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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.

Friday 31st January 2014

Jason Banton has admitted that his match fitness is still not at the required level following his move to Argyle from Crystal Palace on a permanent deal. The forward says that whilst improvement is still necessary, he is heading in the right direction and will soon be back to his goalscoring best: "Obviously, I'm still lacking a bit of sharpness and match fitness, but, if you've watched all the games, gradually I'm getting there. I'm getting closer to getting my first goal and creating chances. It's not there at the moment, I will admit that, and it's taken a bit longer than I thought. But there's no rushing it. I didn't play the whole of December, going into January," he said, "and then I came straight into the team. Like I say, it's slowly coming and hopefully it will happen this weekend. The main thing is to get my match fitness and sharpness back. I know that will happen. It's just a case of playing week in, week out. Hopefully, working with John on my match fitness, I will be back, scoring goals. He's got to be up there with a couple of managers that I've worked with that have brought the best out of me. I thank him for that. Put my goals and what-have-you aside, the main thing is to get us three points and push us up the table."

Argyle left-back Ben Purrington has been nominated for the League Two apprentice of the year award. 17 year old Purrington who made a shock debut in the 3-2 win at Oxford on Boxing Day has made eight appearances overall this season and follows in the footsteps of Tyler Harvey who was also in the running for the award last season. Incidentally, Argyle are also in the running for the best program design and Family Club of the Year both of which we were also nominated for last season. Sheridan said on Purrington's nomination: "Ben has done well. He has come in and hit the ground running. He has got lots of enthusiasm, which I expect from a young player, but he has still got a lot to learn. He's a level-headed lad and I will make sure he keeps his feet firmly on the ground. Everyone gets excited when young lads come in and play four of five games, but not me. He's just part and parcel of our team and he's learning the game."

30th

John Sheridan has revealed that in spite of numerous attempts to bring in a new striker to the club, we are now unlikely to sign anyone before transfer deadline day. Argyle have been looking for a replacement striker since Tope Obadayi and Caolan Lavery were recalled from their loan spells by Bury and Sheffield Wednesday respectively. The loan market re-opens next week but for now it seems that Argyle will have to do without. Sheridan says that the failure to secure a signature was not for want of trying: "I don't know how many managers I've rang. I was so close to getting a player last week, but it fell through right at the end, which was really disappointing as I almost had him. I'm trying my hardest to bring in a striker who will help us get results, but I'm not just going to get one for the sake of it. I've rang numerous clubs, and it's hard at this time, but you've just got to keep plugging away. I've been speaking to managers and different people, but it's slightly difficult, as sometimes the manager says yes, but the player says no, and there's nothing you can do about it. I've rang numerous clubs; I'm after a player who I think will really benefit us, but if you can't get them, you can't get them. I've spoken to eight who I think will be able to come and do a job. Some of them are on big money, some want a lot of money for them, and we can't really afford some. We need to be realistic and know what our budget is. I know what I've got to play with, so I've got to stick to that and hopefully bring one in."

29th

Argyle's League 2 match at Newport will now take place on Tuesday, April 8. The game between the Pilgrims and Newport County, which was scheduled to be played on Tuesday, was postponed at lunchtime on the day of the match after the Rodney Parade pitch failed to pass referee Keith Hill's official inspection. Heavy overnight rain in Gwent and an inclement weather forecast had raised concerns about the viability of the pitch, which had hosted a rugby union game between Newport Gwent Dragons and Northampton Saints the previous weekend. Tickets bought by the Green Army for the original match remain valid and should be retained if the holder intends to attend the re-arranged match. Fans unable to attend the April match should contact the Home Park Ticket Office to arrange a refund.

Lewis Alessandra's wonder goal against Birmingham City has been nominated as Argyle's Goal of the Year 2013. Each Football League club has been invited to enter their best strike from the calendar year 2013, as award sponsors Mitre attempt find the best goal scored in England last year. The 72 nominated goals will be whittled down to five finalists, and a winner from that quintet decided on the evening of the Football League Award ceremony. The goal was Lewi's first for the Pilgrims, and indeed Argyle's first of the 2013/14 season. It levelled the scores in that game, after the Blues had taken the lead in the tie. Lewi would go on to notch another in that game, once again an equaliser to bring it back to 2-2, but Birmingham eventually prevailed 3-2 after extra time. Other goals considered were Joe Bryan's audacious curler in a magnificent win at Chesterfield, Jason Banton's fine winner against Exeter and a pair of fine Luke Young free-kicks. But Lewi's effort stood out above all of these cracking goals.

28th

Argyle's League 2 match at Newport tonight has been called off. The Rodney Parade pitch failed to pass an official inspection at 12.30pm. Heavy overnight rain in Gwent and an inclement weather forecast raised concerns about the viability of the pitch, which hosted a rubgy union game between Newport Gwent Dragons and Northampton Saints at the weekend. Despite the best efforts of County groundstaff since the match, the surface was deemed unsuitable for tonight's game when match referee Keith Hill took a look this lunchtime. The game between County and Argyle will now be re-arranged for later in the season.

Jason Banton is still the player that the Green Army remembers from last season even if it might take a couple more games for him to hit that memorable stride. The 21-year-old forward returned to Home Park earlier this year on a permanent transfer from Premier League Crystal Palace, a year after the beginning of a scintillating 14-game loan in which his goals and assists helped keep Argyle in the Football League. Jason, who spent the first half of this season on loan to Sky Bet League 1 MK Dons, has yet to reproduce that form in his three Argyle games so far – but he will, according to Pilgrims' first-team coach Gary Owers. "He's come in from a situation where he hasn't had a run of games," said Gary "and we're trying to get him up to speed as quickly as possible. We knew what the situation was and we will manage it. He hasn't lost his ability all of a sudden – he's still the player that was here last season; we are just trying to get him to that level where he can show that. He's got three games under his belt, and it might take one or two more, but we are getting there. I hope people realise that. He will still be a big player for us."

Andre Blackman has left Argyle. The 23-year-old defender joined the Pilgrims in August on a short-term deal that the club has decided not to extend following its expiry at the weekend. Andre debuted on the opening-day League 2 defeat at Southend, and went on to make five further starts for the Pilgrims, as well as three substitute appearances. Only one of those games resulted in an Argyle victory, the 1-0 home win over Rochdale at the end of August. His sole goal came in the 2-1 Johnstone's Paint Trophy defeat at Swindon Town, and his final appearance was in a 0-0 draw against Newport County at Home Park on October 22. "We wish him well," said Gary Owers. It's never nice when you have to move on, but Andre is someone who has shown that he's got ability and I hope, for his sake, he can find a new club and go on and show someone what he can really do."

27th

Luke Young is hoping that his stunning leveller in Saturday's 1-1 draw with Cheltenham Town will kickstart the Pilgrims' League 2 run-in. They now take their search for points to make the end-of-season play-offs to Newport on Tuesday and Luke said: "What's done is done. We had a good run, and it was nice, but everyone knows you can't keep that up forever. Maybe we can look back and think 'we weren't at our best today, but we got a point – a point gained' and we can now look at Newport, with no pressure on us away from home. If we can go up there and take the game to them – attack them – I think we will be okay." Luke has not started a match since the week before Christmas but has certainly given manager John Sheridan plenty to chew over with his performances from the bench and in last week's private practice game. "The main thing is that, when reserve-team games do come around, to treat them as a first-team game," he said. "You need to try to impress in any way you can. When you do come on, you have to make an impact and give the gaffer a bit of stuff to think about. Hopefully, I did that and who knows what can happen in the future?"

