Signs of Encouragement

ANOTHER look at Tuesday night's 2-1 defeat by Gillingham in the Capital One Cup, as HADEN TYE reflects on what might have been...

TUESDAY night's Capital One Cup first round was a night of shocks, with seven Championship teams going out to lower-league opposition. and the Pilgrims very nearly completed a small upset of their own, only for two late Gillingham goals to spoil the party.

The result may have been disappointing, but Argyle's performance was anything but that. Derek Adams stuck with the 11 that beat AFC Wimbledon 2-0 on Saturday, and his side settled well and probably edged an even encounter.

Particularly impressive was Argyle's midfield five; the system Derek operates consists of Hiram Boateng and Carl McHugh playing in defensive midfield roles and protecting the back four, whilst Gregg Wylde and Jake Jervis (or Craig Tanner for most of Tuesday night) add width, with Graham Carey given the freedom to roam.

Argyle's boss has made no secret of his desire to attack teams, but his side also had their wits about them defensively for much of Tuesday night. The two holding midfielders spent most of the game behind the ball, one way or another, and when Gillingham had possession, Argyle's three more attacking midfielders were quick to get back into shape.

This was actually often a springboard for Argyle's attacks, and for large parts Gillingham struggled to trouble Luke McCormick in the Pilgrims goal. In fact, it was nearly half an hour before the Gills even registered a shot - and even that was a free-kick from distance. Let us not forget, four days earlier, 10 of Gillingham's 11 had made light work of Sheffield United, strolling to a 4-0 victory over the Blades.

There were little glimpses of class from Argyle's midfielders throughout the night - Carey with a lovely dummy, Tanner with a silky drag-back, Boateng driving forward for the Pilgrims and McHugh with some neat touches and passes that add to the notion that Carl may have more to his game then your average centre-half.

These individual bits of brilliance were amplified by Tanner's superb volley in the 78th minute, which more than made up for the lack of goals the evening had provided prior to his strike. It was a tidy Argyle move and the Pilgrims looked like they would go on to win the game.

Until this point, Gillingham had one offside goal and a few half chances to show for their evening's work, but they were quickly rewarded for their persistence, as they scored two late goals to progress.

It was a minor blip in Argyle's evening that would prove costly, and will be a lesson that Derek's youthful side will be looking to learn from. The Pilgrims can assess the good, the bad and the ugly from their performance and go into the Portsmouth game with confidence.

The Capital One Cup can wait until next year, but this was an encouraging performance from the Pilgrims against League 1 opposition, and Derek's side will look forward to the visit of Portsmouth on Saturday.