Punched in the Guts – Plymouth 4-3 Imps

I’m not sure words can begin to describe exactly how I am feeling this afternoon, after City battled back from two goals down to lead 3-2 at home Park, only to lose in the dying stages of the game.

They call football the beautiful game, but right now it feels like a partner who has cheated on me, who has promised me the world only to roll over and start texting someone else. It has left me feeling alone, a little nauseous and once again trying to focus on the wonderful season we have had so far, rather than the slightly worrying run we are now on.

City made two changes from the side which drew 2-2 with Swindon, Tayo Edun and Regan Poole starting in defence, with Cohen Bramall and TJ Eyoma dropping to the bench. That meant Brennan Johnson started again in midfield, with Anthony Scully celebrating his new deal with a start on the right of Tom Hopper up front.

There were a couple of shocks in the Plymouth line up too, 18-goal Luke Jephcott dropped to the bench in place of Ryan Hardie, whilst Panutche Camara also sat the game out, as did Ben Reeves who scored their second in the FA Cup back in November. Danny Mayor did start though, he’s a player we have seen plenty of during his time with Bury as well as Plymouth earlier in the season.

Back in the side – Credit Graham Burrell

City needed a good start after struggling early on in recent games, but not for the first time it didn’t happen. Instead, a frenetic opening exchange saw Plymouth take a two-goal lead. The first came from a cross from the attacking right which bounced in the area and off Adam Jackson to Kelland Watts, who lashed the ball home.

City looked to respond to that quickly, Morgan Rogers getting to the touchline and pulling the ball back only for it to roll harmlessly away. The Imps were playing at a decent pace, but Plymouth looked right on it, slick with their passing and finding space all over the park.

On 13 minutes, it was 2-0 and it felt like it might be a very long afternoon indeed. Mayor had a chance a couple of minutes earlier where he didn’t pull the trigger and should have, but he made no mistake from 20-yards out with his second effort, easily beating Alex Palmer with a strong shot.

It looked like it might be a long afternoon for City, who appeared to still be on the coach at times, but Plymouth took their foot off the gas a little and allowed the Imps to build up some steady possession. One such spell eventually saw Tayo Edun lay the ball into the path of Conor McGrandles, who twisted and turned before firing in from 18-yards to make it 2-1.

Another strong afternoon – Credit Graham Burrell

I felt Plymouth went into their shell a bit after that, more intent on not conceding than scoring, and it meant a good 25 minutes for City without anything to show for it. Tyrese Fornah picked up the game’s first yellow for a cynical barge on Johnson as the on-loan midfielder strode forward, but Grant’s free-kick was straight at keeper Michael Cooper.

Two minutes later, Fornah committed the same foul of Johnson again, this time on the attacking right, but referee Kevin Johnson chose not to issue a second yellow. In truth, it would have been harsh, and it was sensible from the ref to give the player a chance. Like it or not, a referee should be trying to keep it 11 against 11 where possible and although there were means to send Fornah off, if the shoe was on the other foot, we might have been unhappy.

The Imps were having their best spell of football for a few weeks now, with Jorge Grant beginning to pull the strings, and both Rogers and Morgan causing problems when they got on the ball. We weren’t able to get in behind as Plymouth’s 3-5-2 fluidly goes to a 5-3-2 when they need it too, but the chances were all ours still. Grant had a pop with a daisy-cutter on 34 minutes which trickled wide, whilst a Johnson’s one-two with Scully saw him find space, only for his drive to deflect off Opoku and go over the bar. The resulting corner was delivered to the back post, where Lewis Montsma arrived under the ball to head well over.

Headed over – Credit Graham Burrell

Plymouth weren’t rolling over and certainly looked dangerous on the break, but City’s slow and patient build-up brought more chances than I thought we might see after the lacklustre opening. With just four minutes of the half left, Poole slipped a ball into McGrandles, who let fly with a snappy shot which Cooper palmed away for a corner. Poole and McGrandles both looked composed in possession and able to get plenty of space down the right, which saw Scully able to take up decent positions in the channel, even though he didn’t see as much of the ball as he might like.

The halftime whistle ended an engrossing and entertaining half, if you cut off the first ten minutes, in which City had absolutely done enough to be level, apart from the one thing we needed to do to draw level – score a goal. It was now a question as to whether we could go and do what no City team had done in 39 years – score twice at Home Park.