a Tuesday in a league fixture was against Barnet, in September 2015. That is around 26 months. Or, to put it another way, about 12% of Max Childs' lifetime.
Deeper to the past...Northampton's Day Glo orange kit resembled one previously worn by Wycombe Wanderers - evening games against them at Home Park do not hold the fondest of memories - and the team had a smattering of Wycombe, too, in terms of personnel. Some are still scratching their head about how centre-back Aaron Pierre, once a Chairboy, now a Cobbler, remains in England's third tier of football. Against Argyle, he had so often proved an imperious, foreboding opponent.
Behind him resided Matt Ingram, who left Wycombe for QPR, and is now at Northampton on loan. Ingram, you may recall, was a huge talking point in the 2014-15 play-off semi-finals, missing out with injury, with a young stand-in coming into the side. But then what would we know about injured goalkeepers?
The rejigs in the Argyle 11 were multiple, yet singular. Antoni Sarcevic was the only player injected into the team, but he was replacing suspended defender Ryan Edwards. Therefore, Yann Songo'o left his midfield berth to fill in at centre-back, meaning David Fox slotted in as the most defensive of Argyle's central trio, and into the subsequent gap went Sarcevic.
After the pageantry of Armed Services Day came the relative calm of a Tuesday eve, and the game started in a similar manner. Northampton had the best of a stodgy opening 10 minutes, but that is a bit like saying January 4 is closer to Christmas than January 3.
All Northampton had to show for their lively (ish) start was a Chris Long out-to-in run which stretched Sonny Bradley, but a shot that failed to test Remi Matthews.
Argyle upped it, and twice had the more myopic members in the Grandstand thinking about parting bottom from wooden seat. Two efforts hit the side-netting on the outside of the post. First Graham Carey, drifting into space on the left hand channel, tried his luck from a tight angle, then Grant's deflected effort following a long, patient build-up made the net ripple in the same, unfulfilling way.
A central free-kick that looked set to be met with a Carey Special was left to David Fox, who struck well, and not far over, as Argyle looked to assert. Too often this season the pattern has been similar. Argyle pressure, no goal, unfortunate incident, uphill struggle. As the customer said to the Wickes Employee of the Month: You know the drill.
Not this time. A free-kick on the left flank gave Argyle another chance to invite players into the box. Fox took aim, sending a lofted delivery towards the fair post where Argyle's thrusting players had not been adequately picked up. Bradley connected just inside the six-yard box, simply diverting the ball's trajectory back across Ingham, who had been left badly exposed.
Northampton had a similar chance of their own, when Pierre's muscle gave him space in the area, but his contact was not as crisp as Bradley's, and Matthews reacted well to save and hold.
The great Austrian forward Toni Polster became known as Toni Dopplepack: in Austria beers are sold in pairs, and Polster grew a habit of scoring two goals in games. If we go for Sonny Twopack, it might just sound like the rap album the boys have on in the dressing room, but since Bradley added a second goal for the third time in his Argyle career, we have to call it a pattern.
Last season, at both Stevenage and Cheltenham, Bradley followed his first goal with a decisive second, to win those away fixtures. This time, he did not wait for the opponents to level the game.
It was a goal that came in stages. Argyle partially cleared their lines to Carey, who was nudged in the back in his own half, and earned a free-kick. Gary Sawyer took it, turned Northampton's defence, to find the run of Jake Jervis, who was unfairly checked. This time the free-kick was down the right wing, in an advance attacking area. Carey floated to the far post, Bradley pushed his way to the front of the receiving area, and headed in.
For the second time, it was Pierre who had afforded Bradley too much space, or at least failed to use his body well enough to stop Bradley getting to where he needed to be. Just three minutes after the goal, Town boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink sent on defender Leon Barnett in Pierre's place - and Pierre, stony faced, headed straight down the tunnel.
The Cobblers were not finished, though, not by a long shot. Indeed, Chris Long's shot, with Matthews drawn and a defence passed, looked to be the one that would get Town back in the game, but as it trickled wide, it just felt that Northampton might have fluffed their best chance at a lifeline.
Soon after, Hasselbaink introduced experienced striker Marc Richards for midfielder Regan Poole, and later Dean Bowditch for Billy Walters, choosing a 4-4-2 system to try to get his side back in the game. If anything, although Northampton were not in control of the ball and the territory, Argyle looked most likely to score next, as Bradley headed over with a crowd baying for a hat-trick, and Toumani Diagouraga catching a shot well but watching it get blocked and spin away.
The knock on Argyle, it seems, is that the Greens are a bit negative, but those not determined to see the worst in everything would have seen a second half performance that sought to comfortably contain. It was going to take a world-class pass or missile of a long-range piece of wizardry to breach the Pilgrims, playing as they were. Northampton tried both approaches, but all it did was strengthen Argyle belief. Thou shalt not pass.
Argyle got another couple of corner, and each time eyes went to just one man. So did the ball actually, but Bradley could only nod wide when Carey picked him out at the second attempt.
Bowditch curled just wide with a minute or two on the clock as Northampton to get something on the board, but it was not their night. How nice to say that about another team, for a change.
Argyle (4-3-3): 34 Remi Matthews; 3 Gary Sawyer (capt), 4 Yann Songo'o, 15 Sonny Bradley, 17 Aaron Taylor-Sinclair; 32 Toumani Diagouraga, 24 David Fox, 7 Antoni Sarcevic; 10 Graham Carey (8 Lionel Ainsworth 90), 14 Jake Jervis (27 Alex Fletcher 88), 16 Joel Grant. Substitutes (not used): 2 Gary MIller, 9 Nadir Ciftci, 11 Ruben Lameiras, 21 Gregg Wylde, 39 Max Childs (gk).
Northampton Town (4-2-3-1): 13 Matt Ingram; 2 Brendon Moloney, 6 Ash Taylor, 16 Aaron Pierre (5 Leon Barnett 55), 3 David Buchanan; 26 Regan Poole (9 Marc Richards 63), 29 Matt Grimes; 7 Billy Walters (15 Dean Bowditch 67), 37 Lewis McGugan, 22 Matt Crooks; 19 Chris Long. Substitutes (not used): 1 David Cornell (gk), 8 Sam Foley, 17 Shaun McWilliams, 24 Ryan McGivern.
Referee: Anthony Coggins.
Attendance: 7,610 (208 away).