Plymouth Argyle boss is pleased tactical switch paid off
MANAGER Carl Fletcher thought a tactical switch at half-time reaped its rewards as Plymouth Argyle beat Barnet 4-1 at Underhill on Saturday.
The Pilgrims raced into a 2-0 lead before the Bees' former Dutch international striker Collins John hobbled out of the action in the 16th minute.
John was replaced by the experienced John Oster, a former team-mate of Fletcher's at Crystal Palace and also for Wales.
Barnet immediately reduced the deficit and, with Oster dictating the play from a deep midfield role, the home side started to trouble the Pilgrims.
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Fletcher responded by substituting striker Guy Madjo at half-time and sending on Argentine attacker Andres Gurrieri.
Gurrieri played behind Rhys Griffiths in a 4-4-1-1 formation and not only stopped Oster getting on the ball but was involved in much of Argyle's positive play.
The Pilgrims dominated the second half, despite playing up the infamous Underhill slope, and were good value for their convincing victory.
It was Argyle's best away win since thrashing Accrington Stanley 4-0 in February.
Fletcher told Herald Sport: "Apart from probably a 15 to 20-minute period towards the end of the first half I felt we were fully in control of the game.
"We had to change it at half-time and brought Andres on just to sit on top of John Oster.
"I played with John and I know what quality he has got. He was starting to show that in the first half.
"We just had to cancel that out, and we did. I'm really pleased. It's great to score four goals away from home.
"It wasn't down to the way Guy (Madjo) played. It was just tactical. Andres was more comfortable sitting on top of John.
"I thought we coped with it well in the second half, especially with the slope and everything. We were pretty much totally in control of the game."
Argyle took the lead in only the second minute with a penalty from striker Rhys Griffiths after a foul on midfielder Luke Young by Mark Byrne.
Barnet were furious about the decision and protested loudly to referee Fred Graham. It looked a dubious decision from the sidelines, but TV replays showed Byrne had fouled Young as he was about to shoot.
Fletcher said: "I think when it first happened I didn't think it was a penalty, to be honest. Sometimes you get them, sometimes you don't."
Griffiths had taken a penalty the previous Saturday, in the 2-1 home defeat by AFC Wimbledon.
On that occasion, his spot kick was saved, but the Welsh striker followed up to slot the loose ball into the net.
Against Barnet, Griffiths slammed the ball past former Argyle 'keeper Graham Stack.
He has now scored three goals in five games since signing from Welsh Premier League part-timers Port Talbot Town in the summer.
Fletcher said: "I'm delighted for Griff. He worked his socks off.
"You could see he was a lot better for the game last Saturday. He was fresh, ran around and showed a good bit of quality.
"When you are playing one up (front), with one wide on either side and three in the middle, you want a focal point.
"You don't want to use it all the time and just punt it up to him. But, equally, you don't want to let them have free clearances and get it back in our box, and Griff does that.
"Conor (Hourihane), Youngy (Luke Young) and Andres were picking up a lot of second balls."
Argyle's second goal was scored by centre-back Maxime Blanchard in the 12th minute with a header from a corner taken by Alex MacDonald.
Blanchard had missed the previous two matches because of concussion.
But the French defender was clearly over the worst of that as he powerfully headed the ball high past Stack and into the net.
Fletcher said: "He was training all week and so as long as he didn't have any setbacks he was always going to play.
"We work quite hard on our set pieces and probably haven't scored the goals we would have liked."
"He's only 5ft 11, but Max would probably tell you he's 6ft or 6ft 1in. He gets up well and times it, and you can see how many headers he does win.
"I was delighted for him, but I'm delighted for the team because they work hard and sometimes we haven't got the results our performances deserved this season.
"I felt we got a bit of everything," added the Pilgrims boss.
Argyle took a 3-1 lead in the 62nd minute when winger Paris Cowan-Hall headed home a free-kick from MacDonald.
It was Cowan-Hall's third goal since his summer move from part-timers Woking.
Fletcher said: "Paris is always a danger. I think he's only 5ft 8 but he has got a great leap on him.
"We knew when we signed him he would be a danger at set pieces, and he showed that.
"It was a great ball in from Macca, who wasn't feeling very well before the game and was really struggling.
"He put in a great shift, but paid for it in the changing room."
Argyle wrapped up their second away league win of the season when Young curled a 25-yard free-kick into the top right corner of the net in stoppage time.
Fletcher said: "I thought Conor and Youngy were great. They are growing in stature with every game they play.
"We know they have got the quality on the ball and they were really solid.
"I was delighted for Youngy when he put it in the top corner."