Football League Round Up: Hull break the habit

Gabriel Sutton by Gabriel Sutton / 11 February 2018, 10:19

Gabriel Sutton (@_FootbalLab) looks at Plymouth, Hull and Cheltenham in the latest Football League round-up.

Sarcevic sweeps aside Salop

Antoni Sarcevic had a forgettable 12-game stint at Shrewsbury Town as recently as 2016; it was ironic therefore, that his best performance at Greenhous Meadow came when he was on the opposing side. The midfielder ran the show for his current club, Plymouth Argyle, who won 2-1 to move five points off the play­-off positions.

That scenario would have been scarcely believable back in October, when the Green Army looked in danger of getting cut adrift. This blog saw them lose 2-1 at Bristol Rovers, their 11th game in, where they showed no attacking ambition and could on another day have shipped four or five.

Chairman James Brent and the board deserve credit for showing loyalty to Derek Adams, who clearly had credit left in the bank for his work in League Two. Since October, Plymouth have played with more composure, quality and belief.

They produced a commanding performance in the 2-0 win over giants Blackburn Rovers last week, which saw Ruben Lameiras produced a wonderful strike from the edge of the box. Lameiras, Sarcevic and Graham Carey, who has been their most creative influence for some time, now have the space to play due to the work rate of selfless striker Ryan Taylor.

At the other end, the goalkeeping jersey had changed hands frequently earlier in the season for various reasons but Remi Matthews – who produced his best performance in November’s 1-0 smash-and-grab at Bradford – has kept seven clean sheets in 15.

Sarcevic-inspired Plymouth are on the rise: if last week’s win didn’t warn League One of their play-off credentials, two wins over automatic promotion contenders in the space of eight days certainly will.

Hull break the habit

With some of their relegation rivals threatening to pull away from the danger zone, Hull City knew they needed three points from Saturday’s trip to Nottingham Forest.

Thanks to first half goals from Jon Toral and Harry Wilson, along with an organized defensive display, that was just what they got.

The Tigers had failed to score in seven of Nigel Adkins’ first nine league games in charge but another blank was avoided as early as the ninth minute. Jon Toral saw his penalty brilliantly saved by Costel Pantilimon but from Sebastien Larsson’s resultant corner, the unmarked Toral nodded home.

Hull’s attack included Harry Wilson, who impressed on his fourth start in professional football. The Liverpool loanee tapped home Will Keane’s 38th minute cross to complete a goal that epitomized the youthful exuberance of Nigel Adkins’ side.

Jarrod Bowen had looked a real livewire – not just at the City Ground but this season generally – he carried the ball from his own half to deep inside the final third, before finding the right moment to bring in Keane, who drilled the ball across for Wilson to convert at the back-post.

Neither Bowen nor Keane could quite convert a presentable second half chance set up by Sebastien Larsson, who enjoyed his best game for some time in central midfield. It didn’t matter though, because Hull defended well.

Right-back Ola Aina cleared a shot off the line, left-back Max Clark showed signs of bridging the gap from League Two to the Championship while Angus MacDonald appears to have settled very quickly since joining from Barnsley, showing as much assurance as his partner Michael Hector.

Hull still have a long way to go to – tough clashes with play-off chasers Middlesbrough and Sheffield United now await – but this was a hugely encouraging afternoon on Trentside.

Adebayo the super-sub

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Nwankwo Kanu, Peter Crouch oh… and Elijah Adebayo. What do they all have in common, we hear you ask?

The latter might not have scored a Champions League winning goal, be regarded as one of the best ever players from his continent or have been signed by ‘Arry 100 times, but like the trio before him, he is in danger of gaining the ‘super-sub’ tag.

Solskjaer, Kanu, Crouch and now Adebayo of Cheltenham Town have all done so well as substitutes, that their manager has been reluctant to start them.

Adebayo’s first appearance for the Robins, incidentally, was a start – a relatively forgettable 2-0 home defeat to Accrington Stanley. Since then, the Fulham loanee has made four consecutive appearances as a sub.

He scored what could have been the winner at promotion contenders Mansfield, only for the numerical disadvantage to catch-up with Gary Johnson’s side in a 3-2 defeat. The 20-year-old didn’t score in his next two appearances, but he did inspire improved second halves as Cheltenham fought back to secure 1-1 draws with Barnet and Grimsby.

This week, Adebayo replaced Brian Graham as the team led Port Vale by one goal with half an hour to go – by full-time, he had scored and the team had won 5-1. Naturally, the star of the show was hat-trick hero Mo Eisa, whose star continues to rise after taking his league tally to 15, making him the division’s second top scorer behind Billy Kee.

Adebayo though brings energy and continues to improve the intensity of Cheltenham’s play in the closing stages of games – but next time the substitute gets a sight of goal, he’s best off hitting row Z. That way he might earn himself a start.

Managers Departed

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Graham Westley
Graham Westley
(Stevenage)
16th February
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