Result: Plymouth Argyle 1-5 Peterborough United (EFL League 1)
Venue: Home Park (Saturday 25th August 2018, 3pm)
As my time with a railcard winds down and I approach my twilight years, I decided I’d take full advantage of the short time I have left with the third-off card and book a few long-range trips to begin the season, ticking off a few of the South coast clubs in the process. Thus, my season “proper” had begun with a visit to another ‘mouth’, Portsmouth, on the 4th of August – as they overcame Luton Town by a single goal – before following that up with a pair of more local trips prior to suffering the long-range journeys down to Devon. First off the rank was the Pilgrims of Argyle.
After an arse/leg/back/neck numbing five-and-a-half hour journey down from Manchester, I arrived into Britain’s ocean city at a little after 12.30. Having had an initial struggle locating the area around the dockside where I intended to head, I found myself instead upon the Hoe. No, not an insult towards a person (though I would be so lucky regardless), instead the Hoe is a large park-like opening on the coast-side which plays host to numerous statues, memorials and a lighthouse added in for good measure. There’s also a pitch and putt, for those who like that kind of thing, and who doesn’t?! There were now bowls being played as far as I could tell, so I’m sure Sir Francis Drake wouldn’t have been too impressed. Though, maybe this only can happen if an Armada is due…..?
Eventually, I found myself at the foot of a road, rather intimidatingly called Citadel Road, which led down past (would you believe) an Army base and to the docks. I was more interested in the group of pubs dotted around the area, and the historic nature of a number of them. Having scouted out a fair number of watering holes before my arrival, I first came across the Queen’s Arms, where I think I may have annoyed a pair of locals with my double-denim rocking appearance. That’s style for you, I guess(!). After a swift Thatcher’s Haze, I continued on just around the corner where I came upon the Admiral MacBride, a pub that, apparently, plays host to the original Mayflower steps that the pilgrim fathers used to board their vessel over to the New World. They now reside within the women’s toilets, so there’s that.
Plymouth is the largest city in England to have never hosted to-flight football and is the most largely populated city in Devon. It’s early history extends back to the Bronze Age, when the first settlement in the area emerged in the Mount Batten area. It continued as a trading post for the Romans until it was usurped by the village of Sutton, now Plymouth, named after the “mouth of the River Plym”. The Hundred Years’ War saw the area attacked by the French in 1340, though despite taking prisoners and causing damage, the French failed to gain entry into the town, though it would later be burned by the Bretons in 1403. A castle was constructed in the late 15th century in the Barbican area, its purpose to protect Sutton Pool, prior to the construction of Plymouth’s dockyard. Further fortifications were added through the Tudor period, with a fort (known as Drake’s Fort) created in 1596 on what is now the site of the domineering Citadel.
Plymouth would go onto be a large producer of cotton through the 1500’s and became home to many traders as a result. It became famed for its part with Francis Drake and the Spanish Armada in the battle of 1588, and also for the launching of the Pilgrim Fathers on the Mayflower in 1620, as they established Plymouth Colony, the second English settlement in what would become the USA. The civil war saw Plymouth side with the Parliamentarian forces, and was duly besieged for some four years by Royalist forces, though they were eventually defeated by Roundhead forces. However, upon the latter restoration of the monarchy, many of the Parliament supporters were imprisoned on nearby Drake’s Island. The 17th and 18th centuries saw Plymouth begin to lose its importance as a trading hub, with a dockland and new town set up called Devonport.
More recently, during the Second World War, Plymouth played host to the RAAF’s Sunderland Flying Boats and many major Royal Navy units, whilst also being the HQ of Western Approaches Command. It was a high target during the Blitz era (Charles Church being a lasting monument to this), and would later be an important embarkation area for the US Troops assembling ahead of the D-Day landings. Post-war, the dockyard was kept busy by refitting aircraft carriers such as the Ark Royal and, despite the majority of the army having left the city by the early 1970’s, it remains home to 42 Commando of the Royal Marines.
A board within the entrance foyer area of the Admiral MacBride lists the names of those travellers, with this giving credence to the story. With the recreated memorial steps just across the way, I settled in for a short while with a pint of Thatcher’s Gold this time, prior to circling round to just off the beaten track, where the interesting looking Fisherman’s Arms was located. Run by a Scouse couple, the Fisherman’s is definitely worth the slight detour it requires, with a flight of steps up through the adjoining flats providing a helpful short-cut. Having arrived whilst a wedding party and a few Posh fans were still in situ, I seemed to empty the place upon doing so, meaning I finished off the pint of Stowford in more quiet surroundings than I’d expected.
From there, it was onwards off towards the town centre a little more, with the time now past half-one. Next stop was to be the Minerva in, a little, traditional gem down a suburban street. It does seem a little out of place within its surroundings, but inside is a story onto itself. Again, the place emptied out as I entered, and with time against me, I opted to just take a bottle of Sol in the meantime. Whilst being the only punter in the place, I struck up conversation with the lady at the bar (who I deduced to be the owner/manager, though whose name escapes me, sorry) and was given an interesting guide through the history of the pub, complete with trap doors and tunnels to smuggle drunken punters onto ships to work, back in the day. It was also, apparently, the favoured haunt of Sir Francis Drake, who stayed just a few doors down at an acquaintance’s house on regular occasions. All interesting stuff, but sadly my time was brief in there and I was soon passing the large Minster and heading onwards down the main road towards the pub known as the Bank. Unbelievably, this was located in an old bank! I know, crazy!
