A Round-up of Argyle News
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Also included on the three most recent days, facts from Argyle's history.
Derek Adams revealed Nathan Blissett is living up to the reason he brought him to the club: as an impact player. He went on to explain the tactical decisions that he made to exploit Crewe's weaknesses. Adams explained: "I took in Nathan to do a job for us. He's got a drawing goal away to Wycombe, and a winning goal today – big goals for us. He gets on the end of things. That's the type of player you need to come off the bench. I'm delighted for him, but I'm delighted for Ryan Taylor and everybody, because it's such a big win for us today. To win 2-1 at home, in the last home game of the season, and to take the title to the last game between three teams; it's fantastic for the league.
"We knew that Crewe were weak height-wise and we tried to exploit that. Fortunately for us, we got a good ball into the box and big Nathan can score with his head the majority of the time. We became a bit too direct in the second half, and then we got ourselves into the game. Then we started to pass it again and get it wide, and we were able to get crosses in the box. We changed the formation well before then, a few times in the game. We changed it a few times in the second half; we just needed to get that breakthrough. As soon as we get the breakthrough, we know we're going to go on and win the match."
Blissett himself reflected on a great day for him personally that also saw his former side Torquay make a last escape from relegation to the conference south, saying: "I feel, in myself, that I can be very influential in games and I can change games. I think that's something I have in my repertoire. So coming into games doesn't faze me at all. I still go into it thinking 'I'm the big man; I'm going to knock someone about and make a difference.' That's what I try and do. The way Crewe played – passing football – we needed to be a bit more direct to get in behind them. That's what's good about my game and what I can bring to the team.
"It fills you with confidence. It shows that the manager is looking to change the game and is looking to you to do it. It puts a bit of pressure on you but it gives you that pat on the back to say 'I believe in you; go and do your stuff'. Being here hasn't gone to plan as much as I would have liked but to be involved in crucial goals like that, I can't ask for more.
"Torquay is close to my heart. They rebuilt me into a decent player who can push on, so, for that, I thank them dearly and I just want good things to happen for them. The manager, Kevin Nicholson, is a good friend of mine and he has done it again. Plaudits to him."
Blissett finally looked ahead to Saturday's game at Grimsby- a game that could see Argyle crowned as champions of League Two and said: "It was a bit touch and go with about ten minutes to go when we found out we were top of the league. Your attitude changes a little bit to compensate for a lot of things. The atmosphere was great today and I'm just happy we could give them a performance like that. As soon as we scored the goal, we went back to our normal one up top and two out wide, just to shore up everything and make sure we didn't concede, because the championship is on the line now – and it's all in our hands.
"I've played there a few times; it's a great ground, a good pitch. A great team, as well – they played well against us here earlier in the season, so we can't take them lightly at all. Give us this position at the start of the season and we're going to take it, aren't we? Let's finish the job off."
Argyle have put themselves in pole position for the 2016/17 League Two title after a dramatic 2-1 win from behind against Crewe. The visitors went 1-0 up in the early stages but Argyle persevered and two goals from Ryan Taylor and Nathan Blissett secured three points. Exeter's win at Doncaster means Argyle go into the final day with a one point lead at the top. Argyle: McCormick, Miller, Songo'o(Bradley), Sokolik, Sawyer, Fox, Sarcevic, Carey, Jervis(Blissett), Kennedy(Slew), Taylor. Subs: Dorel, Smith, Donaldson, Spencer.
Sonny Bradley was awarded the club's Player of the Season Trophy and the corresponding award from the Herald. Paul-Arnold Garita took the young player of the year award.
Luke McCormick spoke about the signs that made him truly believe Argyle were on their way to being a promotion winning side- but not before ruling out the league title with just two games to play. He said: "We are really looking forward to the next two games. The main objective has been achieved so we go into these next two games with only really the pressure we put on ourselves. All we need to do is just concentrate on Saturday and concentrate on winning the next two games. We will have a look to see how Doncaster do but the focus just has to be on us and we will try and keep up the pressure. It will be great for the supporters and hopefully it will be close to capacity at Home Park. Hopefully we will put on a similar show to what we were able to do against Newport.
"There were signs the whole way through the season. After beating Doncaster, I thought: 'we've gone there and showed our nerve against a team who had been top of the table all season.' That was the time when we thought: 'this is it'.
"We are set up to play away from home and when you consider the sort of personnel we have in the squad, we've got pace, we have creativity and we've got the ability to defend. That gives us a basis to go and attack teams. We seem to enjoy teams coming on to us a little bit, frustrating them and then being able to counter attack. That's where the creativity and pace can come in. It's a credit to the management and the lads that we have been able to break a record at the club in terms of the away wins. When you come away from away games not having won, it's a long old journey. That has probably helped with us wanting to get results away from home because it can be a quiet old coach trip on the way home. It definitely helps when you're sat on a bus for hours on end, you talk, you bond and you laugh.
I think that's the case if you're Plymouth Argyle and you're in League Two, because your arguably one of the biggest teams in the division. That just comes with the territory a little bit when you're Plymouth Argyle, so it's something we have had to embrace. We know that teams might raise their game when they play against us particularly when they come to Home Park, given the size of the crowd we get and the stadium we have. It all contributes but the manager has signed big players capable of dealing with it."
Derek Adams has played down talk of Argyle having a mediocre home record but admitted there are games in which they could have done better this season. He said: "We have got the third-best record at home in the league this season. We are happy with that but we feel we could have taken more points at home. If you look at the games we lost – even drew; we lost against Leyton Orient, where we should have won, and Wycombe – when were 3-1 up – we should have won. That's just off the top of my head. If you knock in that we've got the best away record, it's obviously put us in a position where we have been able to get automatically promoted. It hasn't happened often. I think that teams have come out and played against us at times because they see it as a free game for them – they are playing against a team that's at the top of the league and they are not expected to take anything from it."
James Brent gave a new insight into the progress of the new grandstand development- most notably hinting that the club wanted to move towards standard terracing rather than 'safe standing'. Brent said: "The plans are progressing. The budget is tight and we always knew it was tight. I think when we publish the plans, which we are hoping to do in the early summer, that supporters will be impressed with what we are proposing. I'm sure there will be some who think we should have done better but I think the core of the supporters will recognise that it will be a great asset. The current terracing will be all-seated but there will be flexibility going forward to look at standing. I want to get away from the principle of safe-standing because I don't think there is evidence that any of the modern standing is unsafe. We can't do it now under EFL regulations. I think there is a move towards introducing standing but we don't want to delay this project. We will look at whether we can accommodate that going forward. The current terracing will be all seated but we are having to raise the bank of it to improve the sight-lines. I'm totally confident that we will get comments that we should have tried hard, and so on. And, frankly, if I was worth £3 billion I probably would have spent £20 million on it rather than £5m, but I'm not and I can't. I think most people understand the principles of budgeting. We all live with our means.
"The guts of the building – the interior – will be totally different, and it will be extended out the back to provide a big conferencing and banqueting centre. It's very much the Sandy Park model, and it will be a similar scale to Sandy Park. We are exhorting our staff to excellence and yet they are working in dilapidated temporary buildings that aren't fit for purpose. So, as part of this, we are going to have new offices for the staff, we are going to have a new retail shop and a new ticketing office. It's a new start."
