ARGYLE’S successful 2017-18 Sky Bet League One season did not so much crash to a conclusion at Gillingham as much as run of momentum.
Josh Parker’s early opener for the Gills was briefly levelled by Joel Grant’s third goal in five matches before Tom Eaves’ hat-trick put the home side well in command. Graham Carey narrowed the gap but Elliott List’s injury-time strike sealed a 5-2 victory.
Argyle’s injury problems that increased game by game over the last two weeks – in which they played five games – saw them include three apprentices, two development players, and first-year professional in their 18-man squad at MEMS Priestfield Stadium and finish the game with the unlikely strike pairing of Sonny Bradley and Alex Battle.
Rochdale’s 1-0 victory over Argyle’s play-off rivals Charlton Athletic meant that the Pilgrims would have had to have won 5-0 to qualify for the post-season – a massive ask for a side that was missing a host of players including Oscar Threlkeld, Jamie Ness, Antoni Sarcevic and Ryan Taylor.
Manager Derek Adams said: “We’ve ran out of players; we’ve ran out of steam, really. We have had to play a lot of games in a short space of time and I think the fixtures have worked against us towards the end of the season.
“I knew that Rochdale would win. Rochdale had to win to stay in the league and we’ve seen them play at home and do very well – we just didn’t keep our side of the bargain. But we knew it was going to be difficult, limited to the choices we had.
“We ran out of players and there is nothing you can do about that. We have had a number of injuries to key players in the squad and it’s been difficult to field a team. We had 12 senior players with us, that’s all. We’ve got 11 injured at home.
“There were two postponed games. We had to play Rochdale away and Scunthorpe away and we’ve had to come [to Gillingham] on the last game of the season. If it was home, it might have been a different story.
“We just didn’t start the game well enough, obviously. We lose a goal after six minutes and it was going to be an uphill struggle after that. It was always going to be the case that, if we did lose a goal, it was going to be a long way back after that.
“We fought back to try to get back into the game, but it was obviously a game too far for us.”
Derek paid tribute to the Argyle support, as well as to the players who carried the Pilgrims’ colours over the closing weeks, many playing through injury concerns of their own.
He said: “There is a number of them that have done that. I said that to them after the game. I thanked them for that.
“The boys that are here have put in a valiant effort throughout the season. There are players in the dressing-room just now that are knackered – they’re gone. We have had an injury situation that has caused us that problem.
“We have had a huge travelling support with us today and it was as disappointing for them as it was for me that we’ve not won the game, we’ve not drawn the game, and the goals we conceded were very poor.”