26th

Argyle's first team coach Gary Owers spoke of the team's fighting spirit, after coming from behind to draw 1-1 with Cheltenham Town. A 53rd minute opener from Byron Harrison gave the visitors a chance to come away from Home Park with all three points, but the Greens simply wouldn't let that happen. Sure enough, an 84th minute free-kick from Luke Young put the Pilgrims back on level terms, and they nearly took all three points. Reuben Reid's shot went inches wide from close range in added time. Speaking after the game, Owers said: "John Sheridan has been speaking to the players a lot about winning as many games as possible, and I think you can see that in our approach today. Late on, we're still trying to get something out of the game - try and salvage a point, then go on and try to win it." Not for the first time this season, Argyle had to overcome the odds; with couple of changes and a switch of formation, they turned the game completely on its head. "We weren't great in the first half and we know that," said Owers. "We only really got going in the game once the changes had been made. John knew we had to do something in the second half, so he made a few changes and it's got us a point. There's a fighting quality there, so hopefully that will get us through the games later in the season, and get us where we want to be."

Luke Young's late equaliser against Cheltenham Town earned him the Man of the Match award, and much praise from Gary Owers. "He had an effect on the game once he came on," said Owers. "We knew we had to get three players in the middle to get more control of the ball, so that helped us." Luke's free-kick capped off an excellent performance that inspired his team-mates to nearly grab all three points late on. Whilst performances such as this may well put him into contention for a place in the starting eleven, Owers knows that consistency is key to his first-team involvements. Gary said: "It's up to Youngy force himself into the team, and show he can do that week in, week out. We've all seen Luke's free kick for the goal today, and we've all seen him do it before. He was unfortunate with another free kick afterwards, but that's what you need to do."

Luke has also been speaking about his performance against Cheltenham, he said: "When Conor was fouled for the free-kick, I walked forward as if to say 'I fancy this' and, to be fair, everyone was happy for me to take it. They gave me a little bit of confidence, saying 'Hit the target', 'You can score'. I was happy to take that on and was just concentrating on hitting the ball – head down and just hit the target – and it sneaked in the bottom corner. I know that all my goals this season are from a set-piece but, at the end of the day, a goal's a goal and I know that, whenever a free-kick comes around, I will put my name forward. If I take it, happy days; if not, I will trust the man next to me." Luke had been on the pitch for half an hour when his moment arrived. He said: "It was a case of 'come on and try to make something happen' and the formation change probably suited us. It allowed us to get on the ball a little bit more, commit more men forward and get around a little bit. I feel that the substitutions made a difference and sparked a little bit more life to the game. We were ready to come on just as they scored; maybe, if it had happened a little bit earlier, they may not have scored. To change it, even after they scored, shows the manager must have belief in the substitutions and hopefully we repaid it. The character from the lads, in the second half, especially, brought us through the game." Luke had a sighter for his free-kick when the ball broke to him in open play and he let fly with a 30-yard shot that Cheltenham goalkeeper Scott Brown just got a hand on. "As soon as I hit it, I knew that I'd caught it sweet," he said. "It was a case of driving into that spot and, when it opened up, I thought 'Why not have a shot? Although it got caught up in the wind a bit, it was heading in, but the 'keeper just tipped it on to the post, and unfortunately for us, their player reacted first." Immediately after his leveller, Luke had the chance with another free-kick. "It was more central," he said, "but, after scoring the first one, I had got to fancy it. I got too much on it. If I'd started it more centre of the goal with the wind helping it across, maybe it would have gone in. But I'll take one out of two."

25th

Argyle have drawn 1-1 in their match against Cheltenham at Home Park. The Robins had the better of the game and went in front shortly after half-time, but a good performance and excellent free-kick goal from substitute Luke Young turned the game around and ensured the points from the game were shared. Argyle: McCormick, Blanchard, Trotman, Nelson, Purrington(Thomas), Boco (Harvey), Blizzard(Young), Hourihane, Banton, Reid, Alessandra. Subs: Cole, Wotton, Richards, Vassell.

24th

It has been confirmed by Sky TV that Argyle's game against Chesterfield which they had planned to move to Monday March 31st will definitely not be on TV. The game is now set to take place on its original date of Saturday March 29th unless Chesterfield do reach the final of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy, in which case it will be further re-arranged.

John Sheridan has given injury updates on two Argyle players who will be unavailable for the short-term future. Durrell Berry and Guy Branston have suffered re-occurring injuries and will not play in the game against Cheltenham or for weeks to come. Sheridan: "Durrell 's had a scan. It's a grade one tear so it's going to be at least four weeks, I should imagine. Guy Branston has that calf niggle what kept him out of pre-season for three weeks again. "We tried to train him at the start of the week, but it just aggravated the injury and he'll be out for about three weeks."

Sheridan also re-iterated that he is still looking for a new striker following the departures of successful loan signings Tope Obedayi and Caolan Lavery. Sheridan: "If that doesn't happen, I'll look elsewhere, but I do believe we need another body in that area. We're alright with Reuben Reid up there – we just need a bit of a target man. We do need to bring a body in in that area. I think any manager wants to sign players and get them in permanent and settled, but a lot of teams in the lower regions have to use a loan system and we're not different to anyone else if we can bring someone in who can add strength or strength in depth and it can make us better. I think every manager would like to sign more players permanently, but that's just the way things are at the moment."

Andres Gurrieri has promised to return to the Argyle first team 'harder and stronger' following his three game ban. Gurrieri also said that he thought his sending off and resultant ban was a harsh decision from the referee: "I will try to take the positive things from the situation and try to train harder than we play. It's not very good to train too hard as I'll be tired for a game, but now I can use that time to come back harder and stronger. I think it's very unlucky because I never had any bad intention to hit him with my elbows. The ball was in the air when I jumped. I twisted a little bit and he hit the ball and continued on to hit my head. Because I jumped with my arms like that – which is normal – the ref says that I hit him with my elbow, but that didn't happen. Unfortunately it all happened very quickly and the reaction of the other players didn't help much."

22nd

Nick Chadwick has insisted he has no bitterness towards John Sheridan over his exit from Plymouth Argyle. The 31-year-old parted company with the Pilgrims earlier this month when his contract was cancelled by mutual agreement. He subsequently signed as a free agent for Tamworth after a successful loan spell with the Football Conference club. Chadwick was put on the transfer list by Argyle manager John Sheridan in the summer and did not make another first team appearance. The striker would probably have moved on earlier had he not suffered a knee injury in pre-season, which required an operation. Chadwick played only eight times for Argyle, all of them as a substitute, following the appointment of Sheridan as manager last January. He was suspended for Sheridan's first six matches after being sent-off in a 4-0 defeat at Port Vale. Chadwick said: "I was never going to play under John Sheridan from the moment he was going to get the job. I think he decided when he first walked into the club that I wasn't going to play for him. He basically told me that from day one, and stood by that. There was no fall-out, and there is still no fall-out now. I stuck to my part. I worked my hardest day in day out, and he didn't disrespect my professionalism or me as a person in anyway. I was determined to give my best, and if that wasn't good enough for him then I don't think it was ever going to be. There was still a reason for me, for my own personal pride, to do that though." After recovering from his knee operation, Chadwick went out on loan to Tamworth and played a key part in their run to the second round of the FA Cup. He scored goals at a time when Argyle were struggling to hit the target, but Chadwick did not expect that would lead to a return to favour for him at Home Park. Chadwick said: "That was never going to happen. I scored eight goals in 13 games and he's still looking for a striker. I could have scored 15 goals in 13 games. I was still never going to come back and be part of that team. I knew that, and you have got to move on. Like I said, there is no bitterness towards John Sheridan. Managers are there to make decisions and I'm experienced enough to know that's part of football. If a manager decides you are no longer in his plans then it's always best to move on. That was always my intention once he told me I could find a new club. It was just unfortunate really that I picked up the injury in pre-season because I think I would have left sooner had it not been for that. There was no fall-out and there was no controversy, and that's the way I think we both wanted it. He respected that I had been at the club a long time and was a good pro. I respected the fact that I wasn't outcasted, if you like, and treated wrongly. Obviously, I think I should have been involved a lot more, and I still think I had something to offer. But it doesn't really matter what I think. It matters what the manager thinks."

