PETER Hartley reckons his side’s defensive display to lay the foundations for Saturday’s 1-0 win over Shrewsbury was their best of the season.Reuben Reid headed home 12 minutes before half-time to lift Argyle back up to eighth place in Sky Bet League 2. It was the Pilgrims’ fifth win of the campaign, with all five having been built on a clean-sheet by a defence that has conceded just two league goals at Home Park this season.
Shrewsbury tested the mettle of Argyle defenders and goalkeeper Luke McCormick more than any other side so far this campaign, and Peter was delighted they passed the severe examination.
“That’s the best clean sheet we’ve kept all season,” said the Argyle vice-captain, “because they are a dangerous team and they really went for it. They started with three centre-forwards – not many teams come to Plymouth and do that; they didn’t show us much respect.
“We kept the back door shut and we are always going to get chances when we’ve got players like Marvin [Morgan], Rubes [Reuben Reid] and Lewi [Alessandra]; Bobby [Reid] has come in and he’s been different class.
“We defended unbelievably. Our backs were against the wall and we’ve got the right type of mentality. I thought it was a really good win.
“It just shows how much we want it, more than anything else. We said, in the dressing-room before the game, if we want it more than [Shrewsbury], we have got the quality to win the game, and I thought that showed.”
Luke made two outstanding first-half saves – from James Collins’ close-in shot and Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro’s bullet header following a corner – to help keep the clean sheet and earn personal redemption for the part he played in the previous week’s 1-0 defeat at Accrington.
“He was different gravy, as we’d say up north,” said Peter. “He’s an honest person and he held his hands up last week for the goal, but he won us the game, ultimately, today with a great save with his feet and a great save from the corner.
“When you have got a goalkeeper behind you of that quality, it makes your job easy as a centre-half. His kicking is different class; his shot-stopping is different class; his communication. He ticks all the boxes to be a top ’keeper.
“He’s a credit to himself as a professional and as a bloke, as well. He’s really on the money every Saturday and you can’t ask any more from a ’keeper.”
Peter believes such form can help Argyle reach the collective aim of a top-seven finish come next May in what is already shaping up as a very tight league.
He said: “If you are going to get promoted from a league, first and foremost, you keep the back door shut at home and you get the wins. That’s what we’ve based our solid season round so far. Long may it continue.
“You’ve just got to not worry about anybody and keep picking your points up, and when it comes to the business end of the season –the last two or three months – you have just got to drop a gear and go for it. If we play like we did today, and we are a solid as we were, away from home, we will pick up a lot more points in the future.
“We’ve gone from 16th to eighth with a win; that speaks volumes for what the league is like. You just concentrate on Plymouth Argyle and forget about everybody else, and, as long as we do the business on a Saturday, I think we’re in with a good shout.”