A Round-up of Argyle News
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Greens on Screen's Daily Diary is a compilation of Argyle news, with help from these and other Argyle-related sites.
On This Day:
Also included on the three most recent days, facts from Argyle's history.
Paul Sturrock was pleased with a second successive winner from Ian Stonebridge and said: "Stoney has been used sparingly as a striker lately. If I'm going to be critical of him, presence is something he is going to have to add to his game. He floated into space just off the front today, which really is his game, and he caused them a lot of concern. Nathan had to come off with blurred vision, he'd taken a knock to the head early on and was seeing two or three balls. The way he hit some shots, it looked like he was seeing two or three balls as well. I had Marino with me and I could have quite easily gone with him. When Nath came off, I was kind of cursing my luck a wee bit, but to be fair, Stoney's done a good job and done his cause no harm."
Hasney Aljofree picked up a fifth booking of the season yesterday and will now miss the game at home to Swindon. "We always knew we were going to have to mix and match," said Paul Sturrock. "It'll give Wottsy the chance to get back in the back four and make sure Hasney doesn't get anywhere close to it."
Paul Sturrock was not a totally happy man after yesterday's game. "It's a strange game, football," he said. "That was probably our poorest away performance of the season and we've come away with a 1-0 win. We had one or two goal attempts the whole day and, obviously, our goalkeeper's kept us in it at the other end. The worrying aspect of the performance is that it was nowhere near the standards we achieved earlier in the season away from home, it was very bitsy. The rhythm was out too, and it was a very disappointing performance, but we'll take the result and get down the road. There have been games this year when we have played very well and lost, or the result hasn't gone our way. Look at Bournemouth, the opportunities we had there. Today, we had maybe one clear-cut chance in the game. We didn't start the game at all – we were not in the races in the first half; we got slightly better in the second half: a poor performance, but sometimes you just have to grin and bear these kind of games. We looked nervous, that's just the situation we find ourselves in at this moment in time. There's a big month coming up. Hopefully, we've got a springboard with the three points today. We've got to make sure our home form stays as solid as it has been. We've got back on the rails, but, if we play like that away from home, we are not going to win many games. To be fair, the back four, once we scored, looked very solid apart from the one cross that came in that Luke made a great save, but we gave away too many silly free-kicks around our box which nearly cost us dear. There were a lot of things in that game that were very bitty and iffy. Hopefully we can get on the training-ground tomorrow and Monday and get things sorted out, maybe get a bit of flow to our game."
Argyle won 1-0 at Blackpool, thanks to Ian Stonebridge's 54th minute goal. Argyle: McCormick, Connolly, Coughlan, Aljofree, Gilbert, Norris, Adams, Friio, Capaldi, Evans, Lowndes. Subs - Stonebridge, Hodges, Sturrock (not used - Wotton, Phillips). Attendance - 7,253.
Romain Larrieu is still some way from challenging for a first-team recall. Paul Sturrock said: "Luke has played in big games for us and it's important for him to appreciate that sometimes there is pressure on all positions. He has not had as much pressure as most. It's a learning curve for him and he has got to handle that. I think if he looks at training and everything else he will realise himself that Romain is still well away from it." Sturrock did not see Larrieu's comeback on Tuesday but said: "From the reports I have heard, he was a little rusty. There were a couple of things he came for and he flapped at, but that is normal for a goalie when he has been out for so long. Other than that, he was quite solid and his kicking was OK. It was pass marks. He has got to get his eye in, he has got to get his angles back and he has got to work on his decision-making on when to come for crosses. Romain has got all that to overcome but it's nice to have him back." Geoff Crudgington thought Larrieu had done well on his return. "The big bonus was that he got through it unscathed," he said. "He looked a little bit rusty at times but, other than that, he was fine. He will probably be disappointed with the second goal but that's why he needs to play games. It's a game under his belt, and he's going to need a few more, but he has started. That's the main thing."
Romain Larrieu will travel with the rest of the Argyle squad for tomorrow's key game with Blackpool - but will not participate in the match unless Luke McCormick is injured in some way. "It's a bit early for Romain," Paul Sturrock said, "but in an emergency we'd change our thinking on that. He'll travel, and he'll be on hand if Luke falls over on the day, but it would need a real emergency for Romain to go in."
Argyle have not yet held detailed contract talks with the members of the squad whose deals expire this summer. "I've had conversations with the board about the players that are going out of contract," said Paul Sturrock, "but the amount of heavy business the directors had to go through at their last board meeting meant that decisions won't be taken until the March board meeting."
Paul Sturrock has a fully-fit squad to choose from as Marino Keith has recovered from ankle ligament damage. Sturrock said: "It's not nice to tell two players, who I feel are as good as the ones on the bus, that they are not travelling. It's not nice for a footballer to be sat at home on a Saturday. Secondly, it's not nice to even tell two boys when you get up there that they are not going to get a strip, but that's football. I would rather have all 20 players available over March because I do feel rotation might be significant. We have got six games in the month and it might be that it's important we have people with fresh legs, especially as we have got Blackpool tomorrow, are at home on Tuesday and then travel to Notts County next Saturday. Marino obviously hasn't had any match practice but he has trained the last couple of days. It's a debate whether I bring him back now, when we have got these games coming up thick and fast and it means the squad is going to get stretched."
