The Valley is a well-known graveyard for unbeaten runs. Here comes another.
Plymouth Argyle will arrive at The Valley on Saturday boasting a run of sixteen games since they lost on the first day of the season at Rotherham. Since then they have won ten and drawn six and they now sit proudly at the top of the league with 36 points and a +17 goal difference. Away from home the run includes wins at Accrington, Oxford, Shrewsbury and Wimbledon and draws at Morecambe, Lincoln and Portsmouth. They have won four of their last five league games and on Tuesday evening they despatched Sheffield Wednesday from the FA Cup 3-0. It is impressive stuff.
Even more impressive when you consider how last season ended for them. It is only seven months ago that their local paper headlined "Pilgrims smashed in horror show" when we went down there and beat them 6-0. Manager Ryan Lowe was scathing: they were "Micky Mouse cartoon type goals" and there was "no desire, no commitment and I don't like it". The defeat was not a one-off. Their last seven games yielded one point and a goal difference of 3-20. They finished 18th with the second worst defensive record (80 conceded) in the division.
In the summer Lowe recruited an entirely new defence to play in front of Academy graduate Michael Cooper. James Wilson, Dan Scarr, Brendon Galloway and Macauley Gillesphey were recruited on free transfers and Ryan Law -another Academy graduate - was promoted. It has had the desired effect. The fifteen goals so far conceded is only bettered by Wigan and Rotherham. Up front Lowe continues to rely on Luke Jephcott and Ryan Hardie who last season scored 16 and 5 respectively. This season it is Hardie who leads the way with 11 already. Joe Edwards and Conor Grant can chip in with goals from midfield and loanees Jordan Garrick (Swansea) and Ryan Broom (Peterborough) have added further strings to Lowe's bow.
Sixteen games unbeaten is something special but it shouldn't be intimidating. Do you remember when Luton Town turned up in April 2019 unbeaten in 28? Even more impressive was that they had won 20 of those and were running away with the title. They took the lead early on but goals from Taylor (2) and Vetokele saw them off 3-1. They even had David Shinnie sent off just before the final whistle. End of run.
And of course there was Huddersfield ten years ago with their claim of 43 unbeaten league games going back almost a year. Under the lights on a Tuesday evening in front of an 18,000 crowd they couldn't cope with a vibrant Charlton for whom Kermorgant and Ephraim scored the goals. End of run.
Sunderland were not only unbeaten at home this season when we went up there last month. They had won all six games. Enter Jayden Stockley. End of run.
There should be well over twenty thousand at The Valley on Saturday including a sizeable green army coming up from the West. Our recent performance against Rotherham should give us every confidence that we can remind Plymouth what losing feels like again. End of run.
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