Flat At The Back

DEFENSIVE displeasure was top of manager Derek Adams’ agenda after watching his side’s unbeaten run end at the hands of Oxford United.

After six games in all competitions without defeat, the Greens were brought back down to earth with a 4-0 loss at Home Park. Chances of extending that run looked slim after 15 minutes, as the visitors went a goal and a man up. As Wes Thomas was challenged in the area by Ryan Edwards, referee Graham Horwood pointed to the spot and showed Edwards a red card. Ryan Ledson converted the resulting penalty, but Argyle were far from prepared to roll over so early in the game.

“I thought we responded well,” said Derek. “In the first half, we got forward into good areas. We made them look a wee bit nervous for a period of time. 

“Graham Carey hits the post; it comes back off the ‘keeper and out for a corner. In the second half, Jake Jervis has a great chance to make it 1-1. Then, we concede – and the three goals we concede in the second half are terrible defending.” 

That, in the eyes of the boss, was the key point of concern of the afternoon. After showing glimpses of defying the odds and getting back into the game, Oxford doubled their lead on 52 minutes through Thomas. 16 minutes later, James Henry made it 3-0 and Jon Obika wrapped things up with a fourth; all goals that Derek believes could’ve been handled better by his side.

“I thought the goals were given away far too easily,” said Adams, “[with] the way some of their players were waltzing around our players. 

“We’ve got to defend a lot better than we did today. It’s not like us, but some of the defending for the goals was terrible. I’ve got to say that. We’ve had a lot of praise on how well we’ve defended, but the goals we conceded in the second half were far too easy, from my point of view. 

“Ryan Edwards going and Yann going back into the back four probably didn’t help us. But we still had ten players behind the ball at times. We allowed them to get easy possession and chances that shouldn’t have happened. We should still be defending better.

“The back four could’ve done a lot better. Even the midfielders in the wider areas; we didn’t do well enough. Going forward in the first half, Graham and Joel Grant weren’t at it. Jake Jervis was probably the shining light up front again. We get what we get from Toums [Diagouraga] and Fox in the midfield, with good passing and work rate.” 

Despite losing their previous four games going into this match, the ability and talent in Oxford’s ranks were never in question. The early red card, coupled with defensive lapses later in the game, allowed one of the division’s better teams to get out of their slump, at the expense of the Pilgrims. 

“They can move the ball quickly and precisely, and they did that,” Derek said of United. “They were able to get forward runners from midfield. They were able to gamble a wee bit more than we could, because they had that extra man. That’s what they did. 

“They’re all very comfortable on the ball. Us going down to ten men did allow them to have that added advantage, but in the first half, we did compete with them. Even in the second half, at stages, we had opportunities. But defensively today, we weren’t as good as we have been.”