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The Defeat Paradox

20 November 2016

FOLLOWING Argyle's rare 3-0 loss to Grimsby Town on Saturday, HADEN TYE analyses the quirk of football that means defeats tie us to our clubs more than victories...

There have been studies that suggest watching your football team lose can strengthen your loyalty to the club just as much as watching them win. It's called 'identity fusion'. The study is supported by psychologists that say whilst we find losing deeply unpleasant, painful memories can strengthen our affiliation to our club. 

Argyle had not lost in Sky Bet League Two since mid-August, until our 3-0 loss to Grimsby. This was the first chance the Green Army have had in months to feel the pain of a loss together. Whilst it would be daft to suggest that Argyle supporters enjoyed the loss, if you take the Pilgrims out of the equation, the Grimsby game represented why we all love football so much.

Argyle headed into the game against Grimsby 16 points above the Mariners and favourites to continue their unbeaten run, but an unpredictable afternoon ended with Grimsby three goals to the good. Football's uncertain nature is truly addictive. 

The 3-0 score line flattered Grimsby, though. The Pilgrims had several moments of magic and some really good chances throughout the afternoon, but unlike in previous weeks, Argyle weren't clinical enough. 

A Luke McCormick catch and long kick to put Craig Tanner one on one with only a defender to beat was the first Argyle attack that got supporters off their feet, but Craig couldn't quite bring the ball under control and Grimsby managed to re-organise. 

The Pilgrims continued to push and had a flurry of chances. Graham Carey's wonderful vision helped him spot Arnold Garita's run across the Grimsby defence, and a lovely chipped pass just evaded Arnie’s path. If the big man had connected with it, the Pilgrims would have surely taken the lead. 

A neat one-two between Craig and Arnie saw the former burst through on goal and go round the flailing goalkeeper, but the tight angle that Craig had been forced into meant he could only hit the side-netting.

It would be those two men who combined for another golden opportunity for Argyle to take the lead, as Arnold turned his man to tee up Craig who was free in the box. Argyle's 27 went to pull the trigger, but he was closed down rapidly by James McKeown in the Grimsby goal, who made the save.

There was signs both offensively and defensively in the first-half that Argyle were serious about continuing their 14 match unbeaten run. After an overhit free kick by Graham was caught by McKeown, the goalie set a Grimsby attack in motion, but Yann Songo'o was having none of it and made a lung-breaking sprint to make an important tackle just inside the Argyle half.

The effort was there and in parts the Pilgrims looked really good. Grimsby took the lead just before half-time, which if you excuse the cliché, is one of the worst times to concede a goal. The Mariners had ridden their luck somewhat in the first-half, but had pressed Argyle high up the pitch and had short spells where they had looked threatening.

Argyle looked for a way back into the game in the second-half. Graham beat his man out wide to cross for Ryan Donaldson but the Argyle number 11's volley was too high and flew over the bar.

After an Argyle corner ended up in the box at the feet of Graham, he combined with Yann but as the Irishman went to strike, a Grimsby defender made an important tackle. As the game opened up, Grimsby managed to make more chances and Omar Bogle scored their second just after the hour.

Another Argyle corner routine saw the Pilgrims' next best chance of scoring, as Ben Purrington played the ball to David Fox, who returned it to Ben in Grimsby's penalty area and found Louis Rooney, who kept his side-footed effort low and hard but was blocked and cleared away for another corner.

It would prove to be a frustrating afternoon for Argyle, with that losing feeling that we haven't felt for a long time returning, as Bogle scored his second and Grimsby's third. The sparks were there, but the fire never started. It was a game of consequences; our missed chances led to Grimsby taking the lead, which forced us into attacking more, which left space for their second and third goals.

Fortunately, we will have little time to mull over Saturday's defeat, as on Tuesday we host Barnet. I think the Grimsby loss has added a keen sense of intrigue to Tuesday's fixture, as we are all eager to see Argyle return to winning ways. 

Because we do not like losing, Tuesday now becomes more important to us, and therefore more interesting. What a strange paradox.

If the win does not happen, we shall still be top. And then the trip to Morecambe becomes ever more interesting, too. 

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