Bradford City 0
IF Argyle’s Sky Bet League Ione season ended today, their season would not end.
Fourteen games since being in the division’s relegation zone, the inform Pilgrims have played their way into a play-off position.
Antoni Sarcevic’s goal towards half-time of their 18th home match of n the campaign gave them the three points of a season which is rapoidly becoming defined by numbers.
The win took Argyle’s current run to 14 unbeaten out of the last 15. They have lost just three of their last 21 (and won 14), taking 46 points from 63 possible. At home, Argyle are ten out of 12 unbeaten and have won eight out of the last nine at Home Park, with five clean sheets.
Argyle showed just one change to their starting line-up from the one that had extended their unbeaten away run to seven games at Oxford United seven days earlier.
Oscar Threlkeld, who had missed the 1-0 victory at the Kassam, returned to the defencewith Yann Songo’o dropping down to the substitutes’ bench.
Bradford, under their latest manager Simon Grayson for the second time, made two changes to the side that had given the gaffer a decent enough start two weeks previously – they did not play a week ago because of the FA Cup – by drawing 1-1 at Charlton Athletic.
They recalled veteran defender Matthew Kilgallon and forward Paul Taylor, and switched to a 4-4-2 formation.
Taylor was one of two players to see a long-range shot beaten out in the early exchanges. These days, when goalkeepers wear gloves with more cushioning than a tempur mattress, it is unlikely that his drive stung the fingers of Remi Matthews, but the Argyle custodian elected to parry the ball back into the danger area.
Much the same had happened minutes earlier, when Ruben Lameiras drove towards the Bradford goal before ripping off a fine shot that City ’keeper Colin Doyle could not hold. For once, Ryan Taylor’s innate sense of positioning failed him.
It returned to near devastating effect when Graham Carey caught everyone else on the back foot with a quickly taken free-kick into the penalty are that only Taylor had read. A slightly heavy first touch turned a goalscoring chance into a half-chance and Bradford dealt with the danger.
After those chances, and another Taylor did from the edge of the box that Matthews claimed comfortably, the game settled down to a game of cat and mouse, with the Pilgrims cast in the role of feline.
As tend to happen in such encounters (except in Tom and Jerry cartoons), it was the bigger protagonist with the longer whiskers that had the better of things. Carey and Lameiras – who was having the sort of game even Roy of the Rovers dreams about – combined to work an opening for Sarcevic, whose intelligent run into the penalty area gave him the yard he needed to turn and shoot past Doyle with the not inconsiderable help of a deflection.
For the remainder of the first half, Argyle teased their prey and came close to extending their lead when Carey ghosted his way through four challenges on the left before laying the ball back for Lamerias, who shot narrowly wide.
City came out for the second 45 with renewed resolve and soon introduced attacking players Dominic Poleon and Tyrell Robinson, which gave them some forward momentum.
Not all of it, though. The temperatures in Plymouth might have been double-digit lower than they had been in Spain, but the Pilgrims showed that they had brought back more from Marbella than a straw donkey and some duty free.
Throughout the match, they tried a variety of new corner routines, from one of which Sonny Bradley headed Carey’s delivery back to Sarcevic for a fierce shot that was blocked on its way to goal.
It was a rare clear-cut chance for either side. The next fell tothe visitors when Alex Gilliead made ground down the right and dilled a cross into the six-yard box which Robinson, with Threlkeld on his back, could not quite get a touch on.
For the second successive game, Argyle settled in to deal with the best intentions of their opponents, whose cause was not helped by Charlie Wyke landing an elbow in man-of-the-match Bradley’s face, for which he received a red card.
As the clock as entered the red, Jamie Ness found himself in the unaccustomed role of Argyle’s most forward player, and drew Doyle before trying a chip that drifted just wide of the post.
Nothing else in the Pilgrims’ season is drifting, though.
Argyle (4-3-3): 34 Remi Matthews; 18 Oscar Threlkeld, 22 Zak Vyner, 15 Sonny Bradley, 3 Gary Sawyer (capt); 7 Antoni Sarcevic (4 Yann Songo'o 86), 24 David Fox, 6 Jamie Ness; 10 Graham Carey, 19 Ryan Taylor, 11 Ruben Lameiras (17 Aaron Taylor-Sinclair 85). Substitutes (not used):8 Lionel Ainsworth, 9 Simon Church, 14 Moses Makasi, 16 Joel Grant, 25 Kyle Letheren (gk).
Bradford City (4-4-2): 1 Colin Doyle; 29 Tony McMahon, 5 Matthew Kilgallon, 22 Nathaniel Knight-Percival, 15 Stephen Warnock;17 Alex Gilliead, 18 Callum Guy, 6 Romain Vincelot (capt, 30 Matthew Lund 69), 3 Adam Chiksen (35 Tyrell Robinson 57); 10 Paul Taylor (11 Dominic Poleon 57), 9 Charlie Wyke. Substitutes (not used):7 Nicky Law, 8 Timothee Dieng, 14 Shay McCartan, 23 Lukas Raeder (gk).
Sent off: Wyke 90.
Referee: Graham Salisbury.
Attendance: 11,113 (624 away).