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Town 0-2 Plymouth Argyle
Town 0-2 Plymouth Argyle
Tuesday, 23rd Mar 2010 21:40

Uninspired Town fell to their first home defeat since September as Paul Mariner’s Plymouth left Portman Road with a 2-0 victory. Bradley Wright-Phillips and Joe Mason seized on dreadful defensive errors in either half to claim all three points for the visitors.

For the third time this season Roy Keane named an unchanged side. Prior to the match, Paul Mariner was applauded warmly by the Town support on first return to the club as a manager.

The game started scrappily with the first chance falling to Plymouth’s Bradley Wright-Phillips, who shot wide from the edge of the area in the eighth minute.

Town might have gone in front three minutes later when a loose ball fell to Daryl Murphy in the box but the Irishman shot wide when he should have hit the target.

On the quarter hour, a slick move involving Pablo Couñago, Jack Colback and Jon Walters ended with Murphy shooting into the sidenetting with Couñago wanting the ball played across to him on the edge of the six-yard box.

There was a scare for the Blues four minutes later when Town failed to clear their lines and Wright-Phillips hit a shot which Brian Murphy saved at his near post.

At the other end, Couñago shot well over the bar, then Colback did much the same after a Carlos Edwards’s long throw was cleared to him on the edge of the area, then the loanee from Sunderland’s corner was flicked on but Gareth McAuley was unable to control his header.

Town ought to have gone ahead in the 30th minute when David Wright sent in a cross from the right to Jon Walters at the far post. The skipper somehow headed back across goal beyond the post and also too far ahead of Couñago and Murphy.

Four minutes later, a succession of errors allowed the visitors to go in front. Brian Murphy kicked poorly to halfway, then David Norris headed straight to a Plymouth player. Damien Delaney looked to have halted the Pilgrims’ attack on the edge of the box but lost possession and the ball was played out to Yannick Bolasie on the Plymouth left. The winger easily beat David Wright and laid the ball across to Wright-Phillips, who beat Murphy, the first goal the keeper had conceded at home since joining Town.

The Blues had the ball in the net in the 42nd minute but the linesman had flagged for an offside.

Town were looking increasingly nervy and on 43 Walters slammed a clearance against Colback, the ball flying not far wide of Brian Murphy’s goal.

Half-time was met with a chorus of boos after a very lethargic first period from the Blues. Plymouth worked hard to close Town down quickly and the Blues only once managed to pass their way through the Pilgrims when Murphy hit the sidenetting.

Overall, it had been an uninspired, tempo-less performance with a catalogue of errors more in keeping with the early part of the season contributing to the goal.

Perhaps surprisingly, Roy Keane made no changes at the break, Gareth McAuley making an important early challenge on Jamie Mackie with the Plymouth man away behind the Town defence, then the Pilgrims striker shot wide after an error from Wright.

Pablo Couñago almost got the Blues back on terms in the 51st minute with a shot which Plymouth keeper David Stockdale did well to save down to his left. Carlos Edwards was first to the loose ball but hit the sidenetting.

The Blues were starting to put the visitors under a bit of pressure and a minute later Edwards crossed from the right but McAuley’s header was again well saved.

Walters’s shot deflected into Stockdale’s arms, then at the other end Bolasie hit a strike wide.

Roy Keane switched Carlos Edwards and David Norris for Owen Garvan and Grant Leadbitter as the game moved towards the hour mark.

Soon after, Couñago played a superb ball into Murphy’s path to send the Irishman through on goal on the right of the area. The loanee from Sunderland tried to play the ball across Stockdale but the keeper once again saved. The ball eventually came back out to Couñago, who volleyed over. Murphy will feel he should have done better with the initial effort.

Daryl Murphy had another go from 25 yards but went wide, then Brian Murphy blocked Bolasie’s header.

Garvan hit a weak effort wide in the 69th minute with the Blues continuing to look unconvincing, despite having forced Stockdale into a number of saves. David Healy replaced Pablo Couñago for the final 20 minutes to the annoyance of the Sir Bobby Robson Stand.

Town went as close as they would to scoring in the 73rd minute when Leadbitter curled a freekick goalwards but Stockdale, on loan from Fulham, did brilliantly to get down to his left to save once again.

The game was all but sealed in the 77th minute when Owen Garvan weakly headed back to Brian Murphy. Mackie seized on the error, McAuley got back to challenge but Joe Mason slammed in the loose ball. Town, who had looked vulnerable to Mackie’s breaks all half, again had only themselves to blame.

Town kept going, Healy coming close to scoring with a close range header from a Walters flick but again Stockdale got in the way.

Murphy’s shot was deflected for a corner with six minutes remaining, then a Garvan freekick struck Healy in the Plymouth wall from a 25-yard freekick, which summed up Town’s evening.

Once again there were boos at the final whistle and chants of ‘what a load of rubbish’ after yet another disappointing result against lowly opposition.

Town were better after the break, but were never particularly convincing, despite Stockdale making a number of saves. The Blues lacked a spark, looked short on confidence and probably wouldn’t have scored if the match had carried on for another 90 minutes.

Defensively, both goals were down there with the worst conceded in the early stages of the season, while Plymouth resolutely kept to their hassling and harrying game plan and once they had gone in front caught the Blues on the break fairly regularly, Mackie causing the Town backline more than a few problems.

Overall, another performance which gave little indication that the Blues can push on any further up the league than they are at the present in the remaining weeks of the season.

Town: B Murphy, D Wright, McAuley, Delaney, O'Connor, Edwards (Garvan 59), Colback, Norris (Leadbitter 59), Walters, D Murphy, Couñago (Healy 70). Unused: Lee-Barrett, Peters, Smith, Wickham. Att: 19,316.

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