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THE DAILY DIARY

A Round-up of Argyle News

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Also included on the three most recent days, facts from Argyle's history.

Monday 31st December 2007

Argyle today signed striker Lukas Jutkiewicz on loan from Everton, and he will go straight into the squad for the game at Cardiff tomorrow. Paul Sturrock said: "He is a fantastic prospect and I am delighted he is joining us. I know him from my time at Swindon and I know what he is all about. He is a different type of striker than we have at the club at the moment, and I believe he will fit quickly into what we are doing down here." Jutkiewicz will stay at Home Park until the end of the season

Barry Hayles is leaving Argyle to join Leicester City, for a fee thought to be 150,000, when the transfer window opens tomorrow. Paul Sturrock said: "Our fans need to be appreciative that Barry was out of contract this summer, and that we are receiving money for him. This also allows him to move back closer to his family. Barry has done tremendously well for us over the last two seasons, and given great service to Plymouth Argyle. He has been a credit to himself and to the club and everyone wishes him well."

Argyle's festive trips to Wales have brought four points out of six over the last two years, and Kevin Summerfield is hoping for more of the same at Cardiff tomorrow. He said: "Records are there to be knocked over but let's hope that we come away with our record intact. There is no reason why we shouldn't. They have done really well lately with some excellent results at home and away, and another good result on Saturday. They have got a lot of good players, experienced players. There are not many kids in the team, so they know all about the trials and tribulations of playing so many games in such a short space of time." Tomorrow's game completes a challenging sequence of festive fixtures for Argyle, and Summerfield added: "We have had four really hard games. It has been a tough period with the two games in London and a lot of travelling, and a really tough physical game with QPR. To come out with a win was the most important thing. We showed on Saturday against Stoke that we are doing more things the way we want them to be done. It was a game that I don't think many people were looking forward to but, to be fair, it was a good game. I thought we were a lot better against Stoke than we were against QPR. They are a big team and you want to do well against big teams and I think Plymouth have proved that this season. The way the Championship fixtures pan out nowadays, with the international breaks and clogging up of games over short periods, asks a lot of squads. We have been very lucky to keep clear of injuries. Lee Martin came through Saturday, so we are basically a clean bill of health, apart from Wottsy. It is hard on the boys who are playing week in, week out because they have become indispensable, but they have to just get on with it. Every other team has to cope with the same, so let's hope we are better prepared than they are." Summerfield is looking for a similar Green Army show tomorrow as that seen at Watford in December. "It is a lot bigger game for us than it is for Cardiff," he said. "It is a good one for our fans to travel away in numbers and not spend 24 hours in a car. They can get up and down in reasonable time. If the support is anything near as good as it was at Watford, they can be a massive help to us. Over the years you realize the distances involved and the Plymouth away supporters really are a special bunch."

Sylvan Ebanks-Blake felt Argyle were unfortunate not to pick up all three points when they drew against Stoke City on Saturday. Ebanks-Blake was tripped by Stoke 'keeper Russell Hoult as he looked set to score the winner, and while Hoult was dismissed for a professional foul, Stoke sent on substitute keeper Steve Simonsen and held on for a draw. Ebanks-Blake said: "It was frustrating. I just wanted to score but he has taken me down. It's a bit unfair, really, because he stopped a goalscoring opportunity, and it would have been nice to have got the win because I felt we played really well. It's just one of those things. We will take a draw. Stoke are doing really well and are a good team. They are very organised. I suppose a draw is fair enough, but I think we were a bit unlucky not to take all three points." Argyle remained sixth in the Championship after the draw, and Ebanks-Blake added: "We have got a good bunch of lads. We all work hard for each other. We all know each other quite well and the banter is good. I'm not surprised we are doing so well, and I hope we can continue to do that." Ebanks-Blake equalised for Argyle on the stroke of half-time, when his penalty was saved by Hoult but he slotted home the rebound for his 12th goal of the season. He said: "One of their players told me 'We know where you are going to put it because we have been studying you' - but I wasn't going to change what I do. It has been working for me, so there was no way I was going to change it. And the way I take penalties is that if I do miss one there is always an opportunity to get a rebound and put it in. Even if the keeper guesses the right way, there is so much power behind it he's going to have to have a strong hand to keep it out. That's just my philosophy and it has been working for me, and is still working for me, so it's not going to change. I think it's the only time in football where the whole focus is just on one player. It's a big responsibility, but it's a responsibility I like because I love scoring goals. I will miss penalties and I will score them, but I will keep stepping up to take them." Ebanks-Blake had a new partner against Stoke as Jermaine Easter was preferred to Barry Hayles. Ebanks-Blake said: "Jermaine is a lively player who works hard, holds the ball up well and he's strong and quick. I thought it worked really well today. We gave their back four a lot of problems today."

Lee Martin seems set to stay with Argyle for the rest of the season, and, according to Sylvan Ebanks-Blake he is more than happy to remain at Home Park. Ebanks-Blake said: "I think it would be good for him, and it would be good for the club, if he stayed with us. He's a good player. He has got a lot of quality and he gives full-backs nightmares. Hopefully, the gaffer can persuade Sir Alex to keep him here. It would be nice, and I think Lee wants to stay as well. He has had an injury, so he has not been able to play as many games as he would like, but I think if you asked him he would like to stay. I think he will do really well for us if we can keep him."

Paul Sturrock has warned Argyle must improve on their defending at set pieces. After both of the Stoke City goals came from set pieces on Saturday, he said: "I'm very disappointed with the type of goals we lost today. They were very soft and it's not like us. Really, we have got to work much harder at our set pieces against to rectify that. If we can rectify that, then you win that game today." Argyle complete the busy festive period at Cardiff City tomorrow, and Sturrock added: "It's vitally important we get the Cardiff game over with, we have a wee rest and then we have Saturday, Saturday, Saturday from then on. That's very pleasing because it enables us to get on the training ground and work on the things we would like to work on." Sturrock was thrilled with the way Argyle stood up to the physical challenge posed by Stoke, and said: "It was the sort of game we expected but, to be fair, we never got bullied, even though they are a big, strong side. Our players were up for it today. I thought the two strikers were excellent. Also, I did feel we stuck to the gameplan we had put down. We got ourselves in the right area of the football pitch." Sturrock has high hopes for Ebanks-Blake. "His workrate over the last two games has been excellent," he said. "He's more than just a goalscorer. He proved that today. When I have watched the tapes in the past, Sylvan's mind was 'goals, goals, goals'. I don't want to take that away from him, but he could become a real dangerous striker if he learned the other side of the game. He has told me he was going to prove that he did have that and, lo and behold, he has shown me that he can. He's as good a linkage striker as he is a goalscorer." Sturrock was also impressed with the contribution of Jermaine Easter. He said: "There a lot of people who have got natural talent but don't take in information and it takes a long time for them to progress. But the boy Easter has come in from two leagues down and he has taken in things we have started to discuss with him and try to get him to add to his game. I thought he was a great foil for Sylvan Ebanks-Blake today. The two of them ran channels all day for us." Argyle drew level in the 67th minute when Krisztian Timar headed home a corner from Peter Halmosi. Sturrock said: "We are working really hard on our set pieces. We got three points from a set piece on Boxing Day and today we got a point from a set piece. I'm very pleased with the contribution of everybody today. We have played the team that's third-top and has been flying and we never looked out of sorts with them the whole game."

30th

Paul Sturrock sang the praises of his strikers as Argyle twice came from behind to earn a point against Stoke yesterday. He said: "My two front players were excellent today and I also feel that we stuck to the game-plan that we had put down. We got ourselves in the right areas of the football pitch. Sylvan's work-rate over the last two games has been excellent. He is more than just a goalscorer and he has proved that today. When I have watched tapes from the past, Sylvan's mind was goals, goals, goals and I don't want to take that away from him, but he could be a real dangerous striker if he learned the other side of the game. He has told me he was going to prove that he did have it and, lo and behold, he has shown me that he can. He is as good a linking striker as he is a goalscorer. The second half was very, very pleasing because Easter has taken in information. It can take people a long time to take in information, but he has come from two leagues down and he has taken in a lot of stuff and started to add to his game. He was a great foil for Sylvan Ebanks-Blake today and the two of them ran the channels for us all day."

Krisztian Timar is determined to help Argyle stay in the play-off positions after scoring in the 2-2 draw with Stoke. He said: "The top six is a very big motivation. We are still in the promotion positions and we would like to stay there. It was a good corner from Peter and I am very happy now. We had a lot of chances and conceded two very unlucky goals in my opinion. Hodgy has scored an own goal and the other one was a throw-in to the far post. Their only other real chance came from Fuller hitting the post. We dominated and I think we played very well, although they were very dangerous from set-pieces, especially throw-ins. We have to practice more and concentrate more from defensive set-pieces." Argyle now face a trip to Cardiff on New Year's Day, but Timar is loving the festive schedule. He said: "It is very hard but I enjoy it, especially at home. It is very difficult on the legs because our pitch is very soft but I am very happy to be playing lots of games."

29th

Argyle drew 2-2 with Stoke City at Home Park, the goals scored by Sylvan Ebanks-Blake after 44 minutes and Krisztian Timar (67). Argyle: Larrieu, Connolly, Timar, Seip, Hodges, Martin, Norris, Nalis, Halmosi, Easter, Ebanks-Blake. Subs Abdou (not used Doumbe, Fallon, Hayles, Sawyer). Attendance - 13,692

Scott Laird is set to complete a one-month loan to Stevenage Borough over the weekend. He had been set for a move to Tiverton Town until Stevenage stepped in

Reuben Reid has accepted a settlement of his contract and has left the club, but Cherno Samba is still training with Argyle

28th

Paul Sturrock has flatly rejected any suggestion that Peter Halmosi will be leaving Argyle to join Wigan Athletic, or any other club. He said: "There has been no enquiry and I would very much doubt he will be going unless there is an unbelievable Plymouth price on the horizon. It would be a great opportunity for any player to play in the Premier League but he is contracted to Plymouth Argyle and I am knocking that one flat. There has been no contact from any club for Halmosi."

Wolves midfielder Denes Rosa has been linked with a move to Argyle in the press reports, and Paul Sturrock admitted that the Hungarian international may be a possible target. He said: "There could be some deals coming in but I have agreed nothing with Denis Rosa, apart from maybe having a look in the window. It would have to be under our environment where he would come in for us to have a look. I have not talked to Wolves about it yet and I think an agent has been speculating about the scenario far too much. I think it was very presumptuous of an agent to be firing this sort of stuff into a local paper, but I imagine that will keep happening over the next month."

Lee Martin will be discussing a possible extension to his loan stay at Home Park with Paul Sturrock and Alex Ferguson. Sturrock said: "We have discussed it with Manchester United and I do know there is a conversation between Alex Ferguson and Lee due to happen on January 2nd. I had a quiet word with him when I first arrived and asked him his thoughts about staying, which was then put on hold until he got fit again and playing again, and that is what he has been aiming for. He has got to get back in the side and playing. I will have a quiet word with him after the Cardiff game and see what his thinking is."