Argyle would consider staging one-off rugby games for Plymouth Albion at Home Park and while they would not be interested in sharing with Albion permanently they would be prepared to offer their facilities for important league or cup games. Paul Stapleton admitted Paul Sturrock was against the pitch being used by anyone else. "We know that we could spend a lot of money on special grass and do a joint venture," said Stapleton. "That's a commercial consideration, but Paul, in the first place, is totally against the pitch being used. His attitude has been 'look, we are doing well and my pitch is my pitch, please don't muck it up'. We have taken that on board. It may be something that when the council come up with phase two, they may turn round and say 'we will give you X-number of pounds because you have considered this.' Then we would look at it commercially and say to Paul 'this is what we can do', but it costs a lot of money to do a decent pitch." Stapleton had informal talks with Albion director Jan Colam last summer. "No further approaches were made but it's something which may come back," said Stapleton. "If their gates keep increasing and they are full every week then they might come to us. We haven't ruled out the possibility of them playing odd matches here, if they get into the later stages of the Cup or whatever. We are not against it per se, but just on a regular basis I think we've to be careful."
Romain Larrieu was delighted to be back playing again last night. He said: "It's good to be back, I should have been playing maybe ten days ago, but I had a problem with a groin strain. So I was happy to play tonight. There's a lot to do, though. I need to work on my sharpness. I lost a little bit last week when I didn't train properly. And I wasn't happy with the second goal tonight but it doesn't matter, because the plan was to get a game under my belt and be positive as much as I could. I think I've done that." Larrieu is determined to regain his first team place: "Luke has been outstanding and he has played a big part in where we are in the league at the moment," he said. "He will give me a big fight, but I feel ready for it. I will be up for it because fighting is part of this job and I relish it. It's no problem. Competition improves your game. We will see what comes out of it, but I'm quite happy that I have to fight for my place. I have always thought I would have to do that. It's up to both of us now to make up the manager's mind for him." Larrieu returned to training earlier this month but his comeback was put on hold. "It was a great feeling to put the shirt on again," he said. "I'm on the way back, but there are still a lot of things I need to work on. I wasn't able to work too much last week because of the injury but I came back into training on Monday morning. I'm happy with my overall performance and I was positive in everything I did, which I wanted to be, even if I misjudged one corner. The last 10 days have been so long. The groin injury was due to training and kicking. You have to expect that when you come back. Maxie and Paul Giles told me I needed to be really careful. I didn't have too much chance to train for tonight, but I enjoyed it and I didn't have any problem with kicking or jumping. I didn't feel my knee at all. I was more worried about my groin." John Blackley said: "It was brilliant to see Romain back. He's obviously a big favourite here. He's done ever so well to get back, and it's great for him and great for the club."
Argyle reserves won 4-2 against Yeovil Town at Home Park. The goals were scored by Ryan Dickson, Lee Hodges, Jason Bent and Ian Stonebridge. Argyle: Larrieu, O'Sullivan, Villis, Wotton, Worrell, Phillips, Bent, Hodges, Dickson, Stonebridge, Sturrock. Subs - Coxon (not used - Schofield, Parrish, Entwisle, Watkins)
Paul Sturrock thinks Argyle's away form over the next few weeks will play a big part in determining their promotion chances. "We have a big month coming up," he said. "The key to this month is our next three away games, on top of our home form staying as it is. We have three of the most difficult away games you could imagine. Blackpool have under-achieved in terms of their potential, and they are still in there with a chance of the play-offs. Notts County are now bringing in a host of new players. Luton is not a great place for us to go, and they're flying." Sturrock has been planning ahead and pondering how to improve Argyle's away form. "Maybe we can't be a good-looking team," he said. "We've tried to be a good-looking team over the past two or three weeks. We've tried to play flowing, passing football. I've had reservations about us picking out Mickey too much, I still have those reservations, but I'm not going to break the mould. I've tried that over the last few weeks and we've got ourselves in a quandary because of it. And we've played too open away from home. We've tried to take our home style away with us, It's time to put a bit of realism back into our away form. Once we get ugly and horrible-looking and defensive away from home again, then we might start digging out some results again."
Marino Keith could be fit for Argyle's game at Blackpool on Saturday. "We are hoping he will get a full week's training in to enable me to have confidence in him to be available for Saturday," said Paul Sturrock. "I don't think he needs to play a reserve game before that. It's just getting over the final hurdle of discomfort, that's the problem."
Romain Larrieu will make his return from injury tomorrow night against Yeovil Town in the reserve match at Home Park. The strong line-up for the match also includes David Worrell at left-back, an experiment to hopefully provide cover for Peter Gilbert who is suffering from a virus. "We feel that it's adding another string to his bow, being able to play both full-back positions," said Paul Sturrock. "We would have to do a lot of work on Tony to convince me of his defensive qualities, and Hodgy hasn't played there for a long time. He's more content in midfield. I just want to know who's available for left-back. I have always thought that David could handle it." Also in the team are Jason Bent, Ian Stonebridge, Buster Phillips, Paul Wotton, Blair Sturrock and Lee Hodges and Sturrock senior said: "Where we are having a problem at this moment in time is with players who feel they should be playing in my first team. That's football. It must be exasperating for them all." Argyle: Larrieu, O'Sullivan, Villis, Wotton, Worrell, Phillips, Bent, Hodges, Dickson, Stonebridge, Sturrock
Paul Sturrock is hoping Marino Keith will be able to resume full training soon, he said: "We feel Dan needs a full week's training under his belt, but he's still feeling very tender."