A bottle of JD Cider was had there before a check on Maps showed that a bus was due to leave up to Home Park imminently. Of course, the bottle was swiftly polished off and a quick half-jog to the bus stop was undertaken, with a single journey up to the roundabout near the Britannia Wetherspoons costing just £1.40. Well worth the saved walking time! Upon getting to the ground, a quick visit to the ‘box office’ was undertaken where I was soon in possession of a ticket for the stand opposite the old 1950’s grandstand, which isn’t long for this world, sadly. It was all shut up as is to be the case all year as the structure is taken down, but it was still the main reason for my visit. I’d missed out on the one at Exeter, so wasn’t making the same mistake again. I did make an arse of myself at the ticket window though, as I forced the change under the window as you tend to do in the vast majority of places, not realising the huge gaping opening right in front of my eyes, where my ticket was duly passed through. God knows what the girl there was thinking! To be honest, I’m surprised I was allowed in!
Anyway, I was and after acquiring a programme, I was pointed into a smaller queue to enter the ground in quick time. This also duly allowed me to get to a food bar in time for kick-off, a Steak pie being duly ordered, the (I assume) Ginster’s offering going down well and taking me through the first quarter-hour of the game. That fifteen minutes hadn’t gone all that well to be honest for Argyle! But before we get onto that, here’s a bit of history about the Pilgrims of Plymouth Argyle….
Plymouth Argyle Football Club was founded in 1886 as plain Argyle F.C., the name deriving from either the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders division of the British Army, who had a strong footballing pedigree, or the nearby pub by the name of the Argyle Tavern, or perhaps a street by the name of Argyle Terrace. They disbanded in 1894 for a few years, before reforming in 1897 as part of the general Argyle Athletic Club. Having moved into Home Park in 1901, Argyle joined the Southern League in 1903, turning professional in the process. The club also entered a team in the Western Football League for a short while, alongside their Southern League outfit, with this side winning their title in 1905. Argyle would go on to win the league title in 1913, before the First World War ended the sport for the majority of its duration.
1921 saw Argyle join the Football League’s Third Division as a founder member (along with the majority of their Southern League competitors) where they finished their first League season in 11th place, before finishing in 2nd place in each South section season between 1921-’22 & 1926-’27 inclusive. Interestingly, an Argyle side travelled to South America in 1924, where they beat soon to be World Cup winners Uruguay by four-goals-to-nil, whilst also defeating Argentina by a-goal-to-nil.
They eventually won promotion to Division 2 in 1930 when winning the Third Division South title. They remained here through to 1950, when they were relegated back to Division 3, though would return after just two seasons, taking their second Third Division South championship. The following campaign would see Argyle come the closest they have to playing in the top-tier, when they finished 4th in Division 2. On a side-note, the Pilgrims would win the wartime South West Regional League in Season 1939-’40, though their original home would be largely destroyed by German air-raids on the city.
They yo-yoed between the divisions once again shortly afterwards, being relegated again in 1956, before winning the now nationalised Third Division in 1959. They would cement themselves somewhat this time round, remaining in the second-tier through to 1968, when the spectre of relegation returned once more, though Argyle did reach the semi-finals of the League Cup in 1965, losing out to Leicester City over two-legs and repeated the trick nine-years later, but again went down to a City, this time, Manchester. After a seven-year stay in Division Three from 1968-’69, they again were promoted in 1975 as Division 3 runners-up, only to drop back down after just a further two seasons, a record that has continued for the majority of Argyle’s existence. However, the Pilgrims did reach the FA Cup semi-finals as a Third Division club in 1984, when they eventually lost out to Watford by a single goal at Villa Park. This would provide something of a springboard for the club, though, as they were promoted in 1986 as runners-up once more.
They remained in Division Two through to 1992, whereupon they were, once again, relegated to the third-tier, which would become Division Two itself upon the formation of the Premier League for that coming campaign. A big swing in fortunes saw Argyle reach the play-offs in 1994, losing out in the semi-finals, but were then relegated the next season, now in the fourth tier. They would stay there for just a sole season though, as they went up through the play-offs after wins over Colchester United in the semis and Darlington in the final, via a 1-0 triumph at Wembley. They continued to cement their status as something of a yo-yo club, as the Pilgrims again suffered the drop in 1998, but things soon took a turn for the better after the turn of the millennium, as Plymouth won both the Division Three title in 2002, before lifting the Division Two championship just two years later, finding themselves back in the second-tier after a long time away.
