FOR the last few games, John Sheridan’s major gripe with his Plymouth Argyle side has been...
...the lack of second-half performance. After an amazing game in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at Cheltenham Town, there were echoes of those feelings, but surely not as strong as before.
Argyle led 2-1 at the break after Rommy Boco and Lewis Alessandra had overturned Steven Gillespie’s opener for the hosts, and when new boy Hamza Bencherif made it 3-1, the tie looked over. But a double whammy of a second for Gillespie and Curtis Nelson’s straight red card put Argyle under pressure. An equaliser from Jason Taylor levelled, but Argyle held out for a penalty shoot-out, which they went on to win 5-4 and claim a place in the second round.
“I didn’t like it ending up the way it did,” said John, referring to letting a two-goal cushion slip-away. “I’d like to see the game be a little bit easier. You make things hard for yourself from 3-1 up.
“I’d like my team to be in control of the game and dominate. I think we should be talking control of the game. We were in comfortable position. The game shouldn’t have ended 3-3.
“We’re though, anyway. We scored three goals again. I look at the negative things, and we are conceding too many soft goals for my liking.
“But I’m not going to be hard on [the players]. I thought it was a good effort. We created chances, and – full credit to Cheltenham – they tried to play as well. We have a sending-off and they get back in it with the penalty; they’ve worked hard to get in the game. But I think we deserved to win.”
The manager made five changes from the Argyle line-up that started in the 2-1 defeat at Morecambe three days previous, with new signings Bencherif and Jamie Reckord joining Andre Blackman, Maxime Blanchard and Jake Cole in the 11.
John was pleased with the contribution of everyone who stepped in, but singled out Blackman, who started the game on the left side of midfield for the first time in an Argyle jersey, and gave his marker numerous headaches throughout.
“I think Andre did well tonight,” said John. “I played him further up the pitch. I think he’s got that in his locker; he can get at people and he’s a threat. His work-rate and work ethic was a lot better tonight.
“It was his opportunity because of circumstances and the competition. I thought I’d throw one or two people in and I don’t think anyone let themselves down.
“I wanted to give players a game tonight, give them a bit of football time. The most important thing is the league programme, and I would have liked to have played one or two more, but the sending-off didn’t help. I was thinking about putting Youngy [Luke Young], Andres [Gurrieri] or Tyler [Harvey]on, just to save one or two’s legs. That’s why I took Reuben off, really.
“Previous times when I’ve had a man sent off, I’ve gone 4-3-2; I’ve never gone 4-4-1. But it worked out alright.”
The shoot-out victory means Argyle go into the draw for round two, which will be played in the week commencing October 7. It was only the second penalty shoot-out victory in Argyle history, the first coming in December 1998 against Kidderminster in the FA Cup.
“It’s nice to be in the next round,” said John, “no matter what the cup and how we’ve done it.
“I thought our penalties were very good. The lads picked who wanted to take them and when, so it was down to them. If anyone is confident enough to take one, I won’t stop them.
“We’re doing alright with penalties so far, so hopefully that will carry on.”