Additionally, Brent gave an extra vote of confidence to Derek Adams following the vindication of the club's decision to hand him a new four year contract at the start of the season. Brent said of the decision: "It was meant to make a statement on behalf of the club, and I think from Derek's standpoint also, that this is a medium term project. The seasons are very important parts of the journey, but they are not the journey in their own right. What we want Derek to do is to lead the club back up the leagues and to be able to plan with confidence going forward that we want him at this club. I totally understand from an emotional standpoint the pressure you get when things are not going well why you see such a high turnover of football managers, but it does not make sense. If you have a good leader you do back them through thick and thin. I'm conscious that with Derek we have been through a very good period under his leadership for the two years he has been here, but there will be challenging times. I think it's the board's responsibility to focus on what is the right in the medium term for the club. We have a responsibility to the club not to bow to pressure when that pressure does arise.
"His aspiration towards excellence is something that we are absolutely keen to be rolled out throughout the football club. It is one of the exciting things that I think the club is much better run than it probably ever has been but it has got so much further it can go. There are things happening as we speak in terms of the quality of the training facilities. We have 10 years of back log maintenance that we are putting into the horseshoe, that will be completed by the end of next season. The grandstand, with Simon and Jane Hallett's financial support, is going up and the board is much stronger than it has ever been. Again, Simon and John Morgan have added real challenge to the board, which helps us all to develop. Simon is very, very demanding but he provides that challenge to me personally that drives me to get better.
"I think what has been achieved over the last five years has been great and full credit to our staff and our on and off the pitch management teams for doing that. But we are so far away from what we could be, and I think as we get the new grandstand built that will be a new statement of the excellence we want to have for the football club going forward. If you are at risk of losing people because you have the best people, that is a good quality problem to have. What we don't want to do is to lose people because they are not good enough at their jobs. Derek is clearly a very hungry manager and that is what we like about him. He will be plotting now how he gets us out of League One. He's not plotting to see how we remain in League One or avoid relegation. That's one of the features of Derek we really like and as a consequence of that with a high performer you are at greater risk of losing them than you are with a low performer."
Argyle have offered professional contracts to three of this year's Academy graduates, with development contracts on the table for three others. Defenders Jordan Bentley and Callum Rose, along with striker Alex Fletcher, have all been told that they will be part of the first-team squad next season, should they choose to sign the deals offered. Development deals, which are designed as a stepping stone between Academy and professional football, have been offered to forward Alex Battle and midfielders Dan Rooney and Aaron Taylor f the remaining three second years, Sam Ryan, who has completed his two-year apprenticeship, has been given a six-month extension to make up for time lost with a serious ankle injury. Josh Richards and Connor McAuley will be leaving the club.
Whilst many Argyle fans are understandably filled with anticipation for the League One season to come in August, Derek Adams' sights are still firmly set on the here and now: securing the League Two title for Argyle. He said: "With two games to go, it is very tight at the top between the three teams and we've put ourselves in a position where we are two points behind the league leaders with two games to go. We would like to try, if possible, to win the title and that has got to be our focus for the last two games of the season. When you are so close at the end of the season, you have still got that possibility. We will have to win on Saturday to give ourselves any chance. We have given ourselves that opportunity. It is a fantastic season we have had and we just hope we can keep it going.
"Crewe are a good young team, with a lot of individually talented younger players. Cooper is an excellent player for them. He plays anywhere across the front line and has been very good for them this season. Kiwomya, as well, who started the season well, is a good top young player. They have been able to get themselves safe from relegation and they'll go and enjoy the last two games of the season, but we have got a bit of business to go and do first. With two games to go, if you'd said at the start of the season that we'd be in this position, two points behind the league leaders, we all would have accepted that. It's a fabulous position to be in."
Luke McCormick spoke of his pride at being included in the League Two team of the season award alongside fellow pilgrims Graham Carey and Sonny Bradley, the first of such line-ups that he has featured in during his career: "It's the first time I've been included in one so it's a very proud moment. I was very pleased to hear the news that I got in. It shows that we are doing something right; your teammates and the lads that are playing around you make a huge contribution. I suffered a lull in form last season and it is something I have never experienced before in my career. I've always been consistent I think I've benefited from that lull this season; there have been games where I could have done better and games where I've done quite well.
"You can't be great all the time unfortunately; I'd like to, but it's not going to happen over the course of 50 games. Over the course of the season I've been happy to contribute to the team. The lads are doing what they should do in front of you, which they have done throughout the season. The work I'm having to do is limited and if they're not getting chances, they're getting half chances so it gives me a better opportunity to keep the ball out of the net. The lads that play in front of contribute towards that. The two lads, Graham and Sonny, have been absolutely class and it's been a joy to have Sonny in front of me. A little bit further up with Graham, it's amazing to see what he can do. There's no player in this division who can do the things he does. We see that week in, week out, and in training day in, day out, but they've been great for us and hopefully they both will be next season."
Derek Adams spoke about the progress made by Nathan Blissett since arriving from Torquay in the January transfer window and went on to talk in general about how the window is responsible for Argyle's success, saying: "It has been difficult for Nathan because we took him in hoping that we might be able to play in a different style, but it hasn't worked out that way. He's improving all the time. It has been a big jump from the National League to the top of League Two. He's going to be with us next year and hopefully being with us this year, for this period of time, will be an advantage. We strengthened the squad at the start of the season. We had better competition for places throughout the team. Then we just changed it about in January. A few players moved on – either away from the club or on loan – and we took in the five players. The majority of them had experience of playing in League One, and at the top end of League Two. They have been a very good addition and helped put us in the position we are in today."
Derek Adams praised the role that back-up keepers Vincent Dorel and Marc McCallum have played in strengthening the performance of Luke McCormick with their strong competition, saying: "They have travelled with the team up and down the country. They have been part of the squad throughout the time. They are very good characters and they have helped Luke McCormick no end this season. I think that Luke's performances have improved this season, compared to last year, because of the pressure he has been put under by the two goalkeepers."
Derek Adams admitted that picking which apprentices are offered professional contracts to remain at Plymouth Argyle is often not a pleasant duty but it is one that he is fully prepared to undertake, saying: "The decision is between myself, Kevin Hodges, Shaun Taylor and Kevin Nancekivell. We will all sit down and have a look at it. They'll have their opinions and I'll have mine - and we'll see who we feel is able to move up into the first team. Then, we'll see who is able to move up to a development contract where we feel that they just need a bit more work to get up to a professional deal. If we feel that they have a future, either next year or in future years then we take them on. It's part of the business. Everybody knows when they come in as an apprentice what the script is. They get coached by youth coaches and academy coaches in a way that is hopeful to promote them into the first team. It's not a nice business. It's unlike any other business where you take on 18 apprentices and it comes to a first team contract. You only end up taking one or two on at the end, out of nine. In other businesses you want your apprentices to be with you for 10, 20 years - but that doesn't happen in football."
Derek Adams admitted that he is not pleased with Louis Rooney's lack of appearances for Hartlepool United since joining them on loan on January transfer deadline day but hoped that he could yet make a big impact, not least against Argyle's title rivals Doncaster on the final day of the season: "He has been on the bench but he hasn't had a run of games as I had hoped he would have. I hoped he would get 10 starts but that hasn't been the case. It hasn't worked out as well as we had hoped, but it could change very much for him by scoring the winning goal to keep Hartlepool in the league.
"It's not a good experience for him, but it's an experience that you sometimes require. If you are going to be a professional footballer you need to see both sides of the game. You don't necessarily want to, but it does give you an appreciation of what it is like to be at the top of the league and the bottom. They are two very different situations to be in."
