The term ‘relegation six-pointer’ gets thrown around a lot these days but it really was the case for the game on Saturday, when Plymouth Argyle travelled to Hampshire to face Aldershot Town.
With the Pilgrims placed precariously above the relegation zone and one point worse off than their hosts before kick-off it was all too clear how bad the repercussions of failing to take any points back to Devon would be. Despite going in to the game on the back of successive goalless draws it was perhaps more important to not lose the game, rather than win all three points.
Argyle started the game on the front foot and won a free-kick a couple yards outside the box. The Aldershot defence, too preoccupied with arranging a wall, failed to notice Jason Banton lingering on the edge of the area and were made to pay. Conor Hourihane squared the ball to the loanee from Crystal Palace, who struck the ball home via a fortunate deflection.
The lead, sadly, did not last long as just five minutes later the home side levelled the tie. Another deflection, this time in favour of the home side, sent Danny Hylton through on goal. Argyle keeper Jake Cole did well to keep the shot out but could only divert the ball in to the path of Peter Vincenti, who will never get an easier finish in his career.
With the goal came a shift in momentum in the game as Aldershot looked to take the initiative through a barrage of long throws and corners. Under the previous management regime I have no doubt that the Argyle defence would have cracked under the pressure but during the four games John Sheridan has overseen as Argyle boss so far the defence has looked solid and have not yet conceded from a set piece.
It was actually from an Aldershot corner that Argyle took the lead. The corner was over-hit and fell at the feet of Reuben Reid on the edge of the Argyle box. The striker, now in his second spell with the club, took off with the ball and before the Aldershot defence could react and get back to defend, the Yeovil loanee had run 50 yards of the pitch and was squaring the ball to Banton inside the Shots’ area. What happened next was quite magic. Banton still had plenty to do but made turning his defender and curling the ball low inside the far post look easy. It was a great counter-attack goal and whilst Banton will receive most of the plaudits for his finish, Reid deserves massive credit for his part in the goal.
Argyle headed into half-time 2-1 to the good, much to the delight of the 907-strong travelling contingent.
The second-half saw a very composed performance from Argyle. Aldershot, as you would expect, threw everything at the Greens’ goal but just could not find their way through two defensive rocks in Guy Branston and Anthony Charles. With the hosts going for the equaliser Argyle were able to counter well, and could have put the game to bed on a couple of occassions, especially through Paul Wotton who sent his free header just wide of the post.
Despite immense pressure, Argyle held on for a massive victory, their biggest of their season, as well as their first away from home in 10 attempts.
There is still a lot of football to be played, but to this point John Sheridan is doing a marvelous job of trying to keep Argyle in the football league. An unbeaten return of eight points from four games, whilst only conceding twice, has certainly seen the Pilgrims’ league position look a lot less ominous. All but one of his signings have so far proved to be great bits of business and I cannot even start to describe how impressed I have been with Guy Branston since he arrived.
To sum-up, it’s been a solid start for Sheridan and we seem to be heading in the right direction. Four cup finals down, 15 to go.
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