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THE DAILY DIARY

A Round-up of Argyle News

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

Monday 30th November 2009

Argyle have been drawn at home to Newcastle United in the third round of the FA Cup. The game will be played over the weekend of January 2nd-3rd. Paul Sturrock was pleased with a home tie and said: "Getting a home tie was quite important. We've ended up going out to Premier League teams away from home in the last couple of seasons. It'll be nice not to worry about trekking away from Home Park. It will be a very difficult game, of course. Newcastle are doing very well and look to be on course for a return to the Premier League. We were very competitive when we played them at St James' Park earlier in the season and I am sure we will give them plenty to think about again. I expect that they will bring a good number of supporters with them, so there should be quite an atmosphere."

Paul Sturrock sympathised with Mark Robins after the game against Barnsley was abandoned but insisted the referee had no other option because the conditions had deteriorated so much. "I felt it was the right decision, but I think he did it wrong," said Sturrock. "I think he should have had a word with the two managers at half-time, or the two captains, and marked our cards." Sturrock pointed out that soon after the abandonment there had been a cloudburst which resulted in much of the pitch being flooded, and there was no way the match could have been completed. He said: "It was getting bad enough as it was before that. People were sliding 20 yards. Wee Judgey made a block on a ball that, in normal circumstances, he wouldn't have got near to. His feet were way up in the air and people could have got hurt." Asked how he would have felt had he been Robins, Sturrock replied: "Gutted. His team has played very well on the day and we have got out of jail." Defensively Argyle struggled, as Darcy Blake came into the side at right-back, with David Gray still out with a hip injury, and Krisztian Timar recalled in place of Kari Arnason. Sturrock said: "We finished putting two changes into the back four again today and it was shambolic for a 20-minute period. Their two centre-forwards really got the freedom of the park. But our two centre-forwards were tackled every time the ball was played to them. For example, Rory must have had five or six fouls on him. As a coach or a manager, you can't legislate for people heading the ball inside, instead of away, or swiping and missing the ball completely. It just defies logic. Building up confidence takes time, but confidence can evaporate in minutes. Today, there were several players out there who didn't want the ball eventually because of the circumstances that had arisen." Argyle started the match strongly, taking the lead in the ninth minute when Karl Duguid converted a cross from Alan Judge. Sturrock said: "Our strikers took us up the football pitch and Judgey was getting himself in the right areas and putting crosses in the box. But the last three or four times we have gone 1-0 up, generally we have lost a goal inside five minutes. A professional team shouldn't be doing that on a regular occurrence. You should be taking the steam out of the next five minutes by keeping the ball. Or at least, if under pressure, putting the ball in an area where they are having to run back to their goals. When your back four is settled and confident, and hard to break down, it benefits the rest of the team. Today, we were back to how we were in parts of last season and the beginning of this season."

Paul Sturrock has revealed that Kari Arnason did not play on Saturday because of a groin injury he suffered in training. He said: "He had a fitness test but we didn't take a chance on him. There was no point because he could have been out for six or seven weeks had we played him in those slippery conditions." Jamie Mackie was serving a one-match suspension against Barnsley, however, because of the abandonment, he will now be banned for the visit of Sheffield United on Saturday.

29th

Referee Gavin Ward has defended his decision to abandon Argyle's game with Barnsley after 58 minutes. He said: "From my point of view, I have got to look at players' safety and with the rain coming down, the ball holding up and a lot of surface water on the pitch, players' safety was paramount and that was the reason for abandoning the game. Unfortunately, the score-line is irrelevant. You have to look at players' safety and that is our first priority. We look at the weather forecast to prepare for a game and I knew that the forecast was for consistent, heavy rain. When we started the second-half, it was only getting worse and that is why we abandoned it."

28th

Argyle's game with Barnsley was abandoned after 58 minutes, with Argyle 4-1 down, due to a waterlogged pitch. Karl Duguid had scored after 8 minutes and the line up was: Larrieu, Blake, Timar, Lowry, Sawyer, Duguid, Fletcher, Folly, Judge, Fallon, Gow. Subs - Noone (not used – Letheren, Clark, Johnson, Barnes, Sheridan, Mason).

Cillian Sheridan has been given a big challenge by Paul Sturrock, who wants him to prove that he is worth a place in the starting line-up. Sturrock said: "I think the boy Sheridan has to appreciate that he has to sway my judgement on selection. The only way he can do that is by training at the moment, or in the bit-parts he has played in games, because there are no reserve games at present. If the Sheridan that we saw against Newcastle turned up every week, he would not be out of the team, but the problem is that there is an inconsistency in him due to his naivety and his age. He does have natural talent, but I just feel sometimes that he does not appreciate that being selected is a daily process. That's something I'll just have to remind him about." Argyle have a vacancy in their attack today, with Jamie Mackie serving a one-match ban, and Sheridan is hoping to be asked to plug the gap. "I need to try to go out and impress again, and kind of start over," he said. "I don't want to go out on loan and then not play, so it's up to me to try to get back into the team. Any half-chance I get, I'll have to take it." Sheridan's best performance so far came in Argyle's defeat at Newcastle two months ago. "For me, it was a good game, but we lost so there was not much to cheer about there," he added. "I know there's no point in having a game like that and then not doing well in the rest of the games. I know I have to be consistent, and I just have to focus on trying to get back playing again."

27th

Paul Sturrock has warned that Argyle must be at their best to defeat Barnsley tomorrow. He said: "It will be a difficult game for us because Barnsley are coming off a fantastic result. They will be in high spirits and have got some exceptional players. The strength of the players on their bench is testament to what direction they want their club to go in. One of their top players is suspended tomorrow, so there will be a change of some sorts there. But if we don't show the same kind of spirit, enthusiasm and thoughtfulness, as we have done in the last two or three home games, it could cost us dear. They have got people who can punish you." Former Argentina youth international Hugo Colace is someone Argyle will have to keep a close eye on. Sturrock added: "Barnsley are a good footballing side. They have got some foreign players who have come in and adapted very well to the British game." New manager Mark Robins has already proved to be a good choice by Barnsley. Sturrock said: "He has organised them well and, looking at Pro-Zone, they are a bit fitter. They are running further than they were earlier in the season. I think there is a bit of team spirit about them as well." Argyle are unbeaten in their last three matches at Home Park and hope to extend that record. Sturrock said: "That's the key to it all. I had a word with the players about that yesterday and it's important we keep churning out results."

Argyle must cope without Jamie Mackie when they take on Barnsley and Rory Fallon is set to be recalled to the starting line-up. Paul Sturrock has also admitted Craig Noone could come into the side. He said: "Jamie has been an influence for the last six or seven games. He runs the line very well and he causes a lot of problems. But it does give an opportunity to somebody to come in. I have got to weigh up who it is. There are a few runners and riders for that slot." Sturrock admitted Fallon's recent absence 'wasn't ideal' but he added: "The World Cup bid is an important aspect of the club at this minute in time." Fallon was put through his paces on Wednesday morning, however, when most of the squad were on a day off. Sturrock said: "Rory had a solid hour on Wednesday, so it's not as if he has missed anything of real content. He was in with Paul Mariner, and Jamie and Barnesy also came in, so they did some finishing. Noone is definitely in my thoughts. We have to be offensive-minded when we are at home. I can either have a system change which enables me to have Gow in a more withdrawn role, or I can put someone on the width who would be very positive."

Darcy Blake has completed a three-match suspension so could be recalled to play at right-back tomorrow. Blake was banned after being controversially sent-off in the draw with Ipswich Town and Paul Sturrock said: "I thought the sending-off was a bit harsh, but he's really enjoying his football here." Blake is on loan to Argyle until the end of December, but there is a possibility that it could be extended. Sturrock added: "I have had a chat with him about things and he's really up for it. He would be one I would definitely be interested in keeping."

Paul Sturrock is relaxed about speculation that Gary Sawyer has turned down a two-year contract extension. He said: "I don't know how far we have gone along that road. That's somebody else's department. I haven't really talked to Gary about it, but this kind of thing is normal in any negotiations." Meanwhile, Sturrock has responded to a report that he is taking an interest in Exeter City midfielder Ryan Harley, after he and Paul Mariner were at St James' Park on Tuesday for Exeter's draw against Millwall. Sturrock said: "I took the game in because I thought it was appropriate that Paul started to get around the local clubs. It was more that kind of venture than anything else." When asked about being linked with Harley, Sturrock replied: "I had never seen him play before but he looked a nice footballer."

