A CORNERSTONE of any Argyle side managed by Derek Adams is character – and the Greens needed it in spades to dig out a superb 3-2 victory against a dangerous Bristol Rovers side.
After 47 minutes of this memorable match, the Pilgrims found themselves in a seriously difficult spot. After falling 2-1 behind in the first half thanks to goals from Chris Lines and Ellis Harrison, either side of a Jamie Ness equaliser, and watching a chance from the spot slip by as Ruben Lameiras missed a penalty, the prospects of a victory would have looked bleak to many.
Not to those, though, who have watched Argyle mature mentally over previous seasons with Adams in charge. The Pilgrims have developed a knack for finding a way to take all three points from games they have not dominated, and a packed Home Park witnessed another example of footballing escapology against the Gas.
Moments after the missed penalty, Argyle surged forward again and Ness’ shot was deflected onto the near post and into the net to level the game. From there on in, Derek’s side simply wouldn’t be denied, and Graham Carey’s spot kick on 85 minutes secured a victory that seemed unlikely to some, but not to the players, nor the manager.
“I think that they’ve shown that, throughout the season, they have got very good character in the dressing room,” said Derek of his team. “They don’t allow disappointment to affect them.
“Many times this season, that could’ve happened, but we’re used to dealing with adversity. We’ve had to do it so many times this season for so many reasons, and we’ve always found a way of winning football matches. I thought that the energy levels of the players were very good, and the disappointment of going behind twice in the game didn’t affect them.
“I remember first coming to the football club two-and-a-half years ago and they said the team couldn’t come from behind to win a game. You have to change the mentality of your squad. You have to work on things to get the better of the opposition, and we’ve certainly got that now.”
The majority of the problems the Pilgrims faced came through Rovers’ sole striker, Harrison. His athleticism, strength and positional nous make him the sort of forward we are used to seeing in a Derek Adams side – and Ellis has been approached to become a Green, more than once.
“I wasn’t surprised [in Harrison’s performance], because Ellis Harrison is a striker that, as [Darrell] Clarke knows, I’ve tried to sign a couple of times from him,” said Derek, “and haven’t been able to do it.
“Ellis is a good striker; a young Welsh international and always played on the shoulders. When a striker plays on the shoulders of a defender, he’s always got a chance.”
The refusal to accept defeat against the Gas is indicative of the spirit that has launched Argyle into a fight for promotion from Sky Bet League One, with one defeat in 17 games. With yet more slip-ups from fellow play-off contenders, Argyle’s character-driven squad are now placed well to create more magic in the final nine games (or more) of the campaign.
“I think that the players have got that bit between their teeth,” said Derek. “They’re showing that they want to continue winning football matches. We’ve got nine games to go. We knew that the results at half time were going our way and that, if we could get a win, it would put us in a good position tonight.
“We’re moving forward. With nine games to go, we’re catching the teams above us. The teams below us have obviously dropped points today.
“It’s tight squad that we have. We’ve got a whole host of problems that we’ve had to overcome, but we keep on overcoming them. We lose players week in, week out, but someone else comes in and does a job, we get a win and keep moving forward.
“They did very well. At home, when there’s a big crowd here, they stuck to the task and came from behind twice.”