ARGYLE’S 1-0 win over Oxford United may have not been the most free-flowing or comfortable of victories, but to Sonny Bradley, it was absolute perfection.
After action-packed and attack-minded wins in recent weeks over the likes of Blackburn Rovers and Shrewsbury Town, the Pilgrims’ progress towards Sky Bet League One’s post-season party was added to in very different fashion against Oxford.
Despite the home side’s recent struggles, they adapted to a difficult playing surface the quickest and had plenty of creative threats in forward positions. Argyle were rarely able to get into gear and were on back foot for spells, yet still managed to head into the break ahead. Graham Carey’s corner to the far post was met by a towering Sonny Bradley header, with the final action of anger in the first half – the perfect combination at the perfect time.
“We get the first goal – the perfect time to get that goal, in my opinion – and then basically defend for your life after,” said Sonny.
“It’s probably the perfect time to score a goal. They go into the break deflated and it totally changes their team talk. Everything they’re prepared to say, they probably have to change at the last minute. It throws you off from a defender’s point of view. When you concede at that time, it’s dreadful, so I know exactly how they were feeling.
“Me and the back stick have a good relationship. We’ve been a bit frosty for a few weeks, but that’s what I like to do; I like to get myself to the back stick. If the ball’s hung up in the air, I fancy myself against anybody in football to be honest. That’s just the confidence I have.
“From a defender’s point of view, it’s very hard to mark someone at the back post, especially when the ball’s coming in with momentum. I know because of where I run to pick up players from defensive set pieces.
“It’s a great ball again by Graham; it’s one we’ve worked on again. It was just enough for the ‘keeper to sniff at and bring him off his line, and obviously he’s made a mistake and should’ve stayed on his line. As soon as I see him miss the ball, I think: ‘All I’ve got to do here is head the ball and it’s in.’”
That goal was all the Greens needed to record a fifth straight victory, and a third in a row on their travels, thanks to defensive solidity that paved the way for Argyle to ply their trade at this level. Ably assisted by their peers, Bradley and Yann Songo’o put in a performance the Green Army will remember fondly from previous League Two campaigns, to seal a result that Sonny considers, well, perfect.
“I just said to Wottsy (Paul Wotton) that the performance reminded me of last season,” said Bradley. “I think 80% to 90% of our performances were like that last season.
“I think in the second half we could’ve gone 2-0 up; Ryan [Taylor] had a good chance, Graham [Carey] had one cleared off the line, so we could’ve maybe seen the game out a bit easier. But it’s the best result in football, for a centre-half, in my opinion: a 1-0 win away from home. It’s a nice bonus to get the goal.
“It wasn’t pretty today, but we’ve shown that we can turn up and play ugly and still get a result. In this division, that’s massive. We never really got out of second gear – which is a bit of compliment, because when we’re in fourth or fifth gear, we’re unplayable. We didn’t get there today, but we scored at the perfect time.
“In the second half, they went more attacking. They went two up front and had a good go, and caused us quite a few problems. Remi’s had a great game again. Yann, Zak, Gary, even Sincs when he came on; they’ve stepped up today and shown everyone how to defend.
“[Yann] I’ve played with Yann for quite a while now. 18 or 19 months in football is quite a long time, so me and Yann know each other well. We know our games well, and we knew it wouldn’t be a problem. We knew as well that Zak’s got experience at right back. It was the right decision from the manager and it’s paid off today.
“We’re a team that knows how to defend. We’re organised. We run drills in training for situations like that, so it’s a great result and all the boys did well.”
Fleeting glances at the division’s top six places are now turning into prolonged stares, as Argyle moved to within a point of the play-off spots. Once eager to avoid talk of a promotion push, it is now clear that Sonny and the squad have their sights fully set on a target that seemed so unlikely just a couple of months ago.
“If you look at the games we’ve played – Blackburn, Shrewsbury, this one today – they’re all difficult games,” said Bradley. “We’ve got momentum and confidence, and it’s going to be very hard to beat us now, because we’re only getting better.
“We’ve had a bit of an off day today, but we’ve shown we can win. It’s very much in our hands now. If we go and win that game now, I certainly think we’ll be in the mix come the end of the season.
“We aren’t going to down tools. We’ve got no time for that now. We can see something special happening here, and we’re not going to throw it away now. There’s 12 games to go. It’s time to press on and get a play-off place.”