Paul Sturrock has admitted he would consider a loan move for Peter Halmosi. He said: "Finance will dictate and Peter is on a large wage at the moment, and I am sure he will want to fight for his place at Hull. There are several options but Peter is definitely somebody that we know can score goals, and the crowd love him. I would never write that off. There are two types of player that we need to bring to this football club. It gives my scouting system plenty of time until January to peruse the targets that we need. I feel we need a visionary kind of midfield player that has a range of passing and can open teams up, and be a goal-threat. I also feel we could do with another penetrative width player. I'm not saying Craig Noone or Alan Judge won't do that but we just need another option. We have a strong bunch, who are very solid in their approach. Now we need the icing on the cake that would benefit the team - one or two that can penetrate."

Kari Arnason is relishing his new role as a centre-back. He said: "I have always been quite a good defender one-against-one but I have never really been taught how to play at centre-back. Under Sloop, and now the gaffer, they have been teaching me as we go along. They have told me where to stand when the ball is on one side and when it's on the other side. That has helped me a lot in my game. So when you know these kind of things, I think it's a brilliant place to play. I played at centre-back when we had injuries at my former clubs, but I didn't know how to play the position. There is a big difference between defending and being a centre-back. That's what they have done with me now. They have helped me through that and I like playing there much more than I did when I first came here." Arnason has formed a good partnership in the centre of defence with Shane Lowry and said: "I think we are sorting out the back four. We aren't giving away chances like we did at the beginning of the season. That makes the whole team more confident in going forward. I think that's the key to our success in recent games. I think we have a good understanding. We back each other up really well. Shane has a big future ahead of him. But Gaz and David Gray have been playing brilliantly as well."

26th

Chris Barker is close to a return to fitness after his long-term injury. Paul Sturrock said: "We are stepping Barks up. We are really going to push him now to try to get him back into the fold. The loan scenario is going to be biting into us in late December, before the window opens again, so we are going to need Barks. He's going to be quite important to us."

The spending power of Argyle's next opponent, Barnsley, has caught Paul Sturrock's eye this season. "Barnsley have strengthened dramatically," he said. "Their bench lately has featured players like Julian Gray, who has played in the Premier League; the boy Andy Gray, who scored a lot of goals for Sheffield United and went into the Premier League with Sunderland; Bobby Hassell, who's a very solid defender; Jamal Campbell-Ryce, who played most of last season for them, and the boy Iain Hume, for whom they paid £1 million. It shows you that they've chucked a lot of money at their squad. They've given themselves a competitive edge, and they're having a right go this year. In saying that, we've had two wins and a draw in our last three home games and we want to keep that run going. It will be a difficult game, but we want to win games consistently at home."

Yoann Folly's return to form has been a massive bonus to Paul Sturrock. He said: "In the last four or five games he has been the Yoann Folly I knew was in that body. I think aliens abducted him earlier on in his career and we didn't get the real Yoann. We don't know how much the virus took out of him. It probably took a much bigger toll than we thought and it wasn't a true Yoann Folly we were seeing. All of a sudden he came out like a spring hare a few weeks ago and looked to have an appetite back. He was even talking on the training ground. He has won a couple of man of the match awards and done really well. We didn't have that kind of zest and enthusiasm. He is a very simple type of player but very effective for the team."

25th

Paul Sturrock will not be adding to his squad before the deadline for 'emergency loan' signings tomorrow, but there is the possibility of at least one departure from Home Park ahead of the deadline. George Donnelly has been on trial at Southampton and could be set for a loan move. Sturrock said: "There won't be anything happening before the deadline. George is on trial at Southampton though. They asked to have a look at him in their own environment, which I have allowed. That's the kind of move you are looking for in a player's development."

Luke Summerfield is set to stay on loan at Leyton Orient for a third and final month. Paul Sturrock said: "I have talked to the club and to Luke, and he's better playing football. But we will put in a 24-hour recall clause because with Christmas and New Year coming up we don't want to be caught out. Luke has done well for them and they are very pleased with him." The pleasing thing for me is that he's playing competitive games every week." Meanwhile, Damien McCrory is impressing while on loan at Grimsby Town, who have already sounded out Sturrock about the possibility of keeping the him on loan for the rest of the season. Sturrock has ruled that out, although he would be prepared to let McCrory stay for up to three months. He said: "Damien has done very well at Grimsby. They have asked for him until the end of the season. I'm not prepared to do that, but I would let him go out for another couple of months for his development. He's going to have to come back here and in the last three months of the season put up a case for a new contract."

The hamstring injury suffered by Jim Paterson is not as bad as first feared. Paterson had to be substituted in the second half of the defeat at Leicester City on Saturday but there is a chance he could be fit for the visit of Barnsley on Saturday. Paul Sturrock said: "Jim's injury isn't as bad as we thought. It tightened up dramatically and he could tell it was going to pull any second. It was one of those ones. He has probably got it just in time, although I would imagine there will be some torn fibres in there." Karl Duguid is receiving treatment for a calf injury and a dead leg but has not yet been ruled out of the game with Barnsley. Sturrock said: "Duguid has got a tight calf and a dead leg, which are hard to break up, so there it will need a bit of work done on that. He had a tight calf for most of the game." Meanwhile, Bradley Wright-Phillips is still 'two or three weeks' away from a return to action because of a persistent knee problem. Wright-Phillips had the knee scanned at the end of last week and Sturrock said: "The report I got back was that it was very encouraging. The bruising and everything else seemed to be settling down, which I'm very pleased about. He's still going to be two or three weeks, but it's going in the right direction."

Paul Sturrock has warned Jamie Mackie to cut out the indiscipline which will bring an end to his status as an ever-present player this season. He said: "Jamie misses the game on Saturday. There have been a lot of silly wee cards, for kicking the ball away and everything else, and Jamie and I need to have a wee chat." It will be the second time this month that Argyle have lost the services of a player who has been booked five times this season. "We got away with it with Fletcher, but there were one or two of his cards that I wasn't too happy with," Sturrock added. "I'm going to have a word with the whole squad. We can't afford to lose players because of petulance." Mackie was booked at Leicester for diving, but Sturrock said: "I was a bit disappointed with it, because some referees would have given a penalty – and the boy Brown told a couple of our players that there was definitely contact." When Sturrock was told that Brown had given a post-match interview in which he claimed that Mackie had 'gone down like a fairy', he responded: "That was the problem. When he went down, he didn't make it look dramatic. I think that cost us dear." Sturrock has plenty of options when it comes to replacing Mackie. "Playing Alan Gow right up front is an option," he said. "He wants to play at the sharp end. Rory comes into consideration, and Cillian Sheridan – and maybe Ashley Barnes as well. The boy Mason has been very exciting in training lately. That would be a huge leap of faith, but I've done it before. It's something to think about. We have a lot of options, it's just getting it right on the day."

24th

Shane Lowry would be interested in extending his loan spell at Argyle. His three-month loan deal will end after the game against Coventry City on December 19th and Paul Sturrock has already sounded out Lowry about whether he wants to stay at Home Park. He said: "I would definitely think about it because I have been playing games week in week out. I have got a spot in the team, I think I have been doing all right and the results have started to turn a bit. But it's really out of my hands, to be honest. It's between Argyle and Aston Villa." Lowry and Kari Arnason have developed a good partnership at centre-back in recent matches. "When I first came to the club we had a couple of defeats, but we have had a settled back for the past four or five games," said Lowry. "I think you can see that once you start playing a few games together we can defend well. Obviously, we need to work hard to get more clean sheets, because that's what wins you games. But our results are starting to turn a bit, besides the blip on Saturday." Lowry was part of the Australia squad to face Oman in an Asian Cup qualifier last week and enjoyed the experience of linking up with the squad, even though he was not involved in the match. He said: "It was good experience for me again. I did a lot better in training this time. I felt more settled and I was enjoying it. It was nice weather out there in Oman as well. It was 32 degrees, which isn't bad for training in. Only 18 out of the 24 players stripped for the match, and I wasn't expecting anything, but it's just nice to be recognised. Now I have got to keep putting in performances for Plymouth because that's my bread and butter. The Championship is a really good league for me to be playing in. There is a lot of exposure. All I can do is get my head down and work hard."

