|This is one that in years gone by I would have gone to with my late Dad, a season ticket holder at Argyle for many years. Always an awkward experience post-match if Saints won at Home Park. I can't recall them winning at the Dell, but I do remember well Argyle winning 0-1 at St.Mary's in the first League One match of the season in August 2010. That season Saints were promoted and Argyle relegated, so we had the last laugh. Now, both teams are back in the Championship. They have clawed their way up from the depths of League Two, through League One and we have managed to get relegated from the Premier League.
This is a game I would have gone to, but the ticket allocation sold out in less than an hour to those with 6+ away game history last season. Booo. I did contemplate getting a ticket in the home end, but I am far worse at hiding my affiliations these days. It would be humiliating to be thrown out after Saints score...
Anyway, Argyle seems to be handling promotion much as we did when we got promoted to the Championship all those years ago. Manager, Steven Schumacher has done a really good job since being promoted from Assistant Manager in 2021 and is undoubtedly destined for a bigger club eventually.
As for us, I think Martin now knows what our shortcomings are and hopefully there is time left in the window to address them. I think Wilcox is in turn aware of Martin's shortcomings in dealing with defence. The new setpiece coach comes with a great track record and hopefully, he will begin to address something that we have been historically woeful at.
I think Saturday might be more even than people are expecting, given our "work in progress", but I still think we have enough to win.
|There were a couple of changes to the expected lineup. Smallbone is injured, so Charles had his first league start. The second change was because Alcaraz was injured in training on Wednesday, apparently while warming up, which was enough to sideline him from this match. This required some adjustment of the team. Adams was drafted in as the focal point of the attack, Stuart Armstrong switched to the Argentinian's side on the right, while Adam Armstrong dropped back to the left midfield position.
Saints wear their teal and white away kit for the first time, with teal shorts and all-white socks.
Adam Armstrong is a player reborn this season, he did everything except score today
|Looking back at the introduction I see that I said it would be much more even than many would expect, but I still thought Saints had enough about them to win. Prophetic, as that was exactly what happened.
Jack Stephens led Saints out onto the pitch where he started his professional career. From Plymouth, it is less than a mile to Torpoint in Cornwall on the other side of the River Tamar where he was born. As expected Argyle came out at full speed, but Saints kept trying to play their passing game and keep the ball away from them. To be fair, Argyle were doing better than the away team for long spells in the first half, but luckily their forwards seemed unable to finish.
Saints' first meaningful goal attempt came when the excellent Charles found Adam Armstrong who was promptly scythed down by an Argyle defender. Stuart Armstrong and Manning lined up, both looking to take the kick, but it was Stu that took the kick, which was powerful and on target, but unfortunately straight at the keeper.
Next, the two Armstrongs combined on the left with Adam crossing to find Tella at the far post, who was immediately hustled by a defender, so he passed back to Walker-Peters who appeared to be pushed to the ground in the area. Referee David Webb was unimpressed and rightly waved away claims for a penalty.
Plymouth Argyle were constantly pressing and pushing Saints into coughing up the ball, but it was still Saints that were looking more dangerous, without ever actually seeming to have an end product. Charles was looking very impressive in his first league start for Saints, but the player really catching my eye was Adam Armstrong, who was everywhere. I don't know what Russell has done, or if he has found the diminutive player's previously hidden 'on' button, but he is so different to what we have seen before. The Championship certainly seems to agree with him.
Another player to see plenty of the ball and improving with each outing now was Edozie. Racing down the left he squared the ball to Adams, who in turn pushed the ball wide to Tella. He shot first time and the ball was arrowing for the bottom corner when the goalkeeper, Hazard managed to just get a hand on the ball and pushed it wide.
There was no shortage of action in the first half, but unfortunately, no goals, although Charles managed to get himself booked for a silly handball in the Argyle area following a Stuart Armstrong corner. Right at the end Argyle at last looked threatening from an attack and the lively Kesler-Hayden sent a curling shot goalwards, which looked for all the world that Bazanu had tipped over, but the ref gave a goal kick. That was the first time that the much-maligned Saints keeper had really had to do anything, other than sweep up at the back a couple of times. He just seems to be growing in confidence with every match and long may that continue.