Paul Sturrock has called on the Green Army to recreate the Boxing Day atmosphere during Saturday's game with Stoke City. He said: "All those fans thinking about snuggling in front of the TV come along and get behind the team because this will be a difficult game against a form team with strikers who are on fire at the moment. It was a great crowd against QPR. We didn't warm them up until the second half and they were really noisy right through that second half, and were definitely our 12th man. It has always been in my make up to get my teams to play for the full 90 minutes, although I would like us to play for 90 minutes instead of 45 minutes. When they realized we were around their goal and everything else, there was a buzz around the place and that was a great help." Set-pieces will be a crucial area of the game against Tony Pulis's side, but Sturrock is hoping for his team to reproduce the patches of excellence achieved in the 3-2 defeat at the Britannia in September. He said: "We are the home side and we have got to take the game to them. I have watched the video of the game at Stoke and there were spells when we dominated but, in the end, we lost to a couple of zany goals. Set-pieces will be vitally important to us, and how we defend them. I will make a couple of changes because it is vitally important to have fresh legs in the team. There has been an incredible amount of games since I got here and a small squad has had to take that load." Sturrock will be making sure his players are very aware of what they can achieve with a win tomorrow. He said: "I am hopeful that the players are appreciative of what they could achieve with three points tomorrow. We are very hopeful of staying in this area of the league and we will see what happens in the window and how we can strengthen the team. People have to understand that we are sixth and in the play-offs, but only seven points away from 15th, which shows how tight this league is. This league has tightened up dramatically and, if you were to say how many teams are still in the race for the play-offs, it would normally be six or seven, but I think there are about 14 teams who can still make them. It is a difficult league to play in. You really have to dig deep to win your home games and get the three points, and the away form, which has been good this year, will help."

Paul Sturrock has admitted his squad is still coming to terms with the style of play he wants from them, and there was clear evidence of that in Argyle's win against QPR. Sturrock said: "I thought our build-up was too slow in the first half and we tried to pick out our strikers. In the second half we played into different areas and it meant they were always having to run back to their goal. We got a lot of throw-ins and everything else. We had a lot of possession in their half and people started to fling things in the box. When you fling things in the box you have maybe got an opportunity to score. That's the problem. There has been a slight change in the way this team plays 4-4-2 and it will take a wee bit of time just to click in." Argyle have won two of their last three matches with late goals and Sturrock added: "I'm not going to say it's a trait of my teams, but I try to make sure they play for 90 minutes and get in the right areas." The squad were back at Home Park yesterday as they started to prepare for tomorrow's visit of Stoke City, and Sturrock said: "Today we will be doing the shape and organisation, as well as the set pieces, for Saturday. They warmed down after the game on Boxing Day and did some regeneration yesterday so they should have all the rubbish out of their legs now."

Lilian Nalis has admitted that the rest he has been given this month will be beneficial to him and to Argyle. He said: "As a player, you always prefer to play every game, but you have to realise that I cannot do that at my age. I've been feeling really tired, and I spoke with the manager. After the Watford game, it would have been really disrespectful to ask for a place in the team. The boys did really well at Watford, and for me it was a normal choice to keep the same team. I'm not worried about anything. When the manager wants me to play, I'm going to be there and I'm going to give my best, but I have to be honest with myself. I think the clock has started ticking a little bit, and the body is telling me that maybe it's a bit more tired now. Maybe I will stop again for a while in a few weeks. You need to listen to your body at my age. There are a lot of games coming up, but there is no problem. I am part of this team and I am part of the dressing room. If the gaffer wants me to play, I'll be ready. If he chooses someone else, he must have reasons to do that and they will deserve to be on the pitch. There's nothing wrong with that." Two second-half goals from Sylvan Ebanks-Blake beat QPR, and Nalis said: "Sylvan finished well after the ball dropped to him. It was a tough game. The first half wasn't good enough. The second half was a fighting second-half performance, but we were a bit lucky to get the win. We got it, though, so we must have done something right to get the win at the end. It wasn't the best display. I don't want to find excuses, but the pitch is not good enough. I don't blame anyone for that, we're in the winter and it's not good enough for this division." As well as coping with the pitch, Argyle are having to make the transition from Ian Holloway's style of play to Paul Sturrock's. "We can be more fluent, but we've been working with this manager for less than a month and a half," Nalis said. "We just keep practising what he wants us to do, and we made some moves on Wednesday that looked like what he wants. That's an improvement for us."

Sylvan Ebanks-Blake knows he is not guaranteed first team football at Argyle, even though he is one of the top scorers in the Championship. He said: "I know what I'm capable of. The manager picks the team and I have got to respect that and be professional, like I have been. There are no guarantees of anyone playing. I could be sat on the bench again, but I will prepare in the same way. If I come on, I will try to help. That's the sort of respect we have got to have for the manager, and I'm no different." Ebanks-Blake believes the team spirit among the Argyle squad can propel them into the play-offs this season, and he added: "I think we can definitely make the play-offs if we stay injury-free, because it's not the biggest squad. I don't know what the manager is going to do in January, but we have got a great team spirit, and injury-free we have got a great chance." Argyle have picked up 10 points from seven matches since Sturrock took over, and Ebanks-Blake said: "It has been a smooth transition. It's the same group of players and we go out there and do the same thing - we work for each other. The manager obviously puts in his ideas and tries to help us out when he can, but it's the 11 out there and the players on the bench that do the job, and that has not changed." Asked about Sturrock's impact since his arrival Ebanks-Blake replied: "He has got his own ideas. He's a good tactician and he knows how to change a game with substitutes and stuff like that. He has not been here too long, so it's hard for me to comment on him a lot. I suppose Holloway is a bit eccentric and a bit in your face, but Luggy is a bit more reserved. When he speaks, you listen. They are two different personalities, but both good managers in their own right." Ebanks-Blake was a substitute when Argyle lost at the Britannia Stadium in September, and said of Tony Pulis's Stoke side: "They are a big team. They will battle and they will fight. They are doing really well. It will be a hard game and we know exactly what to expect. Hopefully, we can pick up three points again. We just need to carry it on. Consistency is the key word, I think, and that's what we are looking for." Ebanks-Blake is on a high after his double against QPR, and added: "I can't really remember a lot about it. It dropped in the box and, luckily enough, I was there and put it away. It's always good to score a winning goal and it's an important time for us as well to pick up points. It was a great feeling. Words can't really describe it."

27th

Sylvan Ebanks-Blake scored twice against QPR to give the perfect response after missing the last two games, and Paul Sturrock said: "I feel there is a lot more I can get out of him as far as being a footballer is concerned. His response to being left out has been the proper one and the professional one. What I will say about Sylvan is that people point the finger at him at times as being a bit lazy and scoring goals is just the key to him. I think there is more to that lad than people give him credit for. I think he could be an all-round striker and they are very naughty. His linkage in the second half was excellent and took us up the pitch. He is obviously a goal-getter as well." Sturrock also revealed a new approach to galvanizing Ebanks-Blake into producing more performances of this nature. He said: "Sylvan got involved in a wee fracas that shook him up for a bit and for the next 25 minutes he was the best player on the pitch. Maybe I should slap him about before a game and we will get 90 minutes of that." Ebanks-Blake will get the headlines but Peter Halmosi supplied the chances for him, and Sturrock added: "I felt Peter had been standing and crossing rather than getting at their full back. It could not tell if the right back was quick or slow, but in the second half I rattled his cage a bit or as much as he can understand, and told him I wanted to find out how quick this full back was. He had a go for the whole of the second half and he put us in a position to be attacking the ball in the box. These kind of penalties are happening more frequently in football where before it would have been waved away as accidental. It seems to me that referees are now giving these and it went for us today. In the end I thought time was going to run out but we looked very dangerous from every set piece we took today and I am very pleased we scored from a set piece we have been working on." Sturrock was far from happy though, with another slow start from his team, which is becoming a worryingly frequent habit. He said: "I am disappointed with our starts - West Brom, Norwich, even Scunthorpe, obviously last Saturday and now today. We just don't seem to start with the right tempo. We were the home side today and we expected to put them on the back foot but we allowed them to slow the game down and we played at the pace they wanted to play at. That is too many games where we have come out slowly. I don't know about having a cunning plan but I do have a plan. In the second half we played at the pace we wanted, which looked as if they were uncomfortable with and we got our rewards because of it. They scored with their only chance of the first half. We had two or three half chances and their goalie made a great save. I felt, because we did not play with the right tempo in the first half, that a draw was a fair result, but I thought we edged the second half. We did change things a bit for the second half with a few words and how we were looking to get around their box. They had a great chance where Romain has made a great save and we had some half chances where the ball spun around the box. Just before the winner the ball flashed across and three boys missed it. We worked very hard in the second half and we were always on the front foot. I have had games where we have dominated and lost one nothing. Today, Lady Luck has shone on us or she did not turn her bottom on us - let's put it that away." Thoughts now turn to the visit of Stoke City, and Sturrock has again pledged to make changes. He said: "I will freshen things up again dramatically on Saturday to give us fresh legs. At this time of the season it is not a team, it is a squad. One thing I can assure you of is, if we come out slowly on Saturday we are going to get our bottoms spanked."

26th

Argyle beat Queens Park Rangers 2-1 at Home Park, the goals scored by Sylvan Ebanks-Blake after 50 and 90 minutes. Argyle: Larrieu, Connolly, Timar, Seip, Hodges, Norris, Nalis, Abdou, Halmosi, Ebanks-Blake, Hayles. Subs Easter, Martin (not used Fallon, Gosling, Sawyer). Attendance - 16,502

25th

Paul Sturrock is sticking to his pledge to freshen up his starting line-up for the visit of QPR. "I think we've got to freshen up," he said, after training yesterday. "We've got to get back to how we normally play at home. It's vitally important we get us on the front foot, and QPR on the back foot, very early. The tempo is going to have to be high. That is why I am freshening things up. I would say there will be one or two changes from the team that played the other day, just to give us that running edge, that sharpness, which sometimes, with games coming thick and fast, you miss out on. I don't want to be caught out as far as that's concerned, so it's vitally important we put some fresh legs in there." The game sees the return to Home Park of Akos Buzsaky, but Sturrock is less concerned with how the Hungarian plays than with his own tactics. "QPR are coming off a good win and have done well over the last couple of weeks," he said. "I think they have been quite pleased with their performances. But, as I say, we have got to be in their faces, we have got to be aggressive - we're the home team - we have got to be offensive, get plenty of crosses in the box, and make sure they have got to defend."

24th

Paul Sturrock has promised to make changes against QPR in the wake of a disappointing first-half performance at Crystal Palace. He said: "Some people will lose their place because of the performance today and, in the end, hopefully they will learn from being dropped what we need to happen in the football club. I'll freshen things up - that's obvious - because the games are coming thick and fast over a short period of time. They'll be some players who haven't played today who will come in on Wednesday. It will enable me to me to put a presence on some of the players who have maybe felt that they are certain starters." Sturrock was angry over a lacklustre first 45 minutes yesterday, and warned his players not to repeat the mistake on Boxing Day. "I'm learning about individuals at this club," he said. "I learnt, over two or three games, about the team spirit; now I'm learning about individuals. Some of them will have to rectify matters for the simple reason that is unacceptable to start games like that. QPR will come with the same attitude, desire and work-rate that Crystal Palace showed today. If we think we can go and play this team and something will suddenly happen, we will be having this conversation again."

Marcel Seip will play against QPR despite suffering a facial injury against Crystal Palace. Seip was off the pitch having treatment when Palace took the lead and said: "I was going for the ball and I headed against the back of the head of someone. It wasn't an elbow or anything. It was just unlucky. I knew there was a cut because it was bleeding straight away. I was only off for two or three minutes and they scored a goal. We have got two home games coming up and if we want to keep near the play-off positions then we have to win now. We know what we have to do to keep there."

Jermaine Easter scored his second goal for Argyle on Saturday, but was in no mood to celebrate afterwards. "The second half was a big improvement on the first half," he said. "We started off poorly and we were punished, with both goals coming from set-pieces. It was always going to be an uphill struggle from then, but in the second half we were the better team and we were unlucky not to get something out of the game. Everyone is disappointed, but, to be fair, Palace are a strong, hard-working team and they've got a good manager in Neil Warnock. He knows this level, and he's done his homework on us. They got the two goals in the first half and they clung on. Fair play to them." Argyle's goal came when Easter met Jimmy Abdou's cross with a well-placed header. "Jimmy put a good ball into the box, and I made a run into the box and got on the end of it with a diving header," Easter said. "It was a pretty good goal, but at the end of the day it means nothing because we haven't got the three points. I'm happy to have the goal, but I'd prefer the three points. We're all disappointed, but there's a chance on Wednesday to put things right."

