The Magic Number

IN the second half of a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tie at Swindon Town – a game that on its own will not be remembered for very long – a potentially very important decision was made.

To combat Swindon’s fluid, effective method of play, John Sheridan shifted his men into a 3-5-2 system, and it proved reasonably effective. Many that saw that second half at the County Ground will have left Wiltshire thinking ‘I bet we play that way on Saturday’.

And we did. John retained the system for the televised home fixture against Portsmouth, and it has remained in place ever since, with the odd minor tweak from time to time.

Broadly, it has been effective. Two wins and two draws have come from the five fixtures playing three at the back, and the defeat came at Hartlepool in which Argyle dominated but couldn’t score. In the cumulative 450 minutes played with three central defenders, Argyle have conceded just two goals.

Speaking after the 1-0 victory at home to Northampton Town, Sheridan spoke about the system and what he believes it allows his Argyle side to do.

“I picked it against Portsmouth,” he said, “and I think it enables us to get a few bodies forward more than anything. I think the lads are working very hard on the system, how we're going to play. I think Jamie (Reckord) is a bit raw with it, but he's getting more used to it now. I've played Branston and Nelson on that side, but Blanchard and Trotman have settled in well. I think the back 5 - or back 6 if you include McCormick in that - have looked quite solid.

“Clean sheets is a good habit, but our problem is scoring goals, and the pleasing thing is we could've scored three or four goals today.

“I think we can still better. I'd like us to be confident; the pitch is a beautiful pitch. I put Nelson in because I've got so many attacking players in the team, with Rommy and Lewis and Reuben, and Conor likes to get forward. I thought in the first half we were in control of the game, but we always seem to find it very hard to put the ball in the back of the net, but there's something about us; if you're scoring goals so late, last week and this week, there's something about us.

“Full credit to the players, they're the ones on the pitch, and we're all quite chuffed and again, it's a win. We could've had two 0-0 draws but we haven't, let's take it with both hands and carry on.”