Oscar Threlkeld spoke about how thrilled he is to achieve a promotion in his first permanent season at Plymouth Argyle after signing in the summer. The utility man said: "As long as I get some minutes on the pitch that's all that matters. It's good on the CV now that we got promotion and how many games I have played. I kept my place in the team when I came back from injury so I have been over the moon really. It has just been tremendous. "We were so close to promotion last season and I just wanted to put things right. It was an easy decision to come back, because the gaffer (Derek Adams) wanted me and I wanted to come back down. I'm expecting good things for the club next season, depending how many people the gaffer keeps and brings in. You can't stop now, just because we have got promoted. We have got to carry on and go forward."
Derek Adams praised Argyle's performance after their goalless draw at Colchester United, a side going for the play-offs with a strong home record. Adams said: "We had a lot of good play in the first half and Sarcevic was very unlucky after a great bit of play but, in the end, it's 0-0. The way we played in the first half, the way we passed and moved, and controlled the game, was really good; it was nice to watch. In the second half, we didn't pass the ball well as in the first half. But you have to give credit to Colchester, they were trying to get the win, as well. I didn't feel that both teams worked the goalkeeper enough; both goalkeepers didn't have a save to make, and that's probably why it's 0-0. Give credit to both sets of players – they were trying to get that goal, but both teams didn't have that craft they needed to do that."
Argyle have closed the gap on Doncaster Rovers in the race for the league two title to 2 points with 2 games remaining with a 0-0 draw at Colchester. Doncaster on the other hand drew 0-0 with Wycombe. Their superior goal difference means Argyle will likely need to make up two points on them in the remaining two games. Argyle: McCormick, Threlkeld, Songo'o, Sokolik, Sawyer, Fox(Tanner), Sarcevic, Smith(Garita), Jervis(Slew), Carey, Taylor. Subs: Dorel, Bulvitis, Donaldson, Spencer.
Another plus side of Argyle's early confirmation of divisional status is that Derek Adams can start planning for the upcoming season from mid April rather than late May. The manager said: "We have got plenty of time to look to next season, now. We won't discuss anything until the season's finished. Until that happens, we're focused on trying to finish in a strong position. It gives you a good opportunity to look at the players we already have in the squad and the players that are going to come in over the summer – that's just a natural progression – and we'll assess things. We've got a lot more time than we had last season. We have a fair idea what's going to happen. We've performed very well and we've got a lot of players in contract for next season, which is a good thing to have. We've got a list of players. We have recruitment policy where we have a database available to us, and we'll continue to look through that./"I came to the football club to get us out of this division and it's been a very good two-year spell. I'm delighted the chairman gave me the opportunity to manage Argyle and we have certainly delivered over the last two seasons. That's something that everybody at this football club is very proud of. We have been very successful this season; we have been able to win 25 games; we've had a great FA Cup run against Liverpool which everybody enjoyed; and we have won the two derby matches, as well. Coming in the first season and getting to a play-off final was a success. When I came into the football club, the chairman was just hoping we'd put ourselves in a good position and we were able to do a lot better than that. We didn't have the strength in depth to take us over the last couple of weeks of the season and that was probably the reason we didn't get promoted last season. This year, we have been able to strengthen and that's taken us a long way."
The 16/17 promotion winning side have forged a bond that will never be broken according to midfielder David Fox, who said of his teammates: "You definitely have an affinity with your old clubs but you look at the ones where you've had success. I was talking to one of the lads the other week, and you talk about how many years you have been in the game, and how many players you still speak to, and it's the ones you got promoted with, they're the ones you have that bond with over the next 20 years. The lads in that changing room now will have a bond for years because we've achieved something. I've been a footballer for 16 or 17 years, and three of those stand out, and they are the ones you get promoted with. I still go to Blackpool and Norwich for reunions, or see the lads in the summer. That will be no different here.
"I didn't know League Two, and I couldn't have told you much about Plymouth from the year before other than they lost in the play-off final. I was fresh-faced, walking into a room, and I saw a real competitiveness in training, a whole new bunch of players getting to know each other, and a manager that was driving people on. The Torquay game: we only drew that game, and in the dressing room there were lads going for each other. They were not happy with how it had gone, and it was a pre-season friendly! I thought 'this is a real competitive mentality, with a will to win'. It's not about developing players and selling them on; it's not about playing nice, pretty football; it's about winning. I sensed that after playing 45 minutes of football. The ability to win games out of tough situations has probably been our trademark this season. We've had backs to the wall stuff and picked up results, or we've had disappointing results then gone again the next week. Loads of 1-0s and 2-1s; we've lost more than we would have liked, but we've turned a lot of draws into wins. That's through character, togetherness, team spirit; things you don't need ability for. The amount of games this club has won over the last two years is ridiculous. I know they didn't get over the line last year, but there's a winning mentality. Brew's a winner, Wottsy's a winner – you don't play as many games as he did without being a winner – and it passes on to the team. That's why we've won games late on. Every training session there's a score kept, of whose winning and losing.
"Loads of things have gone into it. We've dug in, or Luke's made a great save in the last minute; they are fine margins that mean when you look at the table it looks great, but if you analyse each game it is the small margins that have got us promoted."
Three Argyle players have been named in the PFA League Two Team of the Year. Luke McCormick is named as the divisional team's goalkeeper, with Sonny Bradley and Graham Carey both featuring in outfield positions. Former Pilgrim Kelvin Mellor is in team at right-back.
David Fox spoke about how the sacrifice that he made to live apart from his young family was absolutely worth it to be a part of Argyle's promotion season. The midfielder detailed the process of not having a club during pre-season: "It wasn't until late on in July, at Torquay. The season had finished at the start of May, so that was two-and-a-half months: my garden got cleaned up well! You are literally waiting on a phone call that might never come. Fortunately for me, one did, and one that exceeded all my expectations. The number of players out of contract is growing year on year, and it is harder to find a job, especially as you get older. I knew it would be good, that's why I was willing to come down here and make sacrifices. I made a massive sacrifice because ultimately I had the feeling it would work out alright. I can't place on record enough what as a family we've had to give up for me to come down here, but those scenes on Monday make it worthwhile. You feel a sense of satisfaction that it has gone well. It was brilliant. Everything, for the last few months, that we hoped it would be. That was our aim, what we were going for, and then the manner in which it happened was really pleasing and enjoyable. Where the fans have been down through things that have been going on off the pitch, it was about time we got it right on the pitch and got the club moving forward. I know they enjoyed it. There was a bit of relief at getting over the line. Hopefully the fans can enjoy it, knowing that the next three games can be a bit of a party atmosphere. No-one's downed tools from the playing side of things, we'll be going out to try to win the last three games. Partly for our own pride, and there's a lot of supporters going to the Colchester game; it's a long trip and we can't disappoint them."
Fox also revealed the moment in which he was sure Argyle would win promotion, Ryan Taylor's last minute winner against Crawley a few weeks ago. He said: "I look back to Tayls' goal at Crawley. Teams that get promoted win those games, and I said that to the boys afterwards. We didn't play well. It was a nothing game and a draw was probably a fair result. I didn't think they Crawley did great but a draw was on the cards and we managed to turn that into a win. That what's teams that get promoted do. They go and win those games. There have been probably been lots of other examples of that. But, in terms of where we were in the season, and the amount of fans we had at the game, I think that was massive. I'm sure this season has exceeded anyone's expectations. We wanted to get promoted. That was the aim – there was no sugar-coating that – and we have done it. Obviously, the Anfield trip was brilliant and people wondered whether it would affect our form and did we need a cup run when we were trying to get up. But all things like that are just brilliant experiences and what you want to be doing as a footballer. The whole season really has exceeded anyone's expectations, especially for someone that had just signed for the club."