Ian Stonebridge enjoyed his last-gasp goal on Saturday. "All I remember is the cross coming in from Paul and Blair redirected it a little bit to the back post. I just stretched and ended up in a half-tackle with a defender," he said, "I managed to get up quicker than him and get a nice bobbly shot into the corner. It was a big game for us, Bristol City have been doing that for the last few weeks, late goals, now we've given them something to think about." The man of the match was Mickey Evans: "With the number of headers that Mickey was winning, the ball was always dropping down and it was just a case of us getting in the right place," Stonebridge added. "In the first half people were trying to guess and were getting things wrong, but in the second half it came good and we made it in the end. Buster has gambled off a flick to get on to Mickey's header and he's got a great finish on it, and luckily I've got a ricochet off a cross as well." Paul Sturrock agreed that Evans was outstanding. He said, "I thought Mickey was unbelievable. He's so successful in that role. We're playing off crumbs but we get so many opportunities that way it's hard not to play that way. But it's hard to pick anyone out. It was a real good, gutsy, hard- working performance." Martin Phillips admitted: "When they scored we were sat there thinking 'maybe it's going to be one those days' but fortunately it wasn't in the end. Sometimes you can gamble on the flick on and go the wrong way and sometimes you can gamble and get on the end of it. Luckily, it dropped in an area that was good for me and I was able to swing my foot and get it just over the line. It all happened so quickly and you just look over to the linesman, and he seemed pretty convinced. I have seen it a couple of times on the TV and it was over the line. Over the course of the last year I have had difficult times, what with injuries and everything else, so it was good for me to get that goal, I'm not a regular scorer by any stretch of the imagination. I think everybody realised it was a big game, especially when you are going into the last 10 minutes and you are losing 1-0. Having been turned over at Tranmere and Brighton and drawn against Bournemouth, it puts a little more on it."
Following yesterdays game Paul Sturrock said: "This was the biggest game of the season, as it unfolded. It could be mentioned in years to come, if things go the right way. We are going to have to dig deep now, we have got to go to Blackpool and bite and scratch next week, and then we have got the month that will probably determine our destiny as far as this season is concerned, with four home games and two away. You've just got to keep working and sooner or later, someone will not go with a runner or make a mistake in the middle of the box. It must have been an exciting game to watch, we left it a bit tight, but totally deserved the result today. I got the right response from them today, they were all up for it. As the game went on, I felt were we never going to score and it was the old sucker-punch, the one chance they had in the game, they go and score with. It looked as if it was going to be one of those days. Today though, we got a couple of breaks we didn't get against Bournemouth. It was a real gutsy, hard working performance." Sturrock was pleased with his goalscorers and said: "It's a very difficult thing, being manager of this football club just now because I have got 20 players who all merit playing, but I can only pick 11. There are players like Hodges, Worrell and Bent, who have been mainstays of our team, who were not on the pitch today. I asked for a response from my bench. I felt, over the last two or three games, their disappointment at not playing has been reflected in their approach to coming off the bench. Buster's desperate to play. He came to see me recently to tell me that he just wants to play football. Over the last two or three reserve games, I've seen a big improvement in his play and his fitness."
Argyle beat Port Vale 2-1 at Home Park, the goals scored by Martin Phillips after 80 minutes and Ian Stonebridge in added time. Argyle: McCormick, Connolly, Coughlan, Aljofree, Gilbert, Norris, Friio, Adams, Capaldi, Evans, Lowndes. Subs - Phillips, Stonebridge, Sturrock (not used - Wotton, Hodges). Attendance - 11,330 .The usual excellent coverage can be found on Greens On Screen and Ian De Lar's match report is here
Paul Stapleton has admitted phase 2 of the redevelopment of Home Park will not start during 2004 He said: "There is an intent on the part of the council to get something done here, so we are very pleased about that, we are actually now looking forward to another meeting, which should be held in March we think, when we will see what the council have got to say about it. Following on from that, we will know more about the timescale. But there's one thing for certain, it's not going to be 2004."
Argyle have yet to decide whether to pursue their interest in trialist Chris Zebrowski. "He's supposed to have played very well, but I haven't seen the boy play myself," said Paul Sturrock. "No decision has been made on him. I've been too busy with the first team since I've been back at work."
Tickets for Argyle's away game against Luton Town on March 20th went on sale to Gren members today. 1,800 tickets are available and cost £15 for Adults and £8 for Senior/Students/Junior. Tangerine Members can buy tickets from 1st March, White Members from 6th March and they will be on general sale from 10th March. Tickets are restricted to one per member until they go on General Sale
Martin Phillips hopes he'll get a chance to regain a place in Argyle's first team. He said: "Every footballer wants to play, I'm no different. You wouldn't be in the game if you didn't want to play. Touch wood, I feel great, long may that continue. I've waited for a chance, so I've got to cross my fingers and take it when it comes." Phillips was used in a central role just behind the strikers last week at Tiverton. "I enjoy that role," he admitted. "I've played there a few times over the course of my career, especially when I started out at Exeter. But at the end of the day I'll play anywhere to get a game."
Paul Sturrock wants Argyle fans to get behind the team, he said: "Dare I say this, we need a dirty win. We need to put three points on the board again. I think most of our fans were already checking out how to get to stadiums in another league next season, and we have had a reality check. We need the fans behind us. We don't need them being exasperated with what has happened. If our support get exasperated and have the mentality that Argyle always seem to fall away then that's what will happen. I have been receiving letters saying 'why have we let this slip' and quotes like 'the players don't want to go up'. All that is doing is courting disaster. If the majority of the fanbase have that mentality we have got problems. We want to make sure we are in the rat-race until the end of the season, and if we fail we put our hand up and get on with it. That's how honest you have to be in football. Our whole thought process this year was to be better than we were last year. Unless we have a massive cave-in we will do that." Sturrock has not been surprised that the race is getting closer: "One point from nine is not to promotion standards, and we have got to get back on the rails. People will obviously be disappointed we have fallen off the top of the table, but a team that takes 30 points out of 30, as Bristol have done, merits being top of the table. And, strangely enough, that team is still only one point ahead of us. We have a league now of 15 games. For the last three months I have told everybody this league would tighten up, and I do believe it will tighten up even more. I think it's a five-horse race. Swindon will definitely come into fray and somebody will come out of the pack with an unbelievable run. I have been one person who has been preaching this all along. Others have felt it was cut and dried who was going to be promoted, but it's now back in the melting pot. Lady Luck normally shines on both sides, and she's shining away from us at the minute. We have got to work 10 times harder to turn that around again."