Jamie Mackie will be suspended for the game against Barnsley after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season in the defeat by Leicester.

Argyle's youth team drew 0-0 with Oxford United on Saturday. Argyle: Chenoweth, Sawyer, Trott, Nelson, Richards, Head, Kinsella, Young, Baker, Rickard, Coombes. Subs – Sims, Copp (not used - Varazinskis, Stephens, Hart).

23rd

Paul Sturrock put on a brave face after Argyle's defeat by Leicester City on Saturday. He said: "Six or seven weeks ago defeats were coming thick and fast. We have worked so hard on a settled side, on our fitness and the shape of the team as well, and we have started to reap the benefits. Today, I thought we were very professional in our approach. We have come to a team in the top six and we have stifled them. We worked very hard as a unit. So to get kicked in the teeth right at the end is hard to take. To finish up coming out with nothing is hard to take, but I do feel there are positives to be taken. We stuck to our gameplan right through and the boys were disciplined in their approach. But we just couldn't get Mackie in full flight, like he normally is away from home. A lot of things held up for him today because there was a swirling wind. But I do feel that Gow and him are beginning to get a good relationship together." Rory Fallon was sent on as an 81st minute substitute for Gow. Sturrock said: "I put Rory on because at 0-0 you just never know what's going to happen in the last 10-15 minutes. The home team gets a bit jittery and Rory got in and around their box. Jamie had a wee finish off a flick off his. The defeat is hard to take, but there is definitely progress at this football club." Argyle's first, and only, shot on target came in stoppage time at the end of the second half. Sturrock said: "That's the one thing I have pointed out to the players. I did feel they were just a bit rushed in their approach, as far as getting down the pitch was concerned. I thought they could have passed it better. I think we were a wee bit excited. When you are backs to the walls, it's difficult at times to calm yourself down, and I do feel we gave a lot of ball away. It's something to work on. They are a young bunch, but we are getting better and better as each week unfolds. We have got two home games coming up and have to get back on the rails as quickly as possible."

Shane Lowry and his team-mates were seething with anger after the defeat by Leicester City on Saturday, after the winning goal came from a corner which should not have been awarded. He said: "To be honest with you, I thought we were going to get the draw and our second clean sheet of the season. But that wasn't the way it went. It was an absolute disgrace of a decision. Everyone in the stadium saw it was the Leicester centre-back who headed it out. The linesman didn't give us anything all game. He should have put his flag up and given the goal kick. But it wasn't given, they got the goal, we have lost the game and we are back in the bottom three now. It's hard to swallow after all the hard work we have put into the game. Rory said in the changing room afterwards that he was nowhere near the ball. It had come clean off the head of their guy, and that's why we are all absolutely gutted about it." The corner was taken by Leicester's Nicky Adams and the ball dropped in a congested penalty area for N'Guessan. Argyle had to defend for long periods against Leicester. Lowry said: "We defended from the front. I thought Jamie and Alan Gow did really well up there. We could have given them better service from the back to create some chances, but we hung in there. I thought we were going to get the draw, which would have been a good result away from home for us." Leicester sprang a surprise by playing a 4-3-1-2 from the start, instead of their usual 4-4-2, which caused plenty of problems in the first half, but Argyle coped better after the interval. Lowry said: "They seemed to be playing three or four up front in the first half. There was a lot of movement. But we had a chat about it in the changing room and I think we were more settled in the second half. We nullified their attack and their two strikers were substituted." Argyle now have home games against Barnsley and Sheffield United coming up. Lowry said: "We can't dwell on it too much. We have got to work hard on the training ground again come Monday morning. Hopefully, we can turn the results around and get out of that bottom three again."

Argyle look like being without David Gray for their next few games. Paul Sturrock said: "David's going to be out for the next couple of weeks. He's got a chronic injury in the hip/groin area. He doesn't train but plays on a Saturday. It's not ideal, so Manchester United and ourselves have had a wee chat about it and we feel rest will benefit the player. The sooner we get him back totally fit, the better." Karl Duguid and Jim Paterson suffered injuries against Leicester but their severity has yet to be determined. Sturrock added: "Again, we have had to chop and change in a game, which isn't ideal."

22nd

Argyle lost to an injury time goal yesterday at Leicester, which should not have been allowed to happen. The corner from which it came was given in error when Leicester defender Wayne Brown and Rory Fallon challenged for possession. Brown clearly headed the ball out, but the referee and linesman did not see that. "You should see the players," Paul Sturrock said. "To get kicked in the teeth, like we did at the end, is hard to take. Rory is supposed to be a God-like creature these days and he maintains he never touched it. Some of the boys are saying that the other boy said he headed it out. The referee's made the decision, not the linesman. It's so heart-rending when we have given so much. To go that time-frame - 94 minutes -and finish up coming out with nothing is hard to take, but there is definitely progress at this football club. Six or seven weeks ago, defeats were thick and fast. We have worked so hard with a settled team on our fitness and shape or the team, and we are starting to reap the benefits. We were very professional in our approach. We came to a team that is in the top six and we stifled them. We worked very, very hard as a unit. Leicester have got some real players that can hurt you. They can finish, cross, and are playing with confidence as a team. They have very attack-minded forwards. It was always going to be a difficult place to come. Other people will find it very difficult to play here, as well. But, we could have been away tonight undefeated in out last four games, taking a point down the road. The disappointment for me is how we lost. The players did so much to gain that point today. I do feel there are positives to be taken. We stuck to our game-plan. The boys were disciplined in their approach." Sturrock started with Jamie Mackie and Alan Gow in attack, and brought Fallon on with 15 minutes to play. "I think the wind was a feature," he said. "We just couldn't get Mackie in full flight, like he normally does away from home. A lot of things held up for him. Gow and him are beginning to get a relationship together. I put Rory on because, at 0-0, you never know, in the last 10-15 minutes, the home team gets a wee bit jittery. I did feel we were just a bit rushed in our approach as far as getting down the pitch is concerned. We could have passed it a wee bit better, but I think we were a wee bit excited. When you are backs to the wall, it is difficult at times to calm yourselves down. I did feel we gave an awful lot of ball away at times. It's something to work on. They are a young bunch but they are getting better and better as each week unfolds. We have two home games now. We have got to get back on the rails as soon as possible."

Kari Arnason will continue in his new role as a defender. Paul Sturrock said: "Arnie has committed himself to centre-back now. He feels he has befitted from the work we have done with him. He's enjoying playing there, although there are wee things he's going to have to work on in his game."

21st

Argyle lost 1-0 at Leicester City. Argyle: Larrieu, Duguid, Arnason, Lowry, Sawyer, Paterson, Fletcher, Folly, Judge, Mackie, Gow. Subs - Clark, Fallon, Johnson (not used – Letheren, Noone, Barnes, Sheridan). Attendance - 27,174

Paul Sturrock is optimistic Argyle can extend their unbeaten run at Leicester City today. He said: "Leicester want to win football games and their fans are right behind them, so it is a difficult place to go. But I think we have found a niche for ourselves on how we can play away from home to our benefit. Middlesbrough, like Leicester, have real quality in defence as well, but we brought them down and we could have scored more on the day. So, I am very hopeful that the players who have been doing it for us away from home will do it again against Leicester." Despite his optimism, Sturrock has warned his side that they are going to have to work their socks off today. "The Championship is a difficult league, but Leicester have got a settled team," he said. "They haven't had many injuries and when you are settled as a team and your back four are settled, it is a great benefit to you. At Leicester, everybody knows each other, they appreciate what they are and they play to their strengths. They are a hard-working side who work hard on their shape and they are a danger going forward. So, if we don't go there with the same thoughtfulness and the same work ethic we showed at Middlesbrough, we could pay the penalty." Sturrock believes it is the Foxes' team ethic which has seen them enjoy a superb start to the campaign – a quality he feels Argyle have to adopt if they are to mirror that success. When asked if he was surprised that Leicester are in the play-offs, Sturrock said: "Nothing surprises me in this league – you can't legislate for this league. Leicester have got some exceptional players, but they are very much a team which we are trying to mould ourselves on because we have got to be a team. We have not got the individual players who finish other teams off and win football games for the team, so we have got to work at it. Leicester have found the right blend and they have found the right shape and the individuals have fitted in very well to it."