23rd

Paul Sturrock switched from 4-3-3 to 4-4-2 at half-time at Crystal Palace yesterday, but denied that the change had as much impact on the game as his half-time team-talk. "It was nothing to do with the system," he said. "Absolutely nothing to do with the system. It was basically that 11 players were riled by certain comments that a manager made at half-time and came out to prove him, in the end, wrong, but ultimately right - that they didn't show the same characteristics in the first half as they did in the second. Tactics, systems of play, mean absolutely nothing if your team doesn't come out with a cup-tie spirit. You will be punished, and we were punished." Unfortunately Argyle had only Jermaine Easter's goal to show for their efforts. Sturrock added: "There's two halves of football in a game - Plymouth Argyle turned up for the second half, and paid the penalty for not showing the work-rate and attitude we showed last week. The important thing to appreciate is that we've no divine right to win football games, and I don't think we earned that right. You earn the right by work-rate and attitude, and battling qualities, that you have to start the game with. One team came out with those battling qualities and bullied us for 45 minutes. They were in our faces; their work-ethic was far superior to ours; and there were very disappointing set-pieces which cost us dear. They showed me the spirit I want my team to play with. The real disappointment for me was that we allowed ourselves to be bullied - big time. When that happens, we should roll our sleeves up and battle even harder, which we didn't in the first half. All I want to say to our fans is that, they deserve work-rate and attitude, they can never demand a performance from a player; today, for 45 minutes, they didn't get what they merit. In the second half, we won a couple of headers, a couple of tackles; next minute, we're on the front boot, there's a tempo about us, a steeliness about us." Sturrock refused to blame the Palace opener on the absence of his marker, Marcel Seip, who was receiving treatment for a cut head when the goal was scored. He said: "Unfortunately our centre-back, the boy who should have been picking up that player's skin, was getting treatment on the sidelines. It's Sod's law. That's football. There will be other days when it might work for us. But it was a big blow. If you concede goals in the first five, ten, 15 minutes, the whole psyche changes as far as how you are going to play the game. Palace could have scored off three or four others in the first half. That was our big problem - we did not defend set-pieces properly, to the standards we have achieved in the past. We lost two goals to two set-pieces - for the second goal, somebody was not picking up in the middle of the box. These things are unacceptable in modern football. People know their jobs, and all it takes is for one or two to have a lapse in memory, which was definitely a factor in the second goal. It is something we are going to have to rectify. It is fundamental mistakes, not picking up in the area, and we allowed ourselves to play too deep in the first half. We let people play in front of us and that is a concoction for disaster. In the second half, we took a higher line and were very positive in our approach. If the game had been 0-0, the way we came out performing, we could have won the game 1-0. We merited something out of the game. But the horse had bolted much earlier. In the end, the disappointment for me was that people could see the different standards from the first half to the second half. Managers don't put their teams out not to start the game properly - it's players that dictate that - and today smells a bit like Norwich, where we came out very sloppily, lost an early goal, and then had to chase the game. The second half was acceptable. We showed character and attitude, and were workmanlike; headers were won, tackles were won; people go forward. We need 90 minutes of the standard we showed last week and then we will win football games."

22nd

Argyle lost 2-1 at Crystal Palace, the goal scored by Jermaine Easter after 49 minutes. Argyle: Larrieu, Gosling, Timar, Seip, Sawyer, Norris, Hodges, Abdou, Halmosi, Hayles, Easter. Subs Ebanks-Blake, Summerfield (not used McCormick, Connolly, Doumbe). Attendance - 15,097

Lee Martin is set to speak with Alex Ferguson about whether his loan to Argyle will be extended in the New Year. Paul Sturrock is thought to be keen on keeping him on loan for longer, and Martin said: "I have spoken to the manager and we are going to review things. I need to speak to Sir Alex Ferguson and see what his plans are. I could want to stay down here and he could turn around to me and say 'You are coming back'. It's entirely up to him. I will have to hear it from the main man first and then take it from there." Martin has had previous loan spells at Royal Antwerp, Glasgow Rangers and Stoke City, but admitted his stint with Argyle had been the best so far. He said: "I have enjoyed it. It has been really good. Injuries always seem to come at bad times, but it's part and parcel of football. This has made me stronger. I'm more hungry now and I definitely want to get out and play football. In terms of the loan, it has been a great experience for me. I have scored a couple of goals and really enjoyed it. The boys are great. It's the best loan out of every one I have been on and I don't think it has hurt me in any way shape or form coming down here. I have linked up with people who I knew before so that's always a good thing."

Paul Sturrock has admitted he has one big selection decision to make ahead of the trip to Crystal Palace today. He said: "There is one position I will be thinking about right up to kick-off, although, to be fair, if I was one of the players from last Saturday and I didn't play I would be very disappointed. Lee Martin is getting better and better and there is also a decision to make on him, although he has not done any ball work. I will make a decision after training on Friday." Crystal Palace have enjoyed a good run of late and Sturrock is well aware of the challenge his side will face. He said: "It is obviously a difficult game because they are flying at the moment. They have not lost in nine games. They have a game-plan that they stick to and it is working for them. They have obviously had us watched and they will appreciate what we will be coming to do. It is a difficult game but I am confident we will get a result. You have to appreciate that Watford have had a very difficult time at home. They have hardly won any games at home this year but their away form has been excellent. As I said, Palace are undefeated in nine games and they will be dangerous hombres as far as I am concerned. We will go there with the same kind of resolve as we had last week." Former Argyle boss Warnock only joined Palace in October and it has not taken him long to make an impact. "Neil has got a fantastic CV and he has turned around Crystal Palace," Sturrock added. "He is an ex-Plymouth Argyle manager and Neil and I have locked horns in the past. He wants to start climbing the league and we want to improve on where we are." Sturrock also revealed that he has told his players in no uncertain terms what he expects from them on the training ground and in reserve games. He said: "I have made it plain to the players that, because of the amount of games coming up in a short space of time, training standards and reserve match standards have to be impeccable when they are out of the first-team. The simple reason is that you need to be ready for the first-team. I expect them to train as they play."

21st

Lee Martin is ready to return to action after his injury lay-off and Paul Sturrock could include him on the bench for the trip to Crystal Palace tomorrow, but it is more likely that he will be included in the squad when Argyle play QPR. Martin would love to play against Palace because he was brought up in nearby Croydon, but he said: "I would be delighted if I'm involved, but I will understand if I'm not. Pretty much most of my family are going to be there. The problem is I can never get enough tickets for away games. My mum and dad will be there, my Nan and my cousins. And a lot of my mates will be coming as well because most of them are Palace fans. They would love to get one over on me. Palace had a good result last Saturday so we are both in good form." Sturrock is wary about taking a chance on the fitness of Martin, and said: "Lee is getting better and better. It's whether we take a risk on him or not. He hasn't done any ballwork at all, but I'm hoping he will come in and do a wee bit today. Then we will make a decision on whether we travel with him or not. It's very difficult to put somebody on the bench who could potentially pull a hamstring if they came on and you could finish up with 10 men in the game. I have got to be thoughtful of that, but I will make a decision after seeing him today. If he gets two or three days' training with the players, I will be more confident about starting him on Wednesday." When Martin had a scan of his torn hamstring it was feared he would be out of action for four to five weeks, but after working closely with Paul Maxwell he has returned to training inside three weeks. Martin said: "We have done a lot of aerobic work and quick feet this week, trying to sharpen me up. I feel strong now. Credit to Maxie, he has been great. He would work me for three or four days and then let me have a couple of days off. He has played it well and now my leg feels a lot stronger than it did before it happened. When I first did it, Maxie said it would probably be four or five weeks. So I have come back in a very short time. It's not a risk, though, because I feel twice as good as I did before." Martin made an encouraging start to his stint at Home Park until he was sidelined by the hamstring injury. He added: "That's football for you. One minute you are flying and the next you are down at the bottom. I was gutted really, but the lads have done brilliantly. They have got some good results and we are still well up there. We have got to make sure we keep the momentum going. I think we can get a win at Palace, I honestly do. We are playing with confidence at the moment and when we need to dig in, we dig in."

Barry Hayles hopes to have his future at the club resolved, one way or the other, next month. Hayles will be out of contract at the end of the season and Leicester City made a offer for him last week, which was turned down. Asked about the interest from Leicester, Hayles said: "It was turned down, so it wasn't down to me to make a choice or not. I'm just getting on with playing and doing well for the team. The manager is going to speak to all the squad and tell them his ideas and what he thinks. When he speaks to me, we will go from there. I would like to think I would know more about my future next month - definitely. Either they offer me a new contract, or they say I'm not in their long-term plans and we have to take it from there." Hayles took over as Argyle captain last December and has retained that role in Paul Wotton's absence. He said: "I'm very proud and pleased it was given to me. I think I have motivated the boys when I'm out there playing, and I'm thoroughly enjoying it." Hayles return to his roots in south London when Argyle take on Crystal Palace tomorrow, and he added: "It's something I'm looking forward to. I have got quite a few family and friends coming to the game." Hayles is expected to play as Argyle's lone striker in a 4-3-3 formation, as he did against Watford. "The manager shuffled it around and it worked really well," he said. "We were up against the top-of-the-table side and we outplayed them. Hopefully, he will stick with the same system. The two key players in it are the one in front of the back four and me. If we can get a bit of space and enable the midfielders to make runs off us that benefits the team and we keep the ball. The manager said to Hodgie and me: 'You two have got to take two touches and not give the ball away. If you keep it, that's the platform built.' That's how it works, really." Argyle are full of confidence, but Hayles promised there would be no complacency against Palace. He said: "They have got Neil Warnock as their manager and I think they are unbeaten in nine so we have got to go there and play our normal game and, hopefully, we can get the three points. That's what we are looking for."

Brentford have extended the loan of Ryan Dickson for a second month

Scott Laird has signed on loan for non-league Tiverton Town for a month

20th

Paul Sturrock has confirmed that Reuben Reid, Cherno Samba and Larrys Mabiala are leaving Argyle. Sturrock said: "Reuben was going out of contract at the end of the season and I felt it was appropriate that he moved on, and he has agreed. Cherno has basically been told the same and he and his agent are going in to discuss settlement terms. Mabiala was a mutual decision, but he actually kicked it off. It made sense to me that he went back to Paris St Germain."

Last Saturday, Argyle beat Watford using a 4-3-3 formation which allowed David Norris plenty of freedom to push forward. It is a role which Norris feels well suited to, and he said: "With Lee Hodges sitting behind me, the gaffer and the coaches aren't telling me to be careful at all. They're telling me to get forward and support Barry all the time. That freedom helped me and Jimmy last Saturday. Jimmy was here, there and everywhere. With that freedom, we can get about the pitch." While Norris grabbed winner, Abdou went close with a couple of headers. "Jimmy was unlucky not to get a goal at Watford, because he got forward into the box brilliantly," Norris added. Norris is familiar with Paul Sturrock's methods, and is evidently enjoying life at Home Park right now. He said: "Paul come in and has started to stamp his authority and set out the way he wants to do things. We did our homework on them last weekend, and it worked well. We've got our confidence now. We're good away from home, and we'll go to Palace looking for a win. With the way this league is, we could easily do it." Norris declared at the weekend that he is happy at Home Park at present, and has not ruled out reaching the Premiership with Argyle. He said: "Any player would love to get that chance to play at a higher level, and I'm no different." Asked if he thought Argyle were realistic promotion contenders, he replied: "With a bit of luck and hard work, you never know. The way this league is, with anyone beating anyone else on their day, it's a tight league. If you can get consistency, you'll be there or thereabouts, and we're hoping to be in and around the play-offs."

19th

Paul Sturrock has begun his clearout by ending the loan spell of Larrys Mabiala. Sturrock would not confirm Mabiala's position at the club, and said: "I will do a Press conference about that later on in the week." However sources have reported that the Frenchman has already left the club and he could be joined by Reuben Reid and Cherno Samba over the next few days. Sturrock added: "I have had a wee chat with Reuben and I am going to have to have a think about things over the next couple of days. I will give everyone the information soon."

