AT half-time at Southend, Derek Adams abandoned several principles he holds dear – and it worked quite the oracle.
After the Pilgrims toiled in the first half at Roots Hall, with a dreadful pitch and a strong Southend United side, trailing 1-0 to an unfortunate Sonny Bradley own-goal, Adams got to work in the dressing room.
Out went the notions of counter-attacking passing football, and one up front. Also out went Joel Grant and David Fox, the latter of whom found it impossible to play his typical, tone-setting game under the conditions.
In their stead came Yann Songo’o, Lionel Ainsworth, and a shift to 4-4-2, to match the hosts. And with it came an Argyle equaliser, via Ryan Edwards, and a vastly improved performance.
“I’m delighted with a point,” said Adams. “It’s a difficult place to come, against a team at the top of the table.
“If I had known the pitch was going to be in the condition that it was we wouldn’t have picked the team we started with because we became direct in the second half. We couldn’t pass the ball. It looks more like a rugby field that a football field.
“It cut up during the warm-up. You can see from both teams that it was not a pretty game to watch. It was end-to-end.
“We had to do exactly what Southend did to us in the first half. I thought, over the 90 minutes, the point was fair.
“We had to play in a different style, especially in the second half. It was about getting the ball to the full-backs and centre-halves and getting it forward as quickly as possible. There was no way you could get into a passing routine.
“We had to miss out the midfield and it was about winning the second ball and getting the ball wide to the likes of Carey and Ainsworth, and we were unfortunate with Carey having an outstanding shot and a great save from the goalkeeper. Blissett, as well – the goalkeeper actually sits on the ball – and Jake Jervis as well, so in the end we could have scored more but we’ve got to take a point.”
For the third away game in succession this season, Argyle conceded an early goal. As at Peterborough, in the Pilgrims’ opening Sky Bet League One game, it was an own goal. This time Bradley turned past his own goalkeeper, after Gary Sawyer had yielded possession to Jermaine McGlashan.
Although Southend played well, and created chances, Argyle’s defending was largely on point, with Luke McCormick not the busier of the two goalkeepers on show.
Late on, Michael Kightly looked set to win the game for Southend, as he went through on goal, but he was robbed by a superb piece of defending by Graham Carey. So often an Argyle match-winner, the Irishman showed the other side of his game to great effect.
“To go away from home and lose a goal after six minutes is disappointing,” said Derek. “It was preventable; Gary Sawyer got caught on the left hand side and Sonny had to divert it into his own goal.
“We dealt with them very well. We only conceded from an own goal today. We scored from a set play and we probably could have scored a couple of others.
“We’ve got a lot of very good flair players but we’ve also got ones that can do the dirty side of the game very well.
“We’ll have to recharge our batteries. We’ve been on the road for quite a bit. It’s a week where get the players back to Home Park and work with them for a longer period of time on the training field.”