Derek Adams has said that an offer will be on the table to star midfielder Graham Carey and that it is up to him if he chooses to remain at the club. Adams said of Carey: "Graham has done exceptionally well over two seasons. We are delighted with the progress he is making. It's really up to Graham now if he wants to stay or go, but he has been fantastic for me, at my previous club and this one. The ball is in his court now. There is no doubt about that," he said. "Graham has been very good in League Two for us and I believe he can be good in League One as well. We will wait and see how things transpire over the next month or so.
"You always want to keep your best players. Graham has shown in this division that he can score goals and create assists. It's always important that you keep your best players, and we will continue to try to do that."
Adams said that he believes Argyle will need to win all three of their remaining games to have any realistic hope of winning the League Two title, explaining: "We have achieved our goal of getting automatic promotion, and with three games to go we have still got an opportunity of winning the title. That's our main focus between now and the end of the season.We will probably have to win the three games to give us any chance, and we go to a very difficult place at Colchester first. We have got to try and win the games. It's obviously in Doncaster's hands at this moment in time.
"We have got a very good away record and Colchester have got an excellent home record as well so it has got the makings of a good game. The players would like to try to win the title as well. Colchester are obviously going to speak about us already being promoted and talk about it in that context. But we are three points behind the league leaders and we want to get the win that we require to try to get closer to Doncaster. We have got to continue the way we played against Newport."
A number of early details have transpired about Argyle's pre-season schedule, with Derek Adams confirming Argyle will play host to Cardiff City on an unspecified date in their only home game. Argyle will also play two games on tour in the Netherlands where they will stay at a training camp like they did last summer.
Argyle have released the full details of their season ticket prices for the 2017/18 League One season. Full details of earlybird and standard prices can be found on the club's website.
Graham Carey spoke of his delight at making sure that the game that secured promotion was such a special one for the fans rather than limping over the line. He said: "The manner we have done it, it is only fitting that we put in probably the best performance of the season really. We were so good going forward. Yes, they had a few chances but I think that is probably because we were so open and so attacking. We knew we were going to have to take the fight out of them. They were obviously fighting for their lives and luckily for them results kind of went their way and they are still in their fighting. What their staff have done over the last month or two has been brilliant. Hats off to them, hopefully they stay up as well. But it is a great way to clinch promotion. I think obviously the club and the fans have been waiting for so long and to do it in that manner was special.
"It was kind of a blessing in disguise. To give the fans the day that they have done, it is a tribute to them. They have backed us all season, especially away games, they have travelled in their numbers. They are never quiet away from home and I think from the moment we kicked-off today they were bouncing. It was a tough game to start with to be honest, we knew they were going to have a lot of fight because they were fighting for something. We probably didn't start sharp enough and we gave the ball away cheaply at times but once we got into a two goal lead we put our foot on the gas and knocked the fight out of them in the second-half. We knew the first ten minutes of the second-half was crucial and that if we got a third goal, that would be the game. Luckily we did that and then we could push on and get more goals and close the difference on Doncaster a little bit. We have still got a huge chance of clinching the title and that would be the icing on the cake. I think we need to enjoy today. It has been a long time coming for the club and the fans and us as players. Especially the four of us that were here last year. I think it took us a while to get over that defeat at Wembley and we obviously didn't start the season well but I think the recruitment from the manager and the staff and the club has been first class. To get the squad and the team we have on not the biggest budget in the league is a testament to the scouting."
Derek Adams said that promotion to League One marked mission accomplished in his mind for both this season and his tenure at Argyle. He said: "We've played in a manner that this football club likes. We had a great all-round performance. We got players that have put in a terrific shift throughout the season, and they've been able to score goals. We've seen today the standards they can play to. Today was going to be a difficult match. Newport were trying to get a win that would take them out of the bottom two, and we were trying to get that win to get us automatic promotion – and we've certainly done that today. There was a lot of pressure on us today, and the players have really dealt with it well. I thought that the way they wanted to score goals today – we played in a way that was going to damage Newport. We went three-for-three against them at the top end and it caused them trouble. I think that we had a lot of good play and opportunities. We just needed that goal, and we got the two goals quite quickly. We've shown that when we do that, we can play with a great deal of confidence. I think the players knew today was the day. The players have shown that when that pressure comes, they can deal with it. You need the 2-1s; you need the 1-0 victories to get yourself in this position.""To get this football club back into League One was my priority when I came to the football club two years ago.
"Last year, we had the 10th-highest budget in the league and we were able to get into a play-off final. That's the reality. We dismantled the squad over the summer and rebuilt it. The players we've taken in have shown good work ethic and composure and technical ability. They've got good determination about them to succeed. That's what we had to do over the summer, and we've been able to get the results. We've been able to have a really successful time. We've had a play-off final, we've had a good FA Cup run, and we've been able to have a promotion. The players, the staff, the supporters all wanted it, and we've all delivered."
Adams said however that his focus had already shifted to going up as League Two champions: "Looking at the results today we've been able to get three points back on Doncaster. We've knocked their goal difference as well, and we'll continue to push to the final kick of the game to see if we can win the championship. At this moment in time, I'm thinking about trying to catch Doncaster. That's the way we're trying to think. We're trying to win the championship. Doncaster are three points ahead, but we've got to aim that way. We've got three games to go. We can still win the title. We've got to try and do it. I've come to a football club that wanted to get out of this division – needed to get out of this division. With that brings its pressure. This football club believes it should be in a higher division, and we've been able to do that as a collective unit. They've been through some difficult times, through administration. They've followed them through the leagues, from the Championship down to League 2. They want this club to be successful. A lot of people put a lot of hard work into it and we've been able to succeed. Financially we need to become better, on and off the pitch. That's something that we'll look to do over the years. It's not going to happen in the blink of an eye. This year, we've done exceptionally well with the budget we've had. It's a testament to the players and the staff."
Graham Carey has revealed his delight that Argyle achieved what they set out to at the start of the season and got promoted. Carey, like Adams, has said he wants to now focus on winning the league as well as strongly hinting that he hopes to remain at Home Park next season. The Irishman said: "At the minute I see my future here but that is not really up to me, it is up to the manager and the board. My goal at the start of the season was to focus on getting promoted. I said that after the play-off final that I wanted to come back and win the league and we still have a chance to do that; we have secured promotion. I was not going to talk about anything until the season is finished and that is still the case. The brand of football is what the fans want. [The manager's] eagerness to win games and not just settle for draws no matter where we go and that is testament to our away form. We try and win every game that we can. His relentlessness in training to always demand more. We will enjoy our few days off now but come Thursday it will be foot on the gas again and hopefully we can upset Doncaster and win the title. Derek has obviously done a great job and I don't think me saying anything could put in to words what he has done. To have four players at the start of the season and to bring in the squad that he has brought in is testament to him. We had our blip in the middle of the season but to get over that and to have an FA Cup run and to give the fans something special and then the end of the season - it has been terrific. He said go and enjoy your night and we will do that, but when it comes to it we will be ready to work again.
"What the manager has done for me and my career, bringing me back to England which is what I always wanted to do. I will be always grateful to him so yes, since we are now getting promoted to League One, anything is possible. The aim was be playing in League One this year with Argyle. Now we have got promoted, you never know what can happen in the summer. I am not saying yes and I am not saying no, but that is not even in my mind at the minute. I said in the middle of the season I wanted to get promoted and then finish the season strong and we will talk from there - that is still the case."