21st

Argyle's League Two match against Chesterfield, initially scheduled for March 29th has been moved back to the 31st of March and will be televised by Sky. Argyle's second televised game of the season will kick off at 7.45pm. However, this is dependant on Chesterfield losing their Johnstone's Paint Trophy Northern Area Final tie against Fleetwood as the final of which they are hoping to progress to is on the weekend of this game.

20th

Argyle's Football in the Community Trust is now recruiting for their highly successful Football Scholarship Programme and will be holding an open evening at Home Park on Thursday, January 23. Argyle are looking for young players of school leaving age who have a passion to play football at a high level, to take academic studies under the guidance of Plymouth Argyle whilst, at the same time, honing their footballing talents. The programme will see 16-18 years olds participate in a number of academic studies alongside a football scholarship run by Argyle. The programme is designed to give people academic qualifications that can take them into universities, employment and work places. In addition, it allows young people the opportunity to train and play as a football scholar alongside their studies. Previous players have progressed into the professional game, climbed the football pyramid and gone overseas. Others have improved on their football ability and continue to play local football. It does not stop players training or playing for their local teams. In fact, players are encouraged to stay within local football. For players who are currently studying in Year 11 and 12, the open evening will give them an insight into the course and opportunity to see course programme and content.

19th

John Sheridan blamed Argyle's slow start – as well as Andres Gurrieri's red card – for the 3-0 defeat at Rochdale. Argyle went into the game at Spotland in good fettle bit failed to reproduce the sort of form that has seen them climb to 11th in League 2 and take Port Vale to a replay in the third round of the FA Cup. The Pilgrims were a goal down inside four minutes to Jamie Allen and conceded two more late on – to Ian Henderson and Michael Rose – after Andres Gurrieri was sent off following a clash with Dale defender Jack O'Connell. The red card came during a promising start to the second half by the Pilgrims and John said: "I thought we were very flat in the first half. I put my trust in the team after the performances we've had of late and I probably made the wrong decisions. When I watched the game in the first half especially, I felt I should have probably put one or two fresh people in there. I'm not making any excuses. They are professional footballers; they are fit enough. We shouldn't be flat. I don't want them making any excuses – we just didn't turn up in the first half which made it very, very hard for us. We are playing a team near the top, and we're trying to get in the play-off area – I'd like us to come out and have a bit more of a go in the first half. We just didn't get going. We didn't pass the ball as well as we have done of late. We should have been competing more in that game and pushing more because of the way we have been playing of late. I keep saying we are improving. We got off to a bad start. It was a poor, poor goal." Gurrieri became the second Pilgrim in successive games at Spotland to be red-carded following the dismissal of Maxime Blanchard last season. Like his team-mate, Gurrieri saw out the match on the team bus. John said: "I thought, for the first ten minutes of the second half, we were right in the game. We looked better, we were moving the ball, and we got in the game. The sending-off totally changed it and made it really difficult for us to get anything out of the game. I think he was probably frustrated because he was having a bad time and kept giving the ball away. It made life really difficult for us because we were on top of the game then. If we'd had 11 men on the pitch, the game wouldn't have been 3-0. When we went to ten men, I can't fault the players – they worked hard – but it was always going to be hard for us." John will now consider whether or not to shake things up for Argyle's next game, when Cheltenham Town visit Home Park next Saturday. "We'll reflect on it," said John. "It's a bad result but we'll get back and look after them as best we can because we've got another tough game against Cheltenham. There are a few who are waiting and who want to play. It's the first free week we have had for a while. I'll make a decision and, hopefully, whoever I pick next week will help us get a result."

John Sheridan has thrown down an immediate challenge to the Pilgrims' latest signing, defender Matt Parsons: "Prove yourself." Left-back Matt has joined Argyle from Crystal Palace in time for Saturday's visit to Rochdale, and John said: "I want him to come in and fight for his place and, if he can get in the team, get in the team and stay in the team. "He's got to come and prove himself." The 22-year-old follows Jason Banton to the Westcountry and will provide competition for teenager Ben Purrington and Durrell Berry, who is anyway likely to miss the next few weeks with a groin injury. "I think left-back is an area we need to strengthen," said John. "Obviously young Ben is doing very well there at the moment and Durrell's played there, but I just feel another left-sided left-footer would be something we're after and I am very pleased to get him. "I've seen Matt a few times and I always like the way he plays. He's comfortable on the ball; he takes care of the ball; he's quite attack-minded for a left-back. He's played in Palace's first team and he needs to get out of Under-21 football. He's been on loan at Wycombe and Barnet and needs to get involved in first-team football again. You can't beat playing. It's no good sitting on your backside. He's wants to come here, and I think he'll be a really good addition for us. He knows Jason and we've got a good group of players here – whoever comes, the lads always make them feel welcome. That's a good thing." Ben has played five full games and made one substitute appearance in a hectic 19-day spell for the Pilgrims, from his debut at Oxford United on Boxing Day to Tuesday's FA Cup defeat by Port Vale. "I've got to be careful with him, throwing him in the deep end," said John. "He's played a lot of games in a short period. He's come in and hit the ground running; he hasn't looked nervous in any way. But sometimes it does catch up with you. He hasn't looked out of place and he's not doing anything wrong at the moment [but] left-back is a position I would like to strengthen, looking for someone to come in and fight for a place with Ben."

Conor Hourihane has called on his team-mates to stand up and be counted after the defeat to Rochdale at Spotland. "It was a big reality check," said Conor. "We didn't get going whatsoever in the first half. To be fair, in the first five or six minutes of the second half, I felt we got going a bit and started passing a bit. Then the sending-off killed us, big time. When you get defeats like that, everyone has to stand up and be counted. It's on to Cheltenham next week. The character will really come out now after a difficult defeat. A win next week at home to Cheltenham, which will be a big game for us, and everyone will completely forget about this – that's the way football is. So we will have a good week's training and go into it all guns blazing again." Conor had been praised by John Sheridan for his performance in Argyle's previous game, the 3-2 FA Cup third-round replay defeat by Port Vale. During that match, Conor had scored one of the best goals ever seen at Home Park; on Saturday at Spotland, he missed a far easier opportunity when the Pilgrims were 2-0 behind. "I had a good chance to get us halfway back at least, but it just wasn't to be," he said. "It was just one of those really bad days, to be honest. The touch was brilliant and it was right in my stride. I thought to myself 'Put it in the corner', but took too much. You have to miss them to score them. Football's a funny game. You can be so high and then kicked to your knees within seconds."

18th

Three goals from an ultra-confident Rochdale side ended Argyle's unbeaten league run in a match which ended 3-0. Jamie Allen's early goal for the home side set the tone for the afternoon, and when Andres Gurrieri was sent off soon after the half-time break, the chances of Argyle getting any points from the trip to Spotland looked bleak. This proved to be the case as Ian Henderson and Michael Rose scored exquisite goals to leave Argyle heading home with nothing, and further confirming Keith Hill's side as the form team in the division. Argyle: McCormick, Blanchard, Trotman, Nelson, Purrington, Gurrieri, Blizzard, Hourihane, Alessandra (Boco), Reid (Thomas), Banton (Young). Substitutes (Not used): Cole, Wotton, Harvey, Parsons.

17th

Argyle have confirmed their second signing of the January window and he's from the same club as the last one. Left-back Matt Parsons has been a long-term target of John Sheridan but problems with illness prevented him from signing for Argyle in the pre-season. The defender has joined on a deal until the end of the season and is eligible to go straight into the squad for tomorrow's match at Rochdale. Parsons says that he is glad to finally join the club but acknowledges that Ben Purrington currently has the spot in the team: "I had two loan spells in League 2, one at Barnet and one at Wycombe, so I know what to expect. I know the young kid has been doing well at left-back so my aim is to force my way into the team and start playing well. Hopefully, we can make the play-offs; we're not too far away. It seems like a club that's on the up."

