Plymouth 1 City 0

"DO YOU believe?" is the mantra for tonight's fans forum at Valley Parade.

However the optimism is portrayed within the club's corridors of powers, you will be hard pressed to find too many still viewing the League One table with much positivity.

Certainly the 624 hardy souls who made the six-hour hike to Home Park on Saturday will not have left the scene feeling that the season can still be revived into a play-off fight.

The form table did not lie as Plymouth secured a sixth win on the bounce to gate-crash a play-off spot that seemed inconceivable when they were rock bottom in early December.

Equally, at that stage you would not have expected City's campaign to nose-dive in such an alarming fashion since the long-forgotten last three points on New Year's Day.

Simon Grayson was talking defiantly after the final whistle about dragging his new club back on the rails.

Other results around them, as he pointed out, suggest that the Bantams are not the only team to have hit the collywobbles as the play-off race heads towards its crucial phase.

Everyone except Plymouth, that is, as they continue to dig out these tight successes to maintain a run threatening to mirror Barnsley's rags-to-riches promotion charge of recent years.

It is not that there was much between the two teams in an ordinary game of precious few moments of excitement.

But Argyle have suddenly developed that knack of finishing on the right side of a narrow decision. Just as City seem to have forgotten what it's like to savour that winning feeling.

Plymouth had spent the previous week on a warm-weather training camp in Marbella. The impressive tan on boss Derek Adams was evidence that the sun is shining brightly on their fortunes right now.

They had done the same at this stage last year and returned with a thumping 3-0 win over Exeter in the Devon derby on the way to promotion from League Two.

Adams confessed that the critics were looking for them to stumble on Saturday after their latest break on the Costa Del Sol. Yet their bandwagon keeps rolling on merrily, courtesy of a deflected goal highlighting the breaks that teams on the up generally tend to be given.

For City, the sight of Antoni Sarcevic's shot changing its direction via Nathaniel Knight-Percival's intervention summed up their own rotten fortune.

The diving Colin Doyle had the ball covered before the sudden deflection sent it looping over his despairing left hand. The joy and despair of football's fickle nature summed up in one strike.

But any feeling of being hard-done-by over the winning goal, however justified, is unlikely to placate those convinced a season that had promised so much for so long is disappearing down the tubes.

The task of chairman Edin Rahic and those facing the questions from supporters in the Hendrie Suite this evening will be to convince them otherwise.

"Ask me anything," was the joint-owner's message when the forum was announced. Another setback at the weekend will only add potential ammunition to those with something to say of a pricklier nature.

But however well the joint-owner, James Mason or Greg Abbott might present their case, the only proof that City can match noble words with actions will be on the pitch.

The next three games are all at Valley Parade. Home form that has been such a disappointment up to this point could prove the saviour.

A Portsmouth side with equally indifferent 2018 form are up next and must be beaten if City's claims of recovering sixth spot are to be taken seriously.

The play-offs for now remain in reach – but only if the fightback starts from this point. Then, and only then, can the club hope to have that belief they talk about echoed in the stands.

Just to add a further spanner in the works, City face the likelihood of trying to begin that revival without their top scorer Charlie Wyke.

Grayson intended to have a close look at the match video before deciding if it is worth throwing in an appeal against the striker's late red card.

Plymouth defender Sonny Bradley certainly went to ground keenly after being caught by Wyke's arm.

Wyke surprisingly got a result over his dismissal against Oxford at the end of December – City's last win at Valley Parade.

Appeal successful, he was back two days later to lead the line against Fleetwood, which was City's last victory anywhere.

Would City be lucky enough for lightning to strike twice should they decide that Saturday's incident is worth another look from the FA panel?

Even the most optimistic might be hard pushed to think that. But stranger things have happened.

Similarly to Plymouth's win in West Yorkshire three months earlier, Wyke had got little change out of Bradley up to that flashpoint.

Not that the home strikers had got any further against a City rear-guard missing the impressive presence of Ryan McGowan after his knee operation on Thursday.

Playmakers Graham Carey and Ruben Lameiras had to be watched carefully as they looked to drift into pockets of space, a job that the willing Callum Guy did energetically alongside Romain Vincelot.

But Ryan Taylor, a name on City's wish-list in the January window, was reduced to a marginal threat by the vigilance of Matt Kilgallon.

It meant the contest rarely brought you to the edge of the seat. Plymouth enjoyed the bulk of the play but neither keeper was overstretched.

City's possession was too casual in the first half, giving the ball away cheaply in the same manner they had done at Charlton.

Just like at the Valley, they found a bit of spark after the break without being able to convert decent territory into proper chances.

Again they improved after the substitutions. Dominic Poleon's eagerness to hustle pushed City further up the pitch and Tyrell Robinson added a threat from the left which had been lacking.

It was all set up for history to repeat itself ten minutes from time – the same moment when the youngster had buried the leveller in Grayson's first game.

This time it was Alex Gilliead, not Wyke, providing the cross in more conventional fashion.

The winger's ball into the goalmouth was begging to be finished as Robinson again got ahead of his marker Oscar Threlkeld.

But the full back did enough to put him off, the City sub's claim he got a little nudge falling on deaf ears, and no contact was made. The chance had gone.

Wyke's dismissal soon after only darkened the mood for the longest return journey of the season.

Whether City can come back from this on-going run of setbacks to mount a top-six challenge remains the only question.