He further went on to state he believes Argyle are capable of mounting a promotion challenge in League One next season: "It is special. Wottsy was a big influence in that. He remembers, and so do Luke McCormick and Gaz Sawyer, the days when they were in the Championship and getting the big crowds and we knew if we could get them out of this league then they will come back and as you have seen today the support was tremendous and hopefully we can bring back more fans next season and you never know. The difference between League One and League Two, especially with the teams at the top of League Two, there is not that much of a difference I don't think. You have seen that in the EFL Trophy, a lot of results that have been able to trouble teams in League One and there is no reason why we can't push on next season. Hopefully our goal, and knowing the manager, our goal next season will be getting promotion again. My goal at the start of the season was 15 goals and 15 assists so I am on course for that and hopefully I can get a few more. The squad we have, achieving something together was worth more to me than any personal goals and I think getting promotion is all that counts for the club and this city.
"We knew we had enough quality in the team. It was just a case of gelling quickly and not giving the top teams in this league a head start and we didn't really do that. We have been up in the top three the whole season. I think even in January recruitment has been great to bring in some players to give us an extra spark is something that we all needed. We didn't have the biggest squad at the start of the season and we brought in more players and that meant to keep your place in the team you need to play well and that is testament to the manager and the board. We knew it was going to be tough the first couple of weeks and it was. But we knew as soon as we got one win and we started gelling as a team that we had the quality in the squad to go and achieve something great and we have done that. Now that we have the chance to go and win the title that would be extra-special as well."
PLYMOUTH ARGYLE HAVE BEEN PROMOTED TO LEAGUE ONE following a staggering 6-1 win over Newport County, their largest win in the League Two era of 2011-2017. Defensive mix-ups let in Kennedy and Jervis to put Argyle 2-0 up as half-time approached. Both of them netted again in the second half as did Carey and Taylor to give Argyle a six goal lead. Newport pulled a goal back in the dying seconds but it was not enough to dampen Argyle spirits, who partied long into the night to celebrate the promotion that the club so richly deserved after 6 years of ups and down and a whole 13 years since the last promotion. Doncaster's loss to Blackpool means that Argyle are still in with a fighting chance of the League Two title. Argyle: McCormick, Threlkeld(Miller), Songo'o, Sokolik, Sawyer, Fox(Smith), Sarcevic, Carey(Tanner), Jervis, Taylor, Kennedy. Subs: Dorel, Bulvitis, Donaldson, Garita
Graham Carey is pleased after Argyle's bittersweet ending to the game at Portsmouth that the greens will instead have a chance to seal promotion in front of their home crowd. The Irishman said: "We're not taking anything lightly. Newport is going to be a tough game. It's going to be a lot tougher than it would have been maybe a month ago: they are fighting for their lives and we are fighting for something else. They can come out of the bottom two with a win on Monday so they are going to be coming at us. Any result Monday and we're up, but we'll be going out to win. It was a bit of an anti-climax. We knew were going to have a bit of a wait if we got a result. We were waiting for a little but then we felt, like what happened, if Luton had scored, we would have looked a bit silly, walking back to the dressing-room. We knew we had a job to do on Monday, as well, so we're focused on that. It really important that we focus and, if we put a good team performance like we did at Portsmouth, I'm very confident we can give the fans what we have been chasing all year. It'll be special after waiting so long. I think it's only fitting that we have a chance to do it on our own patch; obviously the club and the fans have waited so long to do it, it'll probably be a little bit sweeter to do it at home, hopefully in front of a big crowd."
As usual, the game between Argyle and Portsmouth was a good spectacle in which both sides played good football, according to manager Derek Adams. He said: "We started the game very well; we had the better of the first half and Portsmouth had the better of the second. The way we started the game – the way we passed the ball and passed through them – was probably a surprise to Portsmouth. We really attacked them and caused them problems. The way we opened them up and played in the holes caused them trouble and it was a good performance from us. It was a well-worked move. It was good play down the left-hand side; a good ball from Graham and then Gary Sawyer picks Jake out at the back post and a terrific header.
"When you have the record away from home that we have, we could have gone for it but then we might have opened ourselves up, as well. They were on the ascendancy. A point was a good point. We came here to do a job today and we did that; we came away with a point. We have got a fabulous away record and Portsmouth are trying to get themselves automatically promoted; it was a big game for both clubs and both teams handled it very well. Both sides like to play football and it was a good spectacle. Portsmouth have got a lot of good players in their team and they deserve to be where they are, as well."
Graham Carey cast his mind back to the games against Liverpool in January, claiming that they were not just a nice bonus to the season and a good day out but actually gave the squad the confidence they needed to push on and gain promotion, saying: "The Liverpool game really gave us a lot of confidence as a team; if you can nullify them for so long, why can't you do it to teams in this league? We've done that against Doncaster at home, Carlisle at home, Doncaster away – we've done that against the big teams and we've done again today and are unlucky not to have got three points. Sometimes at home, we were a little bit too gung-ho, wanting to kill teams off early on, but teams at this level, year after year, are getting better, more organised and more professional. We didn't do it last year and we've learnt from that, especially some of the results last year before the end of the season, like when we've lost to Dagenham at home – so we're not going to take it lightly. We'll be fully focused. We've learned so much from that and it's really driven us on to finish the season strong. We worked so hard in the first half against Portsmouth that we were bound to come off it in the second a little bit, so the Liverpool game was exactly what we did – we came back into shape and were hard to break down. They had shots on goal but didn't really trouble us; on another day, we would have kept a clean sheet, but it wasn't to be."
Derek Adams was typically a calming voice amidst the celebrations at being on the verge of promotion- claiming that Argyle had a long way to go yet, starting with the game against Newport on Monday. Adams said: "We've got four games, now, to get over the line and it's important we do that as soon as we can. Newport are on a fabulous run and it's a difficult game at home, but any game in this league is difficult. We see that week in, week out. They have been able to claw themselves back in with wins and we will have to be right at it on Monday to get a win from then game. That's what happens when you are down the bottom of the league – you try to galvanise everyone together and they have been able to do that. We'll take things as they come, but the players are in good spirits. They performed well and we look forward to Monday. There's no problem. Their fitness levels are excellent."
Argyle have all but assured promotion to League One with a 1-1 draw against Portsmouth in the 2.30pm Good Friday kick-off. Argyle took an early lead when Jake Jervis netted against his former club but were pegged back by Gary Roberts just after half-time. The game ended 1-1 and Argyle were left with the bizarre scenario of waiting to see if Luton lost to Leyton Orient in the 3pm kick-off to see us promoted. Luton were drawing but a late equaliser from former Pilgrim Isaac Vassell meant Argyle had to wait till Monday. There is a 12 point gap over Luton with 4 games to go. Any points gained by Argyle and any lost by Luton will assure promotion. Argyle: McCormick, Threlkeld, Songo'o, Bradley(Sokolik), Sawyer, Fox, Sarcevic, Carey, Jervis(Smith), Kennedy(Tanner), Taylor. Subs: Dorel, Miller, Donaldson, Garita.
Derek Adams has revealed that he relishes in the rivalry between Argyle and Portsmouth as the two sides prepare for the biggest game of the season so far. Adams said: "Portsmouth are trying to gain automatic promotion, as we are. We are both in a similar situation. "We have both been able to put ourselves in a good place and they will be looking to win the game, as we are. I think that the rivalry has been good. The clubs are of a similar nature. Portsmouth have been in the Premier League and been in administration twice. Plymouth have been in the Championship and been in administration once. There are a lot of similarities. Both cities have got dockyards and both are well supported teams.
"The pitch is in fabulous condition and the players can pass the ball on it, unlike against Crawley where it became very difficult. It is a terrific atmosphere at Fratton Park. Their home supporters give them tremendous backing. We will have 2,500 away supporters and they will give us outstanding backing, as they did against Crawley. We know what a win would mean to them."
