By Andy Maynard
The club had just gone eight competitive matches without a win – a period in which the fans celebrated a mere three goals including just one in four home games. However, Plymouth Argyle’s long-suffering Green Army were rewarded for their 534-mile round trip to Mansfield on Saturday with a 93rd minute winner – a fitting way to begin their two-year anniversary since exiting administration.
After local businessman James Brent and his Akkeron Group saved the League Two club on October 28th 2011 following seven long months of uncertainty, false promises and broken deadlines during what was, without doubt, the toughest and darkest time in the club’s 125 year history, Argyle narrowly escaped a third successive relegation later that season, finishing two places and two points above the relegation zone.
The last time the Pilgrims were in League Two, in 2002, they won the title – the contrast couldn’t be greater, yet this time around Argyle only averaged 1,873 less fans, showing that the club is still benefitting from the Paul Sturrock-era in which he guided the club from the Football League’s bottom tier to the Championship in three seasons.
Despite Argyle finishing in 21st position again last season – this time just one point separating them from the drop to non-league football – the club’s average attendance improved from 6,915 to 7,095.
This term, that record looks like it’s going to be beaten once again with the club averaging the second highest attendance in the division with an average of 7,171 coming through the turnstiles at the Devon club. Only Portsmouth can boast a higher number in the division, although winning the FA Cup and seven years in the Premier League has undoubtedly helped their cause.
Plymouth are the lowest scorers in League Two – the joint lowest at home with the fans witnessing just one goal in four matches at Home Park, but even so, they still have a better average attendance this season than 16 League One clubs which includes the likes of Peterborough and Brentford.
Six points from their first four matches was enough to give Argyle their best start to a Football League campaign in seven years, which just highlights the club’s demise even further. One win in nine games followed but that didn’t stop 460 Greens making the trip to Field Mill on Saturday where defender Neil Trotman was the goalscoring hero and pushes Argyle up to 19th place.
273 fans made the mammoth 774-mile round trip to Hartlepool, while 292 endured the 638-mile round journey to Scunthorpe last month – both ended in a 1-0 defeat!
Nevertheless, the Mansfield victory will have given manager John Sheridan a bit of breathing space following the criticism thrown at him by the fans and given their recent struggles you can understand why. But Sheridan, who’s been manager since January and has the best win ratio of any Argyle manager since Sturrock, claims Saturday’s win “can be a turning point”.
A win for Plymouth this weekend against Northampton will relieve even more pressure though, especially as the Cobblers occupy a relegation spot alongside bottom club Accrington and hopefully Trotman’s last minute winner has sparked a revival for the Westcountry club because ultimately their fans deserve it.
Picture provided by peterankerstal.