Aberdeen manager Mark McGhee may be set to re-new his interest in Steve MacLean, according to newspaper reports. Aberdeen would be able to make a bid for MacLean when the January transfer window opens. If an English club was to show an interest in MacLean, an emergency loan deal could be set up but under FA regulations, emergency deals cannot be negotiated for players who would move from England to Scotland. An Aberdeen spokesman said: "I am sure the manager would say that he is one of a number of names on a list, but it is fair to say that we cannot be ruled out of a move for him. It's no secret that we were linked with him in the summer and Paul Sturrock has said he is free to go. He's a good player and scored a lot of goals when he was at Sheffield Wednesday. The January transfer window, however, would be the first opportunity for anyone to do anything about it."

Paul Sturrock believes that Reda Johnson possesses all the qualities required for him to develop into a 'quality player'. Sturrock was impressed with Johnson's display for the reserves on Tuesday and, although a lack of match fitness is a problem, the defender will travel to Leicester City today. "He was paddling water 10 minutes into the second half, but he has trained since and he looks up for it," said Sturrock. "We are going to take him to Leicester but he is not ready for a full 90 minutes with the first team yet. I think everybody who was at the reserve game saw glimpses that he could be a quality player for us given time. He is a young and inexperienced player, but he has great attributes – he is 6' 3" tall and runs like a gazelle, he can play as well. We are pleased with the way he is developing."

Argyle's FA Youth Cup game against West Ham United will take place at Home Park on Wednesday, December 9th at 7pm.

20th

Paul Sturrock will welcome back Carl Fletcher for tomorrow's trip to Leicester City, but who joins Fletcher in the team is uncertain. Paul Sturrock said: "I don't want to stray from the teams who have played the last two or three games, because it would be senseless for us to do that. There might be a forced change or two, but we are hopeful these players will clear up. Nobody is ever guaranteed a recall if your team has won, but Fletcher is fit and he is likely to come back in. There is a lot to think about however – the one or two niggling knocks we have will determine a lot of the selections." One player who Sturrock has to decide upon is Rory Fallon, after his return from New Zealand 1-0 Asia/Oceania play-off win over Bahrain last weekend, to send the Kiwis into next year's World Cup finals. Sturrock said: "It is fantastic for him and that is the most important thing. I have given him three days off to rest because of the jet lag. I will take a look at him today and see how he is looking, but at this minute he is hovering with the angels – he is walking on cloud nine. The icing on the cake for any footballer is to play in a World Cup and he has got that opportunity now." Sturrock added: "Rory scored at Peterborough with his head and he scored a great goal with his head against Scunthorpe. He is starting to get on the end of crosses in the box and the boys are starting to deliver the crosses, so we are very pleased. We are really pleased with his general play, which has been very good as well. There is a debate that Rory is hot now and do we go with him. But there is also a debate that the team that played at Middlesbrough produced one of our very good away performances. We have got to weigh up both. It would be nice to fit all three strikers in if we could. It is something to think about." Sturrock added: "One team has won at Middlesbrough and one team won at home against Doncaster. You have just got to weigh up how you feel the opposition will play. We have changed systems in the last two games. In the end we might come up with something different. It is really depending on the two injuries." Tomorrow's match is the first since November 7th, because of the international break and Sturrock added: "We have come back much brighter for the rest and we are ready for the challenge."

Romain Larrieu has admitted he feared the club would never pull out of their nosedive, but after wins over Middlesbrough and Doncaster Rovers feels it is crucial for the side to continue their momentum. He said: "We have put in some good performances, but we need to do it long-term. We have been doing well over the last six weeks, but we need to carry on. We are recovering from a bad start – we never want to go through that again. We've worked out ways not to lose and we're keeping to the plan Paul Sturrock has worked out and it's been good for us." Larrieu said because of Argyle's poor start, morale had been low. He added: "The hardest thing is to recover from it. We are finding our feet as a team and you can't ever say what the team is going to achieve. I truly believe we can go as far as we want to. With the skill, commitment and concentration we have shown over the last few weeks, I don't see why we can't get the results we need on a regular basis. You get on one of these horrendous runs and you don't know how you're going to get out of it." Larrieu said the decision to appoint Paul Mariner to the coaching staff had been beneficial to the team. He said: "Everyone likes it when someone new comes along – it's good for everyone. Paul Mariner has shown what he's all about and brought something different to training. I think the boys are responding well to the new experience."

Paul Sturrock is set to discuss with Manchester United the possibility of signing David Gray on a permanent deal. Gray is currently on loan at Home Park until December 19th, as is Shane Lowry. Sturrock doesn't believe Martin O'Neill would allow him to sign Lowry permanently, but he hopes the loan deal can be extended to the end of the season. When asked about the possibility of signing Gray, Sturrock said: "It is definitely something to talk about; something to see where Manchester United are coming from. He would definitely be one player we would be interested in." Sturrock added of Lowry: "I wouldn't expect to have a chance of signing him permanently. I have to find out where he is in the Villa pecking order. But I do feel we have benefited his career and I think there is no harm in him being with us until the end of the season. Both Lowry and Gray would be a miss if they left, so we will have to wait and see how the conversations go. The problem we have is that we have a difficult time coming up, because there are several players going away at the back end of December. Darcy is going back to Cardiff on the 26th, but he can't play against Cardiff anyway, so we have got that difficult scenario. Then Reda and possibly Yoann Folly are off to the African Nations for the whole of January. We really are going to be stretched defensively, so I have started discussions and I have set my scouts the task of finding replacements if needed. We are trying to move down the road and I am very hopeful that some of the ones who are here will continue to be here." Meanwhile, Sturrock hopes to reduce numbers in his squad. "We have to start depleting this squad – small is beautiful in this league," he said. "I think when you look at how many players Leicester City have used this season, it shows that everybody thinks they have got a chance of playing in your team. If you can get a squad like that, where everybody thinks they have a chance of getting in the team, you can become a dangerous hombre. The problem we have had is too many players have felt they are on the periphery on the first team, with no opportunities for them and that causes apples to rot in the barrel. It becomes more difficult as the results don't go the right way. The less players we have, the better for us. We are still trying manfully to move players on."

Rory Fallon is happy to prioritise the needs of Argyle between now and the end of the season, before heading for the World Cup finals. When asked if the magnitude of what he did last Saturday has sunk in yet, he replied: "Yes, it has sunk in. I'm still buzzing over it, but I just have to concentrate on my football with Plymouth now. I know that, if I take my foot off the accelerator, my form is going to go. I just have to keep on working hard. I want to be at my peak. I want to be going into a World Cup playing as well as I can. I can't just rest and assume I'll be in the team. Training is the difference between doing well and not doing well, and for me it's always 100 per cent. Today I worked hard for Argyle, as I always do. That's my bread and butter." Fallon is in form, he feels fit after being given some time off this week to recover from the travelling he has had to do, and he wants to play against Leicester tomorrow. "I'm up for selection," he said. "The gaffer might think I've had a long flight, but I've trained today. It's up to him whether he picks me or not. I've never gone to him and said I should be playing. Just because I scored a goal, it doesn't mean I get to play, but I know I'll give 100 per cent if I do get picked. I felt all right in training today. I'm getting there. I had a good flight, I've had a lot of rest, and I'm just looking forward to the game at Leicester. I'm in one of those moods where I can't wait to play."

19th

Paul Sturrock is determined to ensure that all of Argyle's squad players are able to cope with the demands of Championship football and used Tuesday's reserve game against Swansea City to give valuable game-time to several first team squad members. "I think it was time some of the players got a game," he said. "Reda got an hour and it definitely looked like he needed it because second half he was definitely paddling it. We have got to make sure the players are in top condition so that when they have a chance of going into the first team they don't let themselves down. I think a lot of it last year was a lack of reserve games and a lack of match practice. Players who went back into the first team couldn't handle it. They then came straight back out of the team because of their performance. I am trying very hard this year with the sports scientist to ensure that doesn't happen." One problem for Sturrock is a lack of reserve fixtures. He said: "The lack of games and the competitive games have been a problem. We won 9-1 against Bournemouth and not being detrimental to them, but we travelled a long way to get that game and got nothing out of it. We are trying to get friendlies, but people are not prepared to let their pitches get cut up in this weather. It is a catch 22 situation for us – it is geography again."

