ARGYLE manager John Sheridan has been named npower League 2 manager of the month for March.John’s award comes after he led the Pilgrims to four wins and a draw from six tough fixtures during the month. He becomes the first Argyle manager to win the accolade since Paul Sturrock in December 2003.
Under John, Argyle took 13 points from a possible 18 in March and hit the top of the form table. All but one of the matches played were against sides in the top half of the division.
March started with a must-win game against Barnet at Home Park, a game in which Argyle actually fell behind to a Jake Hyde strike in the 21st minute. Sheridan, and Argyle, turned it around, though, and, in the 36th minute, the Greens were level courtesy of a superb shimmy and strike from skipper Conor Hourihane.
Just four minutes into the second half, Argyle took the lead. Reuben Reid saw his shot inside the area blocked but the rebound fell to Ronan Murray who stroked the ball home to give the Greens the lead. The turning point for the rest of the season? Possibly.
John saw his side comfortably see out the rest of the game and get March off to the perfect start. Up next, a tough trip to league leaders Gillingham.
Few expected Argyle to bring anything back from their long trip to Kent so it came as little surprise when the visitors found themselves two down mid way through the second half. A Jason Banton goal in the 77th minute helped Argyle gave the Gills a late scare but they hung on to inflict Argyle’s only defeat of the month.
Three days later, a point from a goalless draw with Bradford City provided Argyle the base to go on and win their next three matches.
Before the visit of play-off chasing Fleetwood Town to Home Park, John admitted it was a must-win game. First-half goals from Paul Wotton – his first in a year, and from the spot – and Jason Banton gave the Pilgrims a commanding lead.
The visitors threatened to make an unlikely comeback in the second half as David Ball struck with quarter of an hour left but John’s side hung on for a vital three points that moved them out of the relegation zone.
A trip to Southend to battle some familiar faces followed as Sheridan looked to build on the victory against Fleetwood.
A cagey first half from both sides was summed up when Jason Banton rounded the Shrimps ‘keeper only to see his shot, which was rolling into the open net, tapped in by Paris Cowan-Hall. Unknowingly, Paris was in an offside position so Argyle were denied the lead.
The Greens were not to be denied in the second half, however, as Wottsy scored his second penalty in as many games and Reuben Reid clinically struck his first for the club.
Another tough fixture against a promotion chasing side complete and another three points heading in the direction of Plymouth. Sheridan had said before the postponed fixture in February that his record at Roots Hall was good, and so it had proved.
Following the postponement of the trip to Sheridan’s old stomping ground, Chesterfield, focus immediately turned to the Devon Expressway Derby which was to prove the undoubted highlight of a successful month for Argyle.
A bumper crowd of 13,251 were at Home Park to watch a Devon clash that had ramifications at each end of the table. Argyle needed the points in their fight against relegation whilst Exeter wanted them to aid their promotion cause.
After a tense opening 20 minutes, it was John’s Argyle side who took the initiative and got a firm grip on the game, penning Exeter in to their own half.
It was just minutes before half-time that Argyle’s dominance was rewarded as Jason Banton found the space to get a shot off that went in via the far post to give Argyle the lead. Cue delirium in three sides of Home Park as John had Argyle on their way to victory over their fiercest rivals.
The final whistle signalled local bragging rights as well as a third consecutive league win for the first time since February 2008.
John’s fine month persuaded nPower’s judging panel, which includes former top-flight manager Alan Curbishley, to name him March’s nPower League Two manager of the month.
Of course, whilst winning the award is nice, John’s ultimate goal will be keeping the Pilgrims in the Football League, something which is looking likelier thanks to their magnificent March.