Argyle show their quality as Barnet are battered
Plymouth Argyle demonstrated that practice makes perfect in their resounding 4-1 victory over bottom-of-the-table and winless Barnet at Underhill on Saturday.
All the time spent on the training ground working on corners and free-kicks finally paid off for the Pilgrims.
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.
Argyle won with ease and, while you have to take into account Barnet's dreadful start to the npower League Two season, it was an impressive display from the visitors.
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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.
The Devon team went on to outplay their hosts and the final scoreline was a fair reflection of the contest.
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-offs zone 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.
Rhys Griffiths took the spot kick and crashed it past former Argyle goalkeeper Graham Stack for his third goal of the season.
The Pilgrims went 2-0 up in the 12th minute when centre-back Maxime Blanchard headed home a corner from Alex 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 Barnet cut the deficit following a corner taken by Byrne.
Krystian Pearce saw his goal attempt cleared off the line by Argyle left-back Scott Griffiths. The ball rebounded to Pearce's fellow centre-back David Stephens and he fired low and hard into the net.
Barnet switched to a 4-1-4-1 system, with substitute Jon 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, but the momentum swung firmly in Argyle's favour after the interval.
Rhys Griffiths latched on to 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. Then MacDonald had a free-kick blocked by Barnet's defensive wall, and Scott Griffiths' follow-up shot could not find a way through to goal.
Stack produced a superb save to keep out a close-range strike from substitute Andres 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 Paris Cowan-Hall leaped above left-back Jordan Brown to head home from six yards.
It was Cowan-Hall's third goal of the season, and his second in as many matches. The former Woking winger had an excellent all-round game, 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. 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 the visitors. Instead, they added a fourth goal deep into stoppage time.
Cowan-Hall was hauled back 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.