Reuben Reid has said he is happy to let someone else take penalties for Argyle should they be awarded if it is for the good of the team. Argyle's top scorer spoke of his disappointment and disbelief to miss two penalties in three attempts: "I think I have let the fans down and the team down, and obviously that's the worst feeling ever as a footballer. I'm always confident to step up and take a penalty, but I think maybe someone else deserves a chance. As I have said, I have let the team down twice now in two key moments. I fully take the blame for the result on Tuesday night. It was an opportunity to score at a good time, with them (Port Vale) going down to 10 men. We would have had the momentum. I'm big enough to take the brunt of the responsibility for that, but hopefully I can get us some goals in the league campaign and push us the club towards the play-offs.Taking a penalty is a very good opportunity to score a goal. I just don't understand how it has hit the top of the net. I don't think I have seen that before. When it has hit him (Neal) I was expecting it to roll in. Instead, it has clipped the back of the bar. Such is life sometimes. Obviously, those situations are high pressure and I think you have got to give a lot of credit to any player who steps up to a penalty. But, as I said before, what's done is done. Hopefully, we can keep our performances going in the league and push on up the table."

16th

Full-back Durrell Berry has been ruled out of action for up to three weeks after sustaining an injury in the match against Port Vale. Berry picked up a groin injury and had to be replaced by Max Blanchard at half-time. John Sheridan said that whilst it is a blow, Blanchard is a perfectly adequate replacement: "Him and Max are battling away, and Durrell can play left-back for me as well.It's a blow for us, and it's a blow for Durrell more than anyone, but they say he's a quick healer and he will be biting at the bit to get back. As far as I know he's out for two or three weeks."

15th

A visibly emotional John Sheridan spoke of his great admiration for his players after Argyle bowed out of the FA Cup. John praised the Pilgrims' performance and work ethic during their 3-2 third-round replay defeat to League 1 Port Vale at Home Park that was tough for everyone to take – especially the manager. "I probably haven't felt like this for a long time when we've lost a game," said John, who watched his young, exciting, side give a team a league above them everything they could handle over 180 minutes, only to ultimately fall short. "I'm gutted for the players more than anything, just because of their effort they put it. It's a shame we didn't get through." The atmosphere in Sheridan's post-match interview was noticeably more candid and emotional than at previous games, as he took time to deliver the right words - eager to praise his charges as much as he could. "I couldn't have asked for any more from the players," he said. "They were tremendous. I thought we deserved to win the game. We played some really, really good stuff, and really went for it. The work ethic is very good at the moment. Even when we go 3-2 down, we don't go away. We played a team who are going well in a division higher than ours - it's just having that killer instinct when you're on top." Whilst dropping out of the FA Cup after such encouraging performances will be one of the more bitter pills to swallow this season, Sheridan knows that the performances he has seen over the two-game tie are a very positive sign for the future. "It's tough to take at the moment, so I'll just have to reflect," he said, "but everything I asked from the players, they gave it. You just have to accept it and take the defeat, but we need to keep that form we've been showing of late."

John Sheridan was unequivocal in his praise of Pilgrims' captain Conor Hourihane after the Port Vale match. Conor produced a magnificent display and scored one of the all-time great Home Park goals to give Argyle a 2-1 lead over Port Vale in the third-round replay. The Irish midfielder also won a late penalty after Vale had gone 3-2 ahead. Unfortunately, Reuben Reid's spot-kick was saved and the Pilgrims exited the competition, but the disappointment did nothing to diminish John's view of his skipper's contribution. "Conor Hourihane's performance today is one of the best I've seen under my management in the last three or four years," he said. "I thought he was unbelievable. His all-round game was top-drawer: his passing, running, picking things up, driving into the box, running off the ball. He earned us a penalty, scored a great goal, put crosses into the box, and was driving us on like a captain should do." Conor is in his third season with the Pilgrims but it was not until the arrival, a year ago, of John – not too bad a central midfielder himself back in the day – that he truly started to blossom. "When I came here, he had a knack of going back a lot," said John. "So I told him that, as a midfielder, he needs to play forward. He knows I get angry when he doesn't because he can really pass a ball."

Argyle's young stars were given a pat on the back by John Sheridan following the third-round replay at Home Park. Whilst the inclusion of full-debutant Isaac Vassell in the starting line-up may have raised a few eyebrows, the Cornish-born 20-year-old attacker quickly showed the potential and excitement that convinced the Argyle manager to bring him in. "He did well," said John, "especially in the first half. He got a little tight in the second half, because he hasn't played much first-team football, but he was part a very good team performance. I decided to throw him in last-minute – I told him at about 6.30pm that he would be playing. I just thought, with his directness and his pace, he would be a threat and get behind Port Vale." Other youngsters such as Ben Purrington, Curtis Nelson and second-half substitute Nathan Thomas certainly did not look out of place against a high-flying Sky Bet League 1 side, thanks not just to their talent, but a touch of pitchside encouragement. "They showed they can cope with it tonight," said John. "I was quite animated on the touchline, but that's just who I am. We're a very quiet team – for some reason, players seem to play better when they're closer to me."

In off-field news, Plymouth University is looking to create a range of exciting opportunities for its students and staff after forging a partnership with Plymouth Argyle Football Club. The agreement will see students across all faculties working with the players and management at Argyle as part of their academic programmes. It also aims to encourage more people from across the campus to support Argyle in their bid to climb the Sky Bet League 2 table, further strengthening links between the University and the local community. Professor Richard Stephenson, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Student Experience) at Plymouth University, said: "Our range of sporting partnerships, both at professional and community level, demonstrate our belief that sport has the potential to inspire. Through those partnerships, and our new Sporting Excellence scholarships, we are creating first rate opportunities for our students to enjoy top level sport and engage with elite coaches and facilities. They also show how seriously we take our role at the heart of the community, appreciating the role the University can play in furthering the city's aspirations and achievements." Argyle Chief Executive Martyn Starnes added: "We are delighted to be teaming up with Plymouth University in a partnership which brings together two of Britain's Ocean City's most iconic names. Sport and education have always been a huge part of the city's strengths and traditions, and we believe this partnership can only help take that to the next level." The initial three-season partnership will aim to enhance students' employability skills, with those on education programmes given the chance to work in Argyle's family stand on matchdays. There will also be internship opportunities in the club's business and sales teams, Argyle players and staff will work with health students, and media students will get the opportunity to commentate on Argyle games. The club's ground, Home Park, will continue to be used for events such as the annual Plymouth varsity game, while Argyle's staff and players will support University events such as the Freshers' Fayre and Open Days. The new link complements the University's connections with the city's sports teams, which include existing agreements with Plymouth Albion Rugby Football Club and the Plymouth University Raiders, who play in the British Basketball League. It also extends its support of local football, with the University already enjoying a successful partnership with the Devon Junior and Minor League.

14th

Argyle are out of this season's FA Cup after a heartbreaking 3-2 loss at home against Port Vale. Argyle dominated much of the match, missing a penalty late on that would have made the match go to extra time. Port Vale pegged back Argyle's lead twice and took the lead with just over a quarter of an hour remaining. The Valliants had a player sent off in the offence that resulted in Argyle's penalty but sadly a late equaliser was not to be. Teenage forward Isaac Vassell made his first ever start for Argyle before being subbed off for Nathan Thomas. Argyle: Cole, Berry (Blanchard), Trotman, Nelson, Purrington, Gurrieri, Blizzard, Hourihane, Alessandra, Reid, Vassell (Thomas) Subs= Cole, Wotton, Young, Boco, Richards.

In other news, John Sheridan has quelled speculation that on loan striker Reuben Reid could be leaving the club. Reid's good vein of goalscoring form combined with parent club Yeovil's lowly position towards the bottom of the Championship has led some fans to speculate whether the striker could be recalled but Sheridan gave a firm response, saying: "No. I'd be panicking if they could!"