Sylvan Ebanks-Blake was given a run-out in yesterday's reserve game with Bristol City, playing in a lone role up front. Rory Fallon operated on the left wing, while Nick Chadwick was given a midfield role in front of Paul Wotton. The game was not a great spectacle but offered some useful match practice and Paul Sturrock said: "It was important we kept them topped up. It would have been easy for me not to play certain players, but I felt they all needed a game. Part of the week's work should be a game, and I was pleased with the standard of the game as well. The opposition were of a high standard, and they gave us a good test." Asked how he felt Ebanks-Blake had coped with his solo role, Sturrock said: "I thought Sylvan did very, very well in the first half. We dropped back a bit in the second half after we put a couple of kids on. That changed the complexion of the game a wee bit, but Sylvan did OK. He worked very hard to make sure he kept the ball." Sturrock was happy to see Wotton play, and also glad to take a look at Chadwick in a midfield role. He added: "It's going to take a long time before Paul is back and really flying. The wee niggling knocks he takes can knock the stuffing out of you. Nick played in midfield when he was a youngster before he went to Everton. He told me that on Saturday, so I wanted to see him there. Apart from all the fouls he did, I thought he did OK. He worked very hard, and he seems to have a presence about him in that position."

18th

Argyle reserves lost 1-0 to Bristol City at Home Park this afternoon. Paul Wotton played for 73 minutes as he continued his rehabilitation. Argyle: McCormick, Connolly, Doumbe, White, Laird, Summerfield, Wotton, Smith, Chadwick, Fallon, Ebanks-Blake. Subs Duggan, Hopkinson, McCrory (not used - Saxton, King)

Dan Gosling is hoping he has given Paul Sturrock a selection dilemma after his display at right-back against Watford. He said: "It's always nice to give the manager selection problems. I got a chance on Saturday and I think I did all right. It was a tough battle out there, but I think I coped pretty well. Obviously, I prefer centre midfield but I was right-back on Saturday and I did a job, so that proves I can play there. I have played right midfield a few times as well, but although centre midfield is my favourite position I will play wherever the manager tells me to. I enjoyed the game very much. I was a bit nervous in the first five or 10 minutes but after that I settled down and started getting into it. Everyone knew Conns was suspended, so we worked on it all week and it seemed to pay off on Saturday." Gosling's one blemish was a late tackle on Tommy Smith, which resulted in his first booking of the season. "It's always tough when you are on a yellow card, but especially when people are flying at you on one-on-ones, so I had to be careful," he said. "I managed to stay on my feet in the second half." Argyle had to withstand a torrid first 10 minutes at the start of the second half, but survived and finished as the stronger side in the last 20 minutes. Gosling said: "The gaffer said at half-time that they would come at us for the first 10 to 15 minutes, which they did. After that, we started getting back into the game and creating more chances than them. Eventually we took one, so it was ideal." Gosling was grateful for the support he received from all his team-mates on Saturday, but particularly Marcel Seip and Krisztian Timar. He said: "They were brilliant all week. They were always giving me advice and helping me along the way. It's a great credit to them to help a young lad come through." Argyle's victory over Watford completed a clean sweep of away wins against the three clubs relegated from the Premier League last season, and Gosling added: "To beat those three teams away from home says something. I think everyone underestimates us, and I think sometimes we underestimate ourselves. We have got a good bunch of lads, we all work hard and, hopefully, we will keep getting the results."

Paul Sturrock believes Barry Hayles can have the same influence on Argyle this season as Mickey Evans did in the past. He said: "Barry has got good leadership qualities and he's a strong, experienced player. He did very well on Saturday, but we won't play that way every week. It was just something I wanted to look at." Hayles has scored only two goals this term, but Sturrock is convinced he can still play an important part in the push for the play-offs. He said: "I have never been a great believer in a striker having to score all the goals. It's about winning football games and you can do that by sharing the load. Mickey Evans made a colossal contribution to our success in the past, but he would be lucky to get half-a-dozen goals a season. He must have made hundreds of goals for Plymouth Argyle over the years, but nobody remembers that. They look at his goalscoring record and think 'He must have had a difficult time' because he was a centre-forward. But if you had seen him play in all those games you would realise what a massive influence he was, and Barry can be the same for us."

Paul Wotton is a doubt for Argyle's reserve team game against Bristol City at Home Park today, with what Paul Sturrock described as a 'wee niggle'. Sturrock said: "It's nothing serious, but this is what happens when you have been out for a long time, like Wottsie has. You get some niggles here and there. We will take every precaution with him. He's better waiting and getting it right, rather than trying to rush it."

Ian Holloway has declared that he will not be looking to sign any Argyle players when the transfer window opens. He said: "I have decided to pull out of the Plymouth scenario because I am very proud of the players I brought there. I don't know what's getting about but I don't like it. It is very damaging. I was very proud of the Plymouth fans and I don't want to go and raid their team. I am going to move on and find other targets. My chairman talked to their chairman and I didn't like the reaction, so I have put it all to rest and it is time to move on. There are thousands of players out there and we want to find players who want to come here. My chief scout Gary Penrice and myself have done it in the past and we are going to do it again."

17th

David Norris said on Friday that playing Watford held no fears for Argyle and they would be going all-out for a win. They did exactly that, and Norris thought the team put in a superb defensive display, especially young full-backs Dan Gosling and Gary Sawyer. He said: "The back four were excellent. Gozzie stepped into his role and Gaz was back from a little lay-off. We had to do a bit more defending against them in the second half, but we could have had a couple more goals on the counter attack. I think it was a great performance." Norris believes Gosling and Sawyer both have bright futures ahead of them, and said: "It's difficult when you have been out for a while to come into an away game against the top-of-the-league team, but they are two excellent young players who have got every chance of going further. I think Gozzie is a confidence player. He had a good start to the game and that was it - he got better and better. And Gaz is as steady as you like and did some great defending for us." Barry Hayles provided the far post cross which Norris scored the winner from, and he added: "Baz worked tirelessly today for us, up front on his own, and Peter ran right across the front of the goal and took the defenders away, which opened up the space for me. I caught the ball on the half volley and I was happy to see it go into the roof of the net. I didn't want to see it ballooning over. To be fair, I had cramped up only about four or five minutes before, and I could hardly run. But the feeling when you score a late goal like that, I just wanted to jump into the crowd. It was the same with the other boys. I was over the moon and because it was in front of our fans, who were brilliant today, it meant a lot." Lee Hodges anchored the midfield against Watford, providing protection for the defence, which allowed Norris and Nadjim Abdou to get forward in support of Hayles. Norris said: "I suppose it gave me more freedom because I knew Hodgie was sitting behind me. The gaffer and the management didn't say, 'Be careful'. They said, 'Get forward and support Barry all the time'. That freedom helped me and Jimmy. I think Jimmy was here, there and everywhere as well. Give us that freedom and we can get about the pitch. Jimmy got forward into the box brilliantly today and he was unlucky, he could maybe have had a goal himself." Argyle will be aiming for another away win when they play Neil Warnock's Crystal Palace on Saturday, and Norris is full of confidence about the prospect. He said: "We are good away from home and we will go there looking for a win. With the way this league is, we could easily do it." Southampton, Ipswich Town, Crystal Palace and Leicester City have all made bids or enquiries about Norris this year, but he is in no rush to get away from Home Park. "I'm happy where I am," he said. "I've been at Argyle for five years now, and it's been a brilliant move for me. As long things are going well on the pitch, I'll be happy."

Reuben Reid has been sent back to Argyle from Wycombe after failing to impress during his loan spell. Reid signed on a season long loan but Wanderers boss Paul Lambert has decided that Reid is not up to the standard required

Argyle have been drawn against Portsmouth in the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup. The tie will be played on January 15th at Fratton Park

16th

Paul Sturrock believes next month's transfer-window will be crucial to Argyle's play-off ambitions. After watching his players achieve a thoroughly deserved 1-0 victory at Watford, Sturrock said: "We've still got some very difficult games coming up before the transfer-windows, and all we're really hopeful of is keeping on the coat-tails of the play-offs until then. That will enable us to strengthen and hopefully have the squad that might take us right through to the end of the season in the right area of the league." A goal from David Norris set the seal on a magnificent team performance, but Sturrock felt the winning margin should have been greater. He said: "Chuck had a chance ten minutes from the end, before he scored; Jimmy Abdou should have hit the target; and so should have Jermaine at the other end. So we created chances, even though we were very, very thoughtful with the formation we played." That formation saw Easter and Halmosi support Barry Hayles, with Lee Hodges playing a holding midfield role. Dan Gosling was drafted in at right-back, and Gary Sawyer returned at left-back. "We had two key players, regulars, who were missing today, and the injury to Lee Martin," said Sturrock, "and we could have come here feeling sorry for ourselves. But they knuckled down and showed the character that is imprinted in the squad. I am very pleased for them, for all their hard work - there will be a few tired comrades on the bus going home. But, if we can do that every week and get three points, I'm sure they won't mind. It was very much a team performance. Some people will say it's smash and grab, but our 'keeper had one decent save to make. So, my back-four's been very, very competent. Watford had an awful lot of things outside our box, but, to be fair, the clear-cut chances seemed to drop to us. We made it very difficult for them. We had this game-plan, and it stifled the more offensive players that they have. The crowd got a wee bit exasperated with them, so we played on that as well. You have to remember we came to the top of the league side's home so it was a very difficult game, under the circumstances - we played two young full-backs, who I thought were excellent on the day. We stayed wider in eagerness to get balls up to Baz, who I thought, again, ran the line very, very well. Jimmy and Chuck got themselves in the right areas, and were always going to support; and Hodgy - the old head went and thought about and did all the screening that was needed. It's a bit alien to Jermaine playing out there, but he stuck to his task. Gosling looked very content at right-back, apart from a stupid foul early on that got a yellow card. He never looked out of sorts, never got caught and showed that he can be a competent full-back. It's nice when you put something together on the training-ground and it comes off. We had two or three days to put into practice what we were looking for because I'm a great believer that it should be in your armoury to have a change of system, if needed, and I think we now realise we've got that. I was a wee bit disappointed that Watford had a couple of system changes that we did not adapt to quick enough, but it's a learning curve because, under the old manager, this team has played 4-4-2 virtually every match." Sturrock had to leave out top-scorer Sylvan Ebanks-Blake to facilitate his game-plan, and added: "I'm sure I'll be having a knock on my door on Monday and we'll be having a wee chat about it, but I'm sitting here today with three points and, at the end of the day, decisions have to be made. It's what managers are paid for."

15th

Argyle won 1-0 at Watford, the goal scored by David Norris after 89 minutes. Argyle: Larrieu, Gosling, Timar, Seip, Sawyer, Norris, Abdou, Hodges, Halmosi, Easter, Hayles. (Subs not used McCormick, Chadwick, Summerfield, Doumbe, Ebanks-Blake). Attendance - 18,532

Lee Hodges seems sure to continue his run in Argyle's first-team at Watford today, a run that has seen him not miss a game since the end of September. Even if Hodges wanted one, a rest would be out of the question today, given the missing personnel. Nor is an enforced one by way of a suspension imminent - he has not been booked yet this season. "I don't think I tackle enough, that's my problem!" Hodges said. "No, I'm my really enjoying my spell in the team at the moment, and it's good to be out there playing." Hodges has been used at left-back for most of this season, but he may be used in midfield or at right-back today. "I've played two or three games at right-back in the past," he said. "I'll be ready for whatever happens. I filled in at Sheffield United for the last 15 or 20 minutes in midfield, but we've got other players who can come in and fill those positions. Everyone is fighting for places in the team." When Hodges first came to Home Park on loan in 1993, he was a striker. Eight years later, when Sturrock signed him from Reading, he had changed his role. "I played left-midfield then, and worked up and down," Hodges said. "He was the first manager who played me at left-back, and I had a good spell there. Then I ended up mostly in the centre of midfield towards the end of his first spell at the club." Argyle have already visited and beaten the other two clubs who dropped out of the Premiership last term, Charlton Athletic and Sheffield United, and will be looking to complete the set at Watford. "Our away performances have been really good," Hodges said. "We're all confident going into the Watford game, and we'll be ready for what they throw at us."

