First Day Nerves?
DAN Waterfield takes a look at the opening day of the season and compares it to last year's somewhat different start...THE moment we had all been waiting for.
The start of the npower League 2 season had finally arrived and the immaculate turf at Home Park was ready to play host to Argyle’s first game of the league season against Aldershot.
How different this start was to the last. Just a year ago, the club was struggling to survive and haul themselves back from the near-death experience that came with administration.
Players and staff were being forced to lose out on their wages, assets were being sold, and there was a genuine fear that the club could cease to exist. However, after months of uncertainty, a saviour who goes by the name of James Brent came to the rescue, buying the club and dealing with the debts.
A year on, the club is financially on the right track, and players and staff are being paid – every month and on time. Finally, the club is able to look forward to a season, without having to worry about its future.
It was also a chance to see the Forza Verde in full swing. Over the summer, Blocks Two and Three in the Devonport End were transformed. They were painted, decorated and turned into fantastic spaces for fans. Early on, all of the vocals inside Home Park were coming from that area. Rallying behind the Pilgrims.
Last season, the Pilgrims had an away trip to Shrewsbury Town on the opening day, a 1-1 draw the result with Argyle going behind before a last-minute equaliser from now-manager Carl Fletcher, enough to get the Pilgrims a point.
This season started in a similar fashion. Argyle went behind early on, on just five minutes in fact, when Troy Brown nodded home from a free-kick, given away sloppily by Bhasera.
As the half progressed, Argyle grew into the contest and were bossing the play. Although they were unable to create many clear-cut chances.
A trip down Memory Lane was in store for Pilgrims’ fans, although, when Argyle were awarded a free-kick, dead centre, 25-yards from the goal. Two men lined up over the ball – the left-foot of Johnny Gorman and the deadly right-foot of Argyle Legend Paul Wotton poised.
There was really only ever going to be one person taking this.
Up stepped Wottsy and smashed the free-kick towards the goal, beating Jamie Young in the Shots’ net but agonisingly crashing the ball against the post.
As the afternoon progressed, it became an increasingly frustrating one. Getting the so called ‘rub of the green’ certainly helps in football, but, Argyle were not getting any.
To say the least, referee Simon Hooper had irritated the Argyle faithful with what they considered biased decisions in favour of Aldershot. And he did not do himself any favours when he awarded the Shots a penalty after Max Blanchard and Onismor Bhasera were adjudged to have tripped forward Michael Rankine.
The Green Army were rattled. To add to their frustration, they perceived that Hooper appeared to want to do little about Aldershot’s continuous timewasting.
Come full time, it was not exactly the start the Pilgrims will have wanted. They can, however, take solace from the fact that last season, Swindon lost five of their opening seven games, and duly walked away with the League 2 title.
Oh ...and you may remember that, back in 2001, Argyle lost their opening game of the season and then went on to win Division Two with a record points total of 102.