DECEMBER was not the end to 2014 Argyle would have wanted having suffered two defeats in the space of four days over the crucial Christmas period...
...but throughout the season so far we have seen some fantastic displays from John Sheridan’s men, especially at Home Park, which show promising signs as we go into the New Year.
Despite our 3-0 FA Cup second round defeat at the hands of Sky Bet League 1 Sheffield United at the beginning of the month and the loss of some of our key first-team players through injury, we have seen some memorable moments in this festive period, with Andy Kellett scoring a magnificent individual goal in our 3-2 away win over Northampton Town, and winning 3-0 against Dagenham and Redbridge in front of the Argyle faithful – securing back-to-back victories for the first time since October.
Sheffield United 3-0 Argyle – FA Cup Second Round
Northampton 2-3 Argyle
Argyle 3-0 Dagenham & Redbridge
Newport 2-0 Argyle
Argyle 1-2 Oxford
The festive month began with a trip to Bramall Lane to meet Sheffield United in the second round of the FA Cup, which was made possible by goals from Peter Hartley and Marvin Morgan against non-league AFC Fylde, at Home Park, to secure our passage into the round.
However, the dreams of a potential cup run and victory over higher league opposition was shattered as the Pilgrims succumbed to a 3-0 defeat to Nigel Clough’s side, in an encounter that was hinged on shots from the penalty spot.
The first of the three penalties awarded in the match going in favour of Argyle and talisman Reuben Reid, but his uncharacteristic miss deflated Argyle as the Blades closed out the victory with two successful penalty strikes from Jose Baxter and a late flicked finish from Marc McNulty.
This cup defeat meant that Argyle were out of all cup competitions as they turned their full attention to their promotion campaign in Sky Bet League 2. The first league game of the month was a trip to Sixfields to take on Chris Wilder’s Northampton Town, and Argyle expressed their promotion credentials in style with a 3-2 victory.
The Greens took the lead after just 114 seconds with Hartley powerfully heading home Bobby Reid’s inviting cross. Argyle then grabbed their second - and Andy Kellett’s first in senior football - five minutes from the break, when the wing-back magnificently weaved his way through four Cobblers defenders to slot home.
The three points were secured when Lewi Alessandra scored at Sixfields for a second successive season, swivelling through their defence to fire home. It seemed Argyle were out of sight but late goals from Ivan Toney and Stewart Murdoch made for an anxious end to the game, but Argyle held on for what could be a crucial three points come the end of the season.
Argyle then returned to the Theatre of Greens for the first time in the month to do battle with Dagenham & Redbridge, and it was Argyle doing all the fighting with John Sheridan’s men securing a comfortable 3-0 victory over Wayne Burnett’s side. Reuben ignited the fire after he peeled of the retreating defenders to prod home Lewi’s perfectly weighted pass, and the lead was doubled five minutes into the second half when Reuben and his namesake Bobby Reid linked up to score a wonderful team goal finished off by Bobby. The win was sealed when Lewi was tripped in the box by Ayo Obileye, with Reuben stepping up to the spot and converting with aplomb.
This victory saw the Pilgrims come into their Boxing Day encounter with Newport County, at Rodney Parade, full of confidence and with the positive omen of remaining unbeaten in the last 17 years on this day. But this was finally broken as Newport secured a 2-0 victory, with former Pilgrim Chris Zebroski and Mark Byrne sending John Sheridan’s men back over the Severn Bridge with nothing to show for their efforts.
Attention then swiftly turned to Argyle’s home tie with Michael Appleton’s Oxford United, with Argyle looking to get back to winning ways and extend their unbeaten home record to nine matches. It certainly looked that way when the Pilgrims took the lead after 19 minutes through a neat finish from Lewi, who rounded the ‘keeper and slotted home.
The Greens were in cruise control and looked as if they would go onto win the tie comfortably, but a moment of rashness from young centre-back Aaron Bentley after 33 minutes drew an inevitable red card – Argyle’s first of the season – after he launched himself into Sam Long.
The depleted Pilgrims were not hiding away, though, and continued to take the game to Oxford, until the man advantage began to tell with John Campbell scrambling the ball over the line for the equaliser, before James Roberts 84th-minute strike gifted the U’s three precious points and condemned Argyle to just their second home defeat of the season.
Happy New Year!
December Stat Attack
Goals scored – 7
Goals conceded – 9
League goals conceded – 6
Clean sheets – 1
Points (from 12) – 6
League position at the start of the month – 6th
League position at the end of the month – 7th
Reuben Reid – 2
Lewi Alessandra – 2
Bobby Reid – 1
Andy Kellett – 1
Peter Hartley – 1
Goals of the Month
Here are my choices for the top three goals of the month:
1. Andy Kellett v Northampton
2. Lewi Alessandra v Northampton
3. Reuben Reid v Dagenham & Redbridge
Do you agree? Tweet me @liamspence94 or the club @Only1Argyle
Year-end Stat Attack
Games played (in 2014-15) – 28
League matches won – 11
Cup matches won - 2
League goals scored - 29
Cup goals scored - 8
Clean sheets (all competitions) - 12
Home wins (all competitions) - 10
Away wins (all competitions) - 3
Points (from 69) - 37
Top goalscorer – Reuben Reid – 13