Paul Sturrock thinks that Larrys Mabiala will need a few more reserve outings before he can be considered for first-team duty. He said: "Larrys looked very competent, and he has all the attributes to be a good player, but he's had six weeks of doing nothing. He's been back in training for two weeks, and he's had one reserve game." Mat Doumbe played in central midfield during the second half of the reserves win at Exeter but did not look entirely comfortable, and probably will not be providing cover for Lilian Nalis today. "We had a look," Sturrock said. "I think he didn't know the position. I'm looking at all my options, but you're asking a lot of a boy who plays centre- half to do that job."

Paul Sturrock will make decisions on which players have a future at Argyle by the end of the month. He has now had a chance to see all of the players he inherited play in at least one competitive game, and even Cherno Samba, who was put on the transfer list by Ian Holloway, has been given a chance. Sturrock said: "The slate has been rubbed clean for everybody. I have had a look at near enough every player. I can now make conscious decisions on them. Over the next two or three weeks, before January 1st, I will bring in every player individually and tell them their value at this football club."

Paul Wotton made his comeback from a knee injury for the reserves against Exeter, but Paul Sturrock insisted it was too soon for the midfielder to be considered for a first team recall. He said: "This is the Championship we are talking about and there is a pace and a general tempo you have got to get to. I'm just not sure whether Wottsie has got to that yet."

Ian Holloway is being tipped to make renewed attempts to sign David Norris and Barry Hayles. Holloway made offers for both players this week, but they were turned down by Argyle. According to reports though, Holloway still retains a strong interest in adding Norris and Hayles to his squad, despite Paul Sturrock insisting none of his players will move to Leicester, unless an 'unbelievable' bid is made for them

Anthony Mason has joined Bridgwater Town on a month's loan

14th

David Norris believes there is no reason why Argyle cannot win at Watford tomorrow. He said: "The way this league is, we don't fear going anywhere, and I'm sure most of the other teams are the same. It's that tight a league. Anyone can beat anyone on any given day, so we will go to Watford full of confidence and looking for a win. We have already won at Charlton and Sheffield United, so if we could beat another of the teams that have come down from the Premier League away from home, that would be brilliant." Argyle have won four and drawn two of their ten away games this season, and Norris added: "We have played really well away from home and we have got some good results. Sometimes playing counter-attacking football suits our game better." Norris insisted Argyle would not be out for revenge tomorrow after the FA Cup quarter-final defeat to Watford in March. He said: "That's history and all forgotten about. Even if we win tomorrow, it won't take away what we felt from losing to them in the FA Cup. Our focus is to get a win tomorrow and keep up there in the league." Norris was in the starting line-up for the last visit to Vicarage Road, a 1-1 draw in December 2005. He added: "I remember we deserved to win that game. We had one or two clear-cut chances in the second half, so it felt like a loss. I remember having a little argument with Elliott Ward at the end, but that was because both of us just wanted to win the game that much. Even the year before at Watford, I think we went 1-0 up and ended up losing 3-1. We tend to play well there. Let's just hope we get a good result tomorrow. Watford are a big, strong team and they like to get it forward quickly, so we know what to expect. We have got our gameplan and if we can take a lead again, hopefully, we will come through alright. They have got a lot of players who we have played against before. They have got the same manager and they know their set-up and shape. But we have played them quite a lot over the last two or three years and that will help us in knowing what to expect." Argyle are two points outside a play-off position, with the Christmas and New Year period around the corner. Norris said: "I think we are doing okay. We are there or thereabouts and a couple more wins over Christmas will see us in that top six or eight. That's what we are looking to do so we can go into the New Year giving ourselves a right chance of making the play-offs."

Paul Sturrock has revealed how much the bad weather has cost Argyle. Due to the weather Argyle last night played their first reserve game in over five weeks and Sturrock said: "We've had a look at several things today. The serious worrying aspect for me is the match fitness of the squad. After watching them last night, there is a real problem. We have a match next week then after that there is nothing over Christmas and the New Year. On top of that, some of them haven't played for six weeks and that is the fit ones. So, at the end of the day, a lot of them are playing catch up and that does not help a Championship team who have suspension and injuries." Sturrock said that he would have to consider travelling further in order to give his second string a run out. He said: "I think we're going to have to have more closed door games and I think we're going to have to travel a bit further to make sure that every week, we have a game of football for the reserve players. We ticked over before with the Cornwall and north Devon teams but I want to get up into Birmingham and round the Southampton area. When you play each other its just not the same edge as playing different people. They need 90 minutes of football at a tempo - it doesn't mater what opposition as long as we play at a high tempo. It's up to me and my coaching staff to make sure we play at the tempo we need to play on a Saturday."

Paul Sturrock will welcome Barry Hayles back into the squad for the trip to Watford tomorrow. He said: "Barry coming back is a help. Hopefully he will be a rejuvenated Barry because obviously he's had six or seven days rest so I'm pleased that he's had the wee break. He is an influential player, he's the team captain and he can obviously change games with his style of play." Asked whether Hayles would be in the starting line-up tomorrow, Sturrock said: "That's for you to surmise and for me to tell you at 10-to-two tomorrow!" Sturrock is giving away no clues about how he will cover the absence of suspended pair Paul Connolly and Lilian Nalis against Watford. It is expected that Dan Gosling will fill in for Connolly but Sturrock said: "I have several full backs in my side. Jimmy has played there, Doumbe has, Seip has, Hodgy has, Gosling has. I am inundated with right backs." Sturrock had thought about playing Gosling at right-back in the reserves' win at Exeter on Wednesday, but opted not to as he had played for the under-18s the night before in the FA Youth Cup. He added: "I took the consideration that his legs were more important than his positional sense."

Paul Sturrock has warned of the threat that Watford carry ahead of tomorrow's game. He said: "It's a very difficult game. Obviously Watford were beaten, but they've got back on the rails and after a difficult period. They are very direct. They play the football that suits the style of the players they have and that's good managerial skills as far as I'm concerned. They are top of the league so they must be doing something right." Sturrock also added that the game would be a test for his squad. "I'm excited about it as I feel there is an opportunity there for people to show me that they deserve a place in the team," he said. "We've worked tirelessly this morning on bits and pieces and try and come up with something that will win us the football game."

13th

Paul Sturrock has said that no Argyle player will be leaving to join Leicester City. There have been various reports in the press that Ian Holloway will come in for several of Argyle's key players when the transfer window opens but Paul Sturrock said: "I think its now time to draw a line through all this. Unless the offer is unbelievable, no players will be going to Leicester. I feel that politically, the fan base has to be listened to and I do feel that at this juncture, we've got to try and settle our players down and let them understand where I'm coming from."

Argyle won 2-0 against Exeter City in last nights reserve game at St James' Park, the goals scored by Rory Fallon and Nick Chadwick. Paul Wotton played for just under an hour in his first game since returning from injury. Argyle: McCormick, King, Mabiala, Doumbe, Sawyer, Moult, Wotton, Summerfield, Samba, Fallon, Chadwick. Subs Smith, Duggan, Mason (not used - Misiewicz, Moseley)

Paul Wotton has set his sights on a first team comeback after his return to action last night. He said: "I am a bit stiff and sore, but that is perfectly normal and to be expected. Anyone who knows me knows that I would play on Saturday if the manager wanted me to play, but I want to do myself justice. When I come back in the first team I don't want people to look at me and say 'yes, he has been out for 12 months'. I want to be back to where I was and the only way I will get there is games. I have to be realistic - it is only 55 minutes after basically 12 months out. There is a long way to go yet, but the first hurdle has been jumped. The over-riding factor of last night was that my knee felt absolutely rock solid, so I am really, really pleased." Wotton returned to full training last month but a lack of any reserve team matches to play in means he has only taken part in an inter-squad practice match on November 29th, before last night. He added: "I was really, really pleased with last night, it is the first step now. I am not kidding myself - I am a long way short - but I am absolutely thrilled to get a run out. It was only meant to be 45 minutes, but I felt really good at half-time and to be fair, I could have gone on a bit longer. I was maybe half a yard short of where I want to be, but that will come. I haven't played 90 minutes for 13 months, so I am maybe making demands on myself which my body can't keep at the minute. But I am not being negative - I am absolutely thrilled. It was great for my confidence to win a few headers, to get a lot of the ball and to make a couple of tackles." Paul Sturrock watched the game and he said: "That was Paul's first competitive game for a long time. He showed a few touches, but there was a sharpness missing from his game. The only way he will get that back is by training and playing in matches like tonight's."

Paul Sturrock is eager to work out how much talent he has at his disposal prior to the reopening of the transfer window next month. "We don't have much depth to the squad," he said, "and we've got some big games to play before we can add to the squad. The depth of the squad is minimal. I've got very little time to make an assessment of the full squad before the transfer window opens. We've had no reserve games until this week, which has made it a nightmare to assess the squad. It has cost us dear. What I've got to do is assess is the standard of the players I've not seen. By January 1st, I have to really know in my mind what the story is about my squad of players. I need to know which ones are going to benefit my team and which ones are not, but it's going to be very difficult to do that."

12th

Argyle beat Coventry City 3-0 in the FA Youth Cup yesterday, the goals scored by Toby Davis (2) and Jarred Stevens. Argyle: Saxton, Hopkinson, Hodgkinson, White, Brett, Mason, Gosling, McCaul, McCrory, Davis, Stevens. Subs Moseley, Grant (not used - Misiewicz, Edwards, Head). Attendance - 288

Paul Wotton will make his comeback in the reserve's game against Exeter City this evening. Larrys Mabiala is due to make his first appearance for Argyle in the game

Nick Chadwick is desperate for more first team football with Argyle after returning to action from injury. He said: "I would like to play as many minutes as I can now. I came on against Bristol City and I felt fine fitness-wise. Reserve team games will help but, make no mistake, I want to be part of this squad. I have missed too many matches over the last year. Hopefully, I will be part of things now, but that's the manager's decision." Chadwick was a 75th minute substitute against Bristol City, his first competitive action since his hernia operation at the start of November. He said: "I had been back in training for 10 days or so, and I was frustrated by the lack of reserve team games. I have probably been the last one to leave the club every day. I have been working hard on my fitness. So, in that respect, it wasn't a surprise I was in the squad on Saturday because I kept myself fit and I feel good. But, obviously, there have been no reserve team games, and that's probably going to be a problem over Christmas. You have just got to do as much as you can in training, day-in, day-out, which a lot of people don't see. As long as you do that, hopefully you can put yourself up for selection, as I have done. I was glad to be named among the substitutes. I thought it was a great game. Bristol City looked a good side and we played really well." Argyle continue the Championship campaign on Saturday when they play Watford at Vicarage Road. Chadwick gave Argyle the lead when they drew 1-1 there on their last visit in December 2005, and he said: "I remember us going there and playing really well. It was a tough place to go to at the time. We were in front and then right at the death they got an equaliser. The beauty about football is that you can go back and try to correct these things. Watford are a good side. They are similar to the team that went up last time, I think, and play a similar style. It's going to be a tough game but we are a decent side and, hopefully, we can cause them problems." Argyle have already won away to Charlton and Sheffield United this season so will be trying for an impressive hat-trick against teams relegated from the Premier League last season. Chadwick added: "We seem to be doing well at these places. Hopefully, we can go there and give a good account of ourselves."

