Plymouth Argyle and Sunderland Share the Spoils in Promotion Battle

Plymouth Argyle

We are at the business end of the season up and down the country. That being said, there is still so much to play for in all reaches of the EFL. Several teams have playoff ambitions in League One, and some are going to have to miss out. Two at the heart of this all, Plymouth Argyle and Sunderland, went head-to-head on Easter Monday. It was a tight match at Home Park with neither side wanting to let anything slip, as was reflected in the 0-0 scoreline.

Plymouth Argyle v Sunderland Ends Goalless at Home Park

How did it go Down at the Home of Plymouth Argyle?

A sell-out crowd gathered at the Theatre of Greens for what promised to be a nail-biting prospect. The only two changes to the Plymouth Argyle line-up that fell to a Gareth McCleary brace for Wycombe Wanderers were upfront. Ryan Hardie returned from injury to start alongside former Wolves man Niall Ennis. On the flipside, Sunderland boss Alex Neil made just one alteration from the starting line-up that beat Shrewsbury Town 3-2 last time out. American international Lyndon Gooch made way for the captain on the day Corry Evans.

It was certainly a cagey affair at the home of the Pilgrims. Both teams lined up in a 5-3-2 which made for a fascinating tactical showdown between Steven Schumacher and Alex Neil. In all honesty, the game lacked any huge chances. There was a fair few near misses that had fans out of their seat, but neither keeper were hugely challenged throughout.

The energy of Panutche Camara in midfield couldn’t be matched by anyone, but the Guinea-Bissau international was replaced by academy product Adam Randell with 65 minutes on the clock due to injury. As exciting a prospect as Randell is, the absence of Camara was instantly felt with his midfield partners Jordan Houghton and Danny Mayor may be starting to tire due to the increased workload.

Talking of Mayor and he was the Plymouth Argyle standout alongside Camara – he was on a different wavelength to his teammates and often is, sometimes even to the side’s detriment as is he just so, so talented and ahead of the game.

Much at Stake in Every Fixture

Argyle managed just one shot on target in the game with the visitors mustering up two of their own. Neither manager was willing to risk surrendering the points to a direct rival in going for gold themselves which is completely understandable. Elsewhere, AFC Wimbledon (who are fighting for their lives at the foot of the table) held playoff hopefuls Wycombe, much to the delight of these two. Beyond that, none of the other contenders were in action today on Easter Monday having been in action as recently as Saturday.

Form favoured the Black Cats coming into this one but Plymouth Argyle held strong in front of their vocal fans. The last Sunderland defeat came back in February at the hands of a high-flying MK Dons side. Winning 3-0 away at Wigan Athletic as well as overcoming Oxford United at the Kassam are the standout results from this run. On the other hand, Plymouth Argyle were experiencing a slight dip in form having won just one of their last four. The solitary win was over the aforementioned Oxford whilst they drew 0-0 away at Burton Albion, not to mention losing to Ipswich Town and Wycombe also on the road.

Where Next for These Two?

So what does this goalless draw mean for Plymouth Argyle and Sunderland going forward? They both currently occupy a playoff spot so it is a case of holding on to what they’ve got as opposed to fighting their way up the table. The four playoff berths have five teams scrapping it out for them: this duo, Wycombe, Sheffield Wednesday and whoever fails to secure automatic promotion up to the Championship out of Rotherham United and MK Dons.

Plymouth Argyle have just two games remaining and it doesn’t get any easier. Only three teams are currently above them in the standings and two of them lie in wait for Schumacher’s men. Wigan are the front-runners and they will welcome Argyle to the DW Stadium next weekend. The final game, on Saturday, April 30, will see third-placed MK Dons come to Home Park with their top two ambitions probably on the line.

Meanwhile, Sunderland have an extra game up their sleeve when it comes to the run-in. Cambridge United will go to the Stadium of Light for the first of those three games but the Amber Army have nothing left to fight for in truth. The same can be said for Morecambe who, after drawing with Portsmouth, seem all but safe and will live to fight another day. In between those two though, Sunderland will clash with Rotherham who, as previously mentioned, have lofty ambitions of automatic promotion.

It was a very tense match at Home Park and it was always going to be a game of fine margins. Neither Plymouth Argyle nor Sunderland were able to seize the initiative and earn an invaluable three points. All is still to play for as the pair fight to hold on to their place in the post-season.

Main Photo

Embed from Getty Images