Argyle return to action this weekend following the international break when they travel to Leicester City. Paul Sturrock will welcome back Carl Fletcher from suspension but has injury doubts over Craig Noone, David Gray and Alan Judge. "Nooney was terrific for the reserves on Tuesday," said Sturrock. "I am just hoping that he gets over the wee niggling knock he has been carrying since he came back from Exeter. We took him off because he started to feel it. Hopefully he will be okay for Saturday. We have got a couple of niggling knocks and one of them just seems a bit more serious than we thought. We will give them every opportunity to be fit. We will just have to wait and see."

Darcy Blake played for Wales Under-21s in their 2-1 defeat to Bosnia-Herzegovina yesterday.

Kyle Letheren is set to be handed an extended contract by Argyle. He currently has a deal until December 31st but with Lloyd Saxton not expected to return to action until February at the earliest, Paul Sturrock has hinted that Letheren's stay may be extended. He said: "Kyle has had very few games this season and he did make a faux pas in the one of the reserve games lately which cost us a goal. But the work that Crudgie has done with him has definitely paid dividends. He is definitely a shot-stopping goalkeeper and I thought he did very well on Tuesday. For his sake and for the club's sake, I didn't want to have a long term deal in case things didn't work out for him or we didn't fancy him. I have to weigh up now his performances for the reserves from now up until January and then I will make that decision. Saxton should be back around about February, but he will be ring rusty, so we will definitely need something. At this minute, Kyle is in pole position to stay on."

Paul Sturrock has been impressed with the improvement shown by youngsters Ryan Leonard, Sean Kinsella and Jake Baker this season. "Ryan Leonard has improved, he has worked with the first-team quite regularly since the start of the season," he said. "We took him on tour and he is benefiting from that. Sean Kinsella and Jake Baker have also been with the first team and you can see their development. They had the culture shock of playing and training with the first team where the sharpness and strength factor is definitely a benefit."

18th

Paul Sturrock continues to be frustrated in his attempt to off-load some of his players. He is still trying to find hew homes for Steve MacLean and George Donnelly. MacLean has been told he can leave the club permanently and Sturrock is hoping he can arrange a loan deal for Donnelly. MacLean did not play for the reserves yesterday and Sturrock said: "I just feel George needs a game, while Liam Head hasn't had a game for a long time. Steve and I have had a chat and in the end I just feel it is time for Steve to move on." When asked if he had any takers for MacLean, Sturrock replied: "Nothing yet." Sturrock confirmed he had received enquiries for Donnelly, however, the interest has come from Blue Square Premier teams and Sturrock is stalling on letting Donnelly leave for that level again, instead preferring a move to a League Two side. "George has got an awful lot of things in his game which we are going to keep working hard on," he said. "He has some exceptional pace, but he still has got to learn parts of the game – his movement and his relationship with another striker. They are only things which come from working on the training ground and playing matches. I would love to get him out and get him some competitive football. I am still looking for that scenario. We have had two or three enquiries, so we are weighing them up now. The only reason why a move away for George hasn't happened yet is the standard. A couple of Conference teams have asked for him, but I just feel I would like to pitch him in the second division."

Cillian Sheridan scored as the Republic of Ireland under-21s lost 4-1 to Armenia yesterday. He also played in the 1-1 draw with Georgia last Saturday.

Argyle reserves lost 1-0 to Swansea City at Home Park yesterday. Paul Sturrock said: "It was quite a good, open game, although a bit too open for my liking. It could have been 4-4 but both goalies came out on top. I was disappointed with the penalty, which looked a bit soft to me. George Donnelly could have had a hat-trick and so could one of their boys. It was a good competitive game. I thought one or two had reasonable performances. The work that Crudgie has done with Letheren has definitely paid off and he is a good shot-stopping goalkeeper. Ryan Leonard has worked with the first-team quite regularly since the start of the season. I took him on tour and he has benefited from that. Sean Kinsella and Jake Baker have also been with the first-team, and you can see their development." The main bonus for Sturrock was the return to action for Reda Johnson although he now has a slight concern over Craig Noone. He said: "Reda got an hour and it was definitely needed. Nooney was terrific and I'm just hoping that he gets over the wee niggling knock he has been carrying since he came back from Exeter." Argyle: Letheren, Leonard, Timar, Johnson, Brett, Clark, Paterson, Kinsella, Noone, Head, Donnelly. Subs – Baker, Trott, Rickard (not used - Chenoweth, Gerring).

17th

Rory Fallon may be rested for Argyle's game against Leicester City on Saturday. Fallon is on his way back to Home Park from New Zealand and Paul Sturrock will need to find out whether he will be ready for action. Sturrock said: "Rory is on his way back at the moment and I'm just waiting for him to do that so I can have a talk to him. Whether he will be in a position to play on Saturday, we will have to wait and see." Sturrock said he was 'very pleased' for Fallon, who scored the winning goal in only his third international appearance. "To play in the World Cup is the pinnacle of everybody's career in football, and not everybody gets the chance to do that," he said. "He will have fulfilled his main ambition, I am sure. New Zealand had a difficult game in Bahrain and they held themselves together and won the game at home. The nervous tension must have been unbelievable." Sturrock said he hoped Fallon's international exploits would also benefit Argyle. He added: "Only time will tell, but it's an experience that can benefit his performance. We will wait and see, but his confidence will be good, so it could be a benefit to Argyle." Keith Todd was also delighted for Fallon. He said: "It's excellent, especially as his father Kevin was the last person to take New Zealand to the World Cup. It's good for the club."

16th

Joe Mason played for the Republic of Ireland under-19's in their 2-0 win over Albania

14th

Paul Sturrock believes Argyle are no longer a pushover at Home Park, after two wins and a draw in the last three home games. He said: "There are still one or two teams coming to Home Park with an open mind and a cavalier spirit because here has not been a fortress for us. But I think once they start the games now they realise we are not the pushovers we might have been earlier in the season. We made a lot more chances against Doncaster than we had done previously this season and we are beginning to look dangerous from set-pieces because we have got some height in the team now. A couple of goals off set-pieces would be nice." The winning goal in last Saturday's victory over Doncaster came from Rory Fallon, who was played wide on the left in a 4-3-1-2 formation. "Rory found a niche, he did very well in the position I asked him to play," said Sturrock. "Rory has proved now that he can be a real wide player. I thought he did the job we asked him to do admirably." Sturrock added of whether Fallon was likely to play in a wide position again: "It was a one-off in that position. I had a certain system I wanted to combat and I feel we benefited from that. Some teams come here playing a 4-4-2 formation where Alan Gow, just off the front of the striker, can be a real influence. He wasn't a real influence last Saturday for the simple reason that we combated their sitting midfield player. But also they combated our off-the-front player. So, we sacrificed that to get Rory into an area which was going to cause them a bit of a concern." Jamie Mackie remains Argyle's top scorer this season with four goals, however he is not content with his performances so far this term, which has delighted Sturrock. "Jamie is dead keen to be a better player and to improve, I am really pleased with him about that," he said. "He is really committed to becoming a better player."

Argyle's youth team have drawn a home tie with West Ham United in the third round of the FA Youth Cup. The game has to be played before December 14th.

Rory Fallon scored the only goal of the game as New Zealand beat Bahrain to qualify for the World Cup Finals. Rory had had a header stopped by the Bahrain goalkeeper three minutes before heading home the goal of his life. "I was quite upset about the first one but I just prayed I'd get another chance because I fancy myself with a cross," he said. "Leo delivered the perfect cross for me. I knew I could do it. I had that belief." The last time New Zealand reached the finals was in Spain in 1982, when Rory's father Kevin was the coach. Rory thought his international days and World Cup hopes were over after opting to play for England at junior level. However, a change in FIFA rules in June allowed him to change his allegiance. "I'm just thankful that I'm here because I thought that dream had gone," he said. "When I was a young kid, I made a bad mistake and I thought I'd live to regret it, so I'm just so thankful, and I'm so thankful to Rick as well for even selecting me, because he didn't have to. The 1982 team was a special team, and all the boys look up to the '82 team. I saw the '82 team during the warm-up and I thought 'We need to be in this World Cup because these people have been remembered for this long'. Someone said to me dad was crying at the start. That's how much it meant to him. I just have to thank him for all those trainings, waking up at six in the morning to take me to Mairangi Bay Park. They've paid off."

