Schumacher's Bolton Reaction
Argyle beat Bolton 2-0 at Home Park on Saturday, and while the game was not a festival of pretty football, three moments of brilliance ensured that Argyle came away with a third home win of the season – and a third clean sheet at Home Park into the bargain.
Niall Ennis put Argyle in front before half-time, and the man who replaced him in the second half, Ryan Hardie, fired home a late goal to secure all three points.
Between the goals, though, came perhaps the most important moment of all. It looked like Bolton were all set to equalise when Amadou Bakayoko struck for goal well inside the area, but that reckoned without Mike Cooper, who reacted in a trice to extend a leg which deflected the ball onto the post.
Had Wanderers equalised, who knows how the game would have played out. As it was, Argyle kept their slender lead, and when Hardie fired home, the game was beyond Bolton.
Ennis’s goal was in many ways self-made. He pressured Bolton captain Ricardo Santos into making a mistake, then kept his balance superbly to evade goalkeeper James Trafford and roll the ball into the net.
Hardie’s goal, after 88 minutes, came as he and fellow sub Morgan Whittaker bore down on goal. Whittaker played the ball into Hardie’s path, and the Scotsman buried it with a sweetly struck low effort.
“It was a brilliant goal,” said manager Steven Schumacher, of Niall’s opener. “Something out of nothing. It was a free-kick down the side. Niall has read the bounce better than [Ricardo] Santos and forced him into a mistake. He was composed to go round the goalie. He doesn’t make it easy for defenders. I’m made up for him. He deserves his goals. He has two in two now so his confidence is going to be high.
“The second goal was brilliant. The two subs have come off the bench, they haven’t sulked because they are not in the team, they have off the bench to make an impact. It was a superb run and pass from Morgan Whittaker, the weight of the pass was perfect for Ryan to run on to and smash it first time. It gave a bit of breathing space.
“You want your subs to make an impact. Sometimes it is hard picking a team. It’s tough. But then it should be tough. When we have good quality that can come on with energy and fresh legs to produce a moment like that then it gives you half a chance.”
Of Cooper’s save at 1-0, Schumacher was impressed – but not shocked.
“It seems mad that I am not surprised by it,” he said. “He’s done it before. His reaction was unbelievable to get his leg up. He was diving across his goal, it hasn’t just hit him. I don’t know how it stayed out. It was a brilliant follow in by Brendan Galloway as well.
“That was the turning point in the game.”
It was a game that in general had excitement, but not a whole lot of quality. Argyle rode their luck at times in the first half, and in general neither side produced the kind of football that they would each know they are capable of.
Obeying the footballing law of appreciating a win when not on top form, Schumacher acknowledged the pattern of the game, but praised his side’s defensive resilience.
“It was the definition of winning ugly,” Schumacher said. “We didn’t play well with the ball at all. We were very sloppy in the first half and kept giving the ball away in dangerous areas. We got away with it a little bit.
“Second half we were a little bit better with the ball. We never really had any control of the game. We managed to get a win after Michael has produced a worldie save. We’ve won the game and kept a clean sheet - but it wasn’t pretty.
“You don’t always get things your own way. You can’t play free-flowing football every week because the opposition just don’t allow it. We were not at our best today, but we did defend our box well. We got good blocks in where it was needed. We dug it out. We found a way to win.”