Out of the Waste Land

CHRIS Groves comes over literary as he looks back on Argyle's 1-1 draw on Saturday with Bristol Rovers...

T. S Eliot once penned the line: “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.” For me, and many other Argyle fans for sure, my life so far can be measured pretty accurately in football matches.

Placing and dating significant events in your life becomes much easier when you are able to pair them with other events that you found enjoyable. For example, I can place myself on a family holiday in 2002, because I watched Brazil win the World Cup final in a Portuguese bar with my father. I know that the only time I received a suspension from school was in early 2007, because I spent the day off ensuring I got a ticket to Argyle’s FA Cup quarter-final tie with Watford. Whatever significant events happen in my life over the spring and summer of 2016, whether another holiday, misdemeanour or otherwise, I hope so much that I look back on them in ten years an think: ‘oh, that was just after Argyle got promoted from League 2!’

Form, statistics and, most importantly, the performances we see on the pitch every week, all point towards that happening. Fans, staff and even the players at Argyle must be finding it impossible to avoid daydreaming of promotion scenarios. How about confirming our return to League 1 at the away fixture against Exeter City? We finish the campaign at home to Hartlepool, so surely former United captain Peter Hartley would love to wrap up the title against them. That would be rather poetic, would it not? 

Ah, yes, poetry – perhaps the words of Eliot once again best sum up the situation we are in now, as despite it only being January, the prospect of promotion is just too tantalising to ignore. 

“Time for you and time for me; and time yet for a hundred indecisions; and for a hundred visions and revisions; before the taking of toast and tea.” 

To maintain the aforementioned form, statistics and performances, there is still so much hard work to be done, plenty more sub-plots to discover, and difficult situations to be navigated. If Argyle want to get out of this division, they will have to overcome punchy relegation-battlers, plucky promotion contenders, tricky sleeping giants and terrier-like in-form teams. The latter is exactly what Derek Adams and his side were up against when they made the short (in context, at least) trip to Bristol Rovers. Six wins from their last eight games had seen the Gas rise to fourth in the division, capped off by an eye-raising win over the similarly impressive Oxford United. All of that has been achieved by a settled squad, an enterprising manager, tactical proficiency and a number of strikers lacing up their goal-scoring boots in unison. 

From a statistical and mental standpoint, if Argyle won this match, promotion would seem a certainty to some. If we lost the match, the once-comfortable cushion keeping the Pilgrims in the top three would have been vastly cut down in size. Such is the fickleness of football. Of course, typically, neither of those things actually happened, but despite taking just the one point from the Memorial Stadium, we saw plenty of signs that suggest there will be something much bigger to celebrate over April and May. 

Both sides were excellent to watch, and as my colleague pointed out after the 1-1 draw, if a football fan watched that match unaware of the division it was being played in, they would be hard pressed to believe it was a League 2 fixture. As much as Rovers knocked the ball around with ease, remained organised and put the ball in dangerous areas, Argyle were resolute at the back, aggressive in midfield, and created a number of clear chances at the front. Glancing blows were traded for much of the game until its latter stages - “when the evening is spread out against the sky,” as Eliot would put it – for a breakthrough to be made. After a sustained period of end-to-end action, Billy Bodin put the hosts in front with 11 minutes to play, seemingly giving Rovers their two biggest victories of the season in the space of seven days.

Not for the first time, though, Argyle rolled with the punches and rallied from behind to get something out of the game. Step up Josh Simpson, two minutes from time, to fire home his first goal for the Greens from just outside the area. It may not have been enough to keep hold of top spot in the league, but it stretches out that gap to fourth place to a more comfortable position – an objective equally as important. Derek Adams’ side stood up tall to one of their most formidable challenges of the season, in hostile territory, and have maintained their momentum as we begin to round the final bend of this League 2 marathon. 
It’s moments like that Simpson goal that trigger those daydreams of ours: of Argyle lifting the trophy, parading it around the ground; the Green Army taking over the city centre and soaking in the glory of promotion, after nearly a decade of descent. We all know, really, that it is much too early to be thinking of such scenarios. But hey, we can dare to dream – isn’t that right, Mr Eliot?

“And indeed there will be time to wonder ‘Do I dare?” and, ‘Do I dare?’”