Marino Keith has started light training after his ankle injury but will not return to the squad tomorrow
Paul Sturrock has backed his chairman's vigorous denial of rumours linking him with a move to Southampton. He said: "I'm here to do a job of work and not parry these questions all the time. I think the chairman's thoughts were very appropriate. I'm lying in my bed, sick; everybody's been told I'm lying in my bed sick - why don't you believe me? That's the annoying thing about it."
Argyle today unveiled their new away strip for next season and also opened a retail outlet at Derry's Department store, their first city-centre presence in the club's history. The shirt was voted for by Argyle members, who went for an all-tangerine shirt with a green collar and shoulder-flashes. Paul Sturrock likes the new design, he said: "The fans have had their say, which is good. I'm just happy they chose tangerine! I'm sure the lads will wear the shirt with pride." Paul Stapleton said: "We had a good response and all the players and the manager prefer the kit that's been choosen. I think the team are happy the members voted that way. They agree it was the best of the three." Stapleton added: "For as long as I can remember, our fans have been asking for somewhere to buy official merchandise in the city centre. As a board, we've listened to those voices and are delighted to be able to team up with Derry's to provide supporters with an alternative to our very successful Club Shop to purchase all their official Argyle goods. Rachel Fry and her staff do a wonderful job, day in, day out at the Club Shop and have worked hard to bring about this exciting new venture with John Britton." Britton said: "This is a situation in which everyone wins – Derry's are teaming up with Plymouth's premier sports club; we're continuing to expand our commercial partnerships by linking up with Plymouth's top city centre store; and the supporters gain another place to buy Argyle merchandise." Britton revealed that the new shirt will be available before the end of the season. He said: "We will take orders for the new shirt immediately, and will make sure that supporters have them so that they can wear them during our final away match of this season, at Hartlepool on May 1. Coverage of the launch at Derry's can be found on Greens On Screen
Paul Stapleton has hit out at the latest speculation surrounding Paul Sturrock's future. "I wish people would stop these rumours," he said. "They are driving us all mad. We're in a great position and we don't want anything to muck it up. He's staying with us. I thought all these rumours had died down. I wish people would leave it alone. Rest assured, health permitting, Paul Sturrock will be in our dug out on Saturday, for the rest of the season and hopefully next year in Division One. That's our aim. I can vouch for the fact that he was in bed on Monday as I spoke to him as the coach left and I spoke to him at home on Tuesday. He has not been well, but he feels if he rests he should be back by Friday. And, with no disrespect to anyone else, his presence is needed. Paul is so committed to Argyle that he would not have been away for any other reason." Sturrock was due to open Saltash United's new floodlights last night, but Stapleton stood in for him. "Paul was still unwell and so someone asked me if I would mind going over," said Stapleton. "And I'm always happy to help out local teams."
Argyle reserves won 5-0 in the friendly at Saltash United. The goals were scored by trialist Chris Zebrowski (2), Blair Sturrock (penalty), Matt Villis and Wayne O'Sullivan. John Blackley said: "It was a very useful work-out, the application was first-class. Lee Hodges asked to play, so full credit to him. All the senior players were a great help to the kids. It was also great to see Jason get through the 90 minutes, he's there knocking on the door now." Striker Zebrowski is currently in the youth squad at Swindon Town and has impressed on loan at Cirencester Town this season. Romain Larrieu did not make his expected comeback but Paul Maxwell insisted it was only a precaution and that the Frenchman had not suffered any setbacks. He said: "Romain is feeling fine, but he's really stiff and sore after all the work he has been doing. We decided he needed to let it calm down and he will be back in training on Monday." Argyle: Chapman, Worrell, Villis, Sawyer, O'Sullivan, Coxon, Hodges, Bent, Dickson, Zebrowski, Sturrock. Subs - Nute, Bulley (not used - Entwistle, Evans, Hoyles)
Argyle's under-17's won 1-0 against Yeovil Town at Harpers Park last night, the goal scored by Chris Reski. Up to date youth tables, results and fixtures can be found here
After last nights game Kevin Summerfield admitted the players were facing a test of character, but said he was confident they would rise to the challenge: "To be fair, nobody who has watched the team this season would ever question their character and their application, and nobody could question it after tonight. There's disappointment, yes, but I don't think you could ask any one of those to run more, fight more and chase more than they have done. You have got to take that out of the game, and the little things that's didn't work for us. At 3-0, you would have thought the supporters who travelled up would be getting on at the team, but they kept us going so they, in a sense, appreciated the effort that was going in." He continued: "I think we have played a lot worse than that and come out winning games, we were sloppy defensively at the start, but once we got hold of it we were okay. We did well in the second half and it was our mistakes that gave them any opportunities they had. But, at the end of the day, we didn't have enough guile and enough craft to fashion clear-cut openings. We had quite a few attempts at goal but nothing really clear-cut, which was disappointing for the amount of possession we had. We know we could have done better in certain aspects defensively, but, then again, we could have created more going the other way, and we didn't do it. The lads are disappointed but I can't say a lot about them because they gave everything they have got. It was first class. We didn't get the run of the ball at all, but that's life. Over the season, we have had enough where things have fallen for us. Now, possibly, this a period in the season where we are just not getting the rub of the green."
