Plymouth Argyle manager John Sheridan switched tactics halfway though his side's League Two fixture against Southend United on Saturday, and the result was a 2-0 victory at Home Park.
Southend were the better team in the first period, even though they had centre-back Cian Bolger sent off in the 15th minute for a second bookable offence.
Sheridan responded to his team’s numerical advantage at the half-time break by scrapping his 4-4-2 system and taking the fight to the visitors. Jason Banton moved from the left of midfield to play “in the hole” behind the attacking trio of Lewis Alessandra, Reuben Reid and Marvin Morgan.
Argyle took control of the game after the interval and goals from Alessandra and Reid secured the win.
It was a comfortable one in the end, but Sheridan knew his team had been second best for much of the first half.
Sheridan said: “I thought we competed really well. I was pleased with the way we played even before they had a man sent off.
“The only downside to the performance was when they went down to ten men, and I felt they were the better team.
“It’s always difficult when you are playing against ten men but I expected us to dominate the game more and have a little bit of know-how.
“In the second half, I thought we were very professional. I made a little change and put Jason in the hole around [Conor] Clifford and pushed the three up.
“I said to them at half-time: ‘Just keep playing two and three-touch and stretch the play.’
“They were getting tired, and we were moving the ball quickly and creating chances. To win 2-0 is a really good result for us.”
Bolger was fortunate to see out a quarter-of-an-hour before he was dismissed by referee Brendan Malone.
The centre-back was booked in the fourth minute for a foul on Argyle striker Marvin Morgan, who had flicked the ball over him. Then, in the 13th minute, Bolger appeared to pull back Morgan, but the referee saw it differently and penalised Morgan.
Sheridan was furious about that, but Bolger’s reprieve did not last long as he clumsily tripped Morgan.
“I think he should have been sent off just before that,” said Sheridan. “He had already booked him for exactly the same thing.”
Alessandra’s first goal of the season came in the 52nd minute after some superb play from Kelvin Mellor.
The right-back surged into the penalty area and cut inside Southend’s Plymouth-born midfielder Ryan Leonard and defender Luke Prosser before setting up Alessandra.
An accurate low shot from Alessandra then nestled in the bottom corner of the net. “Kelvin likes to get forward,” Sheridan explained. “He might be too relaxed on the ball at times.
“I told him at half-time he needed to up his game and he was excellent after that. He really got involved in the game and was a big plus for us going forward.
“His quick feet in the box and lay-off to Lewis was a great bit of football from him,” the Argyle boss added.
Reid headed home Argyle’s second goal in the 67th minute after a pinpoint cross from Alessandra. It was his fifth goal in six games this season, and Sheridan hopes he can carry on in that rich vein of form.
“I think Reuben should be scoring more headers,” the Pilgrims’ boss added. “He has met it with his forehead and kept it down, and it’s in the back of the net. I’m pleased with the clean-sheet as well.”
Argyle have picked up seven points out of nine from their three home League Two games this season. The victory over Southend followed an emphatic 3-0 win against Exeter City and a scrappy 1-1 draw with Stevenage.
Sheridan said: “You’ve always got to have a good record at home if you want to get out of this division.
“If you win your home games, you can get a point here and a point there away from home and grind out results.”
Sheridan had stated before the visit of Southend that he intended to pick different teams depending on whether Argyle were playing at home or away.
He stuck by that after the game, so there are set to be changes when the Pilgrims play at Luton Town next Saturday.
“I think I’ve got players who would be more beneficial playing in the team away from home than they would at home,” said Sheridan.
“I can guarantee there will be one or two changes, even though the Luton manager [John Still] will know what I’m going to do.”