The three points were all that mattered to John Sheridan as his first match as Plymouth Argyle’s manager ended in success.
Argyle beat Morecambe 2-1 in a tense npower League Two encounter at Home Park on Saturday. The Pilgrims took a 2-0 lead inside 16 minutes with goals from Conor Hourihane and Paris Cowan-Hall.
They could not build on that early momentum, however. Morecambe were much the better side in the second half, but were only to reply with one goal in the 80th minute.
It was a relieved Sheridan who reflected on Argyle’s first win since they saw off York City 2-0 at Home Park on December 8. He had staged only three training sessions with his new players before they took on Morecambe.
Sheridan said: “We all know what’s at stake. We needed to get the three points. I’m really pleased with the players.
“Their attitude has been different class since I have come in. The tempo of the training has been good.
“To get two early goals gives you a cushion, and it’s something to keep and they [Morecambe] have to score three to win the game.”
He admitted: “You could see the edginess in the players and I’ve got to try to get that out of them. You’ve got to accept that because we’re near the bottom of the league, but I couldn’t ask for any more from them.
“Morecambe are difficult to play against. They are a big, strong outfit. Hopefully, I can get a bit of nous into the players so that, when we’re in the lead, we dictate the game more and don’t do silly things.
“A lot of our problems were little things, like mis-kicking the ball and not clearing it properly. We will learn from it. We’re a young team. I’m very pleased to get off to a winning start,” added the 48-year-old.
Hourihane put Argyle ahead in the tenth minute with his fourth goal of the season. Sheridan said: “It was a great goal from Conor. I told him he could be getting in the box a little bit more. He was the one who was going to support the front men, and he did that.”
Cowan-Hall put the Pilgrims further into the lead six minutes later when he converted an excellent low cross from Ronan Murray, who was making his debut after signing on loan from Ipswich Town until the end of the season.
Sheridan said: “The second goal was a great little ball from Ronan. He’s a clever footballer, with his touch and awareness. You can see the little bits of quality he has in his game.
“Some of the little balls he played in across the goal, with his weaker foot, were a striker’s dream.”
Sheridan sprang a surprise by playing defender Maxime Blanchard in the centre of midfield. He did so to try to combat the physical strength of Morecambe and thought the experiment had worked.
Sheridan said: “Morecambe are a big threat at set-plays and had eight players out on the pitch who were over six foot. We lacked a bit of height, so I was always going to put Max in there. I thought he did well. He tired towards the end but was decent on the ball and won his headers. Now I know he can play in there, which is good.”
There was a call-up for midfielder Jamie Lowry, who made his first start for the Pilgrims since the 1-0 defeat at Bradford City on November 20. He had played for Sheridan when they were both at Chesterfield.
Lowry was pressed into service on the left of midfield. Sheridan said: “Jamie knows how to play that position. He’s good on the ball and he knows what I expect from him.”
“I know Jamie is not a type of player who’s going to run and beat people but I know he can deliver, and with him tucking in a little bit it gave Conor licence to get forward more.”
Another player who was no stranger to Sheridan, Guy Branston, was thrust into the starting XI a day after signing for Argyle on Friday. The vastly experienced central defender was at Oldham Athletic when the Pilgrims’ new boss was in charge there.
Sheridan said: Sheridan said: “I know what Guy is all about. He’s enthusiastic and he does know the game. I like him as a lad and you could see the lift the players got from him. He can give us drive and determination and, hopefully, get us out of where we are.”