DEREK Adams was delighted to see his tactical tinkering pay off as Argyle nullified table-topping Luton’s attacking threat in their goalless Sky Bet League One draw at Home Park on Saturday.
The Greens switched from their regular 4-2-3-1 formation to a 3-5-2 to ensure there was no repeat of the 5-1 drubbing the Pilgrims suffered last time out against the Hatters.
As a result of this shift, Yann Songo’o slotted into the centre of defence alongside Ryan Edwards and Niall Canavan, while Gary Sawyer and Joe Riley, in for Ashley Smith-Brown, operated as wing-backs.
“We played them [Sawyer and Riley] against Justin and Stacey," said the Argyle manager. "We knew that they would play high up the pitch, so that allowed us to defend with the three at the back. We had the two wing-backs that the two full-backs from Luton pushed on to, and I think they did very well against them.”
Derek’s wild-card formation seemed to catch the visitors off-guard, and the Greens flew out of the traps, dominating the opening five-minutes. It turned out to be their best spell of the game, as Luton gradually grew into the tie and got to grips with Argyle’s surprise formation.
“I thought it was a good football match, it was very competitive,” said Derek. “We started the game well, and were perhaps unfortunate not to have gone ahead, with Ruben [Lameiras] having a shot just past the post. I thought we had the better of the first-half, and Luton had the better of the second-half”
“We had to obviously deal with [Danny] Hylton and [James] Collins, and we dealt well with that,” said Derek.
“Early in the game Hylton obviously got substituted because he was obviously going to get himself sent off. We dealt with the threat that they’ve shown this season, we kept a clean sheet, and we tried to get into their final-third a number of times, but we just didn’t find that killer pass.”
Hylton’s frustration at his afternoon in Devon, coupled by some pantomime jeering from the Green Army, threatened to spill over, and the Hatters forward was withdrawn on 35 minutes by manager Mick Harford before he earned himself a second-yellow - which perhaps served as evidence of the success of Derek’s change of system.
“They had to make the change because if he made another foul then he was going to get sent off,” said Derek. “He got warned, after he was booked, for his conduct. They’ve taken the decision to take him off rather than the referee making the decision.”
Argyle battled heartily throughout the game to ensure that they came away with the result that their graft had deserved, limiting Luton to a handful of chances on goal in a physical game, and Derek was proud of his players resilience, which bodes well for Sky Bet League One run-in.
“We had to deal with the threat that Luton have with their two strikers – they always like to run in beyond, so we wanted to cause Luton a problem by playing in a different manner, where they had to work out a way to beat us. They weren’t able to get the better of us.”
“We’re on a great run of form, and we’ve been able to come into the new year winning so many games, and picking up points against very good teams is vitally important.”