The bandwagon gained a bit more momentum way down in the South West, with McGeady's brace bringing home another three points - and another clean sheet. After a pretty unimpressive first half from both sides, it got a bit hairy at times between our goals, but McLaughlin had another fine afternoon, well protected by defenders hoying themselves in the way of things.
As is necessary on such occasions, we were up and away as some folks were still on their way home from a Friday night out, and over the next seven and a bit hours there was a fair amount of snoring, Lilo Lil made her first appearance in years, and we watched the sun come up somewhere in South Yorkshire. We made excellent time, dropped some off at the Field of Green, and made our way to the Barbican, which is apparently where things happen in Plymouth. Typical Spoons lugubriousity behind the the bar saw us give up on the Gog and Magog, and nip down to the Dolphin, where fans of both sides happily mixed and enjoyed each other’s' company. We managed to sort a taxi, something of an achievement in that neck of the woods and made the building site that is Home Park in ample time to be told Arrigle had decided our seats were unallocated. Always a recipe for disaster, which we thankfully ignored as we found the seats that matched the numbers on our tickets.
We filled most of one end, with the benches being on our left, opposite the tunnel and in front of the sad remains of the stand. All diggers and piles of busted concrete, thanks to a massive rebuilding programme that's in progress.
We lined up:
Matthews Baldwin Flanagan James
Maguire McGeady Honeyman Gooch
With no Catts, it was up to McGeady to move central, and Gooch and Maguire to take up the wide positions. Plymouth tried to kick off towards us, but made a right mess of it, being made to restart. A happy omen, as it turned out.
With Honeyman and Maguire swapping places frequently, and McGeady carrying the ball as he does, but through the middle rather than down the flank, there was plenty to threaten the home side, but we didn't really create much of real danger. Maja was making himself available but was again tightly marked and being restricted to layoffs rather than being able to turn and run at the defence.
The home side saw a fair amount of the ball but could only produce some pretty poor quality stuff when they had it. All of this contributed to a scrappy first half that McGeady, Gooch, with his usual burrowing runs, and Maguire occasionally threatened to bring to life. Plymouth's enthusiasm foundered on our defence, and things never really clicked for either side, although we looked the more likely thanks to the quality that nearly bubbled to the surface. Once we'd soaked up pressure from the Pilgrims, we did pass it about better and after Maja shot wide, Maguire drew a comfortable save from the lanky Macey in the home goal.
We saw out the half with the defence's efforts meaning Big Jon's gloves made it to the break having barely been used for anything spectacular. One added minute was all we got, and we spent the break wondering if we'd change things or stick with what we had and hope for a breakthrough. Marti Harvey (ask her dad), one of our classiest defenders ever,, and now a Devon resident, had a wander across the pitch just to make you feel happy, which was very nice indeed.
No personnel changes, but we started the second half in far more determined and direct fashion going forward. After a couple of moves that didn't quite get there, McGeady picked up the ball deep on our right and ran diagonally the edge of the box. Finding himself in virtually the same position from where he scored last week, he hit virtually the same shot - across the keeper, left-footed, and inside the post. Boom, there it goes, right in front of us visiting fans, here we go. 1-0, 400-odd miles of travelling frustration unleashed by everyone in Red and White. Still nearly forty minutes to go, mind, so a second was very much on our minds.
Unfortunately, Plymouth had other ideas, and won a series of corners, which we defended like demons. As well as Flanagan and Baldwin throwing their bodies in the way of shots, Big Jon produced a spectacular save, getting his left hand out to touch away a shot destined for the top corner. After even more home pressure, which foundered on more resolute defending and a good low save from McLaughlin, Sinclair replaced Maja, instantly producing some running to switch the pressure to the other end, then O'Nien came on for Maguire with fifteen left to bring fresh legs to help out McGeouch in the middle.
It was a shame to see the talismanic Maguire depart, but you could understand Ross's thinking, and Lucky Luke's enthusiasm paid dividends eight minutes later when he burst into the box and his legs were taken from under him. A clear foul, despite the protests of the Greens, and McGeady took the ball, firing low and hard to the keeper's left as the big feller dived to his right. 2-0, thank you very much, giz a cuddle, whoever you are. Seven to go, time enough for Mumba to replace Gooch and an added six minutes to be found from somewhere. A third looked quite likely, but it didn't arrive. Not that we were too bothered, as two was enough, we defended that cushion solidly, and another three points were in our back pocket. The players and staff joined made their own celebrations in front of ours in yet another show of togetherness, we sang our way back to the buses, and somehow felt that the next eight hours would fly past.
Man of the Match? Another great game from McLaughlin, sound stuff from central defence, augmented by both full-backs being willing to join in and also get upfield, and hard work across midfield, but two goals, and a proper all-round contribution by McGeady earns him the bottle of dodgy fizz that's been gathering dust in my cellar.
Scores penalties for me