Remember, this wasn't just a cuddle, this was a Chris Powell cuddle. Crowd and players alike basked in the warmth generated by the return of the man with the biggest smile in football, and just as in the game against Portsmouth on our return to the Valley, Plymouth knew that their place in proceedings was to provide the perfect result to go with all the emotion and goodwill.
In the cold light of day, the best thing about yesterday was that the issues with the team remain consistent; it was just that yeterday nobody seemed to care. The crowd was physically larger than of late, and for once the c16k number looked about right, but it wasn't really the number I had been hoping for. I suspect that it was more a case of existing season ticket holders taking up their seats for the first time in who knows how long. Much work to be done then in restoring the faith, but no surprises there.
The game itself was pretty poor, with the first half in particular looking dreary in a Parkinsonesque sort of way, but for one small but crucial difference. In the week Powell has been with them, he has started to drum in the message that aimless hoofing of the ball is no way to run a railway. Much of Charlton's work in the first half consisted of passing and probing to a level not seen in a long time. There was no panicking when countless passes failed to find a way through, and in style reminded me of how Brighton played against us at the Valley.
The two goals were object lessons to any youngster, and both should feature on training videos. Wagstaff created his goal out of nothing other than harrying two defenders whose passing went awry under the pressure, and gave him the opportunity to then harry the goalkeeper which he did with aplomb sliding the ball past him, when he should always have been second favourite to reach it in the first place. Always chase down, and always follow in. How many thousands of times will you hear that being said in kids Sunday league matches? Eccleston's goal was also an object lesson in never giving up. It was his tackle that won the ball back, and it was his precise shot into the bottom right hand corner at the end of the same phase of possession that wrapped things up for us.
So, what now? As I mentioned earlier, the weaknesses within the team remain the same, and the real test for both Powell, and indeed Slater now begins. Our estimable central defensive pairing remain too slow and vulnerable to speed; even height sometimes as well. Whilst Dailly makes up for it in positional play, Doherty, Fortune, and Llera are not the answer to partner him. What is required is a young, tall, mobile partner with some speed about them, possibly a loan move from a Championship fringe player?
Both full backs fail to inspire, and although Solly and Jenkinson may be given a chance to challenge Francis, that may not be sufficient. There seems little challenge to Fry, so again a reinforcement, or possibly a replacement is needed there as well. Something will have to be done anyway, as his loan finishes on 5th February. The biggest challenge remains in central midfield though. Semedo is one dimensional, and Racon is not the answer to the need for a creative presence with some bite in the tackle. I see a loan move as the most likely route to bolstering the forces, although Bostock who has been cited in the media may not have the necessary bite to go with undoubted, if unfulfilled potential.
But all of the above can wait until tomorrow. Yesterday, we won at home by two clear goals for the first time this season. We won a game in regulation style with no real heart stopping moments other than the volley that landed on top of Elliot's net. Sitting six rows behind the home dugout also meant I got to see close up the biggest smile of the afternoon as Powell turned to celebrate the final whistle. It was a smile returned in spades by the addickted, who have been for the most part smiling since his appointment.