Oxford 2 Argyle 0: Match report

WHEN times are hard, you need your friends, so there was some irony that Argyle’s latest defeat was inflicted upon them by two popular former Pilgrims.

United’s goals that gave them a win which saw them leapfrog the Pilgrims at the foot of Sky Bet League One came from forward Jamie Mackie, who scored 16 goals – including one just seconds into his debut against Barnsley – in 102 appearances between 2008-2010; and defender Curtis Nelson, whose 246 games between 2010-16 included captaining the Pilgrims at Wembley in his final match.

On a miserable afternoon for the Pilgrims, who never really hit their stride throughout, Yann Songo’o was dismissed late on for a second yellow card, meaning that arguably the Pilgrims most consistently best player this season will miss next week’s home game against Burton Albion.

Argyle went into the game with the same line-up that had paved the way to a 1-0 victory over AFC Wimbledon last Saturday.

Manager Derek Adams had made six changes of personnel for the home midweek Checkatrade Trophy tie against Swindon Town but none of those players retained their starting place at the Kassam Stadium.

Instead, there were recalls for Graham Carey, David Fox, Freddie Ladapo, Matt Macey, Stuart O'Keefe and Yann Songo'o. Niall Canavan, Conor Grant and Jamie Ness, who have all missed recent games through injury, were named among the substitutes.

Oxford were without Northern Ireland international Gavin Whyte, so Marcus Browne came into a side whose 0-0 draw at Southend United seven days previously had arrested a run of three defeats that included home losses to Walsall and Luton Town.

It took less than four minutes for Mackie to give the home side the lead. James Henry’s thrust down the right appeared to have been dealt with by the Argyle defence, but Mackie picked Ryan Edwards’ pocket with typical opportunism and poked the ball across Macey’s despairing dive.

It was a rare shot on target for either side in a first half where nerves were more evident that technique.

That is not to say that the Pilgrims did not have their chances to go into half-time on level terms. Playing with a swirling wind blowing in from the open end at the Kassam, they ended the first 45 minutes on the up, with decent chances falling to O’Keefe and Ladapo.

The former scooped a shot over the crossbar, after being played in by the latter, when any shot on target would have surely resulted in a goal; Ladapo then pulled a good save out of recalled Oxford goalkeeper Simon Eastwood before, not for the first time this season, the half-time whistle interrupted some Pilgrims’ momentum.

Read the full match report here