Adams also spoke highly of defensive utility player Yann Songo'o, claiming that his versatility has been key to Argyle's success this season, saying: "It is very beneficial. He has played over 40 games for us and he didn't play at all last season. He has shown a will to win. We saw that against Crawley last week where he won the ball in the middle of the park with a header and it led to our winning goal. He has been a big player for us this season and he can play equally well in both positions.
"He was able to experience what we went through last year, as a team, and how well we did. He has been here this season and been able to carry it on.
"We work on it. We have got to play in a different style at times and it's about getting results. We are in a results driven business and we have to close space down and the opposition, but we also have to be creative We have scored a good number of goals this season as well as defending strongly."
Gary Sawyer came back to Argyle to win promotion after having never had one on his CV thus far. He revealed his feelings on the matter as Argyle close in ahead of the game at Portsmouth. He said: "We had a good season before I came back, and last year was a good push at it; unfortunately we just missed out. This year, we're getting towards it again. For me, personally, having grown up round here – all my friends and family are Plymouth fans – it would be massive for me to do it. I saw them get promoted two times when I was in the youth team. I've never actually had it myself. It is the reason I came back; when I left Orient, Argyle was the only place I wanted to go, knowing how big this club is and how big it should be. I've never had a promotion on my cv. I've been to Wembley twice but unfortunately not come through it. This would be the icing on the cake. At 31 years old, the chance has come later than I'd hoped it would, but it would be fantastic."
Argyle's Good Friday fixture away at third placed Portsmouth will undoubtedly be a huge game for both sides but Derek Adams is refusing to play up the fixture. He said: "I do not think it is any bigger than any of the other ones. I think it is a big match; last season was the same in the play offs and in the league games there was a very good atmosphere. From our point of view we have to look after ourselves; we have to go there and try and win the match as we always do. We have put ourselves in a very good position. We have five games to go now and we need to collect four points from those five games to get ourselves automatically promoted. We have got a tough game against Portsmouth. They are always good games, we have had them this season and last season and it is a full house as well and live on the television. They are trying to gain automatic promotion as well and we are both in a similar situation. We have both been able to put ourselves in a good place and they will be looking to do the same as we are and win the match. It happens when you get clubs of a similar nature. Portsmouth have been in the Premier League; they have been in administration twice. Plymouth have been in the Championship, they have been in administration once. The clubs have got a lot of similarities; they have got both the dockyards and they are both well supported teams. That brings similarities, really making that good rivalry between the two clubs.
"I think it is highly unlikely that is going to happen on Friday. I do not think that you should get carried away about that; we have to look after ourselves and see how well we can do. It is not all about us at the weekend, there are other things we have to factor in - we have got a tough enough game at the weekend. We have not done anything yet, we have still got five games to go, and we have got a lot of hard work still to do. It is a terrific atmosphere for the supporters and it gives them tremendous backing, we will have two-and-a-half thousand away supporters and they will give us outstanding backing as they did last week against Crawley. They stayed in for long after the final whistle and we know what a win will mean to them."
Argyle were boosted however by the news that Jakub Sokolik could be fit again for the fixture. Adams informed: "We have got the same squad as we have had for a couple of weeks now, so we are in good shape. Sokolik has trained and seemed to be okay, but we will see if there is any reaction."
Sonny Bradley and Graham Carey have been named in the EFL League Two team of the season, with Bradley going one further and being named in the EFL team of the season which stretches across all three divisions.
Derek Adams gave his explanation to the peculiar circumstance of substitute Craig Tanner being subbed off with minutes to go in the 2-1 win at Crawley. He said: "We just needed to get extra legs on the pitch and Jake gave us that. We changed our formation and tried to get a bit of width and pace down the sides. You have to make decisions and we have been able to from 1-1 to 2-1 given that width."
Derek Adams said how his side's win over Crawley epitomised their art of grinding out results even when the performance is not always there. He explained: "We found it difficult to get that opportunity and I think that's credit to Crawley. They stopped us getting many opportunities on goal. I think the pitch didn't help us today. It was very bobbly. Crawley also pressed well at times in the game. We didn't have it our own way from a passing point of view. It was difficult for us to get the ball down and play. That's credit to Crawley also. We score a good penalty kick. Sarcevic wins a second ball and is able to get past his man. I thought Sarcevic did really well; it's a penalty kick. Graham Carey has been a magnificent player for us over the season, and he's scored a very good penalty.
"In the end we've gone direct and been able to feed off a knock-down. We get a very good finish from Ryan Taylor. He did exceptionally well. He's played well for us since come here. We brought him here to get important goals and he's got a very important one today. He wanted to score, and when he gets into that channel, onto his left foot, you always fancy him to hit the target. It was important he did that at that stage of the game; it was probably one of the last opportunities for us.
"At this stage of the season, it's all about winning," said Derek. "It's difficult coming up against a team like Crawley, who haven't got much to play for. They didn't trouble us in the second half. On goal, they didn't have many opportunities. We didn't have many in the first half, but I thought it was us who were going to try and get the victory. I think it's a game that was very scrappy today, but in the end, we've just got to get over and win the match. Today was about grinding out a performance."
The win against Crawley also chalked up a piece of history for Adams' side- the most away wins that they have ever accomplished in a league season with 13. The gaffer said of the achievement: "I'm very proud and I think the players are as well. It's never easy coming away from home, but the players have shown great tenacity. They've got a will to win and they've gone to the last minute today. Overall, to come away with a victory away from home, set a club record, extend a lead between ourselves and fourth position to 12 points; it's what we were here for today.
"Obviously to break a club record is important, but winning the game is of the utmost importance. We know that today, we had to win the match, and that's what we've been able to do. We've got a big game next week against Portsmouth, and we'll see how we go on from there. We have to go there and play the way we know we can do. It's a beautiful pitch and a team that likes to play football. It's got the makings of a great game. We're four points ahead of Portsmouth in third position, and we need to keep on going."
Goalscorer Ryan Taylor admitted that it had been a tough game in which he had got a rough ride from the Crawley defenders but that it was worth every minute of it for that last minute winner. Taylor: "It was a great result. Obviously, it wasn't a pretty game but we got the three points in the end, which we needed. Sonny's put a great little header through; I took a touch; a defender's putting a bit of pressure on me from behind; and I've just lifted it over the goalkeeper. It was a great knockdown from Sonny and to get it that late in the game. It was great result for us because it was a sloppy game from start to finish. We didn't play like we wanted to but, to get promoted, you've got to grind out games like that. I thought we showed some very good resilience to get the win. I've got a bit of bloody nose and a fat lip but that's all part and parcel of being a striker in League Two, I guess. They had two big centre-halves that are very physical but the main thing is we got the result in the end. If I'm honest, it was a terrible game. It wasn't really enjoyable to play in. Crawley made it horrible. We knew they were going to do that – we watched videos on them before the game and knew what they were going to be about, a physical side, as are most teams in this league. But we got the three points and that's the main thing.
"It was a massive game for us. We knew there was a bit of pressure on it to keep that gap and we've done what we needed to do and got the three points. The fans are unbelievable. They have kept cheering throughout the game. It was a poor game to watch – I could feel that, playing in the game – but they kept cheering all the way through and I think they get what they wanted in the end with that result."