Joe Mason scored twice and set up a third goal as the Republic of Ireland under-19's won 5-0 against San Marino.

13th

Keith Todd has revealed that the final phase of the redevelopment of Home Park will take place in three separate stages, so that maximum use can be made of the stadium while it is being upgraded. He has also disclosed that the notion of the ground playing host to a professional rugby league club is also being discussed. Todd travelled to Japan last month to work on the clubs five-year plan, and yesterday, during a live online question and-answer session with the Western Morning News and Plymouth Herald, gave some glimpses of the contents of the document. He said: "We are intending to have a substantial announcement in December about the core parts of our five-year plan. The announcement will include the stadium plans. The work on the stadium plans are quite advanced, as the city's World Cup bid submission has to be submitted by November 26. When the plans are announced, you will find that there are three phases. This is for very practical reasons. We want to be able to keep playing and watching Argyle as the building work is undertaken." If Home Park is going to be a World Cup venue, the venue's capacity will have to be more than doubled. If Plymouth misses out on the World Cup, the project will be more modest, initially. "The World Cup requires us to have a 43,000-seat stadium," Todd said. "If we're not successful, phase one will create approximately 27,000 seats, and the timing of the subsequent two phases will be in relation to our progress towards the Premier League." When Todd was asked whether the timescale of the work to complete the stadium was tied in with how well Argyle are doing on the pitch and how large gates are, he replied: "The stadium planning process will take some time, and clearly improved results will help to underpin financing, but it is not dependent on results." Todd emphasised that football will not be the only activity at a revamped Home Park – but he admitted that the stadium's pitch will have to be improved to cope with other sports. "Our intention is to create a venue that is capable of not only supporting Plymouth Argyle but also other sports and music events," he added. "I'm very interested in hosting other sporting teams at Home Park. Initial dialogue is starting with our friends in Rugby League. We need to do some work on the pitch to achieve this, and one of the aspects of the five-year plan that we're looking at is the renewal of the pitch." Mindful of the need to stress that the Argyle board has its priorities right, Todd said: "Our priority is to stay in the Championship. However, other activities, including the World Cup bid, are all part and parcel of building a more financially viable club that can sustain not just Championship football but achieve Premier League football."

12th

Paul Sturrock has made it his aim to ensure Argyle don't start 2010 short of defensive cover. The loan deals of David Gray and Shane Lowry are both set to expire on December 19th and Reda Johnson looks set to play in the African Cup of Nations. Sturrock said: "The African Cup of Nations is the most of January, from January 10 onwards. If Reda plays in it we will have a problem because we have an awful lot of players whose loan spells at the club will finish before January 1st. We have got to make sure we don't get caught out with that. We have to clarify his involvement and then try and sort out the loans again if we decide we are going to take the players on again. We have another debate because we have a plethora of lefties. That is my next debate. It is not very often that I have seen two left footed centre backs playing together. But we could be forced down the road like that come the time." Sturrock admitted that Argyle have missed Chris Barker this season. "Barks is a slow one – we are just taking him very, very gently because we want no finishing up back to square one again," he said. "I do feel he is definitely needed because we have missed him. I don't think there any doubts over the performances he put in last season, that we could have done with him at the start of this season. His mouth is very important on the important pitch. We have missed him, but the slower the better. We want him back fully fit and hopefully he will take part in December some time."

Paul Sturrock intends to continue his quest to make Alan Gow a key player in the Argyle attack, despite substituting him during the second half of the win over Doncaster. He said: "When they went down to ten men, we had to stretch them as much as we could and we had to put Rory up the middle. That led to a goal, and Gow had to toe the team line. It was an ideal scenario for Noone, and it all worked out well." Gow has not yet found a settled position since he arrived in August, but Sturrock is well aware that he possesses talent that should be of great use to the team. "Gow is an acquired taste, and he's still finding his feet with the rest of the players," he said. "The only way he's going to become a really top player for us is if we give him the ball, and that's something we've been working very hard on in training." Finding room for Jamie Mackie, Rory Fallon and Gow in the same team does not mean that Gow will be confined to a left-flank role, as was the case for a while in the second half last weekend. Sturrock added: "We played two up and off at the start of the season quite successfully. We could go down that road. We have worked at it, so we know what we're doing." Gow was brought to Argyle to replace Paul Gallagher and when Sturrock was asked if Gow could do as well as Gallagher, he replied: "If you ask Alan, he'll say he can. He's a confident laddie. I think he's a great benefit to this club, but it's a two-way road. We have to sway to him, but he has to sway to us. He has to become more of a team player, as well as being an individual and winning games for us as Gallagher did."

Neither Steve MacLean nor David McNamee were involved in the behind closed doors match against Torquay United on Tuesday. Paul Sturrock said: "David is still recovering from the wee niggle that he got in a reserve game against Exeter City last month. Steve is available for transfer." When asked if McNamee had also been made available for transfer, Sturrock replied: "Not so far. That's a discussion David and I will have to have another day."

11th

Argyle have won the fight to prevent Alan Judge and David Gray playing international football this weekend, but have reluctantly allowed Reda Johnson to fly to Sudan with the Benin squad. Paul Sturrock said: "Judge and Gray have not travelled with their international teams. They've spoken to their managers and they've sorted it all out. I was a wee bit disappointed that Reda was being taken away, because he has been out for six to eight weeks and all of a sudden they were thinking about playing him. But their manager clarified that he wanted to bring him along for team bonding and training and he might get five or ten minutes at the end of the game. I explained to him that I would like Reda to be kept ticking over much harder than he has been, and he has taken that on board. We've given him heart monitors, so we'll be able to check on the computer what sort of standard he has been training at while he has been away. To be fair to him, he trained very well in the last couple of days he was with us, so we're pleased with him."

Bradley Wright-Phillips will undergo another scan next week in a bid to try and resolve his ongoing knee injury. Despite returning to action on September 15th Wright-Phillips has made just one additional substitute appearance since –against Nottingham Forest on September 27th – because he is still suffering from some discomfort. He had a scan last month to check out the problem and, with no apparent improvement with his knee, will have another. Paul Sturrock said: "Brad is going to have another scan again the middle of next week. We will see how it is going then. Brad has taken a step back – every time he steps it up, his knee flares up. We need to get to the bottom of it. He can probably play on it, but he gets chronic pain with it, so we would rather get to the bottom of the problem." Sturrock added of not being able to utilise Wright-Phillips as much as he would like to: "Bradley is a different type of striker to the others at the club. He has got other attributes. It would be nice to hammer that string to our bow. If you look at competition for places, Bradley, Rory and Jamie, you have a mixture of things. Bradley and Jamie give you real pace behind and you have Alan Gow to consider as well – that gives us options." Despite missing Wright-Phillips', Argyle have enjoyed an upturn in fortunes in their last three outings. "We are starting to score goals now and that is pleasing," said Sturrock. "Our forwards are scoring and we have only conceded two goals in three games. We were losing three goals regularly in certain games. Now, all of a sudden, we have managed to be miserly. If you score first in this league and you are miserly, then you win football games."

Karl Duguid believes Argyle's improved run of form has created a feel-good factor at Home Park. "Winning games creates a better atmosphere no matter what football club you're at," he said. "Whether you're playing Sunday League or Premier League, it makes the atmosphere better. It's a good group of players at the club at the moment. It feels good. The team has worked so hard to get us where we are. Hopefully, we can push on from here." Duguid was delighted with the victory over Doncaster, and added: "Obviously it's great as Doncaster are a very good footballing side. I think we did enough to go and win the game through our hard work. Given the conditions we had to play in on Saturday, to come off at full-time with three points makes the result at Middlesbrough all the better. Had we lost to Doncaster, it would have been a waste of time going to Middlesbrough and getting the win."

