A Round-up of Argyle News
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Dominic Blizzard, recently released by Argyle, has hit out at former manager John Sheridan criticising the lack of preparation for the two play-off games against Wycombe and the fact that Sheridan drew up a released/retained list in spite of the chance that he was considering his departure from the club at the time. Blizzard: "I thought we were really not good at all in the play-offs we were very disorganised. We weren't set-up properly in either game and we never really committed too many players forward. We conceded those poor goals from set-pieces because we hadn't been properly prepared for them, and that showed. I don't think the system helped our cause and I don't think the way we were playing got the best out of the group. he last six months of the season were really disappointing. I felt that we really trailed off and that there was lots of negativity going into games after Christmas. We weren't blowing people away, especially at home, like we had done before then. There was a definite change in the atmosphere at the club around that time and it 100 per cent affected on the team. At the beginning of the season we were playing like we could challenge for automatic promotion so we were bitterly disappointed to just scrape into the play-offs in the end. Speaking to all the boys in the team all of us feel like we underachieved. We had a decent squad and there was a lot more talent in the group than we showed in the end which was disappointing.
'I wasn't surprised at being released to be honest. I'd been expecting it since about January really. I wasn't happy with how the last six months of the season played out for me as I felt I didn't really get much of a chance to play. The only thing that surprised me was that the decisions about the squad were being made by someone who didn't know whether or not they would still be at the club next year. I thought that was very strange. I definitely thought that me being let go was a bit personal and it wasn't the first time that I felt like that in the season either. But sometimes that's just the way it is in life and in football; some people don't get on. I did feel that the whole process of submitting the retain list was a bit disorganised with the manager not knowing what he was doing next year. And obviously it's very disappointing for me to not be at the club next year given that the man who made that decision won't be there either I'd never say I wouldn't go back because I really enjoyed my time at Plymouth Argyle. Everybody connected with the club; the people in the offices, the chefs, everybody, were all brilliant. It's a really good club that doesn't deserve to be in the lower leagues. The fans are unbelievable too, you've only got to look at how well we were supported in those play-off legs in spite of the results to see that."
Speculation has already begun as to the identity of Argyle's new manager following the departure of John Sheridan on Thursday. Names such as Neil Warnock, Graham Coughlan, Paul Wotton, Darren Ferguson, Sean McCarthy and Nigel Clough have featured heavily on fans forums although one manager to distance himself from the speculation is former Argyle manager Ian Holloway who left the club in 2007. Holloway staunchly said: "I have had no contact with the club and I don't plan to have any contact with the club."
Former green Graham Coughlan however seemed far more amenable to the prospect of taking the manager's job. The Irishman said: "Management is my long term ambition and whether that happens sooner or later, who knows. Plymouth Argyle is a club very close to my heart and it is an absolute honour to be one of the names linked with the job. But I am not one to run around kissing badges, for me it is not about actions it is about words. I am still under contract with Southend and won't be drawn into speculation.
"I have had an unbelievable five years at Southend and I enjoy it thoroughly. It has been a very successful time which has seen us win promotion to League One. I understand the link between myself and Argyle and who in their right mind would not want to go and manage Plymouth. It would be a tremendous job and I speak very highly about the club and the city. But is hasn't been long since the last manager left and I think he did a tremendous job.
"I went down to Plymouth and the place was bouncing, the club have a massive fan base. I was surprised with the result in the semi-final because Plymouth were renowned for having a very good defence. I couldn't see them conceding five goals over the two legs but people switched off. I know some people were blaming the referee for one of the goals but you can't really blame him for the defeat over the two legs. When players switch off there is nothing the manager can do. I was naturally gutted when Plymouth lost and I was a little excited about the prospect of them meeting us in the play-off final. Plymouth had some good chances but ultimately I think they lost the tie after the first 45 minutes at Home Park. But that is part and parcel of the game and Wycombe are a very good, well drilled side. I think it is good that Gareth Ainsworth was named manager of the year because he has done a tremendous job."
Argyle have parted company with manager John Sheridan by mutual consent. Sheridan reached an agreement with Argyle to terminate the final year of the three year contract that he signed two years ago. Sheridan expressed a wish to relocate back to the north of England to be nearer to his family. Argyle owner James Brent paid the following tribute to Sheridan: "John has made a significant contribution to the Pilgrims' cause, for which we will always be very grateful. Under his management, Argyle were brought back from the brink of relegation out of the Football League and were subsequently transformed into League 2 promotion contenders. Reaching the play-offs last season, two years after surviving the drop into non-league on the final day of the 2012-13 campaign, is an achievement of which John, his management team, and the players should rightly be proud. While we would have liked John to continue to plot Argyle's course back up the Football League, we understand his reasons for wanting to leave and have agreed a mutual termination of his contract. Everyone at Home Park wishes John every success in his future career. The search for a new manager to take Argyle into the eagerly-anticipated 2015-16 season has already begun. The club will be making no further comment on that process until an appointment is made."
Sheridan himself added: "It has been a pleasure and a privilege to have been Plymouth Argyle's manager for the last two and half years, and I would like to thank the Board and the Green Army for supporting me wholeheartedly during my time at Home Park. I have thought long and hard about the decision I have reached and I hope people understand the reasons behind it. I believe that I leave the club in a far stronger position to reclaim its place at a higher level of the Football League than it was when I first arrived and I wish it nothing but continued success for the future."
Argyle have given fans a first look at the new home kit that has been released for the 2015/16 season. The kit was voted for out of a selection of three by the fans and is now available to view on the club's official website as modelled by captain Curtis Nelson.
