DEREK Adams’ Argyle side are certainly no longer an unknown quantity in Sky Bet League One, but they overcame their rising reputation to see off Bradford City with a 1-0 win.
Whilst a handful of the division’s sides at the beginning of the Greens’ run of one loss in 16 games may have been forgiven for taking Argyle lightly, the Bantams would have been thinking nothing of the sort. Both sides stood a chance of moving into the play-off places with a victory, and it rarely looked like anything other than a home win at Home Park.
Antoni Sarcevic’s deflected strike in the 34th minute was enough to give the Pilgrims a victory that, despite their outstanding away form, Bradford may well have feared as they trundled down the A38.
“They wouldn’t have thought it was going to be an easy game, coming here,” said Derek. “I think people would look at the results coming and they see that Plymouth have won another game, they’d be thinking to themselves: ‘We don’t want to play them next.’
“I think that, at home, it’s a different ball game to them. But they’ve been on a magnificent run away from home; I think they’d only lost one game before today. You’ve got to remember: Bradford are a good side. They’ve been up at that end of the table for a good majority of the time. I don’t think they’ve been out of the play-offs too much this season.
“I thought we started the game very well. We started on the front foot and won a lot of second balls. When we did that, we completed good passes into forward areas.
“We got into the pockets well, because the gap from defence to midfield to Bradford was quite large. One of the players coming in off the side, [Ruben] Lameiras and [Graham] Carey, as well as [Jamie] Ness and Sarcevic, playing in that area, gave Bradford a lot of problems.
“Eventually, we worked a great move to get the first goal. It was a good move, because we passed the ball during that period. We controlled large spells of the game with our passing and movement and, eventually, a good passage of play allowed Antoni Sarcevic to get into the 18-yard box. It was via a deflection, but it was a good bit of play by him and others.”
A change of management and their recent indifferent run of form does not hide the fact that Bradford are just as much a play-off contender as the Pilgrims, with much more expected of them at the start of the campaign. For all their talent and endeavour, though, they were very rarely capable of breaking down an Argyle setup that grows more familiar and resolute with each game.
“If they were going to score,” said Adams, “it was going to be from a crossed ball. I didn’t think they were going to play through us in the middle of the pitch. We dealt well with the threat they were going to give us.
“I did think they were going to be more of a threat today, Bradford. I thought they might’ve put us under more pressure, but it was probably one of the lesser games this season where we haven’t had a lot to defend, and we looked very comfortable.
“But I thought we created good opportunities. We got into the final third. If we completed one or two more passes, we’d have been in a number of times.
“I thought the back four and midfield looked very solid, as they have done. Offensively as well, we look good at times. I think the players have got an understanding of each other, of the system, and when you play week in, week out, that’s only going to be beneficial. They’ve got a good understanding of each other’s abilities.”
Once again, Derek’s strategy of an early-year warm-weather training getaway has come up trumps, with an assured display that continues a superb run of form. Avoiding the inevitable pressures and expectations, his side returned home with fitness and togetherness as souvenirs, and used them to full effect.
“We’re under a bit of pressure as always when we’re coming back from Spain,” said Derek. “People want to see what the reaction is and what you’ve done in Spain. Well, the boys worked very hard and it’s been a productive week.
“I thought the players showed a very good fitness level. We’ve been training in a hot climate – it’s been 20 degrees morning and night – and I think that’s been hugely beneficial for us today.
“There was no doubt about it: We’d have got criticised no end if we’d gone and lost the game today. There’s no two ways about it. That’s the nature of a human being sometimes, and we’ve been able to keep everybody quiet and the people who might’ve jumped on the bandwagon quiet tonight.”