Taylor also confirmed that whilst it is great to be part of the club at the moment, Argyle would show no hint of complacency as they close in on promotion: "It's great to be part of the club at the minute. Things are looking very good. It's up to us, now, to keep taking each game as it comes and try to win each and every game. We've got a few games to go and we all want to stay professional and look to finish strongly and get promoted. That's the main aim. We're taking each game as it comes. We have got five games left and we want to win every game. Nobody's on holiday here. We move on quickly and get ready for the next game. It is going to be another tough game, as is every game in this league. We just need to get over the line now and get this football club promoted. I can't wait. Hopefully, I'll be playing. I've not played against Portsmouth since I left and I've not been to Fratton Park since I left. It'll be a massive game; two very big clubs with a massive rivalry between the fans. It's going to be a full-house and very noisy game. As a professional footballer, that's what you want to be involved in. We've got two tough games coming up and we need to get two good results from them."
Argyle have closed in on automatic promotion to League One with a last gasp 2-1 win over Crawley. The greens went behind in the first half but a Carey penalty after half-time levelled things up. After Crawley had Ryan Taylor converted a one vs one finish against the keeper in the 94th minute to send the away support into raptures. On Friday, if Plymouth Argyle better the result of Luton and equal the result of Stevenage then they will be promoted to League One. Argyle: McCormick, Miller(Tanner(Jervis)), Songo'o, Bradley, Sawyer, Fox, Threlkeld, Sarcevic, Carey, Kennedy(Garita), Taylor. Subs: Dorel, Smith, Spencer, Donaldson.
After Derek Adams' proclamation that Argyle were now out of the title race following their loss to Accrington, Sonny Bradle took a more optimistic stance. The defender said: "I didn't know the manager had said that, to be honest! I know the gaffer is a winner, and I know deep down he will still believe we can win the title – as do all the boys. We still think we can go on and win it. do truly believe we can go on and win it. Obviously we have to rely on Doncaster getting beat, but they don't have an easy run-in. They went to Grimsby and won 5-1 so you say 'fair enough, well done,' but in my opinion it is still all to play for. Nothing's changed – that comes from the manager. Nothing has changed in training, we're completely the same. Our ambition at the start of the season was to win the league title, and it still is. If we have the attitude that we can we can still win the league, and win as many games as we can, at the end of the season we should find ourselves in an automatic spot. There's always motivation to have a good game. As a professional footballer you are expected to set standards and to perform not matter what position you are in.
"A lot of it is to do with keeping yourself fit, looking after your body, making the right lifestyle choices. When I'm the position I am, as a centre-half, you are expected to be fit and strong. Being a centre-half is different to being an attacking player where you can be brought on in the last 20 in games. If you are a centre back and not in the team, you could go 30 or 40 games without getting a look in. You've seen it with players this season. I'd use Karleigh Osborne as an example. A very good player – I could see it in training – but when me and Bully were doing well at the start of the season, it was hard for him to get a game, and unfortunately he had to move on."
Derek Adams explained the conundrum of having to fit a squad of 23 players into his 18 man matchday squad, explaining why some often have to miss out. Adams said: "We have assembled a very good squad; we have got great competition for places now. We have got six games remaining and we know what we've got to do, but the first game is Crawley on Saturday. At this moment in the season, we have got 23 players to chose from, which is great, and we have got very good competition for places. It was very useful, from a game point of view. We don't play in a reserve league and it was an opportunity to give ten of my first-team players a run-out on the pitch. The players showed a very good attitude throughout the 90 minutes. All the players are fit now. A big part of playing the game was to give them an opportunity to play with first-team players and of pushing towards a first-team place. We have got a very good squad and they have shown the great attitude that they have got. Between now and the end of the season, the majority of them will get that opportunity. Every player at the football club has got opportunities. We have got a very good squad and it's about working hard to get yourselves back into the plans; and the ones that are in the team have got to work hard to be there.
"If they get themselves back into full-time training, there are a good number of players who are well ahead of them. It's not going to be possible for them, but we will get them back to full-time training as quickly as possible and give them the best opportunity."
Derek Adams wants his team to feel and respond well to the burden of expectations in the coming games as he feels the pressure is to be expected at the top of the table. He said: "We need to play with that pressure because that's what it is at the top end of the table and that's where we want to be. We've put that on ourselves because of the good season we are having. The nearer you get to the end of the season, we've got a number of games we need to win to try to get ourselves automatically promoted. We have got to win on Saturday to break a club record of away wins in the league – we have already set it throughout all competitions – we have got a lot to play for; we want to get automatically promoted and we know the number of points we need to do that. It's a game we are obviously looking to win. Crawley came down, two seasons ago, from League One and will probably be looking to push into the play-off positions next season.
"Crawley have got some decent players in their side but it's about us, really – how we put the pressure on them. It's important we continue our very good away form. We've won 23 games from 40 and want to continue that at Crawley. We've shown, this season, with the number of games that we have won, we can win games home and away. We have got four away games now; we have got only two at home. We have got a good home record, as well – only Doncaster and Colchester have won more games than us at home – so we have shown that, home and away, we can do very well. Performance-wise, we should have taken something from the Accrington game. We had four very good opportunities we probably could have scored with on another day: Graham Carey, Ryan Taylor, Oscar Threlkeld and Antoni Sarcevic were unfortunate not to have scored. We created more opportunities than Accrington, but we didn't take them on the day. Our home form is up there with all the other teams who have won home games this season. We've got a good record of wins, and we've probably lost too many at home when we should have drawn. Win-wise, we're up there with the best of them. The players have gathered a very good points total and we want to add to that. We have got a lot to play for, for a number of reasons, but the main aim is to get automatically promoted."
Even though none of the players offered a professional development deal with Argyle went on to get professional contracts this summer, Adams still maintains the scheme is a worthy one. He stated: "The idea works. Obviously, the players that were given pro-development contracts have not been able to make the standard of a first-team player and that's what it's all about – the idea and the concept are good, but we have to have the quality of player coming through to progress to a first-team level. The players that are going to come in and get a pro-development contract...it has to be seen that they are going to progress over the next year to possibly get a first-team contract. We don't want to keep players in the system just for numbers' sake; we want to keep players in the system that we feel have got an opportunity of progressing to the first team. It's getting tougher and tougher for them because the standard of the first team is improving.
"Obviously, they are playing in the Peninsula League, as well. We are always watching, always looking, keeping an eye on their progress. It's important that we take in as many games as we possibly can, viewing them; we don't see them much in training because they are at Tavistock. It's up to us to see if the players who are not going to get first-team contracts deserve to get a pro-development contract and give them time to get to a first-team level."
Argyle's next two away fixtures are against former clubs of Sonny Bradley- first Crawley and then Portsmouth. Argyle's defensive rock said of the match-ups: "I'm looking forward to it. I really enjoyed my time there at Crawley for two years. The club is run by some very good people. There is some good lads there, and I don't mind speaking to them after the game, but before the game, during the game, the only thing I am concentrating on is helping my team get the three points. That's at the top of my list. If we do that it will be all smiles after the game. But we can't get ahead of ourselves. Saturday is quite a sticky fixture. Crawley have been unpredictable this season. They aren't in the greatest form, but you don't know what can happen on the day and which Crawley team can turn up. It will be a tough game no doubt, but we have prepared well this week. If we perform like we have done away from home this season, we'll be good.
"When you go back to your old club – to be fair I don't know what sort of reception I'm going to receive – but it doesn't really matter to me. You can guarantee that when I go to Portsmouth it will be ten times worse there! I fully respect Crawley Football Club; they did a lot for me, and I always gave my all when I was at the club. I don't see why I would get stick there, but this is football. The only priority I have is going there and getting three points.