James Brent hopes to see Plymouth Argyle challenging for automatic promotion from League Two next season and he believes the playing budget for 2015/16 will not be restrictive to the Pilgrims' chances of achieving that aim. The chairman and owner said: "Whatever the outcome this season it was a point on a journey. We had hoped we would be in League One, but we are not. What we need to do is to enhance the team to put us in the best possible position to win promotion, ideally automatically, next year. That has got to be the aspiration of the club. I don't think the budget has been a constraining factor this year. If the manager believes we need to invest more to achieve promotion then that's clearly something the board will look at. John has always been very respectful of the fact this competition should not just be about chucking money at things. It's about building a team that can win success, rather than just trying to buy success. The budget was not a constraint this year and I would hope it would not be perceived to be a constraint for next season. We are very conscious that we are aspiring to be in a very different place in the football pyramid than we currently are, and we are looking to get there as quick as we can.
"The first season that I was involved we came 21st and were incredibly grateful to be 21st rather than relegated. In the second season we were 21st and incredibly disappointed to be 21st. In the third season we were 10th and, obviously, we were seventh this year and had the play-off experience, although it was a shortened play-off experience. So there is no doubt there has been improvement each year on the pitch. It met the minimum criteria we set for this season but it didn't meet the aspirational target of promotion. When he took over we were trending very rapidly down to the bottom two and there was a total loss of confidence. He stabilised us that season, avoided relegation, and has consecutively moved us upwards so I think John deserves credit for that."
Lewis Alessandra admitted that the play-off semi-final defeat to Wycombe over two legs was 'hard to take'. He said that Argyle had not performed at all well when it mattered and was at a loss to explain why: "I was just devastated. We gave ourselves too much to do. We had a fightback in the second half but it too little too late. I think the first 45 minutes was one of the worst I have seen us play while I have been here. In a game of that calibre, you just can't do that. To get three goals back was always going to be hard. It's like we just didn't turn up. It was one of those matches. We have actually conceded all five goals against Wycombe from set pieces, which is really disappointing for how much we work on them. If I could put my finger on it I would tell you, but I honestly don't know. We had nothing to lose so we did have a right go at it. I think on another day we could have got back into it. I felt like we had the chances but it was just too little too late. hat's what we should have done from the beginning, bearing in mind we were 3-2 down at the halfway point, but we didn't. It was really disappointing. I honestly wouldn't have believed how good the fans are before I came to the club. The support didn't surprise me. They were excellent and I'm gutted we didn't give them anything. If we had won against Wycombe it wouldn't have meant we were promoted but our fans would have had a day out to Wembley and that really would have been something. You just never know what could have happened, but it wasn't to be. We are gutted for the fans and everyone at the club."
Released Argyle forward Matt Lecointe will have to have a third operation on his knee following yet another reoccurrence of the injury that he first picked up in the summer of 2013. He had played some reserve games this pre-season but the reoccurrence prevented him from playing in the final of the Devon Bowl. Lecointe had this to say via his Twitter account: "Another operation on Monday. 3rd time lucky, who knows? I would like to thank the players, staff and fans who have supported me in my struggle for fitness. Even though it's been extremely hard at times I've enjoyed every challenge that has been thrown at me. I'll keep battling on to try and get my knee to full fitness! I've enjoyed my time at Argyle but unfortunately it's now time to move on. I wish the club and the fans every success for the future and I know the good times will once again return to Home Park. Thank you for your support!"
James Brent has paid tribute to the eight players released by Plymouth Argyle yesterday after the expiration of their contracts. He had this message for them:"On behalf of all Pilgrims, I'd like to thank the players who are leaving Home Park for the part they have played in the life of the club. Despite the disappointing end to the campaign, we have enjoyed our best season for a number of years with more points and our highest league placing in a decade. They have all played their part in the club's resurgence, and we are grateful for their contribution. We wish them every success in their future career."
John Sheridan bitterly bemoaned Argyles inconsistency as the reason for their failure to gain their target of promotion from League Two this season. Sheridan said that whilst Argyle picked up in the second half of the match, their poor performance in the first half encapsulated the frustration of this season. He eventually admitted that on the whole, Argyle have simply not shown enough quality to get promoted. Sheridan said: "We're inconsistent. We've been really good on occasions and poor on others. I'll hold my hands up and say it's got to be a lot better. I'm not going to pick things out and blame anyone; I'll look at myself as well. We're all together; we lose together and we win together. I really fancied us this season to get promoted, because on our day we were as good as anyone. It's just about the inconsistency in our game. It was a great opportunity of getting in the play-offs, to get to Wembley and get out the division. Everyone tells you that's the best way to do it, if you can do it, if you can predict it. It wasn't to be. It's hard to take when you lose and you're close to getting out the division. We haven't performed well enough to get out of the division because we're still in it. The support was unbelievable for us," said John, "but we didn't really give them anything to be excited about in the first half. That's the biggest downer for me. The support we've had over these two games and throughout the season is superb, but the first half performance is just a shame. They must have been so frustrated in the first half. It's a crying shame that they didn't get their day at Wembley. The support they've given us over the two games has been remarkable, to tell you the truth. They didn't have a whole lot to shout about. When we're 3-0 down they're supporting us like mad, and when we were 2-0 down tonight they were supporting us like mad. I know how good our supporters are. I totally understand their frustrations and the things that are going to be said - I accept that.
