Tactical adjustment is a winner for Plymouth Argyle boss
MANAGER Carl Fletcher believes he has found the solution to improving Argyle's form at Home Park – by letting the opposition have possession of the ball.
The Pilgrims picked up only their second League Two win in seven attempts this season when they beat Rochdale 3-1 on Saturday.
Two penalties from on-loan striker Guy Madjo and a headed goal from Argentine playmaker Andres Gurrieri secured maximum points.
Fletcher had thought long and hard about Argyle's tactics at Home Park after they lost 2-1 to AFC Wimbledon two weeks earlier.
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He came to the conclusion the Pilgrims were too enthusiastic for their own good and were exposed defensively by trying to win the ball back as soon as possible.
The Pilgrims boss asked his players to try a different approach against Rochdale and it paid off.
Fletcher said: "Rochdale are a good side. They were in sixth position in the table and had won four out of their last five away from home.
"We knew it was going to be a tough test and the players stuck to the gameplan of what we needed to do.
"We changed a few things. We are too enthusiastic with our closing down at times and have been leaving big gaps, but I thought we were better here.
"We condensed the pitch a little bit. It was a case of telling the lads that it was all right for a team to come here and have possession.
"Sometimes when you are at home you want to try to win the ball back all the time and that's probably not the right thing to do.
"I'm really pleased the lads took everything on board and showed the quality they have got, and the desire and hunger to get the three points."
Madjo scored from the penalty spot in only the fourth minute of the match after a handball offence by Rochdale's Ryan Edwards.
Argyle made a storming start with Gurrieri causing all sorts of trouble for the visitors' defence.
And it was Gurrieri who increased the Pilgrims' lead in the seventh minute when he headed home a cross from Alex MacDonald.
It remained 2-0 until the interval despite Argyle creating several other opportunities, with Gurrieri usually involved in the play.
Fletcher said: "Andres is a good footballer and he works hard for the team. He's infectious with his energy.
"I just felt in the first half, at times, when the ball broke to us we were maybe too hurried and gave it away a little bit cheaply."
Rochdale improved after the break and had the better of the possession as they tried to stage a fight-back.
Argyle 'keeper Jake Cole saved a 55th-minute penalty from midfielder Bobby Grant before the visitors did reduce their arrears.
That came in the 76th minute when striker Dele Adebola powerfully headed past Cole after a free-kick into the 18-yard area.
There was a tense end to what was an absorbing contest until, deep into stoppage time, the Pilgrims grabbed their third goal.
Madjo blasted another penalty high into the net after a foul on substitute Joe Lennox.
Fletcher said: "Apart from the referee giving them a penalty and, obviously, the goal, Rochdale didn't have too many chances.
"I was pleased with the way we conducted ourselves after they scored as well.
"We didn't really show too many signs of edginess. We just carried on and I'm really pleased we got the win."
Argyle were without in-form forward Rhys Griffiths against Rochdale because of a groin injury.
In his absence, Madjo led the attack for the Pilgrims with Gurrieri 'in the hole' behind him in a 4-4-1-1 formation.
"Griff has got a little niggle in his groin," said Fletcher. "We tried him on Friday, to see how he was, and it was no good for the game.
"It's just one of those things. That's life and you get on with it. If they are injured they don't play."
Winger Paris Cowan-Hall was having another good game for Argyle until he had to be replaced by Lennox in the 49th minute.
"There was a bit of a collision between Paris, Pursey (captain Darren Purse) and their goalie in the first half and he got a bang on his thigh," said Fletcher.
"I have had them plenty of times over my career. Everyone says 'it's just a dead leg' but they are very restrictive in what you can do.
"They tend to get worse and worse. We will rest him up and, hopefully, he will be all right for tomorrow (when Argyle are away to Cheltenham Town)."
Also absent from the Argyle squad was left-sided player Onismor Bhasera.
He had returned to Plymouth on Thursday after playing for Zimbabwe in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier away to Angola the previous Sunday.
Fletcher said: "Baz picked up a little knock while on international duty. We will assess it in the next couple of days."