11th

Head Groundsman Colin Wheatcroft has explained why the five large sheets that can be rolled out to cover the pitch were not in place during last Saturday's deluge, although they had been earlier in the week. He said: "We bought them to keep the pitch firm, not to cover the pitch when there is that amount of rain so close to a game. It takes our groundstaff - and there are only four of us - about five hours to get the sheets off. And you actually can't get the sheets off if there is lots of water on them. It would cause more damage, so we had to take the sheets off on Friday. But those sheets partly saved the game because the ground was firm underneath and fairly dry because we had kept them on since the rains started. We have to get a tremendous amount of water off the sheets with brushes before we can take them off, and they are very difficult to manhandle. So you really can't put them on and off just before the kick-off. If we had left them on overnight, we wouldn't have got them off in time for the kick-off because of the torrential rain and the high winds. My staff would have been in a lot of danger." Wheatcroft added: "There's no way in the world I ever want a game off. I do everything in my power to get it played. And, to be fair, my guys have put in a lot of hours these last few weeks. It was not just on Saturday, it has been the other games as well. The weather has been atrocious - some of the worst I have ever seen these last three or four weeks. I take my hat off to my lads. They have all put the effort in and they have been wonderful."

Jermaine Easter wants to build on his encouraging start for the club after signing on loan from Wycombe Wanderers in October. If all goes according to plan, he will complete a 210,000 move when the transfer window reopens. He said: "I didn't expect to jump straight into the team. Obviously, it has been difficult for me with the departure of Ian Holloway but I'm happy Paul Sturrock came in. I'm sure he will progress me as a player and I'm sure I will get the run in the team I want and score goals. When I knew they were trying to get Paul Sturrock I was hoping they would capture him because he tried to sign me for Swindon and it would be a good appointment for me. But whether it was him or another manager, you have got to work hard and earn the right to be in the team, and that's what I will do." Easter played 77 minutes against Bristol City before he was substituted and he added: "The pace of the game on Saturday was pretty quick, considering I hadn't started for a while, but I enjoyed it thoroughly. I thought I did reasonably well, but I was a bit disappointed with the chance I had in the first half. The guy clipped me just before I struck it, and it put me off. " Sylvan Ebanks-Blake gave Argyle the lead against City with a penalty, and Easter added: "Sylv turned him well and he has been brought down. It was a definite penalty. I think me and Sylv could strike up a good partnership together. We are pretty similar, but we are on the same wavelength. We played 4-3-3 on Saturday, with me on the right, Peter on the left so Sylv was up there on his own, and he did well, to be fair. I would say a draw was probably a fair result, but everybody was disappointed we didn't get a win." Bristol drew level in the 71st minute, however, when Krisztian Timar sliced the ball over Romain Larrieu for an own goal. Easter said: "Krisztian has been brilliant of late so it was unlucky for him. He's just going to have to put it to the back of his mind now and put in a good performance against Watford."

The Argyle squad helped bring the festive spirit to the children's wards at Derriford Hospital today, continuing a long tradition for the club. Bearing sacks of goodies from the Argyle Superstore, the Pilgrims were rewarded with broad smiles from unfortunate local youngsters who will face the festive season away from their homes.

The annual Argyle Carol Concert will be held in the Devonport End on Monday, December 17th. Paul Sturrock, Paul Wotton and Paul Connolly, along with Argyle chairman Paul Stapleton, will take part and the carols will be led by the Plymouth City Band and the Youngstagers group from Saltash. Admission is free, and the carols begin at 7pm. Doors open at 6pm.

10th

Paul Sturrock believes that Sylvan Ebanks-Blake's best is yet to come. He said: "I had a chat with Sylv the other day about his general play. I think he's a clinical finisher but I would like him to add to his game. Him and I have got to do a lot of work on the training ground because I think I can help make him a real top-drawer player."

Argyle will be without Paul Connolly and Lilian Nalis for the trip to Watford this Saturday. Both players were booked for the fifth time on Saturday and must now serve an automatic one-match suspension.

Paul Sturrock has agreed to release Dan Gosling from first-team duties to bolster Argyle's FA Youth Cup chances when they play Coventry City in a third-round tie at Home Park on Tuesday. Both Argyle and Coventry were exempt from the earlier rounds of the national under-18 knock-out competition because of their record over the last five seasons. Luggy's decision has solved one of the selection problems faced by head of youth coaching Mike Pejic, who is without regular right-back Tom King and central midfielder Shane Duggan, who were both 18 before the August 31 deadline for FA Youth Cup qualification.

Argyle's Youth Team beat Bristol Rovers 3-0 in the Youth Alliance's South West Conference on Saturday, lifting them above Swansea City to the top of league. The goals were scored by Damien McCrory (2) and Joe Mason

9th

Romain Larrieu proved he was back to his very best with a man-of-the-match display in the draw with Bristol City yesterday. After the game he said: "I had quite a few big saves to make today and I was glad I made them. My favourite one was when Trundle shot on the turn," said Ro. "That was my hardest. The other one was a block, I just made myself big. This one was hard to get to." Larrieu had no chance of stopping Krisztian Timar's own-goal which gave City their equaliser. "I thought maybe I could do something but I was on my heels and I just fell," he said. "I would have liked to have saved it. I was gutted for the team and I was gutted for Krisztian because he had been brilliant up until then. I was gutted because we were working so hard towards a clean-sheet. It's a shame to give it away on a freak goal, but you knew it was this type of day anyway. We made some mistakes, they made some mistakes, and, in the end, the draw is probably the fair result." On a rain-sodden pitch it seemed unlikely before the game that a goalkeeper would be the hero, but Larrieu and his counterpart, Adriano Basso, played exceptionally well. "It didn't look like a goalkeeper's day today when I woke up," said Larrieu. "But Basso played quite well and I enjoyed myself today. You get ready for a game at 12.30pm, which is quite a funny time to play football, and then you come in and they say that they have to inspect the pitch. You think 'oh no', and then they take ages. I do find it hard to prepare for a game when there is a chance I'm not going to play. At the end, you're quite happy to know that you're playing and you get on with game. I was glad we played but it was hard out there. It was windy, and it was soggy, but it wasn't the same everywhere. My left-hand side in the first half was quite dry, compared to the right side. You don't want to be chasing in those conditions so it was good to go in front. But it's a shame we couldn't create so many chances in the second half." Paul Sturrock was delighted with Romain's display, but sent out a veiled warning not to get complacent. "He's had a traumatic time, so I'm very pleased for him that his performance was excellent and it just shows you what a quality 'keeper he is," he said. "One of the reasons we got a performance out of him is because we've got another quality goalie, who is sat, twiddling his thumbs, waiting for his chance."

Paul Sturrock took a balanced view of his side's showing in today's derby draw with Bristol City. He said: "I was very pleased with the attitude and the work-rate of the team, very pleased that we adapted to another's system and that it didn't look out of place with us. But, I'm very disappointed with the way we sat back a wee bit in the second half. You've got to give credit to Bristol City, who were very positive in their approach and caused us lots of concern. We looked very leggy in the second half and I think the four games in 10 days for a small number of players has been had a real draining affect. And being a derby, in a cup-tie spirit, it can even drain you more. The atmosphere was magic. Blood and snot. Bodies flying everywhere. A fan goes to a football game, he should demand and expect attitude and work-rate. He can't demand a performance because that subject doesn't come hand in hand with the other ingredients. But, if his team's lost and he walks away and his team having given everything its got, he's happier bunny than he would have been if they're not triers. That's what we've had today - two teams that have really rolled their sleeves up and had a right go. I though the first half was okay. I think managers sometimes have to put their hands up - I bought it back to 4-4-2 and it was mistake. I should have kept it 4-3-3 the whole game. Sometimes managers make mistakes, but I don't think I affected the result in any way: at the end of the day, a freakish goal like that could happen at anytime, whether you're playing good, bad or indifferent. The pleasing thing for me was that we could have quite easily caved in with the type of goal we lost. But we rolled our sleeves up and we went down the other end - Chuck had a header and Fallon nearly got on the end of something, and we had a couple of half-chances. They rolled their sleeves up even more and gave me even more before the end. There was a few of them firing on fumes today. In the first half, we had a lot of presence and we got a lot of balls in around their box. We came on the counter attack and caught them a lot of times in behind, so I was very pleased. I think you'll find that the two goalies were probably man of the match awards because both of them have made three or four really good saves. City look a lot more balanced, and they know each other a lot more because they've been together a long time. There is a great shape to their team which comes with a settled side. Looking at all the teams that we've played already, I think they'll be in the top eight quite comfortably by the end of the season. We've got a bit to go on that and there are certain players we've got bring to the club, as well, to strengthen certain areas of the team."

8th

Argyle drew 1-1 with Bristol City at Home Park, the goal scored by Sylvan Ebanks-Blake after 23 minutes. Argyle: Larrieu, Connolly, Timar, Seip, Hodges, Norris, Nalis, Abdou, Halmosi, Ebanks-Blake, Easter. Subs Chadwick, Fallon (not used McCormick, Doumbe, Gosling). Attendance - 16,530

Lee Hodges believes Argyle can maintain their challenge for a play-off position this season. He said: "We were disappointed not to get something from Norwich, but since I have been here, we have gone higher every season. We finished 11th last season, which was our highest position in 20 years, and if we could finish in the top 10 this season that would be a step forward again. But if we have got a chance of being up there, let's go for it. It's a shame we didn't get anything from Norwich because a three-point gap has opened up between Wolves and us." Hodges feels that, apart from West Brom, Argyle had not met any team so far this season that they had to worry about. He said: "If we can put away a few more of the chances we are creating then I think we will be fine." Hodges admitted the defeat by Norwich had been frustrating, and said: "We went into the game after a good win and we went a goal down after a couple of minutes, which was a big setback. We still created a lot of chances in the first half and I think we would be a lot more worried if we were not creating the chances in the first place."

Sylvan Ebanks-Blake wants today's occasional visitors to Home Park to turn up on a more regular basis. The derby against Bristol City will attract the biggest gate of the season so far and Ebanks-Blake said: "It shouldn't just be big crowds for derby games. We want big crowds for every game. We feel like we're doing exceptionally well this season, we've been playing good football, and we've got a great team spirit. We want that fan-base every week." Ebanks-Blake will have a new strike partner today with Barry Hayles serving a one-match ban, and Sylvan was quick to pay tribute to Hayles. "Barry works tirelessly for the team," he said. "What he does for the team is invaluable. He's the catalyst for a lot of the good things that we do. The rest this weekend might not do any harm, it will give him a chance to recharge his batteries and make a new assault on the second half of the season. We'll look forward to having him back." Even without Hayles available, Ebanks-Blake is not taking it for granted that he will retain his place. "I can't assume anything," he added. "I'd like to think I'll be playing, because everyone wants to play, but I'm fighting for my place along with everybody else. If I get to play with Rory or Jermaine, then I'll look forward to it. If one of them comes in and does well, then Barry will be fighting for his place, but that's how we like it here. Stiff competition means that we're doing something right." Ebanks-Blake is well aware that both Easter and Fallon are eager for a chance to impress. He said: "Jermaine has proven in the lower leagues that he can score goals. I've not had many opportunities to play alongside him, but he's a quality player. Rory brings a different dimension, with his height, and whenever he comes into the team he does a great job. It's hard, because everyone wants to play. I'm the same, but we all work for each other and I know that whoever plays will do as well as they can."