"I'm just really disappointed with the way we performed in the first half. For the situation we're in, that's what the biggest downer is. I've stuck with my team, I've kept faith with them, but the first half is probably, as a manager, the worst I've seen from any team I've managed. You can blame me, I pick the team, but we're in a position where we're in the play-offs, we know the importance of it and we just did not get going. I don't think we turned up, and it's ridiculous how I can say that in a play-off game. It was a massive game for us, and a great opportunity. We got punished because we didn't turn up, and we had a mountain to climb. I'm watching the game and thinking 'this is a play-off semi-final, isn't it?' It was very lethargic there was no fight whatsoever. I don't want to criticise the players they're a good group of lads and they've done well at time this season but at the end of the day, we haven't achieved anything. That's five goals we've conceded from set-play situations, and we've been good for the majority of the season with dealing with them, they haven't scored a goal from open play. In the second half we had a go. I had to do something: I put three subs on at the same time and their keeper has made some good saves. We got the goal and I believed there was some hope, but we needed the second with time running out. It was always going to be difficult. There was just a bit of endeavour about us and we were fighting, scrapping for things. That's what we need from the kick-off and, unfortunately, we didn't get it.
"When you look at the first half performance and the second half performance, I've picked the wrong team, and that's my fault. It's not the players' fault that I have put faith in them. As a team, we didn't play well. We played 3-5-2 when we played them in the league here and caused them lots of problems, but we didn't tonight. We didn't cause them any problems in the first half. Obviously we're all down and very disappointed. We're all down at the moment. It's hard to take the defeat because it was a great chance."
Sheridan also admitted that he will be reflecting on his own future following the loss, saying: "It's something I've got to look at. I've got to make decisions about myself and players who are out of contract. At this moment in time it's a bit hard to talk, but I've got to make some decisions. I'll reflect on tonight, because I'm down at the moment we're all down in the dressing room. I'll reflect on it and think about my position as well. It's a brilliant club. I've been here two years now and I know I've got another year on my contract. I'm 100% with the club and I truly believe I can get them out of the division. I'll make decisions tomorrow when I reflect on the season. I'm not thinking about it, but the club wants to obviously go forward and be successful, and whether I'm the right man, I don't know. I'm very down at the moment and gutted for everyone involved."
Sheridan's uncertainty however did not stop Argyle from unveiling their released and retained list today. Argyle have offered contracts to four of the currently out of contract players (in addition to the professional deals offered to Callum Hall and Louis Rooney): James Bittner, Tyler Harvey, Lewis Alessandra and Anthony O'Connor. They have let go Matt Lecointe, Jamie Richards, River Allen, Olly Norburn, Jason Banton, Dominic Blizzard and Marvin Morgan. Also, Paul Wotton formally confirmed his retirement from football twenty years after debuting for Argyle. Argyle finally confirmed they have extended the option to extend the contracts for a further year of Peter Hartley and Aaron Bentley.
Argyle's 2014/15 League Two season is over after a 2-1 loss to Wycombe Wanderers in 90 minutes which saw a 5-3 loss on aggregate over the two games. Notably, all five of Wycombe's goals came from set pieces across the two ties. They went 2-0 up within the first half an hour. Yet again however, it proved to be a game of two halves when Argyle made a triple substitution at half-time and came out the better of the two sides. The greens got a goal from Ryan Brunt on the 70th minute mark to inspire hope but it did not prove to be enough. Argyle will be in League Two next season. Argyle: McCormick, Nelson, McHugh(Banton), Hartley, Mellor, O'Connor, Bobby Reid, Blizzard(Brunt), Holmes-Dennis, Reuben Reid(Ansah), Alessandra. Subs: Bittner, Purrington, Jones, Harvey.
John Sheridan believes that the Argyle supporters genuinely made a difference to the outcome of the game against Wycombe on Saturday night- and that they can do the same for the return leg tomorrow evening. Sheridan urged the fans to put in another top class performance, saying: "I really do believe that the supporters played a big part in getting us something out of the game. It's difficult when you're watching a game, you're 2-0 down in the early stages and then 3-0, but I didn't hear any negativity. They got right behind us and I really do believe they played a big part. I don't have to give them a message. It's about getting the result we're after we all know what we're after. We know what the fans will be like: it'll be like having 5,000 fans there, but we have to get them right behind us straight away with the way we're playing, and it could make Wycombe really nervous."
After retrospectively assessing Argyle's performance in their 3-2 loss to Wycombe, John Sheridan has identified where his team need to improve to maximise their chances of making it to the League Two play-off final at Wembley. Sheridan said: "I've watched the video and I actually think we played well in the first half, box to box. I don't think Wycombe created too many opportunities against us, but at the same time I don't think we've tested their keeper as much as we should have. I thought we played well but it's about putting the ball in the back of the net. We find ourselves 2-0 down, with two goals that were poor on our part. They are aggressive from set plays and they put balls in dangerous areas. We should do a lot better, and we have done a lot better over the season. Luke hasn't actually had much to do, which I have to take as a positive, but at the same time we've conceded three goals. You have to stay switched on. People have got to know what their jobs are, stay more focused, pick up scraps and second balls and be aware of the dangers they're going to throw at you. In open play I thought we dealt with them well. Good players do the simple things really well, and if you keep making the basic errors against better opposition, you get punished. This is something you've got to learn, and unfortunately it happens at this level, but I don't want to be too negative about the players. I thought they responded really well. We got something out of the game and we're still right in the tie."