So, 0-0 at the break and probably the Argyle manager, Steven Schumacher would have been more pleased with things than Russell Martin. There were rays of hope, mostly in the good performances from Shea Charles, Adam Armstrong and Gavin Bazanu.
The first attack of the second half saw Edozie cut in from the left and curl a shot just wide of the far post, with Hazard beaten. Saints fans say Edozie lacks an end product, but with more game time he will get more confidence and the goals will come.
From the Saints very next attack came the first goal. Adam Armstrong raced forward from deep and on the left of the area sent a 'no look' pass square to the right, which found the onrushing Tella. Bang! 0-1. Simple.
Then Saints reverted to type and within two minutes Argyle were back level. Whittaker went racing down the right, Manning slipped and couldn't catch him. In spite of a despairing lunge from the backtracking Edozie, the Argyle player sent a teasing cross into the box and there was the onrushing No.9 Hardie to give Bazanu no chance of stopping the shot from close range. 1-1. Bah!
All to do again.
Not long after, Hardie, buoyed by his earlier success came racing through into the penalty area, with Bazanu rushing to meet him, appearing to upend the Argyle forward. At first glance, it looked like a certain penalty, but David Webb was unmoved. Replays showed the referee was absolutely right and Hardie had deliberately left a trailing leg. He was rightly booked for simulation.
Saints next attack had some smart work in and around the home penalty area, which culminated with Stuart Armstrong sending a thumping drive goalward, which crashed against the crossbar and spun harmlessly away. The away team in white and teal were well on top now but just seemed unable to make the breakthrough.
Once again Saints attacked and Adam Armstrong went racing down the left, with Edozie running parallel to him. AA squared to where he thought Edozie would be, but the youngster was completely knackered and missed what should have been a simple tap-in. Unsurprisingly Sam was substituted not long after, being replaced by Amo-Ameyaw.
Time was ticking away and you wondered if it was heading for a draw, particularly after the next chance for Saints. Tella won a free kick, right in front of the goal, just outside the area. Manning looked to take the kick, but Adam Armstrong suddenly stepped up and hit the ball towards the top right corner. Hazard came flying across and somehow managed to push the ball around the post for a corner, which ultimately came to nothing. We were by now almost at full time and however much time Mr Webb added on.
Plymouth rushed downfield in a possible last chance to win the game in normal time. Whittaker shot low and hard from a tight angle and the ball hit the foot of the post, but replays showed that Baz had got down and his outstretched hand would have met the ball if it had been on the inside.
We were now into time added and since he had come on, Amo-Ameyaw had been terrorising the Argyle left and he did so again, winning a corner. Manning took the kick and Adam Armstrong met it with a header from point-blank range, but there was Hazard once again, making a stunning save. Luckily enough for us, he only managed to parry the shot down, right to where Ché Adams was standing all alone. He chested it down and swivelled to poke the ball into an empty net! 1-2 and only about four minutes of time added left.
This was where the 'new' Bazanu came into his own. Argyle threw the kitchen sink at Saints in those last few minutes and Baz seemed to be flying in all directions punching clear several times. In amongst all this was one outstanding block from Adam Armstrong, which might well have saved a goal, but it was all getting a bit hairy.
One last attempt produced a corner and even the goalkeeper came up for it, but Baz for the umpteenth time punched the ball clear and that was that. David Webb blew for time to wild scenes of jubilation from Saints players, staff and the block of away fans.
Wonderful stuff, this is not the gutless side we saw on so many occasions last year. Next up is QPR at St.Mary's. Bring it on.
There were several outstanding performances in my book. Gavin Bazanu is a man reborn this season and seems to be growing in stature with each match. Sky however gave their MoM award to Shea Charles and I agree that he was amazing for a first league start for Saints. You forget that he is so young and undoubtedly has a great future ahead of him,
But for me, there is only one contender for MoM and that was Adam Armstrong who was amazing, he was everywhere. He did everything except actually score. He was like a little metronome running up and down the pitch starting attacks, driving the midfield forward and with some crucial last-ditch defending. He is going to be so important for us this season.