The Grand Old Luke At York
LUKE McCormick will rarely have been so disappointed to have played so well and kept a clean sheet.On paper, a 0-0 draw away to the tough-to-beat York City seems like a decent afternoon's work, but factoring in the dismissal of Minstermen defender - and former Pilgrim - Stephane Zubar for a headbutt on Peter Hartley, which took place after just over 20 minutes, and Argyle should have been strong favourites.
Instead of using their numerical advantage, Argyle instead put in a lethargic performance that actually saw York create the better chances, particularly in the second half. Goalkeeper McCormick was comfortably Argyle's most important player on the afternoon - which tells its own story.
"It's what I'm there for, to make saves," said Luke. "The boys have bailed me out from time to time, maybe it's my turn to do it for them today.
"I was surprised, to be honest. Very surprised. I think there was only one thing I had to do in the first half, but the second half was the biggest surprise. I think we were so focused on pushing forward for the goal that the back door was left open a little bit.
"I think we feel bad enough now, drawing the game. If they had scored it would have been something else. It's a tough one to take, it really is."
Manager John Sheridan described the Pilgrims' performance as arguably the worst of the season; a statement very telling considering his team picked up a point in this game, yet he had praised them after two previous defeats, at Newport and at home to Oxford.
It was clear that he made his disappointment and anger known to press and players alike, but McCormick had no qualms about the manager's criticism of this team on this occasion.
"Rightly so, with the gaffer and how he feels," said Luke. "We were not good enough, to a man, as a team. His frustrations came out at half-time and after the game, and I think it is completely justified.
"We've got to stand up and say we weren't good enough today. If we are going to acheive anything, we've got to be better than that.
"Although we lost the two games previous to today, the gaffer was quite open with his praise on how we played. That certainly wouldn't have been justified today. I think a kick up the backside is what we all needed - let's hope we see the character come out of a few of us for the next few games."
Despite a stutter over the Christmas and New Year period, Argyle still remain in seventh spot, within the play-off places and only six points from the top three. Things may not seem as rosy as they did when decorations were being put up, but as they are taken down this week, the Pilgrims' ultimate destiny this season is still well within their own hands.
The rest of January poses some serious tests - Morecambe and high-flying Luton Town will visit Home Park, while a long trip to Hartlepool beckons at the end of the month. Before that, on Saturday, there comes a trip to the team that occupies the place one above the Greens, Southend United.
"We have a big month coming up," said Luke. "It is vitally important we don't dwell on this. There is a lot of football to be played, and some big games coming up.
"On the whole, you can't hide your disappointment. It feels like a real bad one today. It happens in football. You have to take the rough with the smooth. We'll pick ourselves up, go again - it's a big game next week against Southend."