STOP me if you have heard it – Argyle put in a good attacking display, catalysed by a quality loan player with the initials JB.This was the story of the Pilgrims’ first ever visit to Chesterfield’s Proact Stadium, as Argyle emerged with three precious points following a 2-1 victory. But the JB that got the ball rolling – very literally, in fact – was not the one so often talked about of late.
Jason Banton’s brief career in Green was a successful one. The borrowed Crystal Palace man notched six goals for Plymouth in14 appearances, but was recalled by the Eagles, effective immediately after Argyle’s defeat at Burton.
Step forward Joe Bryan. Bristol City’s by rights, but a Pilgrim until the end of this season. And a hero in many hearts forever after curling into the top corner of the Chesterfield net after 20 minutes of this game.
Coming inside on his right foot – not his natural foot – Joe hit what was undeniably a crisply struck ball into the far corner.
But did he mean it?
“It’s something my Dad always tells me to do,” he said, “cut inside and have a go on your right foot. Just put it in that area that if the ’keeper doesn’t come and claim it, it will go in, but if a striker’s running in and gets a nick on it it’ll go in.
“I just tried to put it in that area and luckily it’s gone in. I did mean it. It wasn’t one of those shanked crosses that comes off the outside of my right foot.”
With the game at 2-0, Joe was gifted a chance to make it 3-0 and put the game beyond reasonable doubt. Picking up a loose pass, he rounded the ’keeper but his shot could only find the side-netting.
Asking his assessment of this one, Joe gave a slightly different – but no less frank – response.
“I had an absolute beast there!” he said.
“I took it round the ’keeper, and got a bit panicky. Being in those open goal situations you think ‘Where on earth am I going to put this?’ And obviously I put it wide.”
Some of the football Argyle played, particularly in the first half which they dominated, was a joy to watch. Bryan was frequently at the heart of this, and admitted that he was not sure that he would playing this brand of football when he first arrived at Home Park.
He said: “There was a worry, when I came in, that, being at the bottom of League 2, it was just going to be over my head and run one way, then back over my head and run the other way.
“But playing with players like Conor [Hourihane], Andy [Gurrieri], Reuben [Reid], Baz [Onismor Bhasera] – Baz is brilliant at getting the ball down and playing – I was surprised that we play one touch and little one-twos.
“We need to get the balance, I think. Sometimes, in our own half, we needed to get rid of it and not mess around. Do the little intricate stuff in the final third.”
The second half was a slightly different story. After Chesterfield made two substitutes, they got a grip on the match for the first time, and when they pulled a goal back there was still more than half an hour remaining. However, Argyle showed their defensive chops and held out.
“[Chesterfield] didn’t have too many chances,” said Joe. “I think that’s down to the back four and everyone doing their bit defensively.
“They made a lot of changes, put on wingers and stretched the game. But that gave us space to get it forward in the corners and hold it up to kill the time.
“When the fans get behind them and they bring on their big striker that’s their star man, they naturally have some pressure. They are going to have a spell in the game where they pressure us and look to get a goal. Every game has that, but it’s about how we deal with it.
“I don’t think they had many clear chances. They had a few crosses fizz across our box, but our back four defended it brilliantly.
“We got ourselves into a bit of a pickle when their goal went. Being 2-0 up is a horrible score because, if they score one, then the crowd get behind them – like they did. But I thought we defended really well, it was just ‘keep them out, keep them out, keep them out’.”
And we did.