13th

Argyle may well have looked impressive in their third round tie in the FA Cup at Port Vale but John Sheridan knows it will not be plain sailing when the two meet again at Home Park on Tuesday. "People think we've done the hard part," said John, "But we haven't. I know that and the players know that." At Vale Park the home side took a 2-0 lead, but did so against the run of play. After the interval, a resurgent Argyle drew level and could easily have won the tie outright in Staffordshire. Whoever progresses from this tie will face Championship side Brighton in the fifth round, which serves as motivation for both clubs. "A game against a Championship side at home could help both teams financially and Port Vale will want to win as much as us," John said. "We'll try and take the game to Port Vale like we did in the first game but Micky Adams' teams are always hard to play against. We're set up to try and win games so it shows because we've only lost two in sixteen. Micky agreed that Port Vale didn't play well and we did play well. Two games are never the same I expect a very tough game at home. It will be difficult, as they're going well in their division. We've got to work very hard." With Argyle's league campaign prospering, some would argue that more games in the cup would be a distraction from continuing the improvement in the league form. Not so, says the gaffer. "I'd rather be playing games Saturday and Tuesday," said John. "We're playing with confidence; I think you'd want to play to keep momentum going."

12th

John Sheridan was full of his praise for his Argyle side after their 1-1 draw with high-flying Southend United. Dominic Blizzard's deflected effort in the 65th minute put Argyle ahead, but they were pegged back three minutes later when Kevan Hurst poked home an equaliser beyond Luke McCormick. John remained positive after the full time whistle, and was pleased with how confidently his side played against quality opposition. "I think we stood up to the test, to be honest," he said. Southend are a good team – probably the most organised team in the division, and the most in form as well. They're going really well and getting some good results, but I thought we were the better team, if I'm honest. Full credit to the players." Clearly, John not only thought the Greens were comfortable against Phil Brown's side, but also that they could have won. "We had some good opportunities," he said. "In and around the box, we probably didn't do as well with our chances as we should've done, but I thought, in the second half, we really got at Southend. The crying shame really is that we didn't lead for longer than we did. If we did, we probably would've gone on and won the game. Even at 1-1, we were the team going who were chasing. It was a tough game, but I think we've really come on as a team. It was a really good performance from us; it's just a shame we weren't able to win." The point for Argyle means their forward momentum continues - going above Cheltenham and into 11th place. With another unbeaten run growing – six now in all competitions – John is committed to turning respectful draws into impressive wins. "We're greedy," he said. "We want to get all three points because the games do run out eventually, when we're trying to catch the teams above us. It's a shame that Curtis Nelson's effort late on hit the post, but you can see the desire in the team, and how we want to win football matches. It was a good test for us today, and we stood up to it well."

Argyle are keeping grounded despite closing in on the League 2 play-off positions, says captain Conor Hourihane. Conor said: "Something we were saying in the dressing-room is that Southend are one of the better teams in this league, if not the best we have played this season. It's good to be getting points against these good teams. We've got ambitions to be up there ourselves. We have taken big strides and have to continue that. We have got that attitude that we are hard to beat now. It's been a good Christmas period, and, if we get a good January, it will bring us to February and March, when it's the run-in. Every point is crucial. We have moved up a place, which is nice, as well. To keep going up that table is nice." So is reaching the play-offs a realistic prospect for the resurgent Pilgrims? "It's a target," he said, "but I think we keep the feet planted firmly on the ground for now. We haven't achieved anything. We're on a nice little run but we have to continue that. We're definitely looking up so you never know." As for the game, Conor said: "We really stuck at it. Maybe, in the first half, we didn't play our best but we were okay, we weren't doing too bad. We stepped in up in the second half and got our goal. We were disappointed to concede after we scored – we've done that a few times – but it was a good point in the end." The fight for league points will temporarily take a back seats on Tuesday, when Argyle entertain Port Vale in a third-round FA Cup with Budweiser replay, having drawn 2-2 in Burslem last week. "It's a pity we didn't beat them there," said Conor, "because, last 15-20 minutes, they were out on their feet and we had a few chances to put them away. But it wasn't to be. There will be a big crowd here and we will give it a go."

Jason Banton's eagerly anticipated return to Home Park on Saturday was never going to match the aspirations of many of the Home Park faithful but John Sheridan insists that there is much more to come from the attacker. With Jason playing the majority of the match against Southend United in a wide position, the organisation of the Shrimpers' defence did not allow him to be his dynamic, exciting self as much as the Green Army had hoped for. John Sheridan revealed that at half-time, he has sought ways to give Jason more opportunites. "I don't think we were moving the ball quickly enough from left to right," he said. "We were getting into good positions, but the ball needed to be traveling quicker. That would've isolated Jason, who wanted to get into the game more." The 21 year-old did indeed show flashes of the talent that endeared him to the Green Army in his successful loan spell last season – taking on defenders with confidence and poise – but those flashes were relatively few and far between. "He hasn't played a lot of football recently," said John. "He's been on the bench a lot – and it's always hard trying to get into the game. I just think he looked a little bit off his best, but I expected that. Once he gets back into his routine and gets more first-team football, there won't be a problem."

With the January transfer window well and truly open, John Sheridan is looking to add more depth to his squad. Following the draw against Southend United on Saturday, the Argyle manager revealed he is continuing to search the market for players who can help the Pilgrims' push towards League 2 success. "I think we need strengthening – maybe one or two more players," said John, after the game. "If we want to push further up towards the play-offs, you have to have strength in numbers. I want to have a really strong squad for the final push. With Ben Purrington at left-back, I don't want to keep relying on him, even though he's playing very well, and did so again today. But I'd probably like one striker and one left-back." The speculation of comings-in are often balanced by goings-out. The gaffer had a few words to say on Caolan Lavery, who was recalled by parent club Sheffield Wednesday this week, and promptly scored two goals in the Owls' 6-0 thrashing of Leeds United in a game which ended before Argyle's kicked off. "Of course I'm pleased," said John. "I texted him straight after the game was finished. We're both gutted that he left here, but he's a natural goalscorer." John also commented on Andre Blackman, who has not featured in recent matches for the Greens. "His contract is not up until the end of the month, but he's not figuring in the games at the moment," said John. "He knows the situation, and I've spoken to his agent, so that's something we'll deal with when his contract is up."

11th

Argyle today drew their home match against Southend United 1-1, in Jason Banton's first game back for the greens. Banton played the majority of the game on the left hand side before being subbed off for fellow new acquisition Nathan Thomas. Former manager of both Argyle and Southend Paul Sturrock attended the game in the Lyndhurst stand. Argyle: McCormick, Blanchard, Trotman, Nelson, Purrington, Gurrieri, Hourihane, Blizzard, Banton (Thomas), Reid, Alessandra. Subs: Cole, Wotton, Branston, Young, Berry, Boco.

10th

Tyler Harvey may be back from Home Park following a loan spell at Salisbury City, but John Sheridan has not ruled out the possibility that Tyler could find himself back out on loan in the near future for the benefit of his football education. Whilst Sheridan rates Harvey and sees his potential, he has acknowledged that regular football for the right club may be more beneficial than sitting on the sidelines at Argyle. Sheridan: "If I was going to let him out on loan, he'd go where he is going to play football. The important thing is that he is learning his trade, and I'd rather him be with us, and working hard with us, than to go somewhere and not play. If something arises, I'd think about. I'd only ever do something to enhance his chances of getting in the first-team here or make him a better player. I am not going to loan him out here, there and everywhere. The lad's got natural talent, but he's still learning the game. It won't have done him any harm to go to Salisbury, to have seen something different, other than Plymouth. I think people got carried away a little bit. He's a good kid, a level-headed kid, and I want him to do well, so it is important I take care of him. I know he'd love to be playing more football but it is important he is not getting carried away with what everyone else is saying, because he has got a lot to learn and, if he listens, he will be okay."

