Argyle 1 – 0 Aldershot
Larrieu 8, Berry 7, Purse 8, Blanchard 8, Williams 7, MacDonald 7 (Hourihane), Wotton 7, Walton 7, Bhasera 7, Chadwick 5 (Tsoumou 5), Feeney 6 (S Fletcher 6).
Subs not used: Chenoweth, Hemmings.
Character, belief, guts and good old fashioned defending was enough for Argyle to claim a huge win against Aldershot and stand on the verge of relegation safety.
With a strong wind and swirling rain at Home Park it wasn’t pretty and at times we rode our luck but the players stood up to everything that the elements and Aldershot could throw at them to secure a vital three points courtesy of an early goal from Burnley loanee Alex MacDonald.
With Macclesfield, Hereford and Barnet all losing the Greens are now eight points clear of the drop zone with four games left to play.
To beat the financial turmoil, administration and the threat of relegation in the same season is a monumental achievement.
Just two defeats from the last 14 games with only seven goals conceded is the bedrock that Argyle’s relegation survival is built on.
Carl Fletcher made two changes from the team that gained a point at Hereford with assistant manager Romain Larrieu replacing the injured Jake Cole between the sticks and Onismor Bhasera swapping places with Ashley Hemmings on the left of midfield.
The line-up was a throw-back to the Championship days with Larrieu, Paul Wotton and Nick Chadwick forming the spine of the team.
Argyle started brightly with Max Blanchard and Nick Chadwick having half a chance each but didn’t trouble Jamie Young in the Shots goal.
Aldershot then pushed Argyle back and forced a series of free-kicks that were pumped into the Argyle area with worrying regularity.
From one of these Paul Wotton charged down a goal-bound shot from Aaron Morris.
Against the run of play Argyle took the lead when MacDonald tricked Shot’s full-back Anthony Straker one way and then the other, his cross deflected off Straker and looped over Young and nestled in the far corner of the net.
1-0 and a lucky goal but after the season we’ve had we’ll take any luck coming our way.
Would Argyle now go in search of a second or third goal and allow everyone to relax or would they sit back, defend well and give everyone a near heart attack late in the game? Guess which?
We sat back and allowed Aldershot to force their game on us. Wotton and Walton couldn’t get their foot on the ball in midfield but they did the dirty work that was required and protected the back four.
When Aldershot did breach the Green rearguard Larrieu was on excellent form and made a great save from Peter Vincenti’s shot.
With Chadwick failing to make the ball stick up upfront it was a backs-to-the-wall gameplan until half time.
Argyle started the second half as they started the first half – on the front foot; however Aldershot, with the wind and rain behind them, put Argyle under pressure for most of the second half.
Blanchard and Purse stood solid and headed and cleared every loose ball.
Larrieu had to make a last ditch tackle when Adam Mekki threatened to go around him and Larrieu’s goal led a charmed life when a free-kick hit the post rebounded onto the diving Larrieu and out for a corner. Phew, that was close!
Fletcher brought on Fletcher and Tsoumou to add some height upfront but Fletcher spent more time in the Argyle penalty area than he did in the Aldershot box.
With time ticking away and the fans becoming nervous and edgy the game became one big battle for survival.
All eleven players stood up to be counted and made sure that Aldershot would not score.
The final whistle was met with a huge cheer that could be heard in Hereford, Macclesfield and Barnet.
It wasn’t pretty but huge credit to the players for digging in and showing determination and character.
The game of football isn’t just about pass and move and attacking, it’s also about rolling up your sleeves, defending, tackling, heading and blocking and today that was done magnificently!
Larrieu and his back four stood firm aided by the protection given by Wotton and Walton.
The two midfielders would have liked to have put their foot on the ball and dictate play but the conditions and Aldershot didn’t allow them to do that; instead they did the dirty work that was needed to keep a clean sheet.
Almost there, a fantastic and proud achievement.
Back from the dead twice in the same season!
Man of the match: Purse.
Argyle Almost Safe After Mac Wins It
Argyle 1 – 0 Aldershot