John Sheridan has admitted he has a very difficult decision to make about who to start up front in the second leg of the play-off semi-final against Wycombe at Adams Park on Thursday. Whilst Reuben Reid and Lewis Alessandra have been a potent strike force for most of the season, they have both suffered for form as of late as well as having injury issues. Ryan Brunt and Zak Ansah however were a formidable partnership in the greens recent 2-0 away win at Shrewsbury, leaving Sheridan in a quandary. The gaffer said: "Zak and Brunty did well at Shrewsbury so I have got to make a decision. Are they on top of their game? Are they at it? That's a decision I have got to make. And Jason Banton came on against Wycombe and did really well. Who do I feel is going to be sharp enough and who is going to affect the game? Reid and Alessandra have got 30-odd goals between them. It's a tough decision but if I feel Zak, or whoever, is the best option to play I will pick them for the game on Thursday. I think we can play a lot better than in the first leg and I know Lewi and Reuben can play a lot better. They have been big players for us his season and I know how well they did play when we won 2-0 at Wycombe. They caused them all sorts of problems. We need the players to be giving me eight or nine out of 10 on Thursday night."
Wycombe have allocated a further 300 tickets to Argyle on top of the 1,800 that have already been sold for Thursday night's crunch match with Wycombe that will determine whether or not the greens go to Wembley for the play-off final. Tickets go on sale from 10am Tuesday morning to all supporters who are on the club's database.
John Sheridan is planning a sensational turnaround to progress to Wembley to warned that it would not be done unless Argyle took a fully professional approach to the game against a tough side: "They're a good, organised team and saw the game out. It's very tight. The last two times we've been there, we've won. Obviously they've got their advantage and it's a good result for Wycombe, but I think Gareth will be really down that it has ended 3-2. There's still belief there, and we have to go there and show character. I think we can play a lot better. The lads have been given a lift, and if anyone might be down it will be Wycombe, going 3-0 up and it ending up 3-2. We've got to go to Wycombe knowing we have played really well there. I really fancy us, and we are still in the game. We've got to go and score anyway, so we have to try and force the issue. That's what we'll look to do. They've got a slight advantage but it's cagey; do they sit back or try and get a goal? It will be a tough game and it is a tough ask for us, but we'll go there and hopefully coming back and getting ourselves into the game tonight, we can go there believing we can finish it off.
"We'll come in on Monday and train Tuesday and Wednesday. I'm not into all this hype before the game. I think there's too much talk before a game. I don't like my players getting involved in it. I tell them to just concentrate on the game. I think some players were doing little things that I don't like, that they haven't been doing all season. We were giving the ball away cheaply when we are good possession."
Bobby Reid agreed with his manager John Sheridan on the subject of the Argyle support and the impact that they had on the eventual outcome of the game on Saturday and added that everything was now to play for, going into Thursday's second leg. Reid said: "Beating Wycombe is our main focus, you can't look past that. There are still 90 minutes to go. The fans picked us up. They were fantastic and we really appreciate the support. We just hope for the same for the away leg now. Both teams will still be thinking they have the ability to go through.
"There is only one goal in it and that is not really a big deficit, and I think we can claw that back. It is anybody's game for the taking. I don't know really what went wrong in the first half. We conceded two goals from set pieces and that is not usually like us. That was our major downfall and we didn't really create too many clear cut chances. I think we did alright but we could have done much better. On the whole to get back in the game we did well. We showed a bit of character but to go three goals down meant it was always going to be difficult. We have to look at that and stop that for the next game. At half-time the manager said the next goal was crucial and obviously we didn't get the next goal, but we showed a bit of character to grab two goals after that. Zak and Jason did well when they came on and they changed the game. We struggled with set pieces so if we tighten that up we should be alright. Personally I feel that I could have played better but it never happens for you all the time. I just have to go again on Thursday and hopefully I am more of a threat going forward."
John Sheridan has made it very clear that he believes Argyle are 'still in the game' following their 3-2 loss to Wycombe in the first leg of the play-offs. Whilst he was not really happy with the performance, he gave credit to his Argyle players for coming back into the game in the way that they did. Sheridan elaborated: "In the first half I actually thought we played well, without hurting them or testing the keeper too much, and we find ourselves 2-0 down. I was pleased with the way we played in the first half. I'm wondering how we're 3-0 down. With the first goal: I said they were a handful from set plays, and they do put balls in there and compete. The first goal is from a corner and the second goal; I didn't see it but everyone is telling me that it was handball. We've stopped; everyone's stopped, and it's cost us, and they get the second goal. You should never stop, but there are players who appealed for handball and their players carried on. The third goal I didn't see: none of us on the bench have seen it. I turned round and missed it. It ended up in the back of the net quickly. When you're 3-0 down you wonder where you are going to get your break from. I was just about to make my subs when the third goal went in, as well. We haven't conceded many soft goals this season, and we didn't look like our usual selves. The second half was a bit cagey and I couldn't see us getting back in it. I felt we did play okay in the second half. There was a good tempo to us. Luke hasn't had much to do, to be fair.
"Full credit to us. I couldn't really see us getting back in the game but we have, and that's full credit to the players. A great goal from Zak gets us back in the game. Zak's goal gets us back in it and gives us that lift. Even 3-1 I would have took, but then we get the second goal, and it's a shame there wasn't ten minutes to go. It's a really good response. We haven't come back too many times when we're behind, so we've put ourselves right back in the tie. We have. When you go 3-0 down, we could've really gone under but we plugged away and got our breaks and ended up with two goals. The subs have changed the game. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. To get back to 3-2 gives us a really good chance. Jason Banton came on and did really well, so I have got to decide who is sharp enough and who's going to effect the second leg. I'm not frightened to make a decision, and if I feel Zak or whoever is ready and I think they're the best option to play, I'll pick whoever I feel is right for the game. We need to have all players giving me eight or nine out of ten on Thursday."