Sheridan also confirmed that he is definitely looking to bring Caolan Lavery back to Home Park if circumstances allow. As well as saying that he will be keeping an eye on Lavery's situation at Hillsborough, he made known his appreciation for the player and his frustration that he had to leave at the same time that a player of Banton's quality arrived. The manager said: "I'll keep an eye on the situation because he's a player I'd love to bring back. I'd be foolish not to try it. If I see they are getting players back fit, and he's not playing, I will definitely try to get him. After working hard to get Jason, and you've got one whose scoring goals for us and one whose scored for us goals coming in, it was very disappointing. But that's just part and parcel of loan players. We appreciate Sheffield Wednesday letting us have him in the first place. I'm gutted he's gone, and it's a shame for Caolan. He really enjoyed his football here; he was doing really well for us; and he was something different for us. Once he started in the team, he scored goals and added something to us that was missing. He was a threat in games, and worked his socks off, and the goals he scored were a natural goalscorer's goals – instinct. It's a big blow that he's gone but we have got to kick on without him. I think Jason can play up there; I've got Nathan Thomas who can play up there; Lewi ; Rommy; and Reuben. I am confident they can do it but Caolan has been doing well while he has been there so, whoever goes in will have to try and do as well as him. We are playing with a bit of confidence, which always makes you a better player, so, whoever I play there will step in and carry on what the team has been doing."

9th

After being released by Argyle yesterday, Nick Chadwick has signed for Tamworth FC on a permanent basis after a combined 5 and a half years with Argyle. Chadwick, whose second spell at the club came to a close when Argyle settled the remainder of his contract after two years back, has put pen to paper for the Conference side who he has been on loan at since October. His deal at Tamworth will run for 18 months.

John Sheridan believes that as well as the obvious benefits Jason Banton's return will bring to the playing side, it also signals a statement of ambition by the club. The gaffer today said: "It shows our intent. Full credit to the chairman and the board – as soon as they knew he was available, they gave me the go-ahead to go and get him. They are helping me as much as they can to bring players in. He is a really good addition. I'm very pleased to get him. Obviously, I know a bit about him. I thought he did really well and was a big part of us staying up. I like him as a player. I think he's a bit of a maverick – he plays off the cuff – but he's a match-winner. He proved that last season. He hit the ground running because I just let him come in and play, to go out and express himself. He scored some goals for us – important goals. Now he's signed permanently he will be working with me a little bit longer, I'll get a bit of discipline in him because, if he gets that, it will make him a better player, as well. There's a lot there. If I can get the best out of him, I think we'll have a really good player on our hands. It suits us better to get him in permanently. He'll get used to me a little bit more and I'll try to get things out of him. I'll try to add things to his game, and help him because I think he's a very good player, and an exciting player, for this division."

8th

Jason Banton is returning to Home Park. Permanently. The Crystal Palace forward, who had a successful loan spell at Argyle last season, passed a Home Park medical on Wednesday morning to become the first player to transfer to the Pilgrims from another club for nearly four years. Jason, who was 21 just before Christmas, first came to Home Park from Palace a little over a year ago, on January transfer deadline day. He became a talismanic figure in the Pilgrims' ultimately successful battle to avoid relegation from the Football League, with six goals in 14 games. The most memorable of these was the last of the six - an exquisite winner in the 1-0 Devon Expressway Derby victory over Exeter City in front of a packed Home Park crowd. "Keep Calm and Pass to Banton" was the message that he revealed on his undershirt during the goal celebration, while, all around him, pandemonium broke out. If that goal was worth two points, his other contributions were also invaluable: he scored twice in his second game as Argyle won 2-1 at Aldershot; netted in a 1-1 draw at Wimbledon; and helped the Pilgrims to a home win over Fleetwood Town. Only at champions Gillingham, where Argyle lost 2-1, did one of his goals count for nothing. Jason's impact was noted further afield in the shape of the League 2 Player of the Month award for March. John Sheridan, who won the Manager of the Month Award at the same time, and was keen to bring Jason back on loan this season. However, Palace loaned him to League 1 MK Dons last summer in a deal that was not renewed when it ran out at the end of last year, and it seemed Argyle had seen the last of Jason. That was, until now. Jason has been assigned the number 20 shirt and will be available for the home game against Southend on Saturday.

The club has announced today that Caolan Lavery has left Argyle after being recalled by Sheffield Wednesday. Nick Chadwick has also left Home Park for the second time after Argyle agreed to release him from his contract.

7th

After making a dream debut in a 3-2 league victory at Oxford United, Ben Purrington scored an equally ethereal first senior goal on Sunday to earn the Pilgrims a 2-2 FA Cup third-round draw away to Port Vale. The goal made him the youngest Argyle player ever to score in the FA Cup. Ben's 74th-minute shot, after team-mate Reuben Reid's earlier goal, completed a marvellous second-half comeback by Argyle, who undeservedly trailed their Sky Bet League 1 opponents 2-0 at the break. "To go 2-0 down and come back to take them to a replay was really good," said Ben after the game, "and to get a goal, as well…it's amazing. I couldn't really believe it when I scored. I saw the ball go in and then everyone was jumping on me. I haven't scored in years, apart from this season." Argyle's fightback means they now replay the third-round tie with Vale at Home Park on Tuesday, 14th January to see who faces Brighton & Hove Albion at home in the fourth round on January 25. "We got back into the game and played really well in the second half," said Ben. "I thought we hung in there and did well. We hit the post and had a few good chances. Nathan Thomas and Andres Gurrieri were unlucky not to score. "If the game was a bit longer, we could have clinched it. It was a shame, but it was a good result."

Jake Cole has taken a lot of pride from his performances as Plymouth Argyle's 'cup keeper' this season. Only one of Cole's eight games for the Pilgrims has been in League Two, with Luke McCormick the regular shot-stopper. However, the 28-year-old has started all seven of their matches in cup competitions. His latest appearance came in the exciting, come-from-behind 2-2 draw away to Port Vale in the FA Cup third round on Sunday. It is a far-from-perfect scenario from Cole's standpoint, but he is determined to be professional about it. Cole also praised the performances of McCormick, who has been one of the Pilgrims' best players this season. He said "My style is to keep my head down, get on with things and work hard. "I have always been like that, and I always will be. I'm getting on with it, and Luke has done fantastically well. But when I have come in I have felt really pleased with myself in all the games I have played this season. I think it's seven cup games now and I have been happy with my form. I have had some important saves to make in previous games, and I'm just keeping my head down and working hard." Cole could not be faulted for either of the goals that Argyle conceded against Port Vale. Strikers Gavin Tomlin and Tom Pope both scored with close-range headers after crosses into the penalty area as the hosts took a 2-0 lead before half-time. The League One outfit did not have many chances after half-time but, when called upon, Cole was safe and assured.Cole said: "I had a couple of little bits. I wouldn't say a proper save, but I kept my handling tidy so there were no rebounds coming off me, and things like that." Jake is confident about Argyle's chances in the replay. He said: "We are back to our place – back at home – and we will look forward to the challenge. They are a good team, but we are also a good team on our day. We fancy ourselves." Cole has had to endure a lot of dark days during his two-and-a-half years at Argyle. However, the Pilgrims have lost only three times in their last 16 matches in all competitions and, finally, appear to have turned a corner. Cole said: "We have got that bit of consistency, and it shows with our results. That's five unbeaten now, with wins and draws involved, and I think our run before that was eight games. You can see we are getting goals as well, which is a massive plus." Jake also praised Ben Purrington's contribution. He said: "He has been excellent. He has taken his first-team call-up in his stride. He's a young lad and we have got to look after him. He came in for a big game at Oxford and performed really well. He has got a few appearances under his belt now so it's only going to help him gain experience. I was really pleased for him to come on and get a goal against Port Vale. He's a great lad." Cole thought the Pilgrims could easily have come out on top after their superb second-half comeback. "Even in the first half, we played better football than them," said Cole. "They were a little bit direct but they had two free headers in our box and got two goals. That's sometimes how it goes. Obviously, you want your defenders getting tight, but they got the two goals and we had to show character in the second half. We have got a few players with pace and you know that if you can put the ball in behind teams they can run onto things. Watching from a goalkeeper's perspective, when we were attacking their goal we looked a threat and it was really entertaining to watch."

Argyle's Under 18 match against Hereford United, scheduled for Tuesday January 14, has been postponed because of Hereford's Youth Cup fixture. It has been re-scheduled for Tuesday January 28, at Langsford Park, with a 2.00pm kick off.