7th

Paul Sturrock has insisted that Argyle's most-coveted players will only leave Home Park for 'hefty' transfer fees. David Norris has been linked with a 2 million move to Ipswich Town, while Peter Halmosi is thought to be a target for Wolves. Dan Gosling is attracting interest from Premier League clubs, and it is also expected that Ian Holloway will try to take at least a couple of players to his new club, Leicester City. Sturrock said: "I had a long conversation with the players yesterday because I keep reading all sorts of surmise in the papers. I don't discuss speculation at any time, but I do feel it's appropriate to tell our fanbase that players will only leave this football club under Plymouth Argyle prices. I will dictate the Plymouth Argyle prices, and they will be hefty. I think the players are now appreciative that if they do leave it will cost a lot of money. Other than that, they are under contract to play for Plymouth Argyle Football Club. I think there have been too many agents having discussions lately and I'm sure there will be an ex-manager who will fancy several of the players. There could also be ex-players elsewhere who will be maybe causing a wee bit of unrest among the troops. But the troops have been well told that there will be nobody leaving this football club in the transfer window unless we get what I feel is the right valuation for them. At the same time, I will say to the fans that if a valuation is reached, a player will not be sold unless we have somebody coming in of the appropriate stature to cover the position we are losing. There are two options here. You can either play on and give service rendered until the end of your contract, or somebody comes in with a credible bid and you might then move. And even then we might not sell because there are key players that would be a big loss to this football club." Sturrock has until January 1st, when the transfer window re-opens, to decide which players he wants to keep at the club and which ones he wants to move on. He said: "I have promised the players that over the next two weeks I will talk to each of them individually. I have also told them that some players will have to move from this football club, either in the transfer window or will not be given contracts at the end of the season. If they want contracts at the end of the season they will have to perform for them, so there are swings and roundabouts here. But there are players that will have to move on. I'm not saying that everybody is going to be stuck here. What benefits Plymouth Argyle, both ways, will have to be done." Sturrock also commented on the departure of Tony Capaldi in the summer. He said: "The Capaldi scenario was a catch-22 situation. We got fantastic service out of him and, in the end, he saw his contract out. If that happens to us this season, that's football. I don't think it was appropriate there was a condemnation of the board and the manager over the Capaldi scenario for the simple reason that we got service from him. He was a fantastic servant for this football club and great value because we didn't pay that much money for him. If people go out of contract with us and have given us the service, we will thank them and wish them all the best if we can't come to terms with them and they move on. There will be people that we take from other football clubs who will go down exactly the same road. Or there might be some other football clubs who decide they will let me have their players for a nominal fee in January. That's up to them."

Argyle scouts will be at games in Europe this weekend to check out potential transfer targets for Paul Sturrock, but there will be no foreign trialists at Home Park until the transfer window re-opens in January. "We are taking in several games abroad this weekend," said Sturrock. "There is no point bringing trialists in until the January window, for the simple reason the weather is killing us. If we bring somebody here and they can't train for a week and don't get a behind-closed-doors game, there's no point." Sturrock would not be specific about who would be travelling abroad this weekend, or where their destination would be. He said: "Certain people are going abroad, but Andy King is actually going to be in Britain." Sturrock will carefully study all the options open to him as far as new players were concerned, and added: "I have come here for the long term. That means you don't race things. Everybody makes mistakes in the transfer market but I have got to try not to make too many. I have got to assess the squad on the run because we have got game after game coming up, and then make a deliberation on which ones we are moving on. At the same time, I have got to watch games myself and have agents on the phone to make sure we get the players in that I need in January." Sturrock has yet to sign a contract with Argyle, despite starting work on November 27th. He said: "There's nothing devious about it. Lawyers can take a long time to do things."

There could be an early return to the Argyle squad for Nick Chadwick tomorrow, or maybe even a call-up for Cherno Samba. Paul Sturrock admitted including Chadwick as a substitute would be a gamble, but necessity might force it upon him. He said: "He needs games. I would think he could have 20-25 minutes at the end of a game, so I'm not writing that off." As for Samba, Sturrock added: "I have never seen the laddie play. If I have two players out with illness, then people will have to go on the bench I have never seen, but it's not ideal."

Paul Wotton is set to make his comeback from a knee operation when Argyle reserves play at Exeter City next Wednesday

Paul Sturrock has called on his players to put the defeat at Norwich behind them and concentrate on getting three points against Bristol City tomorrow. He said: "They are going to be flying. And we've got to match that. We've come off a disappointing result and they've come off flying after two great results - beating Ipswich - one of the form teams - and Watford, who are top of the league." Sturrock also added his admiration for City boss Gary Johnson. He said: "Gary has done a fantastic job there. He had some rocky moments when he took over early on but I hope things go well for him. I think he's a fantastic manager."

6th

Paul Sturrock has revealed that Lee Martin has suffered a torn hamstring. He said: "Lee has been scanned and he's got a second degree tear which will take him out for two weeks. We're going to be talking to Manchester United because obviously we'd like to keep them in the forum. We'd hope to think he would still be here over Christmas and New Year and to help us out." Argyle also have two unnamed players in doubt for the derby clash. Sturrock said: "We've also got two of our players out with severe throat infections. They played the other night and they've been sent home this morning to keep them away from the other players. The doctors are going to give them 24 hours and see what they're like tomorrow." With Barry Hayles suspended Sturrock is giving the striker a proper break. He added: "Barry needs a wee break. I've given him until next week. I think he's having a long season and with the amount of work he does in the game I think it's appropriate that he gets the freshness."

Michael Dunford has promised to reduce ticket prices for some of Argyle's 'B-list' matches at Home Park. Dunford was speaking after Norwich City drastically reduced admission fees for the game at Carrow Road on Tuesday night. He said: "All credit to Norwich for what they've done, but they are a club which has got more than 20,000 season ticket holders. Our prices are the cheapest in the division and 30 per cent of the people who watch games at Home Park are already enjoying some kind of discount. We, the board, are very mindful of ticket prices and the fall in the crowd numbers, but we will have good news on the Hull City FA Cup game, which will be released tomorrow. There will be significant savings for that game and we will be looking to do something for our games against Barnsley and Colchester." Dunford said it was important that the club was fair to their existing season ticket holders. He said: "Whatever we do, it should be equally balanced between our season ticket holders and members of the general public. We have got to be equitable, or we'd be pilloried and rightly so." Dunford said there was no clear answer to the problem of falling gates. He added: "We've improved on the field of play, but attendances have gone down. It's very difficult to say why that is, but I would put it down to lower wages and lack of disposable income in this area, the cost of mortgages, and things such as the rising cost of fuel. Hopefully the fans will come back if the team improves. But if anyone out there has the answer to the problem, I would love to hear from them."

When Argyle play against Bristol City on Saturday, either Rory Fallon or Jermaine Easter could start as Barry Hayles will be serving a one-match ban after collecting five yellow cards. Paul Sturrock has indicated that Fallon is very much part of his plans, although, along with Easter, will be asked to work on aspects of his game in training. "Rory has attributes which are different from those of the other strikers," Sturrock said. "His goal ratio to games played is excellent, as is the boy Easter's. I've looked at them, and I honestly believe there's a lot of work to be done on the training ground to mould those two into what I'm looking for from them individually as players. Finishing-wise, there's not an issue, but in general play I think there are things that we can do to make them much better players." Earlier this season, Ian Holloway expressed the opinion that Fallon tended to over-complicate his game, and Sturrock seems to agree with that verdict. "There's no problem with Rory's natural ability or technique, but I think he tries to over-play," he said. "He tries to be involved too much, but I think he realises he has attributes I would like in the team." Fallon is the tallest striker on Argyle's books, and in his first spell in charge Sturrock often used a big man up front, sometimes in a 4-5-1 formation. Holloway, before his departure, suggested that his Argyle side played more attractive football than the team did during Sturrock's time. Unsurprisingly, Sturrock defended his past record, and corrected a claim made by Holloway that his team had deployed a lone striker in home games as well as on the road. He said: "4-5-1 was used away from home, but never at home. There were always two strikers on the pitch at home. We had a style of play which was very adaptable, and you don't pick up 102 points if things aren't working." Sturrock also has some decisions to make about his midfield and is awaiting reports on the fitness of Lee Martin, and will have to assess how to use Jimmy Abdou. "Jimmy has a lot to learn about the British game," Sturrock said. "I felt he made an impact in the last two games by coming off the bench, so I gave him a start but I felt he was very quiet compared to the standards he'd achieved in his last two games." Lilian Nalis and Lee Hodges are likely to play, and when asked if he was tempted to use the more senior players sparingly, Sturrock replied: "They're very fit people. I've watched them, and they're very professional in their approach."

5th

Before last nights game Paul Sturrock suggested he would not tinker with a team that has performed so well this season, but after a 2-1 defeat his plans may have changed. He said: "People might say a draw would be a fair result but in the end we've got to score the goals and it's something we're going to have to work on. I've learnt certain things today. You learn more in defeat than you do in winning, we have to go on that training ground and get things sorted." Norwich doubled their lead in the closing minutes through a disputed penalty and Sturrock admitted that he was disappointed with the decision. He said: "We've all had a peek at it and we feel a bit disappointed with the decision. I'm saying, if you look at it he does clear the ball; he then hits the player, there is contact but as a penalty it was a bit soft." Krizstian Timar scored his second goal in two games, but it was too little, too late. Sturrock added: "Had we scored 25-30 minutes earlier we would have seen a jittery Norwich and their fan base may have got at them. The problem was, we didn't get that goal, when we did, it was too late. You lose a goal after two minutes, it sets the tone for the game and then we had to chase the game. I felt the final pass, our final cross; our final finish was kind of scrappy because of it, a bit panicky. In the first half I was a bit disappointed to still be one-nothing down, but I didn't think we did enough in the second-half to really get back into the game." Argyle dropped to seventh after the defeat and Sturrock realises the importance of keeping the momentum going. "This is a wee blow to us as obviously we want to win as many games and stay up the League as long as possible," he said. "In the end, this is the kind of place we have to come and win football games. Instead of losing goals with two minutes gone, we've got to be solid defensively, as a unit. Today I think we were disappointing compared to the standards they have achieved in the past."

4th

Argyle lost 2-1 at Norwich City, the goal scored by Krisztian Timar after 89 minutes. Argyle: Larrieu, Connolly, Timar, Seip, Hodges, Norris, Nalis, Abdou, Halmosi, Ebanks-Blake, Hayles. Subs Easter, Gosling (not used McCormick, Fallon, Sawyer). Attendance - 25,434

Paul Sturrock believes that having two quality goalkeepers is a blessing for Argyle. He said: "Its good to have two goalies that are potential first-team starters. Over the next three or four games, I have it in my mind to watch both goalies." However, Sturrock said that after Romain Larrieu's performance on Saturday, he would not be changing 'keeper for the trip to Norwich City. He said: "Romain has come off with a clean sheet with a back four and I do feel that, in that scenario, I don't want to disturb what's there. There will come a time when I'm going to have to have a look at Luke again but, at this moment in time, I don't want to upset the individual player and a team that has just come off a clean sheet."

Argyle have appointed former Everton midfielder and Swindon manager Andy King as their chief scout. Paul Sturrock said: "I am delighted to have Andy on board. He was chief scout at Sunderland for five years, as well as having managerial experience of his own, and already has a scouting network in place. With geography being so important an issue to us, it is a very important position and I know he will help us find the players we need." King said: "I am really looking forward to it. I'm coming to a great club which is on the up, at its highest level for years, and I'm working for someone who I get on with very well and who I have a lot of respect for. I love scouting. I worked for Peter Reid at Sunderland for five years and enjoyed that, and I can't wait to get started." Sturrock added: "I know, from when we have met as managers, just how combative he can be. I am certain he will bring a lot to the party for us."

