Match report for Plymouth Argyle vs Walsall on 01 Jan 18
TINKER, Taylor, Soldier, Sailor.
Derek Adams could have done the first, but did not; the second was the name of Argyle's deserving goalscorer; the PIlgrims had certainly soldiered out through a tough old festive period; but they sail into the New Year on the crest of a wave.
A entertaining game agains Walsall was decided by Ryan Taylor's piece of individual brillance midway through the second half the three points their endevour surely deserved.
The Saddlers did not resemble the side that outbattled Argyle at their place early in this season. Mind you, Argyle hardly look anything like the side that lost 2-1 at Banks's Stadium.
The Pilgrims' New Year really began around October - around the time Ryan Taylor returned, funnily enough.
How do you judge a Christmas period? Mince pies eaten, presents unwrapped? Argyle will measure in points won (10, could have been 12) and miles per point (bundles, but all worth it).
The only change to the Argyle side from the game 48 hour previous was the reintroduction of Antoni Sarcevic to Argyle's midfield, in place of Yann Songo'o.
A slick move on Walsall's right side saw Erhun Oztumer and Zeli Ismail combine for the latter to send a dangerous across the six-yard box. Joe Edwards, running on the back post, was only blocked by a timely intervention by Oscar Threlkeld.
At the other end, after Ryan Taylor was clattered from behind, Graham Carey's on target free-kick was pushed round by goalkeeper Mark Gillespie, then Ryan Edwards headed over from the set-piece.
It was a pleasing early pace set in the game, with both teams trying to play despite the squally conditions. Sarcevic's fiercely hit drive was deflected past Gillespie but not far wide of the post, before Argyle short corner routine, via David Fox, was headed on target by Edwards, but held by the goalkeeper.
Cue Walsall's turn. A corner on the right was also worked with a short routine, which got the better of Argyle and ended with a powerful drive across the face of goal which Ryan Taylor did well to steer out of danger.
Carey picked up the ball around thirty yards out, and shaped to shoot. The average Argyle's fan's brain has to be compartmentalised for such a situation. Anyone else: 'Don't shoot, whatever you do'. Carey: 'Go on, buuy, hit it'. He did, and it was not far over, dipping past Gillepsie but onto the the top of the roof of the net.
The pace and motif of the game continued, even the quality notably waned. Attacks tended to end with a miscontrol or a pass given away, rather than defensive brilliance, but it took little away from the inherent entertaining nature of the contest.
In Oztumer and Ismail Walsall had two enigmatic attackers who looked dangerous but not at full speed, while Argyle had Carey, always buzzing under the surface. His whipped cross for Taylor was only just too heavy for the forward.
A Walsall corner, flicked on by Bakayoko, asked a question of Remi Matthews, but he was equal, pushing the ball out, then at the other end Gillespie caught a fizzy delivery from Lameiras.
Oztumer tried similar; in fact, it looked like it could genuinely have been a shot, from the corner quadrant, such was the deliberate whip on the ball, but Matthews punched it away.
The final chance of the half came from Argyle, who carefully worked a chance that eventually to Carey, but his right foot could not conjure the same wizardry as his left, and the ball sailed in to the Devonport to signal the close to proceedings of an odd sort of half. A huge amount of hard work from both teams seemed not to justify a goalless 45, but the fact that the quality fell short of the endeavour was the probable reason.
As the second half began, so a renewed wind brought precipitation of varying physical states in waves across the Home Park surface. Whether hail or rain, it was accompanied by a Carey stinger at one end, which Gillespie uncovincingly pushed away, and defied at the other by Oztumer, who got one on target but found Matthews hard to pass.
It felt a little like turn-taking. After Lameiras had tried to replicated his goal at Blackpool, only from a little further out, but seen his shot held, so Ismail tested Matthews, who shovelled the ball away.
It felt that Carey may be most likely for Argyle to pull something out with a piece of individual brilliance, and so it nearly proved on 67 minutes. Greatly helped by a lung-bursting run by Threlkeld which drew the attention of two defenders, Carey cut in on his left foot and his a curling effort goalbound, only to see it well pushed away by Gillespie.
It was, in fact, Taylor who was able to provide the piece of skill and finishing that gave the Pilgrims the lead. Taylor picked the ball up, back to goal, inside the Walsall area, after excellent build-up work by Lameiras, and worked a curved run that brought him into the D. His precise finish was perfectly in the corner beyond Gillespie's reach, and Argyle had their precious lead.
Tails - and Tayls - up, Argyle pressed on. Lameiras hit one well, but plenty wide enough, before Taylor went closer, from further out.
Weak claims for a Walsall penalty for Flanagan's slow fall were waved away, and the Saddlers tacked up a pair of replacements to try to galvanise their pack. Forwards Simeon Jackson and Dan Agyei came on for previously lone frontman Bakayoko and wide midfielder Edwards.
The change had little effect, other than to expel Walsall danger man Oztumer to the fringes of the game, from where he was eventually moved to the bench, as Walsall's last throw of the dice was Maziar Kouhyar.
Argyle, though contentedly let Walsall try their oddly direct approach, given that their replacement were hardly of great height, and saw the game out comfortably.
1-0 to Argyle. Meet the New Year, same as the Old Year.
Argyle (4-3-3): 34 Remi Matthews; 18 Oscar Threlkeld, 5 Ryan Edwards, 15 Sonny Bradley, 3 Gary Sawyer (capt); 24 David Fox, 7 Antoni Sarcevic, 32 Toumani Diagouraga; 10 Graham Carey, 19 Ryan Taylor, 11 Ruben Lameiras. Substitutes (not used): 2 Gary Miller, 4 Yann Songo'o, 8 Lionel Ainsworth, 14 Jake Jervis, 16 Joel Grant, 21 Gregg Wylde, 31 Michael Cooper (gk).
Walsall (4-4-1-1): 1 Mark Gillespie; 15 Liam Kinsella, 14 James Wilson, 5 Jon Guthrie, 3 Luke Leahy; 19 Zeli Ismail, 7 Ashley Chambers, 17 Reece Flanagan, 2 Joe Edwards (9 Simeon Jackson 75); 10 Erhun Oztumer (25 Maziar Kouhyar 86); 20 Amadou Bakayoko (32 Dan Agyei 75). Substitutes (not used): 6 Nicky Devlin, 11 Kieron Morris, 13 Liam Roberts (gk), 24 Kory Roberts.
Booked: Flanagan 40, Bakayoko 74.
Referee: Kevin Johnson.
Attendance: 10,432 (275 away).