"My time at Portsmouth wasn't too pretty. That season at Portsmouth wasn't a good one for the club. The team never got going. I think I had a good first half of the season, I tried my best. Results weren't going so well, and with managerial changes I found myself not getting in the team, and I left a year early. That's just the way it goes in football sometimes. I had to deal with it; had to move on – and I went to Crawley. It didn't go well straight away – I couldn't get in the team for six months. Dean Saunders came in and gave me my chance, and I took it. Unfortunately that season we went down, but the season after Mark Yates gave me the captaincy, and it went on from there. I played every game last season. It wasn't the greatest season but, with all the changes happening, the club would have taken it. It is fair to say that I had a better time at Crawley than I did Portsmouth, but I still respect both clubs. I want to win on Saturday so that it makes the trip to Portsmouth a little bit more comfortable. We could potentially secure promotion there. It is something to look forward to."
Paul Wotton has said he believes Argyle's excellent away record to be a direct consequence of the amount of miles they spend on the road. He explained how he thinks the time is vital for essential team bonding, saying: "A massive part of it is the travelling. People look at it as a negative, but we spend so much time together that the lads get on great off the pitch, and I think that helps on the pitch. The biggest thing, for me, is togetherness, and the time we spend together. Our boys have never once moaned about the distance we travel; the manager has never moaned about it or used it as an excuse for tiredness. For us, it's a positive. They spend a lot of time together; they are in each other's company and, if you get on well off the pitch, it can only be a good thing on the pitch.
"Before the players are signed, a lot of work goes into finding out about their character, as well as their footballing ability. The changing-room is fantastic. We haven't got any bad apples and the boys get on great; the boys who are out of the team support the boys who are in the team; they work extremely hard for each other and really do get on very, very well.
"Tactically, nothing changes, home or away but sometimes, in a player's mentality, it can be easier, in many ways, to play away from home. You don't seem to have as much pressure on you away from home as you do at home to win the game. Accrington was done and dusted at 4.50pm on Saturday and the sole focus this week to is going to Crawley and trying to get three points."
Derek Adams and Graham Carey have been nominated for the manager and player of the month awards respectively for March, following an array of assists for Carey and 4 wins out of 6 for Argyle in the context of a tough fixture list.
Luke McCormick is looking for a big response at Crawley following the disappointing loss to Accrington and the club's patchy home form, saying: "There have been lots of question-marks about our form at home and I suppose, when you look at it, they are quite right, but I don't think we can dwell on it. We have got six huge games now and we need to get over the line as quick as we can. We'll put it to bed for now and go to Crawley, and hopefully we can get three points. We're confident, when we go away from home, that we can produce the performance to win the game but – listen – it's no good me sitting here saying we're going to do this. The only thing that matters is, come Saturday afternoon, whether we actually do it. All the taking's been done – it's now down to actions."
Paul Wotton rejected concerns that Argyle, somewhat unusually, have no Plymouth-born players in their team, claiming that you need to be first and foremost good enough to earn the shirt. Wotton said: "You have to earn your right to be in the team. Just because you are born in Plymouth it doesn't give you an automatic right to play for Plymouth Argyle. "What I would say is, what a great motivation it is for any 15, 16 or 17-years-old who are at the club and are from Plymouth to break into the first team squad. I have spoken many times about how proud I was to play for my home city club. It's a massive aspiration and the fans take to a local boy who does okay as well. It is a good motivation, definitely. It doesn't matter where you are from in the world. You have to earn your right to play for the club and to wear the shirt."
Derek Adams declared that a sluggish start cost Argyle dear in their game against Accrington and they did not do enough to win the game. He said: "I thought that Accrington started the game better than us. They were able to go ahead after eight minutes; we give away possession and a cheap free-kick – a good ball into the box that we didn't defend well enough. They then had something to hold onto. I thought we didn't start very well. In first half, we could've taken off eleven – or ten, as Luke [McCormick] didn't have much to do. The other ten players in the first half did not perform. We could've taken off any of them, because the performance wasn't good enough.
"Their goalkeeper's had three world-class saves. We've had one cleared off the line as well, chasing the game. Did we deserve to take something from the game? I think we did. Did we do enough to win it? The answer's no. We had opportunities but unfortunately, their goalkeeper has come in and their run of good form has coincided with his arrival.
"We were getting nothing and we just needed to try something. We tried a number of different things. It was just a period of the game where we needed to try and pick up the second ball. We got crosses in, we got things on target, but we weren't able to find that equaliser. We had two players up front, we had full backs pushing on. We tried a variety of different options today, but the players weren't good enough today. End of story."
Adams also said that this game served as a wake-up call to all those who thought Argyle had promotion in the bag- but not before ruling the greens out of the title race: I'd already told the players what to expect of Accrington. They had been on an 11-game unbeaten run and they're a good side. I know that Accrington are a very good side. I don't think many people believed what I was saying in the midweek press conference, but they've shown today what a good side they are. I don't think enough of my players believed what I was saying to them, about how good Accrington have been. I think a number of their players are in very good form and they've been able to get the victory. It's a wake-up call for everybody at the football club. It's not just the players. We hear all the plaudits around the place; we've still got a job to do. We've still got 18 points to play for and we're 10 points ahead. We're out of the title race now. Six points behind, Doncaster have got a better goal difference; that's out of the question now. We've got to try and gain that automatic promotion, but we'll have to play a lot better than we did today. The finishing line is there, but you've got to do it. Today, we didn't play well enough. I thought that today, Accrington did a job on us."
Luke McCormick was full of praise for his Slovakian counterpart Marek Rodak who was in goal for Accrington and made several key saves that kept Argyle out. McCormick said: "He's won the match for them, without a doubt. They got the early goal and they did what they needed to do to hang on to it. They've had to rely on their goalkeeper at times, but that's just the way it goes sometimes. We've had games when we've done the same. I thought we weren't good enough in our decisions, and we were wasteful at times. Having said that, we have created chances and I can appreciate their goalkeeper making some tremendous saves. Had he not been in that sort of form today, then we would be sat here with a completely different story. It one of those things; we have to, unfortunately, take it on the chin.
"If you dissect the goal right the way back, it's more than just the smallest player on the pitch heading the ball. We set up to head the ball clear; we didn't do that; and we paid the price."
He added regarding Argyle's consistency: 'Disappointed' is an understatement, to be honest. We came in to the game; we knew the importance of it, especially backing it up after last week's result. Unfortunately, we've shown that inconsistency that we've done on a couple of occasions this season, which adds to the disappointment. I can't put my finger on it personally. Today, it just felt like there weren't enough of us really at it, to be honest. When that's the case, it's very difficult to carry anybody. We weren't good enough today – that's the bottom line. It was a time for actions, not words, and unfortunately, those actions weren't good enough.
"We have had highs and lows and you have to keep that balance. We work very hard and we'll continue to keep working hard. If you do what you always do, you'll get what you always get, so we'll just have to keep doing what we do with six games to go. The fans tried lifting us and, in the second half, we did create chances – we did have a lot of the play – but still our decisions weren't great; and Accrington created some themselves. We'll take what we need out of it. Maybe it was the kick up the backside we need."
Argyle's hopes of sealing promotion in the coming weeks have suffered a slight dent with a 1-0 home loss to Accrington Stanley. A header in the 8th minute from former trialist Jordan Clarke was the game's only goal. Argyle however maintain a ten point gap over fourth place. Argyle: McCormick, Miller, Sokolik, Bradley, Threlkeld, Fox, Carey, Sarcevic, Jervis(Songo'o), Kennedy(Taylor), Spencer(Blissett). Subs: Dorel, Donaldson, Slew, Sawyer.
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