RELIEF might have been the dominant emotion at the One Call Stadiumafter Neal Trotman’s goal deep into injury-time secured a first win in nine games for the Pilgrims but ‘belief’ remains manager John Sheridan’s watchword.
Neal headed home Conor Hourihane’s 93rd-minute free-kick to score the only goal of a physical match and cap a gutsy individual and team performance.
It was, according to the gaffer, not one of Argyle’s best displays of the campaign, but at least the result allowed him to deviate from a familiar post-match mantra.
“I think people are getting sick of me saying that we are playing well but we are not scoring and not winning games,” he said. “I don’t think we played well today, but we won – I’d rather say that a few times.
“Sometimes, when you battle and have a bit of determination about you, it is not all about playing football and passing [the ball] around – it’s about getting a result in the end. That’s what we did. They are the best results.
“I knew we’d be in for a good scrap. I thought we defended as a team but the defenders and [goalkeeper] Luke [McCormick] stood firm. When we had to defend, we defended. If you keep a clean sheet, you have got a good chance of winning.
“We created one or two little problems ourselves. [Mansfield] had chances and we had chances. The most important thing is always to get three points, and it’s great to score at the end and give everyone a little bit of a break of not scoring.”
John sent the team out in a 3-4-3 formation but switched it at half-time along with instructions to his players that saw the Pilgrims gradually gain momentum.
“I said: ‘Listen – [Mansfield] are going to put balls in and they are going to put them in early, and you are going to have to defend, but I just want you to be brave, get the ball down and just try to pass it a little bit more’.
“We did that for 15 minutes just after half-time, then we got a bit scrappy again. I’d like us to believe in ourselves a bit more and pass the ball, with the players we’ve got in the team. I don’t think we are the sort of team to get into a scrap, but we did get into a scrap today and I am pleased with the way the lads dealt with it.”
The victory might have stopped the rot but results elsewhere meant Argyle climbed only one place up Sky Bet League 2. However, John believes – that word again – the win might be the start of something.
“Let’s not get carried away, but it’s a really, really good three points,” he said. “It was a good team effort. It’s always good to win football matches.
“I’m pleased for the players. I keep saying to the lads it’s important that we all stick together and fight ourselves out of the position we’re in and, when we get couple of results, hopefully a bit of confidence will come back into our game.
“We’ve looked a little bit tighter in the last three or four games, defensively wise. We’re working very hard to make it difficult for the opposition to create chances, but we still need to create more and score more – obviously – to win games.
“The biggest thing for me is that we should have had more points, but we haven’t.
“Today, we’ve haven’t played well and we’ve won. Sometimes that’s what gets you on a little run of games and we can pick points up.
“There is nothing between any of the teams in the division. I see the teams week in and week out and I think, on our day, we will compete with any team in the division, but it’s all about the magic word – consistency.”