Just before Argyle's comeback from 3-0 down in the game, Home Park erupted into a spontaneous chorus of Bob Marely's 'Three Little Birds' with a dazzling display of lit mobile phones swinging in tune to the music. John Sheridan said that the spontaneity had a genuine impact on Argyle's comeback: "First thing, and this is not me creeping, but I thought our supporters were absolutely outstanding tonight and they played a big part in us getting back in the game. I don't want to be watching. I want to be playing. That's the way I feel. It absolutely kills me that I'm watching. It was an unbelievable atmosphere. At 3-0 down they right behind the team. The atmosphere was brilliant. They were singing at 3-0 when we were down and not playing well. I think the players understand that, as well, and I believe it gave us that lift. We get the goal, which gives the fans even more for the tempo and the atmosphere. They were unbelievable tonight, the supporters, and I know they'll be unbelievable on Thursday night. We'll have nearly 2,000 there and we could have taken five or six thousand if we had the tickets."
Argyle have lost the first leg of the play-off semi-final 3-2 at home to Wycombe but are still in the game thanks to a late comeback from 3-0 down. Wycombe went 3-0 up before the 50 minute mark with all three of their goals coming from set plays. Two late Argyle goals from Zak Ansah and Jason Banton were the only two shots on target the home side had all game but they were enough to ensure the tie was wide open going into Thursday's second leg. Argyle: McCormick, Nelson, McHugh(Ansah), Hartley, Mellor, O'Connor, Jones(Banton), Bobby Reid, Holmes-Dennis, Reuben Reid(Brunt), Alessandra. Subs: Bittner, Purrington, Harvey, Blizzard.
John Sheridan has one final message to his Plymouth Argyle charges going into the first leg of the play-off semi-final against Wycombe tonight: brave. Sheridan told his players to make the most out of the opportunity, saying: "We are going to have a full house. The atmosphere will be brilliant. It's about the players being brave and relaxed, and just enjoying the occasion. These are the games you want to be involved in as a player. We know how important the game is tonight, but it's over two legs. I have told the players 'the game won't be won on Saturday, but you can gain an advantage'. I'm looking forward to it and the players are looking forward to it. They have been relaxed all week. It's good for the supporters as well. They have had some difficult periods over the last few years. Now there is the chance of getting out of the division. The most important thing is we all unite together, push forward and get the result we want. At the end of the day, the result I want is getting out of the division. That's what I'm looking at."
Sheridan was also keen to stress the importance of this being a two-legged game however and that whilst the first leg was important, it was not the be and all and end all. He said: "It's important you keep in the tie, but I'm looking at us winning. That's the only thought in my mind we're going to win the game. If you are at home, you go and try to gain an advantage if you can. That's what we'll do. They have got a really good away record, so I am expecting a really tough game. They are a good team and we have had two really close games this season. I've read Gareth Ainsworth's comments that he's not coming, looking for a draw, and they will try to gain an advantage because they have been doing better away from home. It should be an entertaining game and hopefully it will go our way. You don't look at the two games. We'd like the same scores in both games, wouldn't we, but I don't look at it like that. It will be totally different. There's pressure we know there's the chance of playing at a Wembley cup final but the players are relaxed and I'm confident we will go and do the job. It's a game we're all looking forward to. We know how important it is. I've said to the players 'The tie won't be won on Saturday, but you can get an advantage and make sure you stay in the tie'. I can talk all I want. It's not about talking. It's about being ready, and who turns up on the day and has the character. Hopefully, we've got one or two who will go out and perform the way they can; I've said before, many a time, we're as good as any team in the league on our day. "
Anthony O'Connor thinks that Argyle will have the edge in the big match due to Wycombe's late dip into the play-offs. The Buckinghamshire side have been in the automatic promotion zone for the vast majority of the season and could still be reeling from this. Whilst stating this however, O'Connor also warned of the danger of underestimating Wycombe because they are still a strong team. The Irishman said: "We're at home first so hopefully we can get the crowd behind us, score a few goals and concede as few as possible. We'd like to get a clean sheet and take a lead to their place. They're not going to come here, sit in and hope for the best, their going to come at us as well, so we're both going to be cautious of each other. They know what were good at and we know what their good at so we should be in for a good game - I don't think the crowd will be let down. We've performed well in the big games this season: Exeter, Portsmouth, Shrewsbury. We seem to get points against the so called big teams, so we're just going to treat this as a normal game. We're going to have to play them at some point, so why not now? Go into next Thursday, get a good result there and then the big one in three weeks time. They might be a bit down. They were in the automatic promotion positions for such a long time. They probably thought they were going to go up automatically, so to fall at the last hurdle is going to be disappointing for them, there is no hiding from that. If it was me, and I was in an promotion place all season then threw it away on the last day of the season, I would be gutted. Obviously they are going to be a bit down. Their gaffer's going to be telling them 'we've done well, we're in the play-offs.' I'm sure some of the players are disappointed that they are not on their holidays, already in League One, but that's something we'll take into consideration. We're on the up, we knew that we were just fighting for a play-off place all along. For us it's a big game, for them they are probably on a bit of a downer, so I think we have the advantage coming into the play-offs.
"When I was at Burton we took a 3-2 lead against Bradford, and we battered them at their place. When we went into the second leg at home, we thought we were already there. We probably got a bit too confident. The game isn't going to be won or lost this Saturday. We have got to make sure we aren't going to be playing catch up; we have just got to keep our heads down, work hard and go into the second leg, and hopefully do the business there as well."
