Having made the mammoth effort to Plymouth knowing the Iron’s dismal record at Home Park and after witnessing the capitulation on Tuesday evening, I’d have been more than happy with a point in Devon. How surprised I was then, that we passed the home side off the park, scored first and managed to even get a second for good measure in a very good advertisement for League Two football.
A friend from Plymouth was in the away end with us yesterday. He regularly went to watch Argyle before heading for university a few years ago and commented that they looked a better outfit than the one they had in the Championship who he recalled just seemed to ‘lump it anywhere’. They were probably the best side we’ve faced since Fleetwood game to Glanford Park and certainly one of the better sides in the division.
They tried to keep the ball down and tried to play football the right way. We were all impressed with the movement and skill of Alessandra, who has caused us major problems before at Oldham (3-0 drubbing one night), who was probably unlucky not to score. That said the Iron’s defence looked calm and collected on the ball against one of the League’s in form strike force and it made for an enjoyable afternoon in the Spring sunshine.
Sam started off a little shaky in goal, probably due to the nature of the goals on Tuesday and his distribution was poor but after two saves he grew into the game and we started to pass the ball out from defence. How telling then, that we had over 60% possession. Reading Russ’ post match bits, it seems he has learnt punting the ball forward to Madden and Winnall does not work. Refreshing indeed.
McAlister again controlled the game and proved what a huge miss he was on Tuesday night. His passing was excellent and everything the Iron created started with Sean. In the first half particularly, it was one of the better midfield displays I’ve seen in a long time. It’s nice to see Plymouth fans acknowledging his performance, as he still goes unnoticed by plenty of Iron fans. The leading contender for the player of the season awards in my eyes.
A special mention for Terry Hawkridge too, who has been slated by some fans on the forum and on twitter in the past few weeks. He had a really good yesterday and tracked back to defend as well as looking very dangerous going forward. There were glimpses of the Hawkridge of old- and what a player he could turn out to be at the business end of the season.
There has been a lot made about the booing at Glanford Park in recent games and although I don’t boo, I was as frustrated as anyone after throwing it away against Southend and also Bristol. I know opposition managers lately have criticised the Iron’s fans for voicing their frustrations during and at the end of matches but I have to say that although on the face of it, it is easy to argue that it is unjustified given we are unbeaten since November, I can see why some fans choose to do so.
They boo because they know we can be better. We are a much better side than we showed on Tuesday evening. We can be the best footballing side in the divison and that is what the fans want to see week in week out. When we are the top of our game, there are many teams who can’t match us because we have quality players all over the field. Players who held their own in the Championship under Adkins. Players who are more than capable of winning this division and a manager who can be the next Adkins if he sticks to his philosophy of attacking teams and putting them to the sword.
If you weren’t one of the 200 Iron fans at the game yesterday but were at the game on Tuesday, you’d be forgiven for reading the Plymouth forum and thinking they were playing a different team. So they boo because they do expect more and are frustrated that this group of players, that passed Plymouth (who are one of the better teams we have played this season) to death, defended well and made some good openings, particularly for McSheffrey and Syers after intricate football can play as badly as they did on Tuesday. Or can play how they played against Bristol and how they have thrown away 20 odd points from leading positions this season.
This isn’t about managing fans expectations as such, this is about the players performing how everyone knows they can. We have the best squad in the division and we want this side to win the Championship. That should be the main target, but of course we’d take a spot in that top three. It was refreshing to see expansive football yesterday after a few poor performances, however it comes as no coincidence to me that it was away from home. There was obviously less pressure for the players and a bigger pitch, which was also amongst the best I’ve seen this season for us to get the ball down on. But we need to take this back home and build on it because Saturday is huge and the club need to be actively trying to get as many into Glanford Park as possible.
The atmosphere yesterday at Plymouth was the best I’ve seen at a League Two game this season, and in fact at a game for a long time. They were vocal throughout and although we came away with the points- we need to make Glanford Park like that again. It put pressure on the referee and linesman, who all had good games (considering his criticism midweek), to make decisions and it would be nice if the crowd at GP could get behind the players instead of booing and moaning at every stray pass. I have to admit I get sucked into moaning and groaning too, but only because I know we can do better. I saw it yesterday and hopefully the players can repeat that on Saturday, where a win would really cement a spot in that top three.
Finally, good luck to Sam Winnall tonight at the Football League awards- a fine first season for him at GP. Also nice to hear Nigel Adkins sent Russ and the team a letter of congratulation for passing his unbeaten record. A true gent.
Up the Iron!