TIMING was everything in Argyle’s 3-1 defeat to Wigan Athletic, as Derek Adams’ side conceded goals at key points to deny their excellent performance a worthy reward.
The Pilgrims’ excellent recent form was always at risk of coming to a halt as Sky Bet League One’s leaders made their way down to Home Park. However, Argyle gave the Latics a serious scare, and deservedly forged ahead in the first half.
A open and lively game saw the Greens matching Athletic step for step, with some excellent passing and possession finally baring fruit on 27 minutes. David Fox’s cross-field ball was taken at pace by Graham Carey, who tip-toed the touchline before eventually being upended by Nathan Byrne in the penalty area. Carey converted the penalty himself, and Derek’s side were on course for the three points that their performance so far had warranted.
“I thought it was a good game,” said Adams. “I thought there was a lot of good football between two very good sides.
“I thought we started the game very, grew into, and we scored obviously off the penalty kick. That gave us the start that we probably deserved. I thought we caused them trouble, especially down their right-hand side, and got the penalty. It was a great ball from David, a pick-out that he can do, and Graham’s running onto it with a good touch. As he did a number times in the first half, he got inside his full back.”
The Theatre of Greens was in full voice following the opener, but were temporarily silenced moments later, as Nick Powell’s creative cross was poked in by Will Grigg. Still, 1-1 at the break looked a likely and positive situation, until a counter-attack in first-half stoppage time ended with Gavin Massey making it 2-1 to the visitors.
"Quickly after that, we lose a really poor goal," said Derek. "The ball gets played in with the outside of his foot, and it goes through a lot of bodies and into the goal. To lose a goal so quickly; that was hard to take.
“We definitely shouldn’t have been losing the game at half-time. We had been the better side. When they score the goal, they get a bit of confidence to make it 2-1 and, at half time, they’re relieved.
“They get a goal; we should deal better with it on half-way line. It was ten seconds to go. We could just see it was going to happen. We should’ve not allowed the ball to come into play, right on the half-way line. We allow it in and what they’re very good at is making passes, and they get the goal.
“What they’re very good at is finding the next pass, and then the next pass, and they score. From that point of view, it was difficult after that. But over the 90 minutes, it was a very good performance. In the second half, we were the team pushing forward for that goal.”
The chances and attacking threat from the hosts continued, but Dan Burn’s deflected header from a corner made it 3-1 on 69 minutes, as a clinical Wigan side showed the ruthlessness that has guided them to the summit of League One. But they, nor their manager, were in doubt at all about the real battle they had to go through to end Argyle’s superb unbeaten run, and continue their own.
“They score the own goal to make it 3-1, and after that it was going to be difficult,” said Adams. “We still pushed over the 90 minutes. You’ve got to be really happy with the players because they’ve put in a good performance against a form team in the league.
“I spoke to Paul Cook after the game and he said it was one of the sternest tests this season, so that’s very complimentary for a team that are top of the league. We’ve got no problems. We spoke about the game today, we spoke about the season as it is, and were both complimentary to both teams. He’s got a very good side and he was very complimentary about our team.
“We’ve got to compete against the teams that are everywhere in the league, but to compete as well as we did (against Wigan); I think we had more possession than Wigan today, which will not happen very often in this league, because they’re a very good passing team.”