Argyle's concentration levels will be tested against Wycombe according to defender and vice-captain Peter Hartley. He also added that the role of the fans would be critical, urging to Green Army to get behind the lads in such an important game: "Wycombe try to slow the game down; they score a lot of goals from set-plays. They don't tend to break teams down, but we have got to concentrate for 95 minutes as, if we don't concentrate, they're more than capable of getting a goal. If we take control of the game and if we move the ball around like we know we can, I think we can really hurt them and get them on the back foot. Defensively, we do settle quite well; it's just the will to win, and that is shown by me, Carl and Nelse, as we want it more than the man we're playing against. No frills; win your battles; win your challenges; communicate; keep everyone in front of you organised. We do that. If we keep concentrating and keep everyone else at it, when we're in position, your Bobby Reids, your Dom Blizzards, will go on and win you games. You can't underestimate anybody in this league," he said. "Wycombe are thinking that we just got in the play-off positions and they just got out of the top three, so it could be swinging in our favour. But I think you got to give them a lot of respect, as they've been up there for a reason and they have one of the best away records in the league. We have got to be really on our game to get a result on Saturday. It's the play-offs you play to win," said Peter. "You'd take a draw away from home if you've won, obviously, but when you're at home on your home patch we have got to make sure we turn up here on Saturday and get the job done. Obviously the boys are all excited for Saturday and chomping at the bit, and I wish it could come sooner. I'm ready to go, nice and fresh. I just can't wait to get to Saturday night; get the ref to blow the whistle; get the ball rolling; and then it's war.
"We, as players, have tried to treat it as a normal week. We have been in on the same days and done the same work. Not much has changed from usual, apart from the queue out there. It has been different class. I think the more people we get in that stadium the better we are going to play, to be honest, because it's a fact that has happened this season. Whenever we have had a big crowd against Exeter, Portsmouth, games like that we have always produced. There was real pressure on the Tranmere game because we had to win it. I have played in a few games in the past when I have been at the bottom of the league, and it was like one of those. For us to come through that Tranmere game really got the ball rolling. Then we went to Shrewsbury last week and I think we played some really nice stuff and thoroughly deserved to win. Hopefully, the momentum keeps going into Saturday. The boys can't wait for the game. Everyone is chomping at the bit and it can't come soon enough. It's credit to the fans. They have been quality all season. We have had some bad results and we have had some good results. That's the reason we have made the play-offs and not been promoted automatically. I think, on our day, we are more than capable of beating anyone in the league. If we get that crowd behind us as well it will be like a wave and Wycombe won't know what has hit them. Hopefully, we start well with a good strong tempo and the fans get behind us and really believe that something special can happen."
Martyn Starnes has urged Argyle supporters not to leave it late in obtaining their Wycombe tickets due to the expected business around Home Park on Saturday evening. He explained the measures that the club have taken to make things easier: "We do not want anyone to miss our biggest and most important game at Home Park for more than a decade, so we are encouraging anyone who intends to come to the game to buy their ticket as soon as possible and take advantage of the fact that they are £2 cheaper if bought before match-day. We are keeping the Ticket Office open until 6pm on Friday, and are opening again at 9am on Saturday. It goes without saying that it is going to be incredibly busy on Saturday, so we have arranged for the Home Park gates to be opened early, from 5.45pm, two hours before kick-off. That will give supporters more time to find their seat. It is essential that everyone sits in the seat specified on their tickets. Our stewards will be more than happy to assist them. It is a major operation which has been a success because of the planning and hard work from a lot of people. Matt and his staff have been at the sharp end and have dealt splendidly with demand that at times means we have been selling at the rate of one ticket a second across our three platforms of on-line, by phone and in person. They, and other Home Park Office staff, were in first thing on Bank Holiday Monday morning to make sure supporters were able to buy a ticket at the first available opportunity, and have gone to great lengths to ensure that everyone who has applied for or enquired about a ticket has been satisfied. The planning started a long way out with meetings involving myself and management staff, who have plenty of experience of putting on big games quickly and efficiently, taking place more than two weeks before our last game of the season. That meant, as soon as the final whistle at Shrewsbury confirmed our place in the play-offs, and we knew that we were playing Wycombe, everything had been prepared and everybody was ready to swing into action."
James Brent has been watching games in the away end with the Argyle fans as opposed to the directors box recently and he spoke about how much he has enjoyed the experience, saying: "We won 3-0 at Cheltenham and, of course, there was the very special game against Exeter, where we beat them 3-1. It was absolutely great at Shrewsbury, but I was also with the away fans at Carlisle and it was a much less fun game to watch. The Exeter match was probably an experience that I haven't had before, where there was just contagious excitement and great emotion. At Carlisle we all felt very down in the mouth after the game but the Green Army is a great group of individuals. It's a very wide church, from youngsters up to older people. It's a real privilege to be there with them. It was a great game to watch and the team played with tremendous confidence. It was a proud day to be a Pilgrim. I thought we deserved the result we got against a team who clearly had a huge amount to play for. It has been a variable season with good runs and poor runs but, fingers crossed, we are on a good run now."
John Sheridan has good news for Argyle's hopes against Wycombe on Saturday. His squad has a clean bill of health with the exception of Deane Smalley who is suffering from a long-term injury and also Matt Lecointe who appears to have picked up a new unspecified injury. Reuben Reid, Lee Cox and Lewis Alessandra will be available for selection. Sheridan said: "Everyone's okay. I know what my team is. The good thing about last week was that one or two players came in and did really well; the subs came on and did really well. It's not about the 11 that are going to start it's about the 18 and even a couple who are not going to be in the 18; it's about my squad. Over the next, hopefully three, games, one or two might be involved more than they think, so it's important I keep them right. I was pleased with the way the lads who came into the team and the lads who came on last week responded. John Harbin's done well with the players he knows how to look after them. The most important thing is keeping everyone fit everything's short, sharp. If we weren't involved in the play-offs, a lot of them would be sorting their holidays out. It is important we tick over and get prepared for the game."
