ARGYLE were in seventh heaven......after Lewi Alessandra’s fourth goal of the season maintained their early-season Sky Bet League 2 promotion push with a 1-0 Home Park win over Carlisle United.
It was the Pilgrims’ seventh league win of the season, all of which have come after they netted first in a game in which they went on to prevent the opposition from scoring.
Their defensive doggedness has resulted in the joint-best goals-against record in the entire Sky Bet League and lifted John Sheridan’s side to fifth in the division. However, according to Pilgrims’ defender Anthony O’Connor, they are still some way off their lofty objective.
“Clean sheets are massive,” said the Irishmen. “We’ve set a target for 18 clean sheets this season so I think we’ve got 11 to go. We’re going alright so far. If you can keep a clean sheet and you can score, you’re in – you win the game. Simple as that.
“It’s a team effort, all those clean sheets – it’s not just the back four, or the back five, and the goalie, Luke [McCormick] that’s keeping the clean sheets.
“Thankfully we’ve got players at the other end of the pitch who can put the ball in the back of the net. Hopefully, some of the rest of the team can start chipping in with some goals now and keep putting points on the board.”
Saturday’s team effort included a double goal-line clearance in the late stages of the game, with Carl McHugh and Lee Cox both denying Carlisle an equaliser in quick succession.
“That just sums the team up,” said Anthony. “Putting their bodies on the line; doing whatever it takes to keep the ball out of the net. That’s the passion and determination. That’s a defender’s job. Keeping clean sheets is like scoring a goal, it’s what you are there for.”
Argyle take their four-game winning run to Kingston on Tuesday, a venue at which they have never lost to hosts Wimbledon. Even so, Anthony is not taking a place in the starting line-up for granted, especially with the arrival of new on-loan Bolton defender Andy Kellett.
Anthony said: “The gaffer speaks about it all the time. We had a training session on Thursday and training was a bit sloppy at times. The gaffer pulled us in and said: 'Listen, I’m not afraid to change the team if you all keep messing about in training’.
“So we train right every day to make sure we don’t give the gaffer any reason to drop us. There’s people on the bench, waiting to come in, and they can do equally a good job as anybody on the pitch. It’s a good team spirit and long may it continue.
“We’ve felt, in previous games, we were getting a little run going but then we’d lose a game by a sloppy goal, so we spoke about it. Consistency is massive. If you get a run going, you build a lot of confidence going into the next game and teams start looking at you and saying ‘They are a good side; they are not losing many games’.”
Wimbledon boast forwards Matt Tubbs and Ade Akinfenwa, who are a physical double handful for most defences.
“They are going to cause a different kind of problem altogether,” said Anthony. “Akinfenwa – the size he is, you won’t find a stronger striker than him.
“But it’s nothing we can’t deal with. I’ve come across them before and we’ve dealt with them fine at the clubs I was at. I can’t see why the likes of [Curtis] Nelson, Carl, Peter [Hartley] and myself can’t deal with that – and, as I’ve said, we’ve got players at the other end of the pitch who can score goals.
“Hopefully we can come away with the points and move further up the league.”