6th

John Sheridan hailed his team's attitude and commitment after they fought back from a 2-0 deficit to remain in the FA Cup for at least another ten days. Having fallen two goals behind against the run of play, Argyle produced a stunning and comprehensive fightback to finish the game not only with a more-than-creditable draw and the prospect of a Home Park replay, but with the pride of knowing that they had outplayed a team nearly thirty places above them in the league structure. Gavin Tomlin and Tom Pope had both scored headed goals before the half-time interval, but goals from Reuben Reid and teenage substitute Ben Purrington grab the draw they more-than-warranted. "It's down to the players," said a proud Argyle gaffer, "A desire to win football matches and not get beaten, if you are having a bit of a sticky patch. The players dig in for each other and you could see their will to get back into the game. "We have shown that a few times this season – we don't give in. If you have got a will to win in your team and some fighting spirit, you have always got a chance. "I am proud of the players, the way they responded in the second half. I thought we had a right go and we should have won the game." Good managers have a tendency to be happy, but never satisfied. It is a good thing that John carries this trait. He indicated that while he has pride in the performance and attitude, that doesn't mean he will settle for anything less than a victory. He said: "To get something out of the game – a draw and a replay – is well deserved but I am disappointed we didn't win it. It was a great effort from the players. Full credit to the players. I was disappointed we were two down – we didn't deserve to be two down. It's a big pitch and they are a tough team to play against – they get the ball forward early and get you on the back foot, and are going well in the division above. You wouldn't think that, the way we played today. I thought we played some good stuff, as well, and created opportunities. To get back to 2-2 was very pleasing and I think we were the team that was going to win it." As for the replay, it is a game the Greens need not fear, but will not be complacent about, according to the manager. "It will be as hard as it was today," said John. "We're at home; we have given ourselves an opportunity; and the attraction of a home tie is there for both teams. Port Vale will want it as much as we do, but we have done well to get them back to our place. We now have to perform like we did today and get the right result. Winning - or not losing - matches is good for the confidence and we are on a little bit of a run. I expect us to be confident that we can win the game."

Argyle's two goals in a stirring fightback at Vale Park on Sunday came from two very different sources. Seasoned striker Reuben Reid, comfortably Argyle's top goalscorer this season, grabbed his 13th goal of the current campaign when he rolled in from Lewis Alessandra's pass, halving the 2-0 deficit Argyle faced at half-time. The equaliser, though, was from a less obvious source, and created a little bit of Pilgrims history. Left-back Ben Purrington, on as a substitute, became the youngest ever Argyle FA Cup goalscorer when he linked with Alessandra and coolly clipped into the corner of the Valiants net, in front of nearly 600 of the Green Army. It gave Argyle a draw they thoroughly merited, and gave Ben a place in the Pilgrims record books. According to records, in 240 FA Cup ties in our history, Argyle have scored 330 goals, but none of the goalscorers have been as young as Ben. In fact, he is the only one to score such a goal and not be able to celebrate with a light ale, or similar alcoholic beverage, given that he is some four months shy of his 18th birthday. "It was a great little passage of play," said John Sheridan, of Ben's goal. "It was Lewi, again, who set it up. Ben has got that in his game; he likes to get forward and support, and get the play high up the pitch. He gives us that youthful energy and has done really well so far. I'm pleased he's got his goal." Despite wholly positive reviews for the three starts he has made since his Boxing Day debut, Ben was on the bench at the outset of the visit to the Potteries. Instead, John opted to start with the more experienced – though still only 21-years-old – Durrell Berry, given the threat posed by Vale winger Jennison Myrie Williams. John said: "Myrie Williams likes to cut in so I thought, being a right-footer, Durrell would take care of him, which I think he did. Ben wasn't dropped, by any means; I can't afford to drop him – he's playing too well. You could see, when he came on, he just gave us something a little bit different. Defensive responsibility is, first and foremost, his priority, as a left-back but he likes to get forward and I would never stop that in his game. He has got great energy and likes to get up and down; he had a great one-two with Lewi and finished it nicely." Reuben, meanwhile, is more used to goalscoring, and his manager is pleased that after taking a while to flow, the goals are now coming for Argyle's number nine. He's scored goals wherever he's been," said John. "It's down to Reuben. I think you can see he's got a bit of confidence; the team's playing with a bit of confidence and creating chances. It was great play from Lewi. It was unselfish of him and has squared it for Reuben. They are the best goals, those little tap-ins. I'm pleased he's scoring goals and pleased that he's helping the teams get results."

Tope Obadeyi's final game in an Argyle jersey is one that will likely live long in the memory. The on-loan Bury attacker, whose temporary deal was extended by a day to allow him to take part in Argyle's FA Cup third round game at Port Vale, struck a post at 0-0 as the Pilgrims took the game to their hosts. Obadeyi caused problems for the whole time he was on the pitch, operating firstly on the right flank, but also in a centre-forward role and on the left flank as the game evolved. Since an injury, he has found starting berths hard to come by of late as Argyle's results have improved, but with Caolan Lavery not permitted to play by Sheffield Wednesday, a place opened up. Tope, though, will now return to Gigg Lane; a move which, according to Sheridan, is a shame for Argyle. "We know the circumstances," said John, "Bury want him back. I'd keep him if I could keep him, but he's not my player. I think Tope would like to stay but that's bye and bye – he's got to go back to Bury. Since his hamstring injury, he has only played a few minutes, coming off the bench, but I thought I'd start him today and he was a threat at times. He can play left right or down the middle and has got genuine pace, so he will always cause teams problems." With several weeks of the January transfer window remaining, John will look to add to the squad following the departure of Tope, as well as Jamie Reckord, and Hamza Bencherif. "I'm talking to players," he said, "I'm trying to strengthen. I think we need one or two players to come in and just give us that little bit extra. "I'm trying to sort one or two things out with their clubs. I'd like to try to get them in before the Southend game."

After Sunday's 2-2 draw at Port Vale the FA Cup Third Round Replay will take place at Home Park on Tuesday, January 14. The game will kick-off at 7.45pm. Admission prices will be £18 for adults, £12 for 65+ and students, and £6 for U18s.

5th

A stirring come-back from 2-0 down in a classic FA Cup 3rd Round encounter at Port Vale earned Argyle a replay at Home Park. Undeservedly 2-0 down at the break after a spirited first-half performance - in which Vale scored with practically their only two attacks - further domination by Argyle of their League One opponents in the 2nd half rescued the game. A game that in truth they should have and could have won. Reuben Reid got one back just after the restart after fine work by Durrell Berry and Lewis Alessandra on the left before Alessandra then provided for 17-year-old Ben Purrington to notch his first senior goal for the club in only his fourth appearance, to continue Argyle's recent impressive run. Argyle: Cole, Blanchard (Purrington), Trotman, Nelson, Berry, Obadeyi (Thomas), Blizzard, Gurrieri, Hourihane, Alessandra, Reid (Boco). Substitutes (not used): Branston, Young, Wotton, McCormick.

Prior to kick-off, at 2pm, following the day's televised tie, the draw for the FA Cup 4th Round was made - so both teams took to the field knowing a home tie against Championship side Brighton & Hove Albion awaited. Should Argyle now win the resultant replay against Port Vale, they will play The Seagulls on the weekend of January 25 & 26 meaning the Cheltenham Town home league fixture will likely move to a Tuesday evening.

4th

John Sheridan joked he will do anything to secure that dream away tie ahead of Argyle's 3rd round FA Cup clash with Port Vale, which was moved 24 hours to Sunday due to Stoke City also being drawn at home. Argyle travel to Vale Park looking to make it 5 games unbeaten and Sheridan, who celebrates his first year-anniversary with the Pilgrims the following day (Monday), says they have a good opportunity of progressing to face a big gun. "If we get Old Trafford, I'll put 12 on the pitch if I can - Micky (Adams) will be thinking the same," joked Sheridan on the club's official website. "I've known Micky for a long time - he's an excellent manager and he is doing a good job at Port Vale. They have taken the momentum of going up last year into this season. It'll be a really tough game. I don't think people expect us to win, but I expect us to put up a good fight and, if we can play like we have been playing of late, I think we have got a good opportunity of getting through the game. I want us to go there, be relaxed, and believe we can win the game. If we give it our best shot, I do believe we have got players who can go and win us the game."