Argyle lost 3-0 at Tranmere. Argyle: McCormick, Connolly, Coughlan, Aljofree, Gilbert, Friio, Norris, Adams, Stonebridge, Evans, Lowndes. Subs - Sturrock, Phillips, Wotton (not used - Hodges, Capaldi). Attendance - 7948.
Paul Stapleton remains confident that Argyle can manage a top-two finish. "I certainly hope so, but nothing is guaranteed in this life," he said. "If we don't, it will not be through the lack of trying. Paul is very upbeat about things and he's working hard. We have told him if he wants to come knocking on the door for anything we will see what can happen." However, Stapleton believes there is a lot of quality in Argyle's squad, having been at Tiverton to see the reserves. "Having watched the boys then, I think there are a lot of people competing for the 11 places," he said. "While you have got that, you have got a great squad. I think that is what Paul has always said. He's very happy with this group of players. Jason Bent has been out for three months and when he plays like he did on Friday you think he should be an automatic in the first team. Then you have got people like Buster as well. It has got to be good news for us. Sometimes you get new players in and they can upset the applecart. He has got so many options to change the team and play with different formations. I think he's pleased with that as well. I would say if Mickey took a knock then you might find that we would have to go out and get somebody to replace him because he's different to the rest of our strikers. I'm very pleased with the depth of the squad, but I know that if we needed to get somebody Paul has got lots of names. He's on the phone all the time, and that's what a good manager is all about. You don't just sit back and be complacent. Paul said the players worked very hard in training last week so we are looking forward with fingers crossed."
Former Argyle and Tranmere striker Steve Cooper died in his sleep on Monday aged 39. Tuesday night's game between the two teams will be preceded by a minute's silence. Paul Stapleton said: "Everyone at Argyle was shocked and saddened to hear of the sudden death of a popular former player, especially at such a tragically young age. Our condolences go to his family. Kevin Summerfield and Geoff Crudgington were both playing colleagues of Steve's and were stunned to hear the news. It is extremely poignant that this should happen in the week we are playing Tranmere as this was another club where Steve was a respected and admired player."
Paul Sturrock has a virus and did not travel with the team on Monday. He will travel to Birkenhead tomorrow if he feels up to it, otherwise assistant manager Kevin Summerfield will take charge of the team
Jason Bent is hoping he has finally put his injury problems behind him. "At first I didn't think it was a serious injury or anything like that," he said. "I started to have little setbacks and couldn't really get to the bottom of why it was happening. Hopefully, it's behind me now. I still get some pain occasionally but I would rather just see if I can get on with it and improve each day and maybe it will go away. I just want to get myself fit and sharp and make myself available for the squad at least. It has been frustrating watching the boys play, but I'm definitely glad they have done so well. The goals have been flying in and they have been keeping them out as well. What more can you ask? They have mucked in together and deserve to carry on." Bent enjoyed both of his reserve appearances last week: "They were heavy pitches and the surfaces weren't the best but I thought our attitude was superb," he said. "It was good to come through the games and play with the boys again."
Argyle's reserve game against Yeovil Town on Tuesday has been postponed but an Argyle XI will now play Saltash United in a friendly on Wednesday at the Kimberley Stadium (kick off 7.30pm). Romain Larrieu is set to make his comeback in the game and Paul Sturrock will perform the official switching on of Saltash's new floodlights. To mark the occasion, the admission prices will be only £2 for adults and £1 for senior citizens and under-16s
Paul Sturrock admitted he has much to think about before naming his team for the game at Tranmere. Martin Phillips started last nights game on the left wing but after the break he played behind the strikers and was outstanding, scoring the fifth goal. Sturrock said: "We tried him there at Crystal Palace two seasons ago, I think, and he was absolutely exceptional on the night. To be fair, we have never really used him there but it's something we can think about for the weeks to come, especially against a team playing 3-5-2. It caused a lot of concern to Tiverton when we played the diamond. The problem with it is that you are one short in midfield. The other way of playing him is off one striker, so we have got things to think about." Jason Bent played his second game after returning to fitness and Sturrock said: "Jason got stronger and stronger as the game went on. He has definitely put a presence on me for Tuesday. Stevie Adams was absolutely outstanding in the second half, Paul Wotton was very solid and I thought David Worrell had an excellent game - and got his first goal for Argyle." Sturrock experimented with Tony Capaldi at left-back last night. He said: "It looks as if he doesn't defend the way I like my defenders to do, but we had to see that. If we are going to get him to cover at left-back he's going to have to work very hard with John Blackley, which he has never done, and it's something we are going to have to make sure we sort out."
Argyle's reserves won 5-2 at Tiverton Town in last nights friendly, the goals coming from David Worrell, Paul Wotton, Gary Sawyer, Ian Stonebridge and Martin Phillips. Romain Larrieu did not take part in the match as Paul Sturrock did not want to risk bringing him back too soon. Argyle: Schofield, Worrell, Villis, Sawyer, Capaldi, Bent, Adams, Wotton, Phillips, Stonebridge, Sturrock. Subs - Watkins (not used - Chapman, O'Sullivan, Entwisle, Coxon)
Marino Keith will miss the game at Tranmere due to the ankle ligament injury he sustained against Bournemouth. "Marino is jogging but it's still tender and sore," said Paul Sturrock. "He has no chance for Tuesday. We've not put a timescale on his recovery."
