Doing It By Halves

GRAHAM Carey believes that Argyle’s final 45 minutes in their 1-0 loss to Oxford United was a major improvement on their first-half showing.

The sides sitting first and third in Sky Bet League 2 squared off under the Kassam Stadium lights, and the hosts were able to end the Pilgrims’ run of four straight victories; thanks in large part to an excellent first half-showing. 

After the home side hit the woodwork on two occasions, Liam Sercombe put United in front with a calm finish, as Oxford put an exclamation mark on a 45 minutes that threw Carey and his teammates off kilter. 

“To be fair, they’re a big, strong, powerful side,” said Graham. “They were on the front foot from the start, and it was difficult to stop them. 

“We set up in a different formation in the first half, to try and counter-attack them. We had a bit of luck in the first half. They hit the post a couple of times, and we’ve got the best goalkeeper in the league. We didn’t trouble their keeper enough.”

The Greens came out fighting after the break, and a change in tempo and strategy saw them dominate periods of the second half, but a steadfast United defence managed to stand firm under heavy Argyle pressure.

“It was two different games,” said Carey. “We made a change at half-time, and I think it worked. 

“We were a totally different side in the second half. We pressed and we worked harder. We caused them problems and we moved the ball a lot quicker. I think they were tiring at the end, which shows how fit they are as a team. 

“There are positives to take from the game, but all in all I think they probably had enough chances to win the game. They’re a good side. They’re on a good run, and it was an interesting game tonight; two teams that want to play football. 

“They pass the ball and move like we want to do, as well. We knew it was going to be a tough game, to play one of the top teams in the league.”

Argyle have a chance to quickly bounce back in another away trip – this time to Luton Town on Saturday. The Irishman is confident that he and the lads will carry the positive second half showing into their match at Kenilworth Road.

“We’ll take the positives from that second half,” said Graham, “and if we start games like that then we’ll have no problems. Come Saturday, I just think we need to be on the front foot more in the first half. 

“We move on. We need to move on and keep our heads up for Saturday. It’s another big game, and we’ll go there and try and get three points. They’ve got a lot of experienced players who have played in a higher division, so it’s going to be a tough game. But if we take the second half performance into the game on Saturday, we should have no problems.”