Argyle are looking at laying on a fans coach for the Cornish supporters to get to and from Home Park on Saturday night for our play-off game against Wycombe if there is demand for it. This follows the news that First Great Western will not be running another service and that there are no trains that will get fans back to Cornwall after the 7.45 match has ended. Full details can be found on the club's official website and fans have until 1.30pm on Thursday to let Argyle know of their interest.
Carl McHugh confirmed that he has no intention of letting a troublesome knee injury affect his chances of playing in the play-offs for Plymouth Argyle against Wycombe and hopefully beyond. Whilst McHugh admitted that there was a pain barrier to be got through, he said that at this time it was critical to play through it for the sake of Argyle's season. He went on to echo John Sheridan's message of fearlessness in a match where anybody can beat anybody. McHugh said: "I have had the injury for a good while it was Northampton at home but I'm alright. I'm getting through it. I always wanted to play on Saturday, to be honest. It will take a lot for me to miss a game. Not many players will be 100 per cent fit at this stage of the season. A lot of the boys have been playing with stuff all season and it shows their commitment to the team, and the club. There are players putting their bodies on the line for the club for every week and we will continue to do that. Hopefully, we will have a good ending.
"I think the club has not had much to celebrate over the last few years and we have come in this year and we have a chance now to do something. As a player these are the games you want to play in. They are big occasions. Hopefully we will do well over the two games and aim is to get to Wembley
"Getting a clean sheet, that's what we are paid for as defenders. It's a really good achievement to keep 21 league clean sheets for the season and it's something we are proud of. Two more clean sheets will likely take to us to Wembley. That's the way we are looking at it and that's what we will try to do.It's going to be two really tough games but we aren't bothered who we play, to be honest. It doesn't matter if a team finished 10 points above us, or whatever. We are all on the same starting line now. As we showed against Shrewsbury, on our day we are as good as anyone in the league. We have beaten Shrewsbury twice this season and drawn twice with Burton, and they were the top two teams, so we have nothing to fear.
"Tranmere was the big one. It wasn't easy circumstances to play in, with a lot of pressure on us, but we stepped up, stuck together and got the win. And I think it was a really good solid performance against Shrewsbury. It was our first clean sheet for a while and for the defence that's a big thing as well, so we will take the confidence from that into the play-offs. It's a long time ago since we played them at home and we are a different team now. We showed at their place. We were really good that night. We have just got to work hard all week. We will prepare properly and give it our best over the next two games. It's a really good achievement getting into the play-offs because it's a really competitive league. It doesn't matter what way you get in, we have as good a chance as anyone of getting to the final and winning it. We have had our blips this season but we definitely believe in ourselves. It would be a brilliant occasion for everyone. It's something you will remember for the rest of your life so we are going to give it everything we have to try to get there."
Argyle are the winners of the 2014/15 Devon Bowl, beating Bideford 5-4 on penalties after a thrilling 4-4 draw in 90 minutes. The squad which was comprised of a mixture of professionals and youth players were pegged back from a winning position three times throughout the game but eventually won out thanks to a decisive penalty from Jason Banton.
James Brent spoke of his sense of excitement going into the play-offs and agreed with manager John Sheridan that Argyle can beat anyone on their day. Brent mentioned a vibe of excitement that is tangible in the city, saying:"I think there is a great sense of excitement across the city and the across the region. I have had a number of texts and telephone calls about it from people who don't watch football regularly. I certainly think there will be a very substantial crowd at Home Park on Saturday. I would be amazed if it's not the highest crowd that we have seen while I have been in situ, so that's great. If we get there it would be a wonderful day but we need to focus on getting there first. I do think what John Sheridan says is absolutely right, that on our day we can beat any team in League Two. There is no reason why the team shouldn't feel confident, but clearly Wycombe Wanderers have had a very good season. They had 13 points advantage relative to us so they are not a weak team. Unfortunately it gets fairly well spread across not just the teams that are in the play-offs, but the wider Football League as well. I guess, looking at it positively, we have benefited when we haven't been in the play-offs and other teams have. It's not such a big money-spinner but it does make some additional income and everything counts. The financial success that Plymouth Argyle achieved last year, which I think was very impressive, was not one big thing. It was doing a whole series of smaller things better. Clearly the play-offs add positively to that story. I'm sure it will be absolutely wonderful. I understand the fans are planning a display before the game. Seeing those displays, there is nothing that can make you feel prouder to be a Devonian and to be associated with Plymouth Argyle."
Gethin Jones has formally extended his loan deal with Argyle until the end of the season- he has played six times for us since his arrival from Everton. He joins Argyle's other loan players Charlton Athletic pair Zak Ansah and Tareiq Holmes-Dennis, and Bristol City's Bobby Reid in being available for our play-off matches. Meanwhile, the loan deal of Olly Lee has expired.
The play-offs are not all at stake for Argyle this season. The greens play in the Devon St Luke's Challenge Cup final against Bideford tomorrow night and it could be a big game for Matt Lecointe as he recovers from his long injury problems. John Sheridan however said that Lecointe has still shown promise and could yet make a career for himself in the game. Sheridan: "In the little games we have, 8 v 8s, he looks very comfortable to be fair to him. He scores goals and brings people into play. It's just that match situation. An 8 v 8 on a 30 by 30 is totally different to a full sized pitch but he does look good. He has been out for a long time and has had some serious injuries. I'm hoping he will get to the level he was at before the injuries but it is a big step. I see players all the time who are good in training but then it comes to a matchday and they are totally different people. It has been a long road for him but he's getting there. He will start the game against Bideford. We will assess him and just keep looking at him. He's strong mentally and I think he believes in himself, which I like in a player. But he has been out a long time and he's catching up. He's trying to get to the level where the other lads are. In the 8 v 8s, he plays up against Curtis Nelson and he's strong. It's just taking it into a game now on a full size pitch."