Meanwhile the Sheffield Star reported that Connor Wickham's loan extension and the return to fitness of Michail Antonio at Sheffield Wednesday, were factors in The Owls' decision to let Caolan Lavery remain at Home Park for another month. Wednesday boss Stuart Gray also thinks that further experience in League Two will benefit the striker who has been refused permission to play in the Pilgrims' FA Cup tie at Port Vale on Sunday. Wednesday think that Lavery is not yet ready for Championship football but the cup 'ban' is insurance in case they need him in the competition in future; Wednesday can also recall him at 24 hours' notice if necessary.

3rd

Neal Trotman has signed a deal to remain at Home Park until the end of the season. The centre-back, signed as a free agent after leaving Chesterfield in the summer, initially signed a contract which expired this month, but he has now put pen to paper on a deal to commit until the end of the current campaign. Neal has scored one goal in 26 appearances for Argyle, but it was a goal of crucial importance. It came at Mansfield, in injury time, to give Argyle a 1-0 victory in a match that many saw as a turning point in the Pilgrims' season. John Sheridan said of his signing: "He's agreed to stay until the end of the season. Everything's done. I'm pleased about that. It's important that we keep a nucleus in the dressing-room because we've got a very good dressing-room at the moment. They all get on with each other and I think that's a big part of having a successful team." Tope Obadeyi will also be available for Argyle for Sunday's game at Port Vale in the third round of the FA Cup with Budweiser. His loan spell from Bury was initially set to end on Saturday - the date on which the tie was originally to be played. However, given that the fixture was moved back 24 hours, Bury, Argyle, the Football League and The FA have negotiated the amendment. Tope has made four starts and five substitute appearance for Argyle, and will return to Bury after Sunday's game. With Caolan Lavery unavailable for the game at Vale Park, Tope will come into the reckoning for a starting berth in Argyle's attack. John said: "Tope's available. He's in the squad and he'll travel. He'll be involved in the game. He's enjoyed his time here and hopefully he can go out with a bang." The manager is also hopeful of bringing in a couple more new faces during the January transfer window. "I'm still in the process of talking to two players," John said. "I still want to bring two players in who I think will strengthen us. We'll get Sunday's game out of the way and hopefully carry things forward."

It has also been announced that in-form striker Caolan Lavery will be staying at Argyle until at least February 1. Lavery, 21, has scored three goals from four starts for Argyle, and has been allowed by parent club Sheffield Wednesday to extend his loan spell in Devon by another month. He is not permitted to play in the Pilgrims' FA Cup third round clash with Port Vale on Sunday. He will, though, be available to play in our scheduled league games against Southend, Rochdale, Cheltenham, Newport and Mansfield.

John Sheridan also paid tribute to Hamza Bencherif after revealing he would not be extending the Algerian's short-term deal. Following the Pilgrims' 2-0 New Year's Day victory over Torquay United, the Argyle manager confirmed that Hamza has left the club, but was eager to praise the midfielder's work ethic in tough circumstances. John said: "His main problem is that he's behind the other players because he hasn't had a pre-season. I think he was just playing catch-up a little bit. "I've just been honest and told him I can't pick him that often when I can bring in younger players instead, but his attitude has been great since he came here." Most of Hamza's first-team appearances for the Greens have been from the bench or in cup games, and despite his best efforts, his chances to play 90 minutes consistently have been few and far between. John said: "I just think we've got enough good players in the midfield area, with the likes of Luke Young and Dominic Blizzard coming back. It's the toughest part of my job to not pick players, and I've just not been able to play Hamza enough."

2nd

John Sheridan has praised his side's second half performance in their 2-0 victory over Torquay United. Two second half goals against their local rivals gave Argyle a third win in four games; this being probably the most dominant of them all. The Greens dominated large spells of the game, as the Gulls battled against attack after attack, before conceding to a brilliantly taken goal from Caolan Lavery from close range on the hour mark. "Caolan's shown great anticipation and quality in his goal," said the gaffer. "I think we were pushing for that goal before we scored it, and afterwards, we kept them on the back foot." The manager was eager to compliment the second half efforts of not just his on-loan Sheffield Wednesday striker, but all four attacking players: Reuben Reid, Andres Gurrieri, Lewis Alessandra and, of course, Lavery. "I thought we were quality in the second half," he said. "Our front four really caused them problems. That stretched the game, and enabled us to get higher up the pitch. Again, it was a great team performance." Five minutes from time, a cross from Conor Hourihane set up Alessandra to put to bed a game that could have been over much sooner, thanks to a commanding team effort from start to finish. Speaking about his half time team talk, Sheridan said: "I just asked the lads to pick it up five or ten per cent. I think we should've scored one or two goals in the first half, but we didn't take our chances. I think the players responded to that, so full credit to them." Argyle now sit in 12th position in League 2, five points away from a playoff position - and one point in front of Exeter City.

On New Year's Day, Caolan Lavery again showed he is the man to get the party started. For the third time in four matches, the on-loan Northern Ireland Under-21 international striker opened the scoring to pave the way for an Argyle victory. Caolan netted the Pilgrims' first in their 2-0 Home Park win over neighbours Torquay at Home Park, having also scored first in the 2-1 win over Bury before Christmas and the 3-2 triumph at Oxford on Boxing Day. Caolan was delighted to net in front of a 10,000-plus Derby Day crowd, personally and for the team. "It was brilliant," he said, "but the main thing was that we got a further three points, scored two goals, and kept a clean sheet. It was more of a twist and shot than at Oxford, where I had more of the goal to aim at. I just hit it, hit it well, kept it down at the near post, and, luckily, it went in. I'm happy. I'm playing; I'm scoring; we're winning. You can't complain, can you? I'm happy I'm here for another month." Seven of the Pilgrims' eight goals in their four games inside 12 days over Christmas have been scored by Caolan and senior strike partner Reuben Reid. "Myself and Reuben are continuing to link up well," said Caolan. "Without him, I wouldn't be able to score. I think Reuben was playing on his own a bit before I arrived and that is difficult for any striker, never mind in League 2. Maybe with the two of us up there, working for each other, is something to do with the goals." The supporting cast has been important, of course, including the scorer of the second goal, Lewi Alessandra, who chested home the 85th-minute game-clincher from Conor Hourihane's cross. "I am buzzing for him," said Caolan. "Since I've been here, he's been unlucky not to score. He has been doing well and been brilliant for the team. The lads have all been brilliant behind me and Rubes as well, so full credit to them." With ten points from the last 12, Argyle moved into the top half of the table for the first time since the sixth match of the season, and are now just five points outside the play-off positions. Caolan said: "That's what the gaffer has been saying since the first game of the Christmas period – if we have a good one, you never know where it will take us. The team is playing with confidence now and scoring more than a goal a game, which is always a plus. If we keep doing what we are doing – away from home, try to scrap and win; at home, we have to win all the games if we want to have a chance to go up. This next month is crucial; make or break, I think."

1st

A 2-0 victory over Torquay at Home Park today saw Argyle move into the top half of League 2, rounding off the Christmas period with a points haul of ten from a possible twelve. A virtuoso striker's performance by Caolan Lavery saw the on-loan forward score his third goal in four starts on the hour mark. Lewis Alessandra added a second with five minutes to go, chesting the ball into the net with a superb piece of invention. Argyle: McCormick, Blanchard, Trotman, Nelson, Purrington, Gurrieri, Blizzard, Hourihane, Alessandra, Reid (Obadeyi), Lavery (Young). Substitutes (not used): Cole, Berry, Branston, Boco, Thomas.

Diary Archive:


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