Argyle 0 – 1 Oxford
…… Constable 16
Cole 7, Berry 5, Charles 6, Branston 7, Bhasera 7, Cowan-Hall 6, Hourihane 4, Cox 5, Banton 6, Reid 5, Ugwu 6 (Murray 5).
Subs not used: Chenoweth, Richards, Wotton, Blanchard, Young, Gurrieri.
John Sheridan suffered his first defeat as Argyle manager when Oxford deservedly won all three points at Home Park.
For the Green Army it was the case of another dismal Saturday afternoon at Home Park.
Sheridan was unbeaten in his first four games in charge, picking up eight points but against Oxford the team lacked conviction, urgency and fight.
The U’s looked bigger, stronger and faster and could have won the game by a bigger margin if it wasn’t for a fantastic save from Jake Cole and a linesman reversing his decision after initially signally a goal to Oxford during the second half.
Argyle lost this game because of a poor first half performance, the central midfield duo of Lee Cox and captain Conor Hourihane were anonymous and offered no creative forward play, while upfront new pairing Reuben Reid and Gozie Ugwu were very static and provided no movement for the player on the ball.
Jason Banton, who was Argyle’s match-winner against Aldershot last week, hardly saw the ball during the first half.
Yet again, the goal was a sloppy one to concede. Onismor Bhasera lunged into a tackle, some players stopped for a foul, the ref waved play on and a simple cross was played into the Argyle area and the unmarked James Constable tapped the ball in with no defenders around to police him.
After the now traditional half time ass kicking the players played a lot better for the first 20 minutes of the second half.
Cox was now driving forward from midfield, the front two of Reid and Ugwu were a lot stronger and battled for the ball and Banton and Cowan-Hall on the wings were more involved.
Balls down the channels were now reaching their target and crosses were now coming into the Oxford area but despite this new momentum Luke McCormick in the Oxford goal still didn’t have a save to make.
Murray replaced Ugwu and played on the right with Cowan-Hall moving into the middle to partner Reid.
The move had a negative effect because Cowan-Hall was starting to do well on the wing and Murray often went roaming inside which meant the team now had no width on the right.
We had a lucky escape when a deflected shot from Oxford spun close to Cole’s crossbar, he punched the ball through the top of the goal net, the ball came back into play and Charles couldn’t keep the ball out and everyone watched in horror as the ball trickled over the line.
The linesman signalled a goal and the Argyle players, led by Cole, raced over to him to protest.
After the ref spoke to the linesman a corner was given instead which was the correct decision but how can a linesman get it so wrong and then change his mind?
We didn’t make the most of this lucky escape and the game tamely ended in a whimper. The momentum and fight that the players found just after half time had long since disappeared.
McCormick received a very good reception on his return to Home Park after his troubles, especially at the start of the second half when he walked towards the Devonport End.
Overall, the players just didn’t seem up for it, perhaps that’s the downside of having too many loan players in the team?
We could just be a better team away from home with Paul Wotton protecting the back four and Reid playing as a lone striker and using the pace of Banton and Cowan-Hall to attack on the breakaway.
It wouldn’t surprise me if we get some pointage against Northampton next week.
At home we haven’t a clue how to break down a stubborn defence.
Man of the match: Jake Cole.
Lacklustre Argyle Beaten By Oxford
Argyle 0 – 1 Oxford