Paul Sturrock had a look at two trialists in a behind-closed-doors game at Harper's Park yesterday. Argyle beat Torquay United 1-0 in the game, and Sturrock said: "We had a couple of boys in to have a look at. Some of the leagues have closed down for the season, so people are offering certain players for trials and it gives me the opportunity to look at a couple of players. It also gave me the opportunity to give a few of ours some valuable playing time. The pitch was a bit boggy but we have to keep topping up the players." Argyle's goalkeeper against Torquay was Akihiro Hayashi, a Japanese under-20 international who is studying at the University of Plymouth. "Aki had a good game," Sturrock confirmed. Hayashi has been joined in training with Argyle in recent weeks by Keisuke Ota, a midfielder with extensive Japanese League experience. Work permit regulations mean that neither can sign contracts with Argyle, and Ota has now moved on to try his luck elsewhere in Europe. "Ota looked very lively, and he fitted into training very well, but he can't get a work permit here," Sturrock added. Argyle are watching the progress of a test case which, they hope, will increase their chances of gaining work permits for the players that are heading for Home Park from Japan.

10th

Karl Duguid believes that Rory Fallon and Jamie Mackie are forging a formidable strikeforce, and that the best is yet to come both from the strikers and the team. He said: "Rory's come into his own in the last five or six games. He's the Rory Fallon who we all see and knew was in there, but it's just took time to bring that out of him. Every time he's gone to an international, he's done really well for them, which has been a confidence-booster for him. It's made him realise what a good player he is. And Mackie causes havoc whoever he plays against. At Middlesbrough he caused David Wheater, who was a Premier League defender last season, all sorts of problems. Alright, he may miss a few chances, but he'll keep getting there and will score scores – he's proved that particularly away from home, where he's a real handful. Gowser sits in behind those two. Technically, he's great and causes havoc, gets involved inside and does some great stuff on the ball. The three up front are doing really well." But the run of four wins and a draw from the past seven games, is down to team work, not just individual improvement, Duguid added: "I think we've got it together now, because obviously the start of the season wasn't great. But the gaffer is putting a team together now and that's coming together and we're seeing the benefits. Obviously, Paul Mariner has brought something different to the football club – it's another voice, new ideas and things like that. He's very enthusiastic which I think has rubbed off on the players in training and in the games. I'm sure he's definitely played a part. But it's the lads who have worked very hard in the last seven games to get the results that deserve praise. And we're out of the bottom three which is a big, psychological lift. We've always felt that we're a lot better than our position has shown in the division."

Damien McCrory has joined Grimsby Town on a one month loan deal.

Reda Johnson has been called up to the Benin squad for their game with Sudan, against the wishes of Paul Sturrock, who said: "Reda Johnson has been called up, and he has hardly kicked a ball since the start of the season." Sturrock added that Johnson was 'way off the pace' in training and that he hopes to be able persuade Benin to do without him.

Darcy Blake has been called into the Wales senior squad for their friendly against Scotland in Cardiff on Saturday. Blake had been due to play for the under-21's against Bosnia-Herzegovina at the weekend. However, a spate of injuries has seen him given a chance to win his first senior cap.

Paul Sturrock has decided that it is time for his squad to take a break. "I'm going to rest this squad now," he said. "I'm going to have a closed-doors game on Tuesday to enable some of the players to have a full 90 minutes, but I'd imagine that from then on there will be very few people around here. I've tried to put on training sessions during international breaks before, but I do feel we've had an awful lot of difficult games and an awful lot of miles to travel. I want to rest the players from the middle of the week right through to the Monday of the following week. We've come back from international breaks in the past and I don't think we've won a game. It's vitally important that we come back on the front foot this time."

9th

Alan Judge has had to concede defeat to a persistent knee injury and is expected to withdraw from the Republic of Ireland under-21 squad for their two European Championship qualifiers. He said: "I have played with my knee injury since the Cardiff game and it's just starting to get to me now. Hopefully, the next couple of weeks will give me a good chance to get it sorted out, so I won't be going on international duty now I don't think. I will just see how it goes because it's sore to even stand on it at the moment. It's gradually getting worse and I think I need to take a break to get it right. In the long run, I don't want to have to have an operation so it just needs rest and a lot of treatment." Judge has recently played his way back into the starting line-up after a spell on the bench, and added: "Games come thick and fast at Christmas so I want to be at my best, especially now I have got myself back in the team." Judge gave Argyle the lead against Doncaster with his third goal of the season, the previous two being penalties. He said: "Gowser crossed it and I just got across the front of their left-back and put it in the net." It was a special moment for Judge because 10 family and friends had travelled from Ireland to spend the weekend with him and they were all at the match. He said: "My Mum and Dad were here, as well as my little sister, my girlfriend and all my mates. They are over from Ireland for the weekend so I think it will be a good night now! It's the second time my family have seen me play for Argyle, but it's the first time for the lads." Argyle clinched only their second home win of the season with a 71st minute goal from Rory Fallon. Judge said: "When the ball came into the box I was just hoping it would drop to one of us. Luckily, it dropped to Rory and he put it in the corner. It's good to get another win, especially at home. They went down to 10 men but still passed the ball. We got in their faces and continued with our gameplan of getting it to Rory, and look what happened. And all the other results finally went for us, which is good."

Paul Sturrock thought Argyle were worthy winners as they beat Doncaster on Saturday. He said: "We are going in the right direction. I think that's the key to it all. Our back four and goalie have been settled, and Yoann Folly has been like a new player for us in midfield. So there are big benefits for this football club at the minute. Doncaster are a difficult team to play against. They have got good players and they have got a shape they stick to. They are very settled in their selection. And there are very similar types of players sitting on the bench as well. They are difficult to break down and when they keep the ball like that, and you go out of shape chasing the game, they can cause you concern. That's what happened in the last two games we had played against them before this. I thought we were very disciplined and, at the end of the day, it was always going to be a tight game with the way both of us set our stalls out. I did feel that with the chances we created, we just maybe shaded it as far as the result is concerned." Sturrock admitted it had not been any easier for his side after Rovers' Martin Woods was sent off. He said: "A team like Doncaster keep the ball whether they have got five men on the pitch or 11. It didn't knock them out of sorts. They changed their system and went with three at the back, four in midfield and two up front." The victory was only Argyle's second home win this season. Sturrock said: "There has been an apprehension in our team at home over the last 18 months. It has reared its ugly head lots of times, but to be fair to this lot, they have bit and scratched in the last three or four games and are starting to reap the benefits." Sturrock picked out Romain Larrieu and Yoann Folly for words of praise. "I thought Romain was back to his confident self," he said. "He came and took a few things, his kicking was good and he had one or two decent saves. And I thought Yoann Folly had an excellent, very thoughtful game as well." Sturrock opted for a 4-3-1-2 formation and added: "Rory was wide left, but he wasn't a left winger. What we wanted to do was to give them only one avenue to go down. Had we not done that, I did feel they could have gone down either side and opened us up. They combated that by sneaking somebody in off the front onto the wing, which caused us concern as well. The formation was something I conjured up on Thursday, just to give us another option. I thought we looked quite solid with it, but when they went to 10 men I changed it completely. I put Nooney on because I felt he would run with the ball. And I think the winning goal came from them being overstretched with the width we adopted in the second half."

Rory Fallon returned to Argyle's starting line-up on Saturday and got the winning goal, to start off what could be a memorable week for him. Fallon will be part of the New Zealand squad which takes on Bahrain in Wellington next Saturday, the second leg of the World Cup play-off. Fallon's participation looked in doubt when he missed Argyle's win at Middlesbrough with a calf strain, but he has regained fitness in time. He said: "The injury stiffened up a little near the end of the match, but that was always going to happen. I'm prepared to go to New Zealand. I'm looking forward to it, I can't wait, and today it was just an awesome blessing that we got the win and I got the winner." Fallon did not take it for granted that he would be picked to start Saturday's game. He said: "I just have to thank the gaffer for putting his trust in me. He knows he can trust me, and that's good. All I can do is to keep on giving 100 per cent for the team, the management and the fans." Fallon was given an unaccustomed job on the left side of attack at the start of the game, but his goal came after he had been switched to a central role. "It was a strange one for me," he admitted, "but the gaffer wanted a job done and I'll always stick my mind to the task and do it. It's as simple as that. I was a bit lonely out on the wing, but I had to do a job and that was it. I prefer it much more when I'm in the middle. I can make things happen more often. It felt right to be up there, and it was great to get the goal. Jamie did so well to make it happen, and all I needed to do was finish it." Looking ahead to next Saturday's game, Fallon added: "No matter what happens, I'm going to enjoy myself. I just want to do well for myself and put in a good performance, and what will be will be. I know that, no matter what, there's a bigger reason why we'll go through or not. I'm in God's hands. I've got my faith, and nothing can compare to what I believe in."

