2013-14 in Review: Top Five Champagne Moments
THERE are moments in football which, in an instant, get you rising up from your seat.It could be a sublime bit of skill, a goal that comes at a crucial time or perhaps a moment which you know will enter the annals of history. They are the moments that make your hairs stand on end; the moments which - perhaps that night in the pub or Monday morning at school - you have to tell someone about.
We call them 'champagne moments', and here, we have selected our top five. We have elected to leave out any of the goals already chronicled in our 'Top Five Goals' feature. Those featured here are for factors beyond simply the aesthetics of the goals.
As ever, we would like to hear your opinions, so get involved on Twitter or Facebook and join in the debate using the hashtag #PAFCTopFive.
5) Luke McCormick's saves, Torquay United 1 Argyle 1 - Sky Bet League 2, Tuesday, November 26,2013
Those present when Argyle met their nearest geographical rivals back in November would likely not have had Torquay pegged as a relegation candidate. The Gulls gave Argyle a real test during an entertaining 1-1 draw at Plainmoor, despite the game's goalscoring being concluded within the opening 10 minutes.
Torquay led through Elliot Benyon, who poked home after Luke McCormick had made an excellent save to deny Damien Mozika. Reuben equalised from the penalty spot to draw Argyle level only moments later.
It was McCormick, though, that was as responsible for anyone for Argyle escaping TQ1 with a point. One save, arching backwards to push a Benyon header over the bar, was mesmorising. Then, minutes later, the Argyle keeper was at it again, getting vital fingertips to Jordan Chapell's wicked strike.
4) Lewis Alessandra scores with his chest, Argyle 2 Torquay United 0 - Sky Bet League 2, Wednesday, January 1,2014
We really are not picking on Torquay, we promise, but it is from our second game against the Gulls from 2013-14 where we head next, and an ingenious piece of improvisation.
Argyle were a goal up and in command, just looking to put the seal on a very good New Year's Day performance, when Conor Hourihane picked up the ball on the left flank. Unhurried, the skipper curled a beautiful cross into the area and in front on the oncoming Lewis Alessandra. Lewi met it, the net rippled, Argyle had a 2-0 lead and the Green Army acclaimed what many thought was a great header.
Those with keen eyes, though, saw the real story. The ball had dipped a little before reaching Argyle's number 7, but instead of stooping to head an awkward ball, Alessandra thrust out his chest and propelled the ball past Torquay goalkeeper Michael Poke with his sternum. The ball did not trickle over the line; it powered into the top corner, in fact.
From a man who scored a great many excellent goals last season, this was easily the most unique.
3) Nathan Thomas makes defenders fall down, Argyle 1 Mansfield Town 1 - Sky Bet League 2, Tuesday, February 1,2014
If you think Torquay might feel bad reading this list, then that is nothing compared to how sick Mansfield fans are going to be. They visited Home Park in February, and took the lead through Matt Rhead with just over quarter of an hour - of normal time - to play. Argyle toiled in search of a leveller, but it seemed to no avail.
There had been six minutes of injury-time signalled by the fourth official when 90 minutes elapsed, mainly due to a finger injury suffered by Luke McCormick, which was to end his season. In the sixth minute of stoppage time, Luke Young and Tyler Harvey ferried the ball to Nathan Thomas, stationed on the touchline on the right flank. Thomas was met by defender Lee Beevers, who was going to attempt to stop the winger.
He had no chance.
Thomas performed a couple of stepovers combined with shimmies and bodyswerves to leave Beevers looking like he had spent the last twenty minutes strapped to a carousel. He flopped to earth as Thomas sauntered into the penalty area. Nathan then deftly flicked the ball back to Lewis Alessandra, who struck home powerfully to give Argyle a late, late point.
Lewi understandably took the plaudits for a well-taken goal, but it was the dazzling wing-play by Thomas that was the abiding memory.
2) Trotman Time, Mansfield Town 0 Argyle 1 - Sky Bet League 2, Saturday, October 26, 2013
When Argyle travelled to Mansfield in late October, the Pilgrims had won only three of their 16 fixtures in 2013-14 to that point. The latest failure to win, a 0-0 draw at home to Newport, was as dire a fixture as you are ever likely to see. Travelling Argyle fans could be forgiven for having little faith that things were about to change at Field Mill.
In fairness, the game was hardly a classic. Argyle certainly matched their hosts whilst playing a new 3-4-3 system, but there was little fluency to the game, and a second consecutive stalemate looked increasingly likely.
That was until Argyle got a free-kick just inside the Stags' half. Conor Hourihane lofted a ball into the penalty area that home goalkeeper Liam Mitchell came for but was destined never to get near, as Neal Trotman powered in and nodded home for the crucial, match-winning goal.
The 'Trotman Time' winner sparked a run of seven unbeaten games that helped to ease Argyle's season in the right direction, and gave the 460 travelling fans a wonderful memory of Nottinghamshire.
1) Curtis Nelson runs down the wing, Wycombe Wanderers 0 Argyle 1 - Sky Bet League 2, Tuesday, March 11, 2014
It may sound a little odd to anyone who was not at Adams Park on a pleasant Tuesday night, that we would select a champagne moment of the season to be someone simply running down a wing. If you were there, though, you will get it.
Argyle had lost to Bristol Rovers the previous Saturday, and were looking to bounce back with a win to lift them into the play-off positions for the first time in the campaign. After controlling the first half in Buckinghamshire, Argyle sought to turn possession and territorial advantage into goals, and reward a Green Army that had turned out in admirable number and no little voice that night.
It was Nelson that led the charge. Stepping out from his centre-back position, Curtis roared down the left-flank, demonstrating the turn of pace he has in his locker and evading obstacles as deftly as Jezki had done earlier that day to land the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
His surge led to a corner. That corner led to another corner. And that corner led to Conor Hourihane striking the game's only goal. with a sumptuous finish.
The run of Nelson meant something else, though, than its direct effect. It galvanised the Green Army, who roared their approval and took their volume up yet another notch. It also served to gee up his team-mates, who played extremely well that night in an understated fashion.
Ultimately, our play-off attempt would fall short, but there was a real belief that night that something could be about to happen. It was epitomised by Nelson's galloping drive and determination.