With just one win in their final nine league games, the writing was on the wall for Plymouth, and they were resigned to their fate in relegation. The poor run of form in the tail end of the season saw the Pilgrims end the season in 21st place.
But there was also a sense of bad luck on the Argyle part, as it was eventually goal difference that was the deciding factor in the place for the last relegation spot, and it was just a three-gold swing in the gap between themselves and AFC Wimbledon.
The relegation could turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the club as they can look to rebuild in League Two without the threat of relegation battle on the horizon. Although, few expected a relegation fight last season after the 7th place finish in League One in 2017-18. It may have just been a case of the club resting on the laurels, but fans can rest assured that the same mistakes won’t be made again.
The club have acted promptly in order to put themselves in with the best chance of being in a promotion fight. The Pilgrims have already brought in Joe Edwards and Danny Mayor on free transfers following their contracts expiring at Walsall and Bury respectively. The latter of the signings looks to be a shrewd bit of business by the club as Mayor holds all the qualities that are needed for a club looking to push themselves back into League One.
The winger played a crucial role in Bury’s promotion fight last season, which ultimately ended in them going into League One as runners up. Although his stock and trade are laying chances on a plate for the front men, he also has a decent scoring record from the wide position. Last season he scored eight goals in 39 appearances and contributed nine assists.
However, the summer business won’t stop here for the club as they will look to replace the influential duo of Freddie Ladapo and Ruben Lameiras. The two players combined for 29 goals last season; meaning there will be a huge void left in the forward positions that will need addressing.
Lameiras went back to his native country, Portugal, where he will be playing in the top flight in one of the recently promoted teams: Famalicao. Meanwhile, Ladapo will be playing again in League One, in Rotherham United, who were relegated from the Championship..
Only Rochdale conceded more than Argyle’s 80 goals last season, and normally League Two is decided in favour of those teams with better defence. So, if they don’t fix their messy backline, Plymouth will have less chances to get back to the 3rd division of English Football, than the Miami Dolphins of being favourites in the MLB odds.
So, these issues will need to be addressed should the club have any hope of reaching League One again. The departure of Ryan Edwards to Blackpool won’t help this issue and unless there are some youth players that Ryan Lowe believes are ready for the adjustment into senior football; then they will need to explore new potential defensive partnerships.
It’s an area of the field that the club can’t leave to chance and a strong defence needs to be the backbone for a promotion challenge. Without defensive reinforcements, the Pilgrims will be looking over their shoulders hoping that there is a team worse than them.
The first five fixtures for the League Two season look testing for the Pilgrims and could set the tone for the entire season. After opening away at Crewe Alexandra, they face Colchester United, Newport County, Salford City and Walsall. The start to the season needs to be much stronger than it was last season, as the club had to wait until the 12th game of the season last campaign for their first win.
In fact, if it wasn’t for their run of one defeat in ten between January and February, this start to the season could have resulted in the club facing the prospect of an embarrassing bottom place finish.
There is quality in the team, and that was evident throughout this run, but Lowe has to find a way to get this performance out of the team from the first week of the season. If that is to happen, then there is no reason why the club can’t be back in League One for the beginning of the 2020-21 season.