8th

Rory Fallon scored his third goal in seven matches as Argyle notched their fourth win of the season yesterday to climb out of the relegation zone. Paul Sturrock said: "Rory is one of those types of players who has very, very good spells. To be fair to him, that's three goals he's scored in his last six games - and quite important goals. But he also brings another attribute to the team. I do worry at times that we overplay him, but today we threw out the full-backs and got the game started. We've been working very hard. Rory needs crosses - I don't think there's any doubt that Rory needs crosses. If we wanted someone to run down channels or hold the ball up, then it wouldn't be Rory. Rory is definitely a predator in the box. He seems to come alive in both boxes because he's done very well from set-pieces lately." Fallon started the game in an advanced role on the left flank in a new tactic by Sturrock. "He was wide left; he wasn't a left winger," he said. "What we wanted to do was to give Doncaster only one avenue and that was to go down the left-hand side. I did fell that if we had left ourselves like normal they could have opened us up I wanted to make sure everybody knew to tighten up. They combated that by sticking somebody from the front onto the wing which caused us concern."

Alan Judge and David Gray seem certain to miss out on representing their countries during the international break. Judge limped out of the 2-1 win over Doncaster with a recurrence of an ongoing knee problem and Gray has been hampered by a slight hip injury for several weeks. Paul Sturrock said that he would be seeking to withdraw both players from their respective upcoming internationals so they could rest and be treated for their injuries. "We'd like it to settle and I'm really going to rest this squad now," he said. "We're going to have a closed door game on Tuesday to enable some of the players to get a full 90 minutes."

7th

Argyle beat Doncaster Rovers 2-1 at Home Park, the goals scored by Alan Judge after 26 minutes and Rory Fallon (71) . Argyle: Larrieu, Gray, Arnason, Lowry, Sawyer, Duguid, Folly, Mackie, Judge, Gow, Fallon. Subs – Noone, Clark, Barnes (not used – Letheren, Sheridan, Paterson, Timar). Attendance - 9,420

Paul Sturrock has warned his players to be fully prepared for what Doncaster throw at them today. "Doncaster will come with a game-plan, they came with one last year and it worked," he said. "They did very well against us last season. They are a real handful and if you don't stop them at source they can cause you an awful lot of problems. I think it is very important that we appreciate they are going to come here and be very solid, but when they have the ball, they are going to finish up having a shot or putting a cross into our box. That is the kind of team they are. Sometimes teams get at them and they stop their style. They can over elaborate at times and can cause themselves problems. Other days, they pass the ball and play flowing football and it works a treat. Sean O'Driscoll has done a fantastic job – he has solidified them as a Championship team. What he has preached over the years, he has put into practice, and he can only be commended for that." Meanwhile, Sturrock said he will be doing all he can to help some of the younger players at the club try and challenge for a regular first team place. "Nooney has proved that he is a top first division player, Bolasie has proved he is a top second division player and McCrory have proved he is good enough for the second division as well," he said. "They are starting to find their levels – my job now is to kick them on. I could maybe give Bolasie a taste of the first division or I could take him back to see how far he has progressed. There are lots of things I have got to keep working on."

Craig Noone has admitted his loan spell at Exeter City has whetted his appetite for starting more games for Argyle. "It is not the same being an impact player off the bench as it is starting," said Noone. "I have had games at Exeter and got a taste for starting games now, so that is definitely what I want to do. My time at Exeter has been a real benefit to me. I went away and I played first team games, which has been good for me. I scored a few goals and I set a few up, so my confidence is high." Noone added of the possibility of being named in the starting line-up for today's game: "It would be great to come straight back in the team, but that is something which is up to the manager. It is up to him to decide if he thinks I am ready. If not, I will wait and prove my point in training and that will hopefully get me into the team. But if I am selected, then fitness-wise I will be fine. I had a foot injury and missed two games up at Exeter. I played with it for four games by wrapping it up and taking painkillers, but it is fine now." When asked of his experiences of the past 15 months as a full-time professional, Noone said: "I don't think it is harder than what I thought it would be. I have settled in well, although last season, when I was an impact player coming off the bench, it was all new to me. However, I just did it and got on with it. But this year, my second year, I want to force my way into the team and keep my position."

Alan Gow insists he doesn't have a point to prove after being recalled to the Argyle side for the win at Middlesbrough. After that game Paul Sturrock said he was unsure what Gow's best position is and also that it was difficult to accommodate Gow in his side because he has 'to give me some of that defensive stuff'. Gow said: "I have never felt my game lacked any work ethic. People know what they are going to buy when they sign me so he knew what he was signing before he bought me. He knows what I bring to the team and, to be fair, I don't think I deserved to be dropped. I should have been playing those games, but that is just football – it is up to the manager. I don't think I have a point to prove. I have started six games this season and scored two goals and made two goals. That isn't too bad a record playing for a team at the bottom of the Championship. But, obviously, I want to play more games. I prefer playing as a striker. I have played deeper roles in midfield and I have played wide a few times, but I prefer playing somewhere more centrally. I prefer playing up front, but, like any player, as long as you are getting a game you don't mind where you play." Gow is now hoping to help Argyle to more success at home to Doncaster tomorrow. "It was a good day for the club last Saturday,"he said. "We weren't probably expected to get any points at Middlesbrough because they have been doing so well. But it was a good victory for us and a vital three points which we needed after Ipswich got a result. I played against Doncaster last year when I was on loan down here. They are a good footballing side and they will come here and I would imagine play their own game and try and play football. It should be a good game, but we need a win tomorrow, especially because it is at home and we have a bad home record. With Plymouth being so far away, you want teams to dread coming down to play Plymouth, because we have a good home record. We need to try and get that on board so teams are scared of coming down and playing against Plymouth."

6th

Paul Sturrock is 'desperate for another win' tomorrow as Argyle prepare to enter a two-week international break. He said: "With the international break coming up, we are desperate for another win. We want to close the gap on as many teams as possible – we would like to see it become a 10-horse race. I think at the end of the day, three points at Middlesbrough was a great benefit to us because it sucked a good three or four teams into the tussle. There are teams who are still five points away from us, who we would like to bring closer. The important thing is that we keep on winning football games. We would like to get out of the bottom three, but whether we are out or not, we want to bring as many teams as possible into the fray as soon as possible. We want the 10 bottom teams to be looking over their shoulder. I am saying the more the merrier for me – that means there is more opportunity for us to slip out of the bottom three. Three points tomorrow will go a long way, along with one or two other results. If they go our way and we get a win we are breathing down people's throats, two points behind them." In a form table measuring the last six results, Argyle would be eighth and Sturrock said it was his and Paul Mariner's job to try and ensure they continue that run. "Winning is habit-forming and we have had three wins and one draw in our last six," he said. "If that kind of form was transported through the rest of the season, I think we would comfortably be mid-table. That is what we want to emphasise to the players." Should they beat Doncaster Rovers tomorrow, Argyle would record just their second win in eight home matches. When asked why his side had struggled at home, Sturrock said: "There have been all sorts of combinations of things why. We have never had a settled back four, which I am still a great believer in. If we had the same back four until the end of the season I do believe we would win and draw more games. They start to read each other and they start to know each other and we, as a team, would start to benefit from that. I think that has been the key to it all. We have had such an unsettled time defensively that there has been a worry about us when we play. There is a worry about the fan base – you can tell when they all go quiet they are worried. The other teams are not now sitting on a bus for 10 hours coming down to Plymouth. They are now taking the opportunity of flying into Plymouth or Exeter, so the criteria we used to have where teams were what you called sluggish is no longer. This is the Championship where the individual player can hurry you as well, so it is a combination of things."

Paul Sturrock is contemplating adopting an attacking approach for the visit of Doncaster Rovers to Home Park tomorrow. He said: "We have a personnel change to make with Fletcher out. I have got to contemplate my thoughts on that one. Craig Noone has come back and looked lively this week, so I have got to make my decision to how I