Paul Sturrock was delighted with the performance of Argyle's reserve team in their win at Bristol Rovers. "I was very pleased," he said. "Nobody let themselves down at all. In fact, there were some outstanding performances. The thinking cap is going to have to go on for next Tuesday." The reserves play again tomorrow against Tiverton and Romain Larrieu may get a game. "We're very hopeful that Romain will play part of the game," said Sturrock, "but that decision will be left until the morning. He's very stiff after a really hard work-out on Tuesday. Jason did very well on Wednesday, and we hope he'll have 90 minutes at Tiverton. Blair will start but won't play the whole 90 minutes. He's still not back in full training."
Paul Wotton will continue to take Argyle's penalties, Paul Sturrock believing he is still the best man for the job. "I don't see any problem with that," said Sturrock. "All penalty takers miss penalties from time to time. I don't want to go around the houses. If he's on the pitch he will take them."
Argyle's reserves won 4-0 at Bristol Rovers with goals from Ian Stonebridge, Andy Watkins, Steve Adams and Lee Coxon. Argyle: Schofield, Worrell, Villis, Sawyer, O'Sullivan, Phillips, Bent, Adams, Dickson, Stonebridge, Watkins
Paul Maxwell has been delighted with Romain Larrieu's recovery from injury. He said: "Romain has been doing well, he has really been there, training-wise, for the last week to 10 days but, obviously, we're easing him in. He's only training once a day, when the others are having a couple of sessions a day. We will keep that going for a while. His kicking definitely looks like it has improved power-wise and he looks strong and quick around the goalmouth. I think Crudgie is quite happy with the way he has come back. Romain says he feels a lot fitter and more powerful than he did before, so you can't ask any more than that. He's just eager really to get back playing but this is when you need to put the reins on. I have known people before that have come back from this sort of injury and it has been fine but they have picked up a groin or a thigh strain. You are really looking after the rest of the body, rather than worrying about the knee too much now. That's why you hold players back, so everything else gets used to the training again, especially with the grounds as they are."
Argyle's under-19 side have qualified for the Merit Division One South having finished second in their league.
Paul Sturrock has challenged his fringe players to make it impossible for him not to call them up to the first team. Argyle play Bristol Rovers reserves on Wednesday and Tiverton Town on Friday and Sturrock said: "I want serious presence from the players that are playing in the next two games, to the extent that it makes me change the team. That's what I want, and that's what I am going to demand from the players that are playing. They will be the people who affect the team, or performance of the players that are in the team. They are the important people in this football team at the minute, although they might not think it. I've had too many sleepless nights anyway, but I could stand a couple more this week. If I'm having sleepless nights, it means I'm panicking about picking the team because two or three of the boys have been absolutely outstanding in the next two reserve games." Tomorrows starting XI for the reserves is: Schofield, Worrell, Villis, Sawyer, O'Sullivan, Phillips, Bent, Adams, Dickson, Stonebridge, Watkins
Romain Larrieu's comeback will probably be in the reserve match against Yeovil on February 24th. Paul Sturrock said: "I don't think Romain will play on Friday, but that's been left between the physio, the doctor and Romain. We're well ahead of other people who have had the same problems as him. We don't, all of a sudden, want a serious reaction and finish up with set-backs. So we'll wait and see. He's back training every day and doing everything that Luke's doing. The thing you have to watch at this minute in time is that they don't come back too quick."
Paul Sturrock has refused to discuss reports linking him with Southampton. "It's just pure speculation," he said yesterday. Paul Stapleton denied that Southampton had asked for permission to speak to Sturrock. He said: "We want to hang on to Paul, and move up the League with him in charge. We don't want any approaches for him."
Paul Sturrock knows what it will take for Argyle to win promotion to the First Division. He said: "What we've got to do is look positively. There's 16 games left, every one's a cup final, let's go for it. Every fan's looking over their shoulder. Every result, every table, starts to put an apprehension into everybody. I'm sure my players have looked at the table regularly over the last two or three weeks. People might say, if we fail to go up, 'Those two points we lost against Bournemouth…', but those two points we gained against Swindon…It's swings and roundabouts.If we are going to achieve what we want to, we are going to have to do it - pure, simple and easy. It won't be for the lack of attitude and work-rate from the boys and the coaching staff. So we go for it. It looks as though it's going to be a tight race until the end of the season, but in Austria, after playing a team we drew 1-1 with, our only goal on tour, if someone had that night turned to me and said 'You'll be three points clear in February', I'd have looked as him as if he was an alien."
Marino Keith should be fit in 'a few weeks'. "Dan's got an ankle injury," said Paul Sturrock. "It is quite bad, it's puffed up, but we won't be sending him for a scan. I think he had the same kind of problem a year ago, when I think it took about three or four weeks to mend. Although we're not putting a timescale on it, it looks like he'll miss one or two games. We haven't got a game for nine or ten days, so that's a benefit of a kind." Sturrock does not intend bringing in a temporary replacement, although he knows that, should he require a player, he would be able to get one. "We've had Jason out, Romain out, and Blair on the periphery, and we've still mustered teams," he said. "I don't want to be bringing boys in that, all of a sudden, jump ahead of other boys, but, if we took a niggling knock to another striker, we could have a problem. If we wanted to go and strengthen the squad and there was a small fee, I'm sure the board wouldn't have a problem with that. I've got a list of names for certain positions, so, if we've got any problems, we'll go and nip someone, but, until that time, we'll live with it."