John Sheridan re-stated his belief that Argyle can beat any team in the division on their day and said that the style of victory over Shrewsbury only served to back that viewpoint up. He added that it should give his players confidence going into the Wycombe games: "I thought the way we went about our game will give us the confidence now to go into the two games against Wycombe. The hardest thing is keeping that level of performance now. If we play like we did today we will have a good chance of getting through but Wycombe have been in the top three nearly all season. They have had a really good season, but it doesn't matter who we are playing. We have got as good a chance as anyone and that's the way we are going to prepare, believing that we can get up. I get stick when we are getting beaten and I get a few plaudits when we are winning. That's just part and parcel of being a manager. Fortunately, I don't change too much - I don't get carried away. I'm just hoping we are successful, for everyone involved. I know what the supporters want. Believe me I want it as much as them as well. We have just given them a little bit of hope. We have got two really tough games and a great opportunity of getting to Wembley. It's a great day out for the supporters but I'm all about winning. I just want to be successful and get the team out of this division as quickly as possible.
"We had to finish a job off. We were confident we could do it but I thought the way we went about our game will hopefully give us the confidence to go into the two games. We have got as good a chance as anyone and that is the way we are going to prepare believing that we can get up. We will prepare properly in our week for what's going to be a good atmosphere, a full house. We're at home first, so we'd like to go into the game and try to get an advantage, but the main thing is you keep yourself in it for the second leg. Wycombe are a good strong team; they have had an excellent season; and now they will want to finish it off by getting out of this league, like us."
Sheridan gave particular praise to his players for a 'top drawer' performance against the Shrews on their own patch. He also explained that he rested Reuben Reid and Lewis Alessandra because they were carrying injuries. He said: "I thought we were top drawer from the first whistle. I thought our first half performance was really, really good. We created chances and caught them on the break. Our work ethic was very good and it suited us because they play the same system as us. I thought we were well on top throughout the game and once it got to 2-0 I was very comfortable.
"I just didn't want to really risk anyone who I felt was carrying anything. I thought Zak did well. Brunty probably tried too hard I have told the kid just to relax, but it's difficult when you aren't playing regularly and getting to the tempo of the game. They worked their socks off. They were part of a team performance. I've seen little things from Tyler in training, and I've had a chat with him, as well. I know what he's capable of. I just want the kid to understand I think a lot of him. I know he hasn't played a lot of football but I think it's down to Tyler now. You can see the ability he's got. They have all played a part today. Carl played well but I thought Bobby Reid was brilliant in the first half as well.But you can't play individuals. When you go out as a team you have got a better chance of winning."
Kelvin Mellor was naturally delighted to get his first goal in a green shirt and he talked through both his goal and first the assist that enabled Bobby Reid to score in the first minute: "I just wanted to get it in the box nice and early and hopefully pick someone out, and I'm obviously glad that Bobby was on the end of it! It was a nice feeling.
"I was running with the ball and no-one was coming to me. I tried to slip Zak in but it got cut out, and I gambled with the second ball. I got hold of it and slotted it home nicely. With my Dad here at the game, it was nice really nice. I thought we battled well. They obviously played the same formation as us, so it was a case of either winning your battle or you're not going to get the result, I think a lot of people were at it today, especially in the first half. We dominated and took our chances. It was nice to get an early goal, which made it feel a little more comfortable with a full house here. I thought we played really well. There wasn't really any pressure on us. There was more pressure on them because they were going for the league. They were out to prove a point, which backfired. We controlled the game well and, as a team, I thought it was a good performance."
Argyle completed the final match of the regular season in style with an excellent 2-0 victory over a Shrewsbury side who had previously lost just one league match all season. Bobby Reid fired Argyle into the lead from a Kelvin Mellor cross just 3 minutes into the game and Mellor got into the scoring act himself on the stroke of half-time. Both teams had second half chances but Argyle had the better of Shrewsbury whose promotion winning season ended with a damp squib. This result rubberstamped Argyle's place in the play-offs as they finished the season in 7th place. Other results ensured that Argyle will play Wycombe in the League Two play-off semi-finals. The home leg is on Saturday May 9th and the away leg is on Thursday May 14th. Argyle: McCormick, Nelson, McHugh, Hartley, Mellor, O'Connor, Bobby Reid, Blizzard(Jones), Brunt(Harvey), Ansah(Norburn). Subs: Bittner, Purrington, Bentley, Banton.
John Sheridan re-iterated his message that Argyle are in the play-offs to win them and not simply to make up the numbers. Whilst his ultimate aim is promotion, when asked he reflected that even making the play-offs would be a sign of significant progress in itself. Sheridan said: "If you are in the play-off positions, then you earn the right to be there it doesn't matter if you are fourth or seventh. After this game, if everything goes our way, we are all on a level playing field. Anyone can beat anyone; it doesn't worry me who we play in the slightest, because I know we can beat anyone on our day. It will mean I have done a decent job. I don't get carried away; I don't change much. I'm here to get Plymouth out of the league that's my main objective. I try to look after my players and get the best of them. They have done alright, and we've achieved by getting in the play-offs, if we get in them. The next step is getting out of the division."
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