Deserved Derby

LOCAL derbies have a tendency to drift into something resembling a cliché convention.

Idioms about winning your first tackle, formbooks being mysteriously defenestrated, and other such oft-uttered phrases abound.

When you factor in one team looking to solidify their play-off push, maybe even seek automatic promotion, and the other trying to add precious points in a bid to retain their league status, then it gets a little silly: it is a must-win game, pride on the line, bragging rights to be played for and other such old rope to be pedalled.

John Sheridan does not immediately strike you as the type to get caught up in the same old tired utterances, nor fall into romantic ideals about what derbies are like. He does, though, know what they are about, and was obviously delighted with the way his team went about being Exeter 1-0 on a tense afternoon in PL2.

“They’re always tight affairs,” he said, perilously close to platitude, “You could see the effort from both sides. It’s usually a little bit of magic that gets you it. Jason wasn’t really in the game, but the goal was top drawer wasn’t it?”

There is no denying that observation. Banton’s goals have been critical in Argyle’s resurgence of late, and these games do tend to be so tight that one moment is all it takes. I am at it now, look. It is so easily done.

John expanded: “I’m very pleased. I think we deserved to win. It was a very good performance in a big game, a derby game, against a good team. They are a very good passing team and have had some excellent results away from home, but I thought we kept them quiet for most of the game.

“The first five minutes worried me the most. Full credit to my players: their effort to try to win the game was brilliant – and it has been since I’ve been here.

“We knew we had to get into their faces. If you let them play they are one of the best teams in the division. I would have liked us to pass the ball a little bit more.

“I thought Conor [Hourihane] was outstanding. He did all the ugly things and kept us in the game. He did what central midfielders and captains do. He kept us driving all day. It was a very good performance.”

Now having won three in a row in the league for the first time this season, Argyle will travel to struggling York City on Easter Monday: a “six-pointer”, as they say.

“I’m focusing on the York game now,” said John. “It’s a massive game. It’s tight down at the bottom. The teams at the bottom are playing well and are all fighting for the cause. We’ve just got to concentrate on ourselves.

“That game’s gone now. It’s a shame we can’t enjoy it a bit more, because I’m focusing on York now. That’s even probably a bigger game than today.”

Indeed. Let us take every game as it comes, eh?