Playing in what was now known as the Championship, Argyle would remain in the second-tier through to 2010 when they were relegated down to League One. Things soon took a turn for the worse off the pitch, with financial issues resulting in administration and this in turn affected on-pitch matters, with Argyle receiving a ten-point deduction, leading them to be relegated to League Two after just the one-year back in tier three. After a few fruitless years away from the chance of promotion, both 2015 & 2016 saw play-off heartbreak for Plymouth, as they were knocked out in the semi-final by Wycombe Wanderers the first time round, before reaching the “new” Wembley for the 2016 final, were they lost out to AFC Wimbledon. Season 2016-’17 saw them go slightly better, missing out the play-offs completely and just missing out on the title by goal difference alone. However, they would still go up as League Two runners-up, returning to League One for this season, and the first time in seven years. They finished last season in a strong 7th place, just missing out on the play-offs.
The battle of the alphabetically ordered sides got underway with the Posh quickly asserting their dominance. However, their opener on eight minutes would come courtesy of an awful mistake by Argyle ‘keeper Matt Macey, whose clearance only went as far as Jason Cummings and his resultant cross was met by Matt Godden at the far post, with him firing home from around ten yards. If that was bad enough for the home support, one quickly became two when, just three minutes later, another loose ball at the back was seized upon by the quicksilver Cummings who advanced forwards before laying the ball into the path of Siriki Dembele, who lashed home to double the Posh’s lead, their small band of followers jubilant at their side’s start.
Plymouth did begin to find something of a footing after their horrendous start, with Graham Carey seeing his header comfortably saved by Aaron Chapman in the Peterborough goal, before the same player forced a better stop out of the ‘keeper, his shot palmed behind for a corner. The sides continued to trade chances, without really coming close to adding to the scoreline as the half wore on, though it was Argyle who had the majority of these, their most potent threat coming through Freddie Ladapo, who had a shot and header go close. Half-Time duly arrived with the visitors holding their lead fairly comfortably in truth. The break was largely uneventful, so let’s get on with the show….
The second half began just as the first had, the Posh claiming an early strike against their hosts and this time it was the creator-in-chief from the first half goals, Jason Cummings, who got his name on the score-sheet. The forward latched onto a pass by Godden – returning the favour from the first half – and he slotted beyond the former Arsenal youth stopper Macey to make it 3-0 and surely secure the points. Indeed, the icing was put on the cake well and truly just seven minutes later, when Graham Carey was harshly adjudged to have tripped Joe Ward just inside the left-hand side of the box, with Cummings duly converting from the spot, his kick coming down off the crossbar on its way into the net.
This prompted a double substitution for Argyle, with Ryan Edwards being one of the two players introduced into the fray, which was rather nice for myself, as I’d been in the Morecambe end at Luton shortly after his illness had been diagnosed earlier this year. Of course, happily, all seems to be well on that front and Edwards is once again making his way in the game. The game would become something of a non-event for the next fifteen to twenty minutes, with it again mirroring the first half in some respects, Argyle again fashioning the better of the half-chances, with Ladapo again going close on a few occasions, and Antoni Sarcevic – who I first saw at Woodley Sports in the Northern Premier League as a 16 or 17 year old – also just missing the target, before going in the book soon after.
Edwards grabbed a goal back for Argyle as the game entered stoppage time, meeting a Conor Grant free-kick from the left and guiding his header into the bottom corner, so denying Chapman his clean sheet, much to his chagrin, which was quite obvious. However, his mood may have been lifted slightly just before the whistle as Peterborough added their fifth, a quick break forward ending with Godden also netting his second of the day, firing into the far corner to ensure an emphatic win for the league-leaders and consigning Plymouth to the foot of the table for the time being. Full-Time, five-one the Posh and a quick exit was made to the Britannia ‘Spoons a short walk from the ground, with a Hooch doing fine in the short ten minutes or so I had to tick one of the outlets off. Better than nothing!
After a fifteen minute power walk back to the station, I arrived in nice time to grab the packed train back up North, though definitely annoyed one guy by removing him from my booked seat, the girl he’d tried his best into fooling both her and me into moving finding it quite amusing. Unlucky, lad. Anyway, a nap took off an hour of the trip home, giving me a preview of next week’s trip just up the way to the home of the Grecians. The journey back was completed surprisingly trouble-free, with us actually arriving early back into Piccadilly upon our return to Manchester. I was then left with a dilemma – a twenty minute wait in the Gardens, or pop into the Tap for a pint. Ok, just kidding….
The trip was duly completed with little issue and I returned in time for a couple more in our bar back at home to close off the day, though it would definitely play into affecting me come the following evening (I zombie walked off on people I was with, leaving a pint in the process), though in my defence, I had added a good eight or nine pints to my tally and overcoming an awful Belgian GP earlier in the day. As for Plymouth, the day had been a decent one. I enjoyed exploring the area around the old, historic docks and visiting the pubs that played host to some of the more important people to hail from the area, for one reason or another. The ground was great, though you can see why the Grandstand has had its day in this era of shiny, smart new-build stadia. Alas, it was good to get there while it remains in situ. The pie was good, the programme just as so it just remains to ask – Exeter; can you beat it……?!
Value For Money: 7