A LITTLE bit of extra time on the training ground paid handsome dividends for Argyle skipper Conor Hourihane and his team......as the Pilgrims rounded off their Sky Bet League 2 campaign with a 3-3 draw at Portsmouth.
The home side led three times, thanks to Danny Hollands’ hat-trick, but each time Hollands netted, Argyle levelled. Reuben Reid scored his 21st goal of the season for the first equaliser, with Conor scoring the second and third levellers in the 41st and 89th minutes as Argyle ended their campaign in tenth place.
Conor’s second of the match took his tally for the season to nine, an achievement he puts down to some voluntary extra work with Pilgrims’ coach Sean McCarthy – no stranger the back of the net back in the day.
“I stay behind after training a lot of the time with Macca, practicing finishing,” said Conor. “It’s not coincidence that, when I practice my finishing, goals come in games.
“On Thursday and Friday, even though it was two days before the end of the season, I stayed out practicing with Macca. I was the only guy there. Sometimes, when you put in that little bit extra work, it pays off.”
The game was played out in front of more than 18,000 supporters, including nearly 1,600 of the Green Army, and gave Conor a taste for more of the same when the 2014-15 season starts in August.
“It was a fantastic game to play in; a great game to finish the season,” he said. “Two massive clubs; the two biggest teams in the league by a million miles. To have an atmosphere like that is something we all want to see more: get in the top four or five, and we will get bigger crowds, as well.
“Next year, we are going to try to come back bigger and better and stronger, and finish higher.”
Conor’s first goal came when he and team-mate Luke Young noticed Pompey goalkeeper Trevor Carson’s positioning at a free-kick.
He said: “There were so many lads in the wall, I said to Youngy: ‘If I get this around it, he’s going to be so unsighted; it’s going to go in’. Luckily enough, ‘[the ball] found its way through and went into the corner.”
The second strike arrived in the dying moments of the season, in front of the Green Army, after Portsmouth had failed to deal with substitute Paul Wotton’s header following a corner.
“I saw the ball break,” said Conor, “and saw I had the opportunity there. Luckily I got there just before [the defender] and it snuck in.
“It’s fantastic. It’s nice to see [the fans] buzzing and to give them something to finish the season on a high. It’s something that I want to do a lot more.
“Personally, I think I’ve made massive strides this season. We’ve all had our good and bad days but to get nine goals is fantastic. I’d love to get double-figures, but it’s still a huge positive for myself.
“To be fair, [Portsmouth] were probably the slightly better team but we went behind three times, so it showed the character of the lads. It was nice to finish the season on a little positive.
“I know we were aiming for the play-offs and we didn’t get there but, to finish in the top ten was nice. If we’d dropped down to 12th or 13th, it would have been disappointing, but to see us in the top ten is a big improvement, obviously.
“You still haven’t achieved anything but, if you really look at the season, it’s been a positive one.”