npower Football League Two
Final Points: 60 Position: 10
Player of the Year: Reuben Reid
Young Player: Curtis Nelson
After five consecutive battles against relegation, the summer of 2013 saw major changes yet again at Home Park, although thankfully the upheaval was confined to the dressing room. The result was eight debuts by the end of the season's first month, and returning openers for two more: Reuben Reid's third spell at the club was to be his best, and Luke McCormick's homecoming was, thankfully, without too much fuss. Off the pitch, hopes were high for the start of the Higher Home Park development, including the rise of the fourth-ever stand on Home Park's south side.
John Sheridan's first full season in charge saw three defeats in the first week, including broken ribs for Paul Wotton, although the League Cup exit at Championship side Birmingham City was a close affair. Then came a run of three wins in five, but hopes were quickly dashed by a sequence of eight games without a win and a place in the bottom six. Confidence on the pitch was low once again, as were spirits off it. Was this to be yet another season in a scrap for survival?
Neal Trotman's last-gasp winner at Mansfield at the end of October was perhaps the turning point of the campaign. The losing streak was broken; three league wins in four signalled a slow and somewhat hesitant climb up the table and a productive Christmas saw Argyle looking at the possibilities above rather than below. 20 points from 12 games in February and March, including an astonishing 4-0 victory at eventual play-off winners Fleetwood Town, projected the Pilgrims to a play-off place, but it was all to no avail. A thoroughly disappointing final six weeks - 6 points from a possible 27 - left the manager openly criticising his players for a lack of pride and belief, and promising big changes ahead.
Amongst the disappointments of the season: the campaign-ending injury to Luke McCormick at the beginning of February (and the abuse he had to endure from some opposition supporters); the team's baffling tendency to step back from opportunity; and home form, which lived up to the frustration of recent seasons.
On the plus side: captain Conor Hourihane managed an impressive 53 starts (just one missed, through suspension) and Reuben Reid made an appearance in every game. Reid scored 21 goals, including the Pilgrims' first senior hat-trick for seven years, making him Argyle's first striker to beat the 20 mark since Tommy Tynan in 1988-89. Then there was the loyalty and optimism of the travelling Green Army, which continued to astonish, and for the first time in a very long time there was apparent harmony in the boardroom and just one manager in charge for the whole the season.
In many ways the season ended as it began. On the pitch, instead of the opener's five debuts it was five farewells in the closing game, an entertaining 3-3 draw with Portsmouth in front of an impressive 18,000 at Fratton Park to secure a comfortable 10th place. Three days later, the retained list confirmed the release of seven, including former player-of-the-season Maxime Blanchard; Jake Cole, who played a huge part in he club's fight for survival; and perhaps the unluckiest of them all, Luke Young, with over 100 appearances for the club and still just 21.
Summer arrived again and the manager's main challenge was a significant turn-over of staff. Off the pitch, grandstand number three remained erect. Groundhog Summer? Perhaps, and for some, big questions remain, whilst for others there is a solid base upon which to build. Will 2014-15 be a landmark season for the Pilgrims or just another in a long line? Time will tell.
(came & went in italics)
Youth debuts: Ben Purrington.
(came & went in italics)
Click on the icons below for photos, commentary clips
and full match details of the games against
3-Cheltenham (A), 14-Mansfield (A), 22-Oxford (A), 32-Fleetwood (A), 33-Morecambe (H), 37-Chesterfield (H),
46-Portsmouth (A), FAC1R-Lincoln (H), FAC3-Port Vale (A).
Football League Two 2013-14
starting appearance appearing substitute goals cautioned sent off
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for pen picture
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