Argyle 0 Blackpool 2
Argyle produced another Jekyll and Hyde performance in this Battle of the Seaside Towers to leave themselves six points adrift of safety.
It was a game of two halves once again where more measured and clinical finishing would have given the Pilgrims’ a first half lead they deserved, instead it was Blackpool who upped their game for the second period with Charlie Adam dominating proceedings for the Seasiders, Argyle had no-one to stop him or indeed have a player of their own who could influence the game in the same way.
Argyle were not helped by an early injury to Carl Fletcher, while his replacement Luke Summerfield also left the pitch with an injury. Argyle also suffered from their two wide men, Alan Judge and Yala Bolasie, both having poor games.
In truth, Argyle have been teasing the fans all season, we all get excited by an unexpected win and then look forward to putting a winning run together and escape relegation, but the team invariably lets us down in the next game and the dark clouds of League One reappear once again.
The pre-match build up was all about the return of Ian Holloway and he entered the dug-out to a mixed reception of jeers and applause, and to be fair, he didn’t celebrate the two goals.
With so many players out on-loan or injured Argyle Head Coach Paul Mariner was down to the bare bones for this game, so he selected Chris Clark at left-back and Judge started a game for the first time in months.
The first incident of the game saw Blackpool midfielder Keith Southern commit an awful challenge on Argyle captain Carl Fletcher, the midfielder limped off and was replaced by Luke Summerfield while Southern only picked up a yellow card. Not a good start for Argyle, the captains’ armband was passed to the other Karl – Mr Duguid.
Summerfield’s first touch of the game was a delightful through ball inside the full-back to Judge, the diminutive winger was through on goal but miss-kicked and his shot went wide. A good opening that was squandered.
The centre-back paring of Reda Johnson and Bondz N’Gala looked hesitant when the ball was on the ground but both young defenders dominated in the air.
Jamie Mackie, the pursuer of lost causes, chased a long ball down the right hand channel, beat one defender and found himself up against Blackpool keeper Matthew Gilks, the shot was on for Mackie but he chose to play the ball inside the Bradley Wright-Phillips, his shot was blocked but the ball fell to Summerfield who saw his close range effort saved by Gilks and the ball was cleared.
Argyle should really be two goals to the good.
Summerfield, who was having a positive influence on the game, saw another shot saved by Gilks. The passing between Summerfield and the front two of Mackie and Wright-Phillips was causing problems for the Blackpool defence but you just wanted one of them to shoot on sight rather than try to walk the ball into the net.
A fantastic cross-field ball from Summerfield put the previously anonymous Bolasie through on goal but his shot went straight at Gilks who pulled off a regulation save.
Blackpool’s only effort of note so far was along range effort from Adam that sailed over David Stockdale’s crossbar.
Good play from Wright-Phillips set up Bolasie but his 20-yard effort found the side netting rather than the inside netting.
A Chris Clark free-kick was hoisted into Blackpool’s area and the ball found its way to Mackie who had a goalbound shot deflected for a corner, except the ref bizarrely gave a goal kick! Everyone, including the thousands locked outside, could see it was a corner, from that moment onwards the ref gave every 50-50 decision to a tangerine shirt.
Adam again had another long range effort on goal that went wide; he was just adjusting his sights for later in the game.
Argyle left the pitch at half-time to warm applause and we were treated to another Argyle ‘Legend’ being embarrassingly interviewed during the break. Shuffle of feet, muffled microphone, some great memories from your two games for Argyle, etc etc.
The first action of the second half saw Summerfield strangely head towards his own goal from near the centre circle, the ball fell to Ben Burgess who was clear on goal but the advancing Stockdale saved the striker’s shot and Summerfield’s blushes.
Wright-Phillips was booked for deliberate handball and play was held up for 15 minutes while the ref wrote down his name.
Adam, who was now running the show, curled a shot over the diving Stockdale but the ball thumped against the post and bounced away to safety. Argyle had no answer to Adam was sitting deep and pulling the strings, the situation needed either Mackie to Wright-Phillips to drop deep and mark him or Summerfield or Johnson to move forward and close the space, neither happened and Argyle eventually paid the price.
A shot from Mackie, who looked like Argyle’s best hope of a goal, was deflected wide for a corner but the pressure was now with Blackpool and again it was Adam who had a shot that Stockdale brilliantly tipped over, a world class save that Adam was quick to applaud.
The struggling Judge was replaced by Joe Mason on the right, Judge had been holding his groin during the first half, not for sexual pleasure but because of a possible injury and Summerfield was now also nursing his hamstring.
It was Mackie again for Argyle but his shot was pushed over, the resulting corner was cleared back to Summerfield and his cross caused mayhem in the Blackpool area with the ball hitting the post and out again, it did actually cross the line in the chaos but was ruled offside.
Although Argyle were creating half chances the zip and confidence from the first half had disappeared with Bolasie virtually a spectator.
Summerfield finally limped off to be replaced by Ryan Leonard who made his debut at right-back with Duguid moving into midfield. Argyle’s makeshift defence that started the game now consisted of three players with less than 30 games under their belts in total and a utility player.
The two young Plymouth boys, Mason and Leonard, on the right side were cruelly targeted by the Blackpool side as the stuffing seemed to have gone from the Greens.
Sure enough, Blackpool’s first goal came down Argyle’s right and predictably it was Adam who scored. Stephen Dobbie back-heeled the ball to Adam who shot across Stockdale and into the far corner. 1-0 to Blackpool.
Mariner then sent a written letter on to Damien Johnson who organised the team to play with three defenders and push Clark further forward. Argyle tried to rally with some very long throws from Leonard ( Delap and Arnason eat your heart out!) but to no avail.
With Argyle pushing forward Blackpool broke away and Dobbie lifted the ball over the advancing Stockdale to make the scoreline 2-0 and secure the points for Blackpool. Again Holloway didn`t celebrate the goal. Game over.
The problems now mount for Argyle. Too many players are now out injured so it looks like we go into the last seven games relying on the kids and several inexperienced but talented players.
Today the two wide men for Argyle just never got going, Judge and especially Bolasie were both a real disappointment, he will learn from this and come back a better player against Barnsley, we need him to perform.
While Summerfield played really well with some nice passing it would be hard to imagine Adam getting so much room in midfield if Fletcher hadn’t got injured. This is where Damien Johnson should have stepped up to the plate but he was largely anonymous.
Mackie and Wright-Phillips looked good upfront with some nice interchange but you wish they would shoot more often. Wright-Phillips tired towards the end and would have been subbed if it wasn`t for the injuries to Fletcher and Summerfield.
Reda Johnson and N’Gala settled well after a nervy start and Clark never let anyone down at left-back and did well considering he had a passenger playing in front of him.
If only we played for 90 minutes, if only we were more clinical in front of goal, if only we signed Charlie Adam last summer?
Stockdale 7, Duguid 6, N’Gala 6, R. Johnson 6, Clark 6, Judge 5 (Mason 6), Fletcher (Summerfield 7, Leonard 6)), D. Johnson 5, Bolasie 4, Mackie 8, Wright-Phillips 7.
Subs not used: Larrieu, Kinsella, Cooper, Fallon.
Argyle Rue Missed Chances
Argyle 0 Blackpool 2