Training ground work pays off as Plymouth Argyle find rhythm
ARGYLE demonstrated practice makes perfect in their resounding victory over bottom-of-the-table and winless Barnet on Saturday.
All the time spent on the training ground working on corners and free-kicks finally paid off for the Pilgrims at Underhill.
Manager Carl Fletcher had been disappointed about the lack of goals his side had scored from set pieces this season.
But Argyle netted from one corner and two free-kicks as they piled more misery on struggling Barnet.
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Set pieces account for a lot of the goals scored in League Two so the Pilgrims will be encouraged they had so much success with them on Saturday.
The key for them now is to continue to be a threat at corners and free-kicks.
Argyle won with ease against Barnet and while you have to take into account Barnet's dreadful start to the season it was still an impressive display from the visitors.
They raced into a 2-0 lead inside 12 minutes as they attacked down the infamous Underhill slope.
Barnet reduced the deficit soon afterwards and had a good spell before half-time, but the Pilgrims regrouped at the interval.
They went on to outplay their hosts and the 4-1 scoreline was a fair reflection on the contest.
Fletcher must have been particularly pleased with positive, attacking football played by his side in the second half.
There were no signs of them trying to hold onto their lead, as has often been the case in the past.
Instead, the Pilgrims set about adding to their tally, and were rewarded with their biggest win since they triumphed 4-0 at Accrington Stanley in February.
A tactical switch at half-time, with Argyle adopting a 4-4-1-1 formation to limit the effectiveness of Barnet midfielder John Oster, was decisive.
Striker Rhys Griffiths provided an excellent focal point from which his team-mates could profit from.
Andres Gurrieri took over from Guy Madjo at the start of the second half and was very effective.
Not only did he stop Oster getting on the ball so much and starting attacks for Barnet, Gurrieri was also an attacking threat for the Pilgrims.
He seems to relish finding space, and his use of the possession he had was good.
Argyle also had plenty of pace and skill out wide, with Paris Cowan-Hall having his best game for the club.
He and Alex MacDonald, who played despite illness, swapped from one side of the pitch and they caused Barnet lots of trouble.
Even when MacDonald was substituted in the 73rd minute, the Pilgrims were able to bring on speedy winger Joe Lennox and he played his part in the win.
Make no mistake, Barnet are a team short on confidence with a slow defence and they lack a goal threat.
But, even so, the way the Pilgrims started the game so strongly and then took complete control in the second half was extremely encouraging for the future.
Argyle are in 18th position in League Two, but are now closer to the play-off positions than the relegation zone.
They took the lead against Barnet in only the second minute as midfielder Luke Young was fouled by Mark Byrne as he was about to shoot.
Griffiths took the spot kick and crashed it past former Argyle 'keeper Graham Stack for his third goal of the season.
The Pilgrims then went 2-0 up in the 12th minute when centre-back Maxime Blanchard headed home a corner from MacDonald.
Blanchard was making his return to the team after missing the previous two matches because of concussion.
It was all Argyle until the 16th minute, when Oster was sent on as a substitute for injured former Fulham and Netherlands striker Collins John.
Before Oster had even touched the ball, Barnet cut the deficit following a corner taken by Byrne.
Krystian Pearce saw his goal attempt cleared off the line by Pilgrims loan signing Scott Griffiths.
The ball rebounded to Pearce's centre-back partner David Stephens and he fired low and hard into the net.
Barnet switched to a 4-1-4-1 system with Oster dictating the play in a deep midfield role and the home side started to pass the ball around confidently.
Striker Jake Hyde and midfielder Ricky Holmes both had chances before half-time as the Bees tried to draw level.
Fletcher's tactical switch at half-time saw the momentum swing firmly in Argyle's favour after the interval.
Rhys Griffiths latched onto a dreadful back pass from Pearce in the 48th minute and he took the ball around Stack but, from a tight angle, sent his shot wide of the target.
MacDonald then had a free-kick blocked by Barnet's defensive wall and Scott Griffiths' follow-up shot also could not find a way through to goal.
Stack produced a superb save to keep out a close range strike from Gurrieri as Argyle piled on the pressure, even though they were attacking up the slope.
Finally, Argyle grabbed their third goal in the 62nd minute from an expertly taken free-kick.
MacDonald clipped the ball into the penalty area and Cowan-Hall leaped above Barnet left-back Jordan Brown to head home from six yards.
It was his third goal of the season, and his second in as many matches.
Cowan-Hall had an excellent all-round game, whether it was wide on the left or on the right and seems to be growing in confidence all the time.
Barnet rarely troubled Argyle after that, although they did have one good chance to reduce the arrears in the 77th minute.
That was when Byrne's corner was met by Pearce and his header was cleared off the line by Young.
Had Barnet scored then, it could have been a tense finale for Argyle. Instead, they added a fourth goal deep into stoppage time.
Cowan-Hall was hauled back by the throat by Barnet right-back Barry Fuller and the Pilgrims were awarded a free-kick 25 yards out.
Fuller was booked before Young stepped up and curled the ball high into the top right corner of the net for his first goal of the season.
It was a fitting way to end a match in which Argyle had played some of their best football of the season.