Sunderland (H) | Schumacher's Reaction
Argyle headed into Saturday’s game against Sunderland having scored the same number of goals as their opponents, who occupied a position 13 places above the Greens.
Sunderland, though, had kept things tighter at the back that Argyle, so it was clear where Steven Schumacher’s side would need to sharpen up.
And that they did.
Schumacher’s side put in a tremendous performance, full of commitment, heart and no little skill. The eye-catching stat is the clean sheet; Sunderland have an array of attacking talent, who for long periods of the game put Argyle under pressure.
Often, the Pilgrims put bodies on the line to keep the Black Cats out. Occasionally, the bounce of the ball, twice off the frame of the goal, fell kindly for Argyle.
But they had more than earned their luck, and put themselves in a position to go on to win the game after a Morgan Whittaker special put them in front, and Finn Azaz closed out a brilliant team move to coolly double the lead before half-time.
“Everyone's worked so hard this week,” Schumacher said after the game. “We spoke a lot about how good Sunderland have been and what type of players that they've got. We knew we would have had to be defensively well organised, which I felt we were.
“But we also showed our quality once again. The two goals that we scored in the first half were outstanding goals from two lads who are in great form.
“Sunderland started the game really well. They had a right good go. They started the game excellently and we scored at an important time. It settled us down into the game and then we got the second goal from a regain. It was a good first half, and kind of how we expected it to go.
“We said to the lads at half-time, try not to panic too much. We will create one or two chances on the counter-attack, and if we can take one of them, it gives us a bit of breathing space. We also knew that we'd have to defend. And boy, did we do that. Everyone, to a man, put the bodies on the line. Michael made a couple of saves. It's a brilliant clean sheet against one of the top scorers in the division.
“We haven't played brilliantly with the ball today. They had the lion's share of the possession, but did what we needed to do. We were good enough and clinical with our chances that we did create. I would have liked to have scored from one of the breaks that we created in the second half to give everybody a little bit more of a breather, but it wasn't to be.
“We had to ride our luck a couple of times. They hit the post in the first half with Bellingham and in the second half, from the header from the corner. We've had that this season, don't know how many times, that we've hit the woodwork, so it is what it is.
“You’ve got to take those moments, capitalise and try not to be sloppy. That was another thing we spoke about in the week: taking less risks and being a little bit more secure in possession. I can't remember us giving it away in too many dangerous areas like we did last time at Leeds. So that was pleasing.
“They were in the top six and it gives us confidence. We've proved this season already that we can compete with the top teams - some really good results and some excellent performances in general - but it's important that when you do put good performances in that you get points. We've done that.”