Plymouth Argyle 2 Fleetwood Town 1: VERDICT
I'm never going to grumble about the positioning of the makeshift press-box at Home Park.
I’m never going to grumble about the positioning of the makeshift press-box at Home Park.Because for once, being behind the goal to report on a match had one key benefit.I got a perfect view of just how good Fleetwood Town keeper Alex Cairns is.While from the middle of the pitch you can see the electricity of Town’s attackers, like Ash Hunter and Wes Burns, at Home Park we got to see a keeper who will no doubt go on to play at the next level.However, he was left to punch the ground as the men in yellow in front of him let him down.After a first half with saves of true quality from Ruben Lameiras, Niall Canavan, David Fox and company, you could have argued Cairns alone had done enough to deserve a clean sheet.But it was another error from Cian Bolger that saw him finally defeated. Bolger was left for dead by Freddie Ladapo, who then blasted the ball past Cairns despite the recovering Ash Eastham’s best efforts.It was two soon after, Bolger not doing enough at the near post to stop Canavan’s flick-on, and Ladapo got between Ched Evans and Eastham to glance a corner home.Town defended valiantly on set-pieces against Walsall a week earlier but it was not a perfect clean sheet.This game again threw up questions as to who should partner Eastham.Skipper Craig Morgan has not regained top form since his hamstring injury at Sunderland. And as at Southend, errors from Bolger were punished on Saturday.A new centre-half must be top of Barton’s Christmas wish-list but the transfer window is still five weeks away and Town need to find a way to stop the silly errors.But Town gave the ball away all over the field at Home Park, substitute Wes Burns dancing across his own half only to inadvertently send Ladapo through on goal.Ladapo sent the ball crashing into the post, which summed up the lack of belief and confidence in this Plymouth side. But after Paddy Madden, Evans and Jason Holt wasted numerous early chances for Town, Cairns took centre stage and Pilgrims boss Derek Adams must have been rubbing his hands and feeling the visitors were there for the taking.Argyle were licking their wounds after a 5-1 mauling at Luton, so on paper Fleetwood should have beaten this bottom-four team.But the loose passes and Fleetwood’s line-up will have given the hosts confidence.Joey Barton had made two changes, switching Lewie Coyle to left-back and leaving James Husband out, while Ryan Taylor came in at right-back. Town had waited a month for a clean sheet, and to change a back four that had done so and defended Walsall’s set-pieces so valiantly raised an eyebrow.Barton said it was to stop Plymouth’s wide men cutting inside but after a 5-1 mauling Argyle should have been there for the taking.The second half saw Coyle restored to the right, with Ross Wallace on the left. Holt was withdrawn at the break after picking up a yellow card and Burns was sent on.Like Cairns, Hunter and Burns should be playing at a higher level. They have not been firing on all cylinders in the last couple of games and Hunter was withdrawn early in the second half.Conor McAleny replaced him and brought a fresh spark, though Town lost width. He too could play higher, injuries blighting his rise, and although McAleny could not find a way through some of his link-up play with Burns, Madden and Evans was sublime.Madden was the man to get on the scoresheet again as a late surge forward showed what Town are capable of.Could it have been a different story had they taken one of their early chances?Yes, but it is extremely frustrating that this is the same squad that dispatched Scunthorpe 5-0, Doncaster 4-0 and raced into a 2-0 lead over Blackpool in 20 minutes.Perhaps keeping a settled back four could have helped Town’s quest for consistency and to ended their losing run on the road.The key for the goals to flow again is keeping Evans and Madden on the pitch. They are getting chances and the finishing will come given the calibre of both players.The 4-4-2 system with wingers works too. We’ve seen as much in devastating fashion.The task for Barton and his coaches is to get wing wizards Burns and Hunter back firing at full tilt.McAleny is fit again but it need not be a case of either/ or.There must be a way to utilise all five of Town’s key attacking players to restore the front-foot football.At the moment, especially with that tactical change at the back, it looks like a case of trying to be too clever for your own good.League One football is essentially a simple game won and lost in the two penalty boxes.Defend set-pieces well, don’t make sloppy errors, punish the opposition’s errors and take your chances, and with a bit of luck sprinkled in you won’t go far wrong.After 19 games, Town are two points short of their total at this stage last season, when they ended up in a relegation battle, and four away from their tally in the promotion chasing season of 2016-17.We heard the other week that this is the time of year when we will find out if this crop of players are contenders or pretenders.The last two results point to the latter.