By Gerry Prewett.
Having risen to the giddy heights of 13th in the Division One table, one position and one point behind this week’s host Plymouth Argyle, the league table looks tight, with Walsall in the last relegation spot have just 2 points less than the Gas. In other words there are 9 teams spanned by 2 points.
Some teams, Walsall, Southend, Accrington and Wycombe have dropped into the relegation fight whilst others who looked as though they had pulled clear, Shrewsbury, Scunthorpe, Gillingham and even Plymouth have found themselves back in the fight. Meanwhile, Rovers have been making headway. It’s still incredibly tight in the bottom half of the Division and it is one of the reasons why this weekend’s game is crucial to both teams.
Argyle slipped up at Fleetwood on Saturday in horrendous conditions. It meant there were many chances but no goals at Highbury in the first half. Fleetwood's Paddy Madden, Lewie Coyle and Ross Wallace all had opportunities, with Freddie Ladapo testing Alex Cairns up the other end. Graham Carey also tried his luck but it was goalless at the break.
Fleetwood upped the pace in the second half with Madden, Wes Burns and Ched Evans all going close. But it was an unlikely man who got the opener with Jason Holt scoring his first league goal for the club as he converted Madden's cross at the back post in the 77th minute.
Town made it two just minutes later as Ash Hunter pounced on Burns' cross in the six-yard box just two minutes after coming off the bench.
Speaking after the game Argyle Boss Derek Adams said, “I thought we were the better side in the first half and Fleetwood were the better side in the second half. They were able to take the chances that came along, and when we got into good positions in the first half we didn't take that opportunity.”
“We had ourselves in very good positions at times without finding that finish. In the first half we were a lot better than we were in the second half. I didn't think that we played particularly well in the second half, but I thought we were the better team in the first half.”
“The game shouldn't be played in these conditions. We are in an entertainment business and people pay very good money to come and watch. They didn't get entertainment today. The wind was all over the place and I don't think that football should be played in these conditions.
That's not taking anything away from the result. We are a spectator sport, we are in an entertainment business and there is no way that was entertainment today. It was a poor football match and that's my views.”
Like Rovers, Argyle were founder members of the Third Division in 1920-21 season. They finished one spot below Rovers at the end of that season in 11th place. The first ever League meeting between the clubs took place on 23rd April 1921 when goals by Ellis Crompton and Billy Palmer secured a 2-0 victory in front of a 14,000 Eastville crowd. The return match saw Plymouth win 2-1 a week later, Crompton scoring for Rovers again and Jimmy Logan notching two for Argyle.
Looking back over the history of games there have been some real high scoring encounters. The Boxing Day fixture of 1973 kept a 22,353 crowd on their toes as goals by Stuart Taylor, Alan Warboys (2) and Bruce Bannister swept a rampant Rovers to a 4-2 win.
Going back even further to 14th October 1961 a Bobby Jones double, Geoff Bradford and Peter Hooper goals made the score 4-3 to Rovers. This provided some sort of revenge for Argyle’s 5-2 win just 11 months prior.
It’s also worth remembering that “Goodnight Irene” was first heard on 4 November 1950 in a game between Rovers and Argyle. Rovers came back from being 1-0 down at half time to score 3 goals. The Rovers fans changed the words of the current hit by the Weavers to ‘Goodnight Argyle”
Meanwhile in Plymouth, Rovers have not won since their 2-1 victory there in the Worthington Cup on 23 August 2000. That is 8 games in which there have been 4 defeats and 4 draws. The last League win was on 10 January 1998 in Division 2 when goals by Jamie Cureton and Barry Hayles (later to pull on the Argyle shirt) for Rovers and one for Carlo Corazzin for Argyle saw a 2-1 result. Back on 5 February 1994 there was a memorable 3-3 draw, when Justin Skinner, Lee Archer and Worrell Sterling replied to goals by Dwight Marshall, Paul Dalton and Mike Evans to keep a 13,318 crowd entertained.
Going back to 1982 Rovers visited Home Park twice, on 2 January they went down to a 4-0 defeat with Jeff Cook and John Sims grabbing a brace each, but on 28 September, goals by Paul Randall (2), Errington Kelly and David Williams ensured the result was reversed, to give Rovers their best ever result on the ground. Argyle certainly found the Rovers defence to their liking in the 1959/60 and 1960/61 seasons, beating Rovers 5-3 and 5-0 (Rovers worst result in Plymouth).
Last season’s game was a real roller coaster Chris Lines opened the scoring with a 12th-minute free-kick from outside the box that he swept home past Argyle keeper Remi Matthews. Argyle levelled when Jamie Ness sent a header over Sam Slocombe and in at the far post from a cross from the right by Ruben Lameiras on 34 minutes. Within two minutes Ellis Harrison restored Rovers lead, scoring with a low shot. Argyle levelled again in the 48th minute when Ness' cross-cum-shot was deflected off Ollie Clarke and the post and in. A minute before Lameiras' penalty was brilliantly saved by Slocombe, diving to his left.
Moses Makasi - on loan from West Ham - won the spot-kick, tripped by Tom Lockyer as he sped into the Rovers penalty area. On 85 minutes Yann Songo'o was fouled by Lockyer and Graham Carey converted to take all 3 points for Argyle.
Speaking ahead of this weekend’s game full-back Joe Riley said, “We are very confident at home. We have great backing and our form has been terrific really. We want to get back on our home patch and hopefully get the three points. If you can have good home form like we have done then we will find ourselves looking further up the table than what we are now.”