Saturday March 13th, 3pm
Scorers - Kari Arnason (45+1), Michael McIndoe (49)
The Ricoh Arena - soulless, half-empty and attached to a casino - represents, to me, the very worst of modern football stadia (let's hope phase II, when/if it gets built does not turn Home Park into something similar). Perhaps my dislike of the Ricoh stems from the fact that it was also the site of one of my most depressing afternoons as an Argyle fan, as the Greens' slim play-off hopes withered and died in a miserable fashion one Saturday in March 2008. That experience, in combination with the offer of work on a Saturday and the £10 parking charge in the Ricoh car parks (£10!!), led to my decision not to attend this fixture last season. Inevitably, Argyle won 1-0, with Craig Noone scoring a wonderful late winner. This season, a lesson learned, I checked my wallet for a crisp ten pound note and embarked upon the 45 minute drive to the outskirts of Coventry.
In truth, I had few hopes of seeing a performance any better than the 2008 debacle, after Argyle had slumped to a 2-0 defeat at Loftus Road in midweek. Happily, Paul Mariner's men put in a very creditable performance, full of fight and endeavour, but fell just short of taking the three points so desperately needed.
The first surprise of the afternoon appeared on the teamsheet, with two players making their first starts for the club. Bradley Wright-Phillips finally made his full debut for the side he joined seven months ago, while Yala Bolasie was handed a first start on the right of the Pilgrims midfield. Captain Carl Fletcher was returned to his natural home in the centre of midfield, with Duguid moving to right-back and Chris Barker coming in at centre-back.
Coventry may have come into the game on the back of an impressive run of form, but it was Argyle who made the brighter start to the game, with Mackie, BWP and Bolasie all getting early touches. A great pass by Wright-Phillips played Mackie clean through on goal, but Jamie air-kicked and missed the ball completely. This was at the far end, so there could have been a bobble off the (awful) pitch, but this sort of thing happens far too often when Mackie's one-on-one with the keeper.
Coventry bossed the middle-section of the half, without creating much in the way of clear cut chances. Argyle defended fairly well individually, but there was a lack of communication throughout the backline - Barks headed one behind for a corner because he didn't get a shout in the first half, while Duguid left one with a Blue shirt right behind him in the second. These sort of things are inevitable with the amount of chopping and changing we've had at the back, and two more new faces are unlikely to improve that situation. We picked up again as half time approached and grabbed the lead right on the break, Arnie looping a header over the stranded Westwood from Damien Johnson's free kick.
Arnie's long-throw (which had mixed results) almost gave us a second right after the break, as Barker nodded over the bar. However, within two minutes Coventry were level, a cross from the right going straight through the box for McIndoe to covert at the back post. To be fair, it was a very good delivery - if Arnason or Barker had stuck a leg out they could well have turned the ball into their own net. From that moment on Argyle were the better team and looked the more likely to find a winner. Fletch and Johnson scrapped and harried in the middle, whilst Bolasie caused no end of problems and consistently got the better of his full-back. The Greens' weakness was on the left, where Clark had one of his more difficult afternoons. Things only worsened when Eckersley limped off for Sawyer, who had an absolute 'mare going forward.
Both sides had chances as the game came to a close. Fletch had a goalbound shot blocked from a Bolasie corner, whilst Coventry shot across the face of goal.Things went into overdrive in injury time, with Stockdale making a good save and Bolasie's shot (which was going right into the corner) hitting Mackie square on the back.
It was a decent performance, and a point which at least maintains Argyle's slim hopes of survival. The big plus was Bolasie, who was tremendous throughout and, should the worst happen, will tear up League One next season. Mariner ushered him over to the Green Army at full time where the majority were singing his name. Add that to the chants of 'One Joe Mason' that were heard at Bramall Lane a couple of weeks ago and you get the feeling that after a really tough couple of years we're just starting to find some new heroes.
(This is an amended version of a post that appeared in the 'Brief Synopsis' thread on PASOTI).