Getting the Breaks

LAST Saturday, with the score at 0-0, Mansfield Town had a corner kick. Twenty seconds later, Argyle were 1-0 up.

It was a classic breakaway goal. Sonny Bradley headed the corner out to Jordan Slew, who raced up the field, outpaced all Stags before him, and gave Argyle the lead. The Pilgrims would go on to win the game 2-1 and progress to the next round of the Emirates FA Cup. 

Derek Adams’ father George was Sir Alex Ferguson’s first ever signing for East Stirlingshire, and would go on to work as a youth coach at Aberdeen under the future Manchester United boss. Sir Alex’s United had a reputation as a fearsome counter attacking side, and Derek recalled those glory days for the Red Devils when asked to consider Slew’s cup goal once again. 

“They had a corner kick and we were able to play on the counter attack after that,” said Derek. “Many years ago Manchester United used to do that all the time. 

“People wondered why they had everybody back for a corner kick. That was to suck the opposition players into their penalty area to use the pace of Giggs and Kanchelskis and go forward from there. 

“It’s something you find difficult at times because when we’re at home teams will come and sit in and there is a lack of space; we saw that in the last game against Colchester when they started with five across the back. We have a lot of good creative players amongst the team, we have got speed in our side as well which you need in this division.

“When we get into the oppositions half we have got a licence to move all over the pitch, a licence to overload in certain areas and not play shape too well at times when we’re in position of the ball. Out of position then we play a rigid shape and keep our formation to try and stop the opposition.”

Slew has four goals this season, all against teams whose home kit is predominantly yellow. That could be seen a pointless statistic, although it is true. A slightly more relevant stat may be that Argyle have scored in every Sky Bet League Two game since failing to hit the mark in their first two games. It has been a while since they kept a clean sheet, though; ‘Argyle to win and both teams to score’ has been a profitable bet for green punters lately – it has come in for five of the last six games. 

One more for luck? How about the fact that the last time Argyle scored first and lost the game – in any competition – was on April 2? 

“I think that the stats will tell you that it’s important that you score first,” said Derek, “and the majority of the time when you score first you go on the draw or win the game. 

“It gives you a good foothold in the game. In the past we have come from behind and either drawn a game or won a match. We have got different dimensions to our game.

“The most important stat is probably the 35 points we’ve got already and it’s about adding to that points total. We just have to keep on going and look at the next game. We obviously do have a glance at the league table and results now and again but we have to look after ourselves first.”

They say a good Argyle side makes Plymouth a better place. Nothing – as all in green will keep reminding everyone – has been achieved yet, but being top of the league and 13 unbeaten creates a nice feeling, and should that run be extended with a good result at Crewe Alexandra this Saturday, then the Armed Services Day fixture against Grimsby Town on November 19 could be an even greater occasion, with a packed Home Park.

Derek said: “Last season we were very successful and people will read the newspapers or see the headlines, they’ll look out for Plymouth Argyle results because it brings a feelgood factor for the city.

“That’s an important aspect, having all your sporting teams do well, having all your Olympians in the city do well in the Olympics. It brings a factor that they’re proud to be born and live in the city.”