Monday, 7 March 2011

Sheffield Wednesday 2 Plymouth Argyle 4

Another boring afternoon down at the Wednesday. It’d been a while since I’d got myself a Hillsborough press pass and I certainly picked a fine game to cover. The last time I’d watched them, they’d been shit against a team from the West Country who play in green. Here, they were shit against another team from the West Country who play in green.

Given the week Plymouth had endured – the ten-point deduction for entering administration leaving them dangling by their fingernails over League Two – you really had to admire their gumption in coming up here, trotting out before the largest crowd in the division with a bench full of kids, and well and truly outplaying the big club.

After a fit of uncharacteristic long-term planning in light of our first ‘news day’ on the Monday, I’d secured a press box view for myself and MA Print Journalism Guitar Hero Zarif. The beef pie remains excellent but it’s indicative of Wednesday’s slide down the table in recent months that Soccer Saturday hadn’t bothered to send anyone famous. Windass was probably at Rotherham or something. His absence did mean more pie however.

Wednesday’s Wi-Fi was as calamitous as their back four and the updates, which consequently were tweeted from my phone, told a tale of woe. It took just eleven minutes to raise Gary Megson’s blood pressure – Karl Arnason made a fool of Gary Teale on the right and spotted Bondz N’Gala loitering with intent on the edge of the penalty box. The Plymouth player, who has a pretty damn good name it has to be said, crisply curled a shot into the bottom corner, leaving Nicky Weaver flapping.

The visiting fans could hardly believe their luck. This was a light at the end of the tunnel if ever there was one. Their defiant belief that, despite all the muck slung at them, they will be a League One club in August was heart-stirring and, as much as I’d like Boston to be the bigger of England’s two ‘Pilgrims’, I sincerely hope they survive.

On the half-hour, it got even better. Skipper Carl Fletcher pinged a ball to the back post which was nodded back across, allowing the highly-rated Joe Mason to ghost in through Wednesday’s hopelessly porous defence and head home unmarked. Megson looked incredulous as the positives from last Saturday’s well-deserved 1-0 win at Carlisle were destroyed one-by-one.

He gambled at half-time, introducing Jermaine Johnson, Clinton Morrison and Giles Coke in the football equivalent of sending for the cavalry. Only Coke made an impression and his 61st minute strike certainly didn’t look out of place in a game of brilliant finishing.

Could they maintain the momentum and go on to win the game? No, don’t be daft. This is Wednesday. Mason scored the best of the bunch two minutes later, half-volleying in from the edge of the area. Sadly, I suspect Mason, clearly a burgeoning talent, will be preyed upon by clubs with a more secure financial footing in the close season.

Yannick Bolasie made it 4-1, advancing totally unchallenged from his station on the left flank to sweep a low shot past Weaver. Another impressive goal which added to the mounting evidence that Plymouth’s FA-influenced position of rock bottom is really a fallacy. Reda Johnson, who was appalling, scored a late consolation but the Green Army would embark on the return leg of their long ‘ol poke with smiles on their faces.

Unsurprisingly, Megson flipped. There was a nice role reversal in the post-match press conference. Booze-swigging, chandelier-swinging (allegedly) Plymouth manager Peter Reid was a study in intelligent management as he reflected on a memorable performance in adversity. Megson, normally calm and measured, never appeared (at least before we left, at ten to six). Behind a locked dressing room door, we heard reports of bollockings being administered and airborne crockery. I doubt my ailing shorthand could have coped with his words of fury when he finally confronted the press pack and I’d forgotten my stenograph. Drat.

Next Match: Stafford Rangers – Take Two. Tuesday night. I mean, who wants to watch Barcelona-Arsenal anyway...