Paul Sturrock believes Argyle will face a much harder task tonight, than when they beat Norwich City 3-0 at Home Park in Ian Holloway's last match in charge. Sturrock said: "It's a different beast we are playing. We are now playing a team on the up. They will have been very disappointed to miss out on Saturday because by all accounts it was a very good performance. They had won their last two before that and the new manager has put a bit of steel into them. It's a completely different team to the one that played here a couple of weeks ago. The personnel changes are quite dramatic as well." Sturrock has seen a DVD of the previous game, and added: "You have got to give us some credit. We played quite well on the day but, to be fair, they are on the up now and hungry for points. We have got to treat the game properly. If we think what was in front of us here is going to be in front of us there we could cause ourselves a lot of problems." Nadjim Abdou is set to start instead of Lee Martin tonight. Sturrock said: "Lee won't make tonight. We are getting a wee scan on the hamstring to see how bad it is in there. We are hopeful it isn't a tear and, if it isn't, he should make Saturday." David Norris and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake did not participate in training yesterday, but that was purely as a precaution and both are expected to play. Asked about his team selection, Sturrock replied: "I'm not telling you! I have got a lot of deliberations to be made overnight." The Argyle squad were flying from Plymouth to Norwich today, a change from Sturrock's first stint as boss when all the away trips were by coach. He said: "I think it's very helpful. There were games when I was here before where we had long bus trips in midweek, came back and looked sluggish on the Saturday. Hopefully, that's not going to be the case now, because we have got a real hard one on Saturday with the standard of their performance when they won 2-1 at Watford. They were very special so we are going to have to be at the top of our game. Anything that saves our legs is a bonus."

Marcel Seip is relishing the prospect of playing Norwich at Carrow Road tonight. He said: "I like playing in front of as many people as possible. They have got one of the biggest crowds in the Championship, which is unbelievable when you see where they are in the table. It's a good atmosphere there and I think everyone is looking forward to the game." Seip does not expect it to be easy tonight, especially with Dion Dublin leading the attack. He said: "They got a new manager a couple of weeks ago but they are still bottom of the league so they need a win desperately. But we will be going there for the win as well. We are sixth in the table and we don't want to give that away. If we keep on doing what we are doing at the moment, I think we have got a good chance tonight. Dublin is one of the biggest strikers in the Championship, but there are always one or two big forwards in each team in this division, and Timar has been doing well with them. It's perfect for us because he can challenge against Dublin and I can follow Cureton wherever he goes." In addition to Paul Sturrock, coaches Kevin Summerfield and John Blackley have made changes to the club's training routine. Blackley works specifically with the defenders, and Seip added: "The training is different from what we did before, but you have to get on with it and it's going well. He knows a lot about how to defend and how to read the game, so we can all learn from that. I have never had so many headers in training sessions before. When Ollie was here I would do some shooting and finishing as well, but I'm not doing that any more."

3rd

Krisztian Timar scored for the first time in nine months in Argyle's victory over Scunthorpe United on Saturday. He said: "Usually in my career, I score maybe four or five times in a season. I'm very happy to have scored again and, hopefully, I can score some more. I was unlucky not to score in my last game. I got a goal but it was offside, although I didn't think so." Paul Sturrock was only appointed as the manager last Tuesday but Timar has already noticed differences between his style of play and that of Ian Holloway. Timar said: "It's a little bit different. He wants the ball to be played out wide and for us to get in a lot of crosses. Defensively, I think every manager wants the same thing. My job is not different. I have to head it, kick it and make sure we keep a clean sheet." Nadjim Abdou has been used as a half-time substitute in Argyle's last two games and has made a positive impact on both occasions. Timar added: "Jimmy played very well against West Brom and he came on today and played very well again. He's a good guy and he tries to improve all the time. He has worked hard and he's understanding the English language more, and I think that's very important for him." Timar is convinced Argyle can sustain a play-off push. He said: "I think everybody believes we can get into the play-offs this season. We believe in each other and we have got a good team spirit. I think we can stay in the top six. We have shown some of our best form this season away from home, like we did against Sheffield United. I think we can beat Norwich again."

Lee Martin was substituted at half-time on Saturday after suffering from a recurrence of the hamstring injury which kept him out for the defeat by West Brom and he is set to have a scan today

Paul Sturrock feels having home advantage against Hull City in the FA Cup made the tie 'very winnable' and made up for any feelings of disappointment at missing out on a more glamorous tie. He said: "It's a good draw for us as it gives us home advantage and a real chance of progressing. Yes, it would have been very nice, financially-speaking, to get drawn against one of the big fish. But, if you can't get a Premiership side, the next best thing is to be given a home draw and one that is very winnable."

Argyle's youth team won 6-0 at Cheltenham Town on Saturday, the goals scored by Toby Davis (2), Joe Mason, Bobby Hopkinson, Greg Moseley and Liam Head. Meanwhile, Argyle are having second thoughts about postponing next Saturday's youth game against Bristol Rovers ahead of the FA Youth Cup-tie against Coventry City the following Tuesday. The reason for the re-think is the one-match suspension imposed on Ashley Hodgkinson following his sending-off for two bookings in the recent defeat by Brighton. If the game against Rovers is re-instated, that will count as the game Hodgkinson misses, otherwise he will be ruled out of the Youth Cup-tie

2nd

Argyle have been drawn to play Hull City at home in the third round of the FA Cup. The tie will take place over the weekend of January 4th

Paul Sturrock won his first three points of his second spell as Argyle manager, and is now looking for consistency. "It was very pleasing and important we got on the rails again," he said, "because if we'd have taken two defeats, then the confidence would have sapped out of the team. Now it 's consistency we're looking for. It's difficult to make a judgment on the squad because we've had two home games. Now I'm going to get an away game under my belt and enable me to have a better assessment on the squad of players we have. In the first half, we had quite lot of half chances and I think we deserved to go in a goal up. But we emphasized a wee thing about the use of our ball to our strikers - we were trying to thread the needle down the line too much; in the second half, we did a few diagonal passes to our second striker and that seemed to free up a lot of people on the wing." Nadjim Abdou replaced Lee Martin at half-time and Sturrock added: "Jimmy coming on gave us a bit more high tempo and Chuck just fitted like a glove back into wide right again. He's not a Nalis - he's not a reader of the game, he's got more life about him than that. He seems to be there, stealing things all the time, getting wee toes in. He wants to go and join in further up the pitch. He's someone I didn't know, although I know his agent very well, and I think he's a benefit to the team. He's definitely given us a different shape and blend."

Paul Sturrock paid tribute to Peter Halmosi and Krisztian Timar after they paved the way for the first victory since his return to Home Park. Sturrock said: "Over the two games, compared to some of the tapes I've seen, Peter's been pretty quiet. I think he was a wee bit hungry as well. I don't think they were happening at the tempo he likes to play. But he excites me because there's an honesty about him. He gets up and down; he'll go and help the team defensively as well; he's also attack minded; and I think he's definitely got a natural talent with the ball." Timar scored with a scissor kick midway through the second half, a volley from Halmosi's free-kick. "I was very pleased to score from a set-piece," added Sturrock, "because Friday was set-piece day and it's nice that one of them has worked for us. I told Krisztian before the game I needed him to clear the way; I was hoping that he'd go in there and cause mayhem and that's what he's done. We were pretty close with a couple of other corners that come in the first half that we just couldn't get on the end of, so we're going to work very hard on them, because I do feel there is goals for us with the people that can take the corners. We've got a chance." Halmosi could have a big part to play in Argyle's future, with Sturrock looking to utilise Home Park's width. He said: "We have a problem - we don't change from defensive to offense quick enough and we don't get ourselves wide enough on the width to get the wingers in the game. It's something we need to work on. We seem very narrow as a team - we seem to play down the middle of the pitch at times - and every time we went down the wings today, we finished up nearly scoring a goal. So it's just getting the mentality of that. I'm impressed with Peter's honesty. I'm not being detrimental to Buzsaky, who was here before because I think he's excellent, but I think Halmosi is more disciplined."

Krisztian Timar and Peter Halmosi turned to their mother tongue to consign Scunthorpe to defeat. Timar smashed home Halmosi's free-kick after telling his compatriot exactly where he wanted the ball delivered. Timar said: "When the stadium is quiet enough, I tell him - in Hungarian - where I want to strike the free-kick or corner, and I try to run there. We practice it all of the time in training. I am happy that it was successful. The goal was good for me. I scored a few times like this in Hungary. Usually, I'd score four-five times in one year, so I'm waiting for a few more." Halmosi's man-of-the-match performance was the real difference between the two sides and Timar added: "Peter is a great football player. He's a very good winger and he's an international, so he gives good crosses all of the time. He set up the three goals and played well."

Paul Sturrock plans to buy and sell when the transfer window opens next month. He said: "I've got to talk to some players and see what they want. Whether they want to stay, or whether they want to move on with their careers. We will bring several players in during the window and I hope we will move several players on in the window. That's only natural in football. When the windows are there, they have got to be used because, in the end, we can't stand still. I would like to think that we will be able to bring in the one or two players I've got my eye on. After seeing the games now, and hopefully seeing an away game, I will have a clear picture of what type of player and in what position I will need to strengthen." Asked about David Norris, who has 18 months left on his contract, Sturrock said: "That's a discussion and there is no point in having that discussion until I've had a discussion with the board, when we will look at all the players and make an assessment. I know Chuck, so I need to see where he's coming from."

1st

Argyle beat Scunthorpe United 3-0 at Home Park, the goals scored by Sylvan Ebanks-Blake after 51 minutes, Krisztian Timar (65) and Nadjim Abdou (77). Argyle: Larrieu, Connolly, Timar, Seip, Hodges, Martin, Norris, Nalis, Halmosi, Ebanks-Blake, Hayles. Subs Abdou, Easter, Fallon (not used McCormick, Sawyer). Attendance - 10,520

Paul Sturrock is ready to give Dan Gosling a central midfield role against Scunthorpe United today, if either David Norris or Lee Martin fail their fitness tests. Sturrock said neither of the players trained with the rest of the squad yesterday and described their chances of making today's game as 'very doubtful'. He also said of Gosling: "I'm not totally convinced that Dan is a wide right. I think he has attributes for other positions. He played there on Wednesday because I was told he had played there, but, after having one look, he seems more of a central player to me than a wide-right player." Sturrock, who said he wants his side to start today at a high-tempo pace, asked fans to be realistic about the team's performances. He said: ""When I came here, we were sitting in fourth position. If you look the league points-wise, you could quite easily slump to 13th in one or two games. The expectation levels seem to have gone through the roof in the last two weeks, but we have to be realistic in our approach. We want to be in that part of the league, but it's a very difficult league. So far this team have won football games because of three ingredients - talent, attitude and work-rate. If one of those is not there, we struggle." The preparation for today's game has included plenty of work aimed at improving Argyle's set-piece moves. Sturrock added: "In midweek, we were very slack. We didn't seem to be very attack-minded when it came to set-pieces. We've worked on them this morning. We've worked on one or two other things we'd like to see in the way of shape, and we'll see how it works."

Lee Hodges is confident that Argyle can return to winning ways against Scunthorpe United this afternoon. He said: "We were disappointed with Wednesday, particularly in the first half. It seemed like they had more bodies out there and we just couldn't get close to them. In the second half, we got to grips with things and we got stronger as the game went on. We pushed them all the way and, maybe if we had 10 or 15 more minutes, we could have got something out of the game." Argyle were caught cold by West Brom, but after a bit of half-time tinkering from Sturrock re-emerged a much stronger and tighter unit - and that's something Hodges and his team-mates will be keen to replicate today. "At 2-0 down we knew it was going to be an uphill struggle, but we rallied together and had a real go at them," he added. "We got one, but it was a shame we couldn't get another. As I said, we were disappointed with the end result, but the good thing is the Scunthorpe game has come around quickly and we have a chance to put things right. It's another big game for us, and one we'll definitely look to get something from. After the Sheffield United game we really wanted to push on. But for the first 15 minutes on Wednesday we couldn't even get out of our own half. We got better as the game went on, but West Brom are a quality side and I'm sure they'll be there or thereabouts come the end of the season." Hodges believes the return of Sturrock to Home Park will be significant. "I'm looking forward to working with him again," he said. "He's had a few years away from the club and he might change one or two things. But he will bring exactly the same qualities as he brought last time, and he will want us to play with passion and give it everything we have got."

Larrys Mabiala yesterday returned to Home Park after undergoing knee surgery in France. Paul Sturrock said: "He's training. But I can't make any decisions until I've seen him."

Diary Archive:


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