IT was never going to be plain sailing, but Argyle’s 3-2 win against Tranmere Rovers has all but secured their place in the play-offs...
...and manager John Sheridan says he is chuffed” for everyone involved with the club.
Some 9,769 fans piled into Home Park for the Pilgrims’ 23rd home fixture for this Sky Bet League 2 season, with the majority hoping it would not be their last. Whilst slightly bigger crowds have filled the Theatre of Greens this campaign, no atmosphere has felt quite as feverous as this one and it paid dividends after seven minutes, as Reuben Reid tucked home a penalty after Dominic Blizzard was brought down in the penalty area.
“[The goal] gets us off to a good start and eases the pressure a little,” said Sheridan after the game. “We’ve had some great chances. We get the goal early on as well, and that gives us a bit of breathing space, but then they score a great goal.”
A great goal indeed: a Rovers side desperately fighting off relegation from the Football League equalised 27 minutes later, as Max Power thundered home a right footed strike from a clever corner routine.
“To be fair, the lad couldn’t have hit it any better,” said John. “It gave them a bit of belief, because they had to come and try to win the game.
“Credit to them: they had chances and caused us a problem. I think they had five up front at one point.”
The Greens battled against the Rovers rally, though, and forged back in front via a story-book moment from Tareiq Holmes-Dennis. After a flurry of corners put the pressure back on the visitors, the ball fell to the Charlton Athletic loanee 25 yards out, who sent a left-footed strike scorching into the far corner, netting his first ever senior goal.
“He’s got a great strike on him. In training he can’t half hit a ball, and luckily for us he’s hit it sweet,” said John.
“It’s a great strike and it enabled us to get the advantage again, after the disappointment of switching off a bit for their goal.”
A back-and-forth second half provided plenty of chances for Argyle to exploit a Tranmere team who needed to fight against other results not going in their favour, and the vital goal came nine minutes from time as substitute Zak Ansah squared a ball to Lewis Alessandra to make it 3-1.
Shortly after, news broke of a ten-man Southend side unexpectedly going ahead against Luton Town, causing some impromptu pandemonium in pockets of the ground as Argyle’s play-off spot looked to have been further solidified.
A nervy finish was ensured, though, as Kayode Odejayi netted just before five gut-wrenching minutes of added time, but Tranmere were unable to complete the comeback, confirming their relegation from the Football League. Sheridan had some consoling words for his opposition who succumbed to a fate that hung over him and Argyle in recent seasons, but was keen to heap praise on his players and the fans alike for taking a huge step towards promotion from League 2.
“Tranmere are a club with great tradition. I’ve got a friend who was taking the team today, Shaun Garnett. I played with him at Oldham. I don’t wish it upon anyone,” said John.
“We were not far off that a couple of seasons ago, so we know the feeling and I don’t wish it upon anybody, but I was just worried about us.
“We did what we had to do. It was always going to be a bit cagey, obviously with Tranmere fighting for their lives, and I thought they gave us a real good go.
“The fans were brilliant today, and I thought the players performed and gave us a performance to win the game. That’s what we were after, and the result’s gone our way at Southend.
“I’m really pleased for the players, and I’m chuffed for the supporters as well. It just gives them a bit more belief, and we’re a bit closer to achieving something”