Relegation worries increase for Plymouth Argyle with home defeat by Oxford United
PLYMOUTH ARGYLE 0 OXFORD UNITED 1
JOHN SHERIDAN tasted defeat as Plymouth Argyle manager for the first time at Home Park on Saturday.
The Pilgrims had been unbeaten in four games with Sheridan as their boss before slipping up against out-of-form Oxford.
The U's had picked up only one point out of a possible 15 before their trip to Home Park.
However, they had much the better of the play in the first half, and led at the break courtesy of a goal from striker James Constable in the 16th minute.
Argyle had more of the play in the second period but, for the third successive home game, they failed to score and dropped to 21st position in League Two.
On-loan Reading striker Gozie Ugwu made his first start for Argyle after his debut came as substitute in the 2-1` win at Aldershot Town last Saturday.
Ugwu replaced midfielder Paul Wotton and partnered Reuben Reid in attack as part of a 4-4-2 formation.
That was the only change from the game against Aldershot, with left-back Onismor Bhasera making his 100th appearance for Argyle.
There was a home debut for on-loan Swindon Town midfielder Lee Cox, who spent the first five months of the season at Oxford.
The 22-year-old had made his first appearance for the Pilgrims in the vital victory over Aldershot.
Argyle drew0-0 in their previous two games at Home Park but they were soon behind against Oxford.
A low cross-shot from right-back Damian Batt was steered into the net by Constable from close range in the 16th minute.
It had been a nervy start from Argyle who played with no confidence or fluency about them.
They did not improve after conceding the goal as passes repeatedly went astray and the home fans started to get restless.
U's midfielder Sean Rigg had a powerful shot saved by Argyle 'keeper Jake Cole in the 28th minute after a free-kick was touched to him by striker Tom Craddock.
Bhasera then made a crucial interception when Oxford had a three-on-one break.
Constable was not flagged offside and broke clear, with Craddock and midfielder Josh Parker in support of him and only Bhasera between them.
However, Bhasera got a touch to Constable's cross and the ball bounced away to safety.
There was some improvement from Argyle as half-time approached, with Ugwu stabbing the ball wide of the right post after a free-kick from Banton.
Then, in the 41st minute, a shot from Banton was not held onto by former Argyle 'keeper Luke McCormick.
The loose ball ricocheted off Oxford centre-back Michael Raynes and almost bounced into his own net.
Instead, it went narrowly wide of the left post and out of play for a corner.
Argyle showed more purpose about them at the start of the second half before Oxford were almost gifted a second goal in the 53rd minute.
A back pass from right-back Durrell Berry was easily intercepted by Craddock.
The U's striker raced into the penalty area but as he tried to take the ball past Cole the Argyle 'keeper made a crucial block with his legs.
Then, moments later, Constable saw his low shot clip the outside of the left post after a swift counter attack.
Reid had a chance for Argyle when his volley was headed away by Oxford centre-back Jake Wright inside the six-yard area.
Ugwu was replaced by on-loan Ipswich Town striker Ronan Murray in the 70th minute as Argyle made their first substitution.
Oxford were defending much deeper and that allowed the Pilgrims to have some good spells of possession, but without creating any clearcut chances.
McCormick was not tested again as the game ended in a costly defeat for Argyle.
Bottom-of-the-table AFC Wimbledon won 2-1 at home to Bradford City while Barnet moved above the Pilgrims with a victory by the same scoreline at York City.
ARGYLE: Jake Cole; Durrell Berry, Anthony Charles, Guy Branston, Onismor Bhasera; Paris Cowan-Hall, Lee Cox, Conor Hourihane, Jason Banton; Gozie Ugwu (Ronan Murray 70 mins), Reuben Reid.
Substitutes (not used): Maxime Blanchard, Luke Young, Ollie Chenoweth (gk), Paul Wotton, Jamie Richards, Andres Gurrieri.
OXFORD: Luke McCormick; Damian Batt, Michael Raynes, Jake Wright, Liam Davis; Josh Parker, Adam Chapman (Andrew Whing 90 mins), Lewis Montrose, Sean Rigg (Deane Smalley 62 mins); Tom Craddock (Luke O'Brien 69 mins), James Constable.
Substitutes (not used): Simon Heslop, Harry Worley, Max Crocombe (gk).
REFEREE: Chris Sarginson (Staffordshire)
ATTENDANCE: 7,189 (311)
GOALS – Argyle: None; Oxford: Constable 16 mins