Plymouth Argyle boss buoyed by display against leaders
MANAGER Carl Fletcher could not hide his disappointment after Argyle conceded a late equaliser to draw 2-2 against Gillingham at Home Park on Saturday.
The struggling Pilgrims had seemed set for victory over the League Two leaders after midfielder Luke Young put them 2-1 up in the 80th minute.
Time was running out for Gillingham when former Argyle defender Adam Barrett headed home to rescue a point for the visitors.
Fletcher said: "It's really gutting. I think it will probably take time to get over the disappointment.
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"We deserved to win on Saturday, as a team, for their efforts and the way they played. I think we can take a lot of confidence from the way we performed."
Argyle ended a sequence of four successive defeats in all competitions with the draw against Gillingham.
That was no consolation, though, to Fletcher, who has come in for increasing criticism from fans over recent weeks.
He said: "We should have won the game. It's as simple as that.
"We switched off a couple of times – once in the first half and also in the second half – and it cost us.
"It's disappointing but my lads were brilliant on Saturday, absolutely brilliant. They worked hard for one another.
"Gillingham are top of the table and have been steamrollering anyone they have come up against.
"We showed a lot of heart and a lot of desire, and a lot of quality as well."
Young has started 14 of Argyle's 16 games in League Two this season and, at the age of 19, is starting to fulfil his potential.
He fired the Pilgrims into a 2-1 lead with a fierce shot after a good lay-off from substitute Nick Chadwick.
Fletcher said: "I'm pleased for Luke. We had him on the left side (of midfield) and we had him on the right side.
"Because he's out there playing week in week out everyone thinks he's older than he is, but he's still only 19. He works hard and he's coming on, which is great."
Fletcher continued: "We had a gameplan of what we needed to do and I thought we stuck at it really well.
"Even when we went 2-1 up towards the end of the game we weren't under any real pressure. We kept the ball in their half and were then just unfortunate with the goal that came."
Rene Gilmartin made his league debut for Argyle against Gillingham after taking over from Jake Cole in the starting line-up.
Gilmartin's previous two appearances after his summer signing from Watford had both been in cup competitions.
Cole had been an ever present for the Pilgrims in League Two this season but was dropped after his display in the 2-1 home defeat by Burton Albion last Wednesday.
Fletcher admitted he had thought long and hard about replacing Cole with Gilmartin.
"I spoke to Jake in the week and said, 'I don't know if it's the right decision or not, but I'm going with my gut instinct'. I think sometimes you just have to do that."
Maxime Blanchard was also dropped by Fletcher from the starting line-up against Gillingham.
Argyle's 2011/12 player-of-the-year lost his place as captain Darren Purse returned from a toe injury to partner Curtis Nelson in the centre of defence.
Blanchard had been the Pilgrims' stand-in skipper for the three matches during which Purse had been sidelined.
Fletcher said: "We haven't had a clean sheet in 14 games now so we needed to change something. I thought we coped with a very difficult strikeforce.
"After they (Gillingham) got their two equalisers we looked a little bit shaky, which we will be trying to work on.
"I thought the effort they put in, as a group of players and as a group of men, was really pleasing to see."
Argyle's draw against Gillingham should lift some of the pressure off Fletcher and his players after their recent poor results.
He said: "It was a daunting game. We had lost four on the spin and the league leaders were coming here.
"They have got some good players. They are well organised and know what they are doing.
"We really stuck to our task well and it's credit to the lads. They worked so hard for one another, but it wasn't a case of us nicking a goal here or there.
"We played well with the ball and we looked fairly solid without it for the majority of the game."