DEREK Adams had no doubts where his Pilgrims’ point-winning display at Barnsley ranked among their 11 Sky Bet League One matches in 2018-19 so far.
“We haven’t played better this season,” said the Argyle manager. “This is our best performance this season.”
The bottom-placed Pilgrims came back from a stunning early strike by Alex Mowatt to take the initiative in a game from which few expected them to gain anything and levelled through Ruben Lameiras five minutes before half-time.
By then, their incisive football had created a host of opportunities, and they continued their strong showing after half-time, with Ruben hitting the crossbar and Graham Carey carving out several openings.
“We should have been ahead at half-time,” said Derek. “We went 1-0 down – they scored a very good goal from a great hit; it hits the bar and goes in – but we have shown very good character to come back into the game and we played like a team that had a lot of confidence tonight.
“We opened up Barnsley so many times – I’m not sure why their No.5 got man of the match because Freddie [Ladapo] gave him a torrid time tonight – and we played like a team that should be further up the league than we are.
“We would have taken a point before the game but, when we watch the game back, we should have had three points, the chances we had.
“Freddie should have had a hat-trick in the first half; we had a chance with Ruben again; and Graham Carey; Foxy [David Fox] near the end.
“It was a very good performance. We worked extremely hard; we passed the ball well; we created a lot of good openings in the game and that was important because it’s a difficult place to come to.
“[Barnsley] had a lot of long-range shooting. There weren’t a lot of chances in and around the box for them. Matt Macey’s had a number of good saves, but they are from long range; our opportunities were all in and around their penalty spot.”
The gaffer paid tribute to goalscorer Ruben, who showed more than a glimpse that he is returning to his imperious form of last season.
“I’ve been asking for him to score more goals and he’s scored two in two games now,” said Derek. “Graham Carey had scored two in two games before that, as well. These players are important for us; they pick up very good areas in the middle of the pitch.
“[Barnsley] changed their shape so we knew, tactically, we had the upper hand on them throughout the night. They changed their shape to deal with Carey and [Lameiras]. We had an overload in the middle of the park – we had four against two at times against them.
“We tried to stop them playing out from the back; we squeezed the side of the pitch very well. We’ve done it numerous times before and it’s been successful.”
The match was Argyle’s fourth away from home against a side currently in the division’s top eight, and they now return to Home Park on Saturday to host AFC Wimbledon.
Derek said: “We’ve had a sticky start – we realise that. We’ve been to difficult venues: Barnsley’s not an easy place to come to; we’ve been to Charlton; we’ve been away to Portsmouth; we’ve had midweek games away from home in the EFL Cup. It’s a difficult start to the season for us.
“When we get a bit of confidence, which we will after the performance tonight, we can now look forward to Saturday.”