Rochdale 1 – 0 Argyle
Cole 7, Berry 6, Blanchard 5 (red card), Branston 7, Bhasera 8 (Charles), Gurrieri 6 (Harvey 6), Hourihane 7, Wotton 7, Nelson 7, Bryan 6, Reid 7 (Chadwick 6).
We’ve only gone and done it!
Despite a 1-0 defeat for 10-man Argyle at Rochdale other results at the bottom of the league went the way of Greens and we live to fight another season in League Two.
The game, or to be more exact, the event at Rochdale was filled with anxiety, hope, despair and finally deep joy and celebration.
While this was the final game of the season and thanks to Dagenham & Redbridge and more importantly Barnet losing Argyle avoided relegation, many fans will point to the crucial win at Chesterfield two weeks ago as the game that ensured Argyle survived.
Backed by more than 2,000 fans at Spotland John Sheridan and his team started the better of the two sides.
Sheridan employed a 4-1-4-1 formation with Paul Wotton sitting just in front of the back four.
Early chances fell for Reuben Reid and Joe Bryan but each player couldn’t muster a shot on-target, although we should have been awarded a penalty for hand ball but the biased ref was having none of it.
Disaster was to follow on 15 minutes when the ref Geoff Eltrigham signalled that Max Blanchard had made a professional foul on George Donnelly and issued a red card.
An absolute crazy decision because Blanchard wasn’t the last defender and Donnelly wasn’t in a goal scoring position.
Off walked Blanchard and, at the time, off walked Argyle’s chances of remaining in League Two.
10-man Argyle now sat back, defended the 18-yard line and allowed the Rochdale midfield to have acres of space in which to operate.
Jake Cole made two superb saves and Michael Rose hit the crossbar but somehow Argyle held out to half time.
The half time scores in the games that mattered were also at 0-0.
Rochdale kept Argyle pinned back for most of the second half and with resilient defending and hard work the Greens kept the score at 0-0.
The massed ranks of the Green Army were now nervously checking their phones for internet updates and suddenly an enormous cheer went up despite no action taking place on the pitch. News rippled through the crowd that Barnet had gone behind at Northampton, within a minute another cheer made its way along the Argyle fans like a Mexican wave as York had taken the lead at Dagenham. A surreal experience part 1.
Disaster then struck as the Argyle rear guard action finally relented and Bunney stooped to head in from a cross.
It didn’t matter and any cheers from the Rochdale fans were drowned out by the Green Army who five minutes later heard that Barnet were now 2-0.
Chaos and celebration broke out despite Argyle losing. Surreal experience part 2.
Bryan was bundled over in the box but the Rochdale ref waved play on. Just put on a blue shirt and be done with it!
Sheridan may not have known the other scores because he went for broke in a 3-3-3 formation to grab an equaliser. It would have been nice for Argyle to avoid relegation under their own steam but with Barnet now having to score three goals we were safe.
No injury time board was shown, as is the custom for end of season games, and the Rochdale ref blew for full time.
Argyle were safe despite losing, never has an Argyle defeat been cheered so loudly! Barnet and Dagenham had lost – game over!
Small pockets of the Green Army invaded the pitch but were soon ushered back to the terraces.
The Argyle players then re-emerged from the tunnel and came over to the fans in what was one of the best Argyle experiences ever and will go down in Green folklore.
Players and fans celebrated with each other, shirts were stripped off and thrown to the fans, a memorable occasion.
At the back of all this stood John Sheridan, he watched, applauded and quietly left the pitch leaving the players to milk the acclaim.
James Brent was also on the pitch thanking the fans for their tremendous support.
The Argyle squad disappeared back to the dressing rooms and out came the Rochdale players who ignored their own fans and made a beeline for the Green Army with both fans and opposition players applauding each other. The Rochdale squad then took a lap of honour in front of their own fans.
A great day that had it all.
We are thankful that we avoided relegation but we should never be in this position again, the supporters deserve better.
There’s lots of work to be done over the summer, a club our size with our amazing support deserves some success next season after five years of misery.
We’ve Only Gone And Done It!
Rochdale 1 – 0 Argyle