Sunderland did the necessary against a fairly toothless Argyle, in a game that could have ended with a much bigger winning margin given our first half domination. As everyone important also won, it was just as well.
Mind, the last week has been a bit of a relief, though. Look, I love football as much as the next man – and so I should, as I’ve sat next to him since the stadium opened and stood with him at Roker before that – but it’s fair to say that February was a bit intense, what with six games. This meant little time to wash the lucky socks, never mind have a rest between games, so a whole seven days without a game gave us a chance to recharge our batteries, step back, and have a little look back over the last month. We turned our wins into draws and climbed closer to the top, we know that it’s Portsmouth awaiting the winner of Tuesday’s Checkatrade semi-final back at The Gas, and we’ve had time to watch McGeady’s free kick clincher a hundred times. OK, a hundred and one… or two.
After the sun and t-shirts at Bristol came the fog and mist and a return to topcoats on Wearside, although the sun did make an early appearance in SW Durham in time for us to get stuck behind the world's slowest driver - and win the football card… twice. A good omen? Mebbe, as was my ALS anniversary cake.
O’Nien Flanagan Dunne James
Morgan Honeyman McGeady
With our usual impressive bench
The visitors, forever Plymouth Argyle in our house, brought a cracking following, as they usually do. Summat about longest journey.
We kicked off North at the insistence of Argyle, but we were first to show, working it down the left, then across to O'Nien from Honeyman whose cross won a corner. There were s couple more attacks down the left with Auden's crosses being dealt with before Morgan (Mog) tried a penk from the right which was more danger to the visiting fans than their keeper - but it was a shot. Flanagan needed treatment on 6, but it was the generals who were running the show - Lee and Grant.
Several times Morgan cut it back from a similar position on the right but found only a defender, and we won a couple of corners. It was a bit disappointing not to be ahead, given the amount of possession we enjoyed, but it was still very nice to watch as Mog and McGeady brand down the flanks. There was a tremendously well observed minute's applause for young Connor Brown, a fan tragically murdered in the town recently. Perspective.
McGeady's sock-knitting feet left his marker for dead and drew a foul that deserved, but didn't get, a yellow. Morgan twazzles his man but his ambitious shot from out on the right was way over, then Grigg laid it to McGeady - saved for a corner. Argyle hardly got the ball into our half with any purpose, and we piled the pressure on without really making their keeper work. Leadbitter fired it over to O’Nien, but the customary back post volley went into the side netting.
A few minutes more pressure, and it was laid into the box from the right yet again...but this time, Catts hit it high into the goal, with the ball seeming to take an age to hit the net. No more than we deserved, and the rest of the half was more of the same. Clever wing play from McGeady and Morgan, more crosses that evaded Grigg (who was repeatedly held). Morgan was set away as the half ran down, but he was blocked by the defender when he should really have burst past him. The four added minutes saw us sit back rather than attack, and while we were more than happy to go in ahead, we should have been out of sight.
After a chance meeting with Mad Gerard from Teesside at half time, there were no changes to the teams. We committed a couple of naughty challenges, with Flanagan getting away with it but Dunne being booked. We were a lot less urgent than in the first half, but still showed well down the left as Morgan was a bit more restrained. O'Nien continued in his usual exuberant style, winning headers and breaking forward regularly.
There were a couple of scares in our box, but McLaughlin was equal to all they could muster - not that there was much to their attacks. With 20 to go, they brought on a second forward which gave bus as bit more space in midfield, so on came Dunc for Morgan on 71, with Honeyman initially going to the right and Road Runner partnering Grigg. Crosses were coming in from both sides, and Charlie Wyke must have been wishing we'd provided them when he was on the field.
Anyway, their keeper gave up kicking before being subbed on 79, then five minutes later McGeady took a lovely ball from James (not for the first time) and the cross caused enough chaos for Honeyman to pick his spot.
It could have been three, but when a bounce favoured us and set Dunc away, his cross was poor.
There were three added minutes, I which we replaced Grigg sand McGeady with Gooch and Wyke, Argyle gave up, we stroked it about, and we ran out deserved winners.
Man of the Match? Great stuff from Lee and Grant, and lovely play from McGeady and, in the first 45, Morgan, but overall, O'Nien kept his levels up for the full 90.
Onwards and upwards.