Paul Sturrock has confirmed that he will send a strong side to play against Tiverton Town in a friendly this Friday, February 13th (kick off 7.00pm). "We have a midweek reserve game which will give several players a match, they will get another game in now on Friday as our game against Tranmere has been moved", he said. "Jason Bent will play part of the game on Wednesday and will probably play against Tiverton. Blair will play on Friday, but I am not sure about Romain, he may play. Without a game on Saturday it will give a chance for the squad to get another game under their belt, particularly those who have not started a first team match recently."
Micky Evans is confident Argyle are back on the right track despite Saturdays draw. He said: "We were by far the best side on the pitch. If we can play like that all the way to the end of the season it's all we can do, you can't ask for anymore. We had enough chances. We hit the crossbar three times, I've hit it, David's hit it and Chuck has hit it. Then again we have had a bit of luck this season, so we have to take the rough with the smooth. The lads were very down when we first came in because we didn't get a win but looking back I think they can be quite proud of the way we played."
Marino Keith may have suffered ligament damage yesterday but has not, as initially feared, broken his ankle. Keith received treatment yesterday morning from Paul Maxwell who said: "He just went over on his ankle as he landed and I think it shocked him a little bit when he did it. It puffed up straight away so with the amount of time left we stretchered him off just to be on the safe side. It doesn't look like a fracture but it is quite swollen so we will see how he is over the next couple of days."
Paul Sturrock has admitted Argyle need to develop more young players from Plymouth and throughout the West Country. "Decision-making on our youth development structure will be over the next five years when we see how many of our scholars come through into the team," he said. "Paul Connolly has come from another part of the country and so has Luke McCormick. They have finished up at the club late on in their development. If you look at us at the minute we have only got Adams and Wotton who have been through the system. I don't feel that's a very successful return and I'm looking for a much better progression coming through. We have changed dramatically our thoughts on how it should be run and put into practice the things we want done, but it will not happen overnight. As a manager, if you have got your club at heart, you have to do these kind of things, even though you may not be around to see the end results."
Following todays game Paul Sturrock said: "It was a very exasperating day, saying that, we played Chesterfield where everything dropped to us and everything went in the net; today, everything dropped for us and nothing went in the net, but that's football. If we go away and take that as a defeat, rather than a draw, there will be an apprehension coming into the squad. We have got to be positive in our approach to this game. It must have been a good game for the fans to watch in the second half. We're all frustrated, I'm sure they all are; the gap's closed down – it's going to make an exciting end to the season."
Argyle draw 0-0 with Bournemouth at Home Park. Argyle: McCormick, Connolly, Coughlan, Aljofree, Gilbert, Norris, Hodges, Friio, Capaldi, Evans, Lowndes. Subs - Keith, Wotton, Phillips (not used - Adams, Stonebridge). Attendance - 13,371. and Ian De Lar's match report is here.
Jason Bent should make his comeback in the reserve's next week. Paul Sturrock said: "Jason wanted a full week's training so he was safe in his mind about his knee. He's still getting wee niggles in the area, but the specialist said that was going to happen, and he would just have to run through all that. That's what he's attempting to do at the minute." Romain Larrieu could also play in the match. Sturrock said: "Romain has worked tirelessly this week and done everything we have asked of him."
Paul Sturrock is hoping hard work on the training ground this week will be rewarded tomorrow. He said: "We have trained very hard and worked on the things I feel we have forgotten about. The weather has been a feature of the week and I'm a wee bit worried that we have maybe left our legs on the training ground. They have worked very hard as a squad of players. The reserve game being off was a hindrance in one way and a benefit in another. It enabled the squad to train together for the whole week, which is quite pleasing, but it's important we keep ticking over with reserve games as well." Argyle are confident tomorrow's game will go-ahead, Sturrock said: "We have had a lot of rain on the pitch and it will make it very boggy, which means you can't get a flow to your game. It's important the players appreciate they are maybe going to have to adapt to the conditions."
Paul Sturrock has given a vote of confidence to Paul Connolly and Peter Gilbert. "These kids are going to be up and down because of their age and their inexperience," he said. "You have just got to make sure you keep them on an even keel. I'm sure if they are selected tomorrow, they will bounce back. I thought they struggled in the first-half at Brighton, they were involved in the two goals. But their second-half contribution was very good. After the chat we had at half-time, they could have quite easily gone to pieces, but they showed good character to come out and be very positive in their approach. I think Gilly put in four or five crosses, and so did Connolly. They had put in one between them in the first-half."
Graham Coughlan has been named the Second Division player of the month for January, an award won by David Friio in October. Coughlan said: "It's nice to be recognised, but one thing's for sure, I wouldn't have won anything if it hadn't been for 20 other players and the coaching staff. I'd really like to divide the award up into five and share it with Peter Gilbert, Hasney Aljofree, Paul Connolly and Luke McCcormick. They have an equal share in it. We are a relatively new combination and have a put a lot of hard work into what we have achieved - double training, all-out defending sessions." Coughlan is pleased to be back scoring: "I went through a bit of a barren patch. I missed a chance to score the club's 5,000th goal at Bournemouth which was so bad that even my two-year-old daughter laughed at it. Paul Sturrock didn't buy me to score goals, so it's all a bonus, but it's nice to chip in with my bit. I scored 12 goals in the title-winning season and, I'm not blowing my own trumpet, but I think it will be a long time before a defender is the leading scorer for a team that wins the championship." Paul Sturrock said: "I'm very pleased for him and it's totally merited. He has been very strong in the last month. He has worked hard at his game. He has done a lot of individual stuff that I have noticed out on the training ground. I had a chat with him at the start of the season about bits and pieces and he has that on board and worked away at it on his own, which has benefited his game."
Paul Sturrock has praised the perseverance of his son, Blair, in his battle against injury. "He is getting stronger and stronger and he's getting no reaction from that area, but that's with no ballwork yet," he said. "That will be the determining factor. To be fair, I have been very pleased with him because it has been difficult circumstances. He has been swimming at the baths, cycling and doing weights on his own. But he has been quite prepared to feel lousy on the Sunday and the Monday due to a 20 minutes performance on the Saturday for the cause. Probably, he might have been back a touch quicker had we taken him out totally from that environment, but he appreciated he had to help out as much as he could. We had injuries to the strikers and Buster wasn't available. We had a problem as far as selection was concerned. He's the type who, at times, has opened the door for us and got us back into games, and even won us games, with his contribution coming off the bench. That's why he has been invaluable to us. Paul Maxwell says he's up to three-quarter pace running, with no reaction, so that's pleasing. And he's on the training ground again, which must be great for him."
Paul Sturrock believes Argyle may have to vary their playing style for away games. "I remember last season we played 4-3-3 for a long time away from home and we were quite successful with it," he said. "Then, all of a sudden, we had a couple of hiccups with that system and I had to revert back again. I think what has happened is people have seen through what we have been successful with and combatted it. Now we have got to come up with something which changes our style a wee bit."
Argyle's reserve game against Cheltenham Town has been postponed due to the recent heavy rain, no new date has been yet been set
Paul Sturrock wants his players to remember how they battled their way to the top of the Second Division. "I've talked to several players individually and I've talked to the team as a unit since Saturday," he said yesterday. "We didn't look right, we didn't look fresh. It's back to the drawing board as far as the training ground is concerned. But it would be very stupid of me to put the microscope on last Saturday's game and dissect it. There will not be wholesale changes for the game this weekend. I'm not saying there won't be any changes, but the players' endeavours necessitate my loyalty through a one-bad-game scenario. At times, comments are made after games that managers regret making. However, had you talked to me at midnight on Saturday, after watching the game on the video, I don't think many of them would have been playing this weekend. But after going through it again in my mind and after spending today on the training ground, I've got to respect that these players have taken us to these heights. What is important is getting on the training ground and reminding ourselves of what makes us a good team. I've aired my views about last Saturday. I've had a meeting with the coaching staff about individual players and the team structure on the day, and as far as we're concerned that game is done and dusted. It's past. What I want to do is look to the future and focus on the next game. If you start studying games like Saturday's it erodes confidence, and I don't want to do that."
David Friio may be an injury doubt this weekend, after he suffered a minor strain at Brighton. "David has a slight groin problem and missed training today," Paul Sturrock said. "He'll probably not come back into training until Thursday."
Jason Bent may be given a run-out if tomorrows reserve match goes ahead. "Jason needs a game," Paul Sturrock said, "and if the reserve match is on he'll probably get half an hour at least." Romain Larrieu, however, is approaching full fitness but will be given more time on the training ground before he is given a reserve game. "Romain came in and did some full training with the team today in a practice match," Sturrock said. "It's good to see him back in training but it's well ahead of schedule. He'll have to have two or three solid weeks of ball-work before he contemplates games. I will not rush Romain, too many times I've seen players with his injury come back too quick and finish with the same problem again. I do not want to go down that road. But it was very pleasing to see him back in training. He never looked out of sorts and he kicked a ball as well today, with some pass-backs."
Paul Wotton believes Argyle will bounce back from the defeat at Brighton. He said: "We should remember this bitter taste in our mouth for the rest of the season. No team is going to give us an easy ride now but it's not all doom and gloom. We have lost one game and we are five points clear at the top. It's a definite kick up the backside for us and it's very important we respond the right way. Fingers crossed we will."
Paul Sturrock blamed his players' poor first-half attitude for the 2-1 defeat at Brighton. He said: "I've warned this lot for a while now that we haven't played to the standards we expect away from home, but hopefully they will take heed by this. Some won't get a chance because they will be out of the team. Our performances against Grimsby and Stockport were not up to the standards that we would expect, and we've come out for the first 45 minutes and done exactly the same, we were second to everything. You have got to give credit to Brighton, who were right up for that game. They pressurised us from kick-off and showed the attitude to win the game, whereas we seemed to think it was going to all of a sudden happen for us. By the time we came alive, the horse had bolted. I warned the players that, if we tried to play like we played in the last two away games and defend too deeply in our box, they would score. I was proved right. We lost two bad goals, goals that are not like us. I'm very disappointed with certain individual performances, but that's a discussion I will have on Monday with some of them. There's no excuse for the way we started that game. The attitude of the players changed dramatically in the second half. It shows there was an attitude problem - they didn't go in there and play with the right spirit, and Brighton did. Brighton did very well in the first half and came off deservedly 2-0 up. It was just two much to claw back. We passed the ball in the second half - first half, we just lumped it. I think, at times, we have had so much joy from that, we revert to it, but away from home, you have to be tidier than that. If you are going to win, you must keep possession of the ball - something we didn't do today. There was a team who started the game to win, and a team waiting to win. We were the waiters and it was always on the cards, due to the mental approach of three or four players how we start games away from home. Some of them will bite the dust as far as selection is concerned because of that, and hopefully they will learn from that." Sturrock added that he hoped the club would now escape the media spotlight for a while: "Let's get back to being a sleepy hollow," he said. "I'm not doing any more TV. Let's get back to making sure there's no national press, get on the training-ground and get on with the job. I think we're a better team when we're like that. When we get into this media thing, we seem not to achieve what we want to, so let's get back to being hard to beat and quieten things down."
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