Argyle 0 Coventry 1
If you thought it was bad under Paul Sturrock, this match against Coventry City was equally dire!
A poor first half from Argyle followed a sucker-punch from Freddie Eastwood in the 72nd minute dumped the Pilgrims to the bottom of the Championship and now looking for a miracle to survive.
It was only Paul Mariner’s second game in charge but following the poor performance and boos from the terraces at half time and full time the proposed board meeting on Tuesday takes on greater significance.
This was Argyle’s fifth defeat in succession and the fifth game with no goals scored. Can any stattos remember Argyle’s last goal? It was Rory Fallon’s winner against Doncaster on November 7th. Ahhh, what glorious memories – a goal scored!
Mariner, along with new coach John Carver, opted to keep his 4-3-1-2 formation for this game after trying it out in the 2-0 defeat against Preston last Saturday, although there was a change in the problem position of left-back. Shane Lowry, usually a left-footed centre-back, ousted Gary Sawyer to the bench and lined-up at left-back.
The match started in cold and wet conditions, something the Home Park faithful have been used to in recent weeks.
Jamie Mackie provided the first spark for Argyle when he weaved some magic near the corner flag by beating two Coventry defenders and advanced towards goal, his shot from a narrow angle was blocked at the expense of a corner.
McIndoe for Coventry put in a dangerous cross that David Gray cut-out for a corner to the Sky Blues. The game then settled down to be a scrappy affair between two poor teams. It was evident that Coventry were exploiting Argyle’s lack of width by attacking down the wide areas, it was also obvious that Lowry is not a full-back, he rarely crossed the halfway line. The result was that all of Argyle’s play was through the middle and easy for Coventry to deal with.
It appeared that midfielder Karl Duguid was given specific instructions to marshall and organise Argyle’s inexperienced defence at set-pieces. Duguid barked out the orders at corners and long throws and was detailed to man-mark dangerman Freddie Eastwood at set-pieces.
A mix-up between Reda Johnson and Kari Arnason allowed Eastwood a shot on goal from 25-yards but his effort whistled wide.
Moral on the pitch didn’t look good when teams mates Rory Fallon and Gray had a heated argument after Argyle defended a long throw.
Romain Larrieu dropped and/or fumbled a cross, as is now the tradition but somehow Barnett shot over from 6 yards out, a real let-off for the Greens.
The half-time whistle was met with a chorus of boos and jeers.
Would Mariner change the system for the second half? Would he realise that Gray and Lowry, in their last game of their loan spell, were just going through the motions and avoid injury in the hope of a move to another club in January?
The answer to both questions was no!
However, something must have said at half-time because suddenly Argyle looked a better team, which was not hard against a poor Coventry side.
A long throw from Arnason was cleared to Fletcher who drilled a 25-yard towards goal but Westwood pulled off a regulation save. Do Coventry also have a Southwood and a Northwood in their squad?
A cross from the previously anonymous Judge found Fallon but he headed over under pressure, but this was more like it!
Lowry, in a rare venture past the halfway line, crossed to Fallon but the Big Kiwi headed wide.
Mariner finally abandoned his 4-3-1-2 formation and brought on Craig Noone for Chris Clark and went with the traditional 4-4-2 formation with Judge filling the other wingman role. Game on!
Referee Keith Stroud started to take centre-stage with a series of poor and baffling decisions, well it is the pantomime season! Sometimes a sense of injustice stirs a team and the fans and a goal is never far away. Except in this case it was Coventry who scored.
With Argyle having their best period of the game and looking to score they fell for the sucker punch. Coventry had a counter-attack and David Bell put in a superb cross to the far post towards Eastwood, but not to worry because the tall and previously excellent Arnason is there to head away, but he didn’t! Eastwood out jumped Arnason and planted a header back across goal and into the far corner! Do Argyle have a goalkeeper? One nil to Coventry and a hush descended on Home Park.
A shot from Fallon was deflected wide and an Arnason long throw ended with Lowry having a close range shot blocked.
Judge was replaced by Alan Gow and heaven knows what the formation is now, answers on a postcard please.
A Noone corner was met by Arnason but his header was kicked off the line and in the last minute Arnason again had a header cleared off the line, this time by Westwood.
The full-time whistle signalled another chorus of boos.
This game was up there with some of the tripe that Sturrock has served up this season, but you have to feel sorry for Mariner. The players have the grit and determination but they don’t have the quality. Coventry looked more comfortable on the ball and controlled the midfield and yet they looked a poor side, so what does that say about us?
Fletcher’s passing radar was off target, Duguid is a good water carrier, he closes down well and organises but he’s no good with the ball at his feet, which is a bit strange considering he’s a midfielder. Clark was anonymous, his Argyle career goes something like this – good game and stays in the team for the next, average game and then doubtful for the next, he then has two poor games before finally being dropped. Mr Inconsistent.
Arnason was easily Argyle’s best player but bizarrely he gave away the goal. Johnson looked out of his depth and clumsy, while Gray and Lowry had their minds on other things.
Larrieu still wears bananas as boots, his kicking homed in on the touchline each time.
The Fallon and Mackie partnership wasn’t working, Mackie isn’t the same player since his suspension, and perhaps he is another player who can’t wait for January to come quick enough?
Mariner and Carver somehow have to lift the players for the next batch of games and a rethink on the 4-3-1-2 formation, we need some width for the home games; otherwise we’ll be so far cut adrift by mid-January it will all be over bar the shouting.
All eyes on the boardroom now.
Argyle v Coventry
Argyle 0 Coventry 1