Argyle 0 Sheffield United 1
Argyle: Larrieu 7, Gray 6, Arnason 7, Lowry 6, Sawyer 6(Gow, 93) Judge 8, Fletcher 6, Duguid 4, Mason 6(Noone 6, 65), Barnes 6(Sheridan, 86), Fallon 5.
Subs not used: Letheren, Blake, Johnson, Folly,
Another wet Saturday afternoon at Home Park and another home defeat, Argyle’s fifth from nine games. When will it end?
Argyle put in a much-improved performance against Sheffield United compared to the farce against Barnsley a week ago but were unlucky to lose to a late, late goal from James Harper.
The Blades won the three points but will also win the accolade as the most boring, negative team to visit Home Park this season.
The Argyle management duo of Paul Sturrock and Paul Mariner rolled the dice yet again and this time came up with a 4-3-3 formation with Ashley Barnes as the main striker, flanked by Joe Mason (making his Argyle debut) and Rory Fallon. Sturrock had previously told everyone that Fallon’s appearance on the left for the recent game against Doncaster was a ‘one-off’.
Yoann Folly, despite being one of the better players in recent matches, was unlucky to be dropped, with Kari Arnason and David Gray returning to the defence in place of Darcy Blake and Krisztian Timar who surely now has played his last game for Argyle? The big question on everyone’s lips was – ‘Will Craig Noone ever start a game?’
It was Argyle who started the brighter of the two teams, Fallon had the first chance but his shot was easily saved by United keeper Carl Ikeme, followed a cross from Fletcher eventually falling to Mason but his shot through a crowd of players went wide.
Judge looked the only player to take the game by the scruff of the neck with his probing and dribbling in midfield. The Blades quickly identified the Blackburn Rovers loanee as the danger-man and ‘took him out’ at every opportunity.
The rain that had saved Argyle last Saturday was not as heavy this week so hopefully today’s game would be completed, unless Argyle go 4-1 down of course!
After Argyle’s initial attacking dominance the game settled down to be become a scrappy affair with both sides content to hit the long ball to the forward line and hope that something might happen. Indeed, apart from this long ball tactic Sheffield offered nothing going forward, the result was that both sides were content to play the game with a ‘blood and snotters’ approach and just ended up cancelling each other out.
Thankfully, half time offered a respite from the ‘entertainment’.
Argyle started the second half as the better team, just as they did for the first period.
A corner by man-of-match in waiting Alan Judge was just headed over the crossbar by Arnason, the closest any player had come to scoring.
Argyle and Sheffield both enjoyed spells of pressure and traded corners but again no clear cut chances were created, were was the excitement? Barnes battled away upfront buy offered very little goal threat, although it could be argued that he didn’t receive any kind of service.
Mason was withdrawn and replaced by Noone with Sturrock and Mariner still sticking with the 4-3-3 formation.
Judge had a 25-yard shot just sail over the bar and the feeling started to grow that this game will end up 0-0 or be won by a late goal.
Fallon had a good shout for a penalty when Morgan physically assaulted him in the penalty area but the otherwise excellent ref waved play-on.
Noone injected some pace in attack and send over a great cross to Fallon who headed back to Barnes but his shot went wide with Morgan (what a lovely chap) leaning into him.
At last we had a goal attempt from Sheffield United! A corner from Ward found Kilgallon 6 yards out but his tame shot was easily saved by Larrieu.
And then game that moment when games or indeed seasons or careers hinge upon. A cracking 25-yard strike from Fletcher hit the inside of Ikeme’s post and rebounded out to safety. A big let-off for Sheffield United.
Sheridan then came on at the expense of Barnes with Fallon, Argyle’s 6-foot 4-inch tall striker, still deployed on the left. It may have worked on one game but Fallon playing on the left didn’t work for this game!
And then disaster! A Ward corner was partially cleared, Ward swung the cross in and a poor clearance found Harper on the edge of the area and his shot through a crowded area beat Larrieu and sealed an undeserved three points for the Blades.
Argyle huffed and puffed in the remaining minutes but couldn’t create anything. A poor end to a poor game.
The match finished with the now familiar chants of ‘We want Sturrock out’, a ditty that is almost as popular as the ‘Green Army’ chant!
To be fair Argyle were unlucky to lose this; they were the only team that seemed interested in claiming the three points. But this is a results based-game and another defeat means more pressure will be dumped on Sturrock.
Judge ran his socks off in midfield and was the only Argyle player able to create anything until the introduction of Noone.
Mason had a good debut but unfortunately had the look of a boy playing in a mans game, it`s also a bit unfair to dump him right into a relegation battle.
Barnes ran and ran and battled, while Fallon was wasted on the left. Why wasn’t he moved inside when it was clear the plan wasn’t working?
Arnason and Gray did make a difference to the defence until the 88th minute. Sawyer regained his confidence after his Barnsley nightmare while Duguid continues to play hide and seek in each game, has there been a more anonymous player this season? Bring back Folly!
We were unlucky but that’s how it goes when you are in the bottom three. One thing is clear; we need to create more goal scoring opportunities if we are to stay up.
When will it end?
Argyle v Sheffield U Match Report
Argyle 0 Sheffield United 1