It’s been difficult to judge Argyle’s season so far.
Perhaps we should be higher due to our performance. Perhaps we should be happy to not be struggling at the very foot of the table at this stage, as we have unfortunately become accustomed to.
An away trip to Wycombe signalled the beginning of a trinity of games against sides who are up against it in npower League Two. A win here could be the true Genesis of Argyle’s season.
This was Adams, in the Eve.
Rain fell before the game for some time, but it was fortunately not of biblical proportions. This is a ground that has already lost a game to waterlogging this season, so as the weather abated it was a relief. That said, the pitch looked of a remarkably high quality considering not only climactic adversity but also the frequent rugby matches which are played here.
As earlier in the season at Dagenham, Olympian Greg Searle was in attendance to cheer on his beloved Greens. The rain had abated by the time he watched Argyle kick off, and the park was hardly Eton Dorney, but conditions still looked a shade on the treacherous side. A long stud likely required.
Wycombe, for their part, in their two-tone blue, looked like they couldn’t quite decide which of the Boat Race teams to root for. It was probably not all they were unsure of, having only collected four points to this point and finding themselves in the bottom two.
As Argyle gaffer Carl Fletcher took up his position in the away dugout, his opposite number started his evening about seventy yards away. Having dismissed manager Gary Waddock already this season, The Chairboys installed Gareth Ainsworth as Caretaker Player-Manager, and the new boss started himself on the right side of the home midfield.
An odd contrast in managerial positions; made a little more interesting when you consider the boss on the pitch is a shade under seven years older than his counterpart who hasn’t played for a year.
Despite Argyle beginning the game as the brighter of the sides, CPM Ainsworth made his mark on the game early on. Eleven minutes in, his ball into the area led both Jake Cole and Matt McClure to come for it.
The latter met it, and Wycombe led.
Score one for the GA with the number seven on his back. But the GA with number twelve on theirs would not be silenced yet. Those in the Green Army that travelled to Morecambe saw Argyle dominate a game and find themselves two goals down. Three points were earned that day – this was far from over, with well over an hour remaining.
A major part of lower league football these days is undoubtedly the use of the loan market, and it was certainly interesting to watch the fortunes of Argyle’s borrowed trio in this game.
The opening 45, at times, looked like the sponsored Alex MacDonald show. Getting it to him was, somewhat paradoxically, the out ball and the in-thing. At left back for Wycombe, the dreadlocked Charles Dunne dreaded getting done, and often that is exactly what occurred.
Watford have kindly allowed us to have a lend of Ross Jenkins, and we should probably be quite thankful that they have. Alongside Conor Hourihane, the Green Hornet took charge of the centre of the pitch for a fair while following the Wanderers’ opener. He is yet to play at Home Park, but it should be a pleasure for the home faithful when they get to see him. He is a player.
It was not going quite so well, though, for Guy Madjo. The on-loan Aldershot forward frequently made intelligent movements into the right areas, but just couldn’t quite find the right touch at the right time. Both he and Warren Feeney persisted in making nuisances of themselves and giving Wycombe’s defenders a tricky night. However, the bounce of the ball just wasn’t on their side.
As the half elapsed, Wycombe came more and more into it. A series of consecutive chances, instigated by Jo Kuffour, were blocked by flailing and committed Argyle defenders as a second goal suddenly looked imminent.
It was Argyle, though, that had the best chance of the game to that point, coming from arguably the best move of the game, too. Onismor Bhasera, unmarked at the far post, will know he should have nodded home when clear at the far post.
At half time’s conclusion, for the second game running, Argyle entered the arena first. That might sound a trivial observation to you, but until last Saturday, the Pilgrims always seemed to wait until their adversaries had taken to the park for the second period before emerging. Here, the ten outfield players, as on Saturday, joined coach Kevin Nancekevill for a short and energetic routine before the restart. And, like on Saturday, Argyle scored within five minutes. Coincidence? Good management? No matter, the goals are all that count.
MacDonald it was who initiated this one. On loan, and alone, he picked up the ball and clipped into the middle. Guy, with glee, nodded home.
Well, I say “nodded”………
To be quite frank, the ball probably struck Madge’s nose, chin, shoulder or arm en route to the far corner of the net. Or, in all likelihood, a combination of some or all of the above. It mattered not – Argyle were level.
Not only were they level, they were playing with their tails up and looking the more confident. Chances were frequent. Hopes were raised. An injury to Warren Feeney meant an enforced change for Argyle, with Paris Cowan-Hall coming on.
For a player like Paris, this was a perfect game in which to come on. Stretched, and with Argyle having a great deal of possession, Cowan-Hall’s fresh and pacey legs against a tiring defence seemed a positive.
More subs followed – Griffiths and Chadwick for Madjo and Bhasera – as Argyle certainly sensed a win was on.
As it happened, the second half became increasingly bitty. The game was far from dull, but with neither side getting a grasp on things, it seemed it would peter out into a 1-1 draw.
The scoreline would indeed remain unchanged, but the closing stages were far from tedious.
When Conor Hourihane launched an effort from twenty yards deep into injury time as the rained teemed down again, Argyle looked home, if not dry. However, the shot didn’t have the dip that it initially promised, slamming off of the crossbar and into the slick turf. The chance wasn’t over, as Griffiths looped a header goalwards. Wycombe goalkeeper Archer grabbed the ball, and despite Argyle’s claims that it had crossed the line, the flag remained down.
Before Archer’s save, though, it was his opposite number who ought to have taken a bow.
Jake Cole won’t make many better saves than the one he made in the second minute of injury time to deny Joel Grant. With the ball struck hard to his right, Jake reacted instinctively and with amazing agility to deny Wycombe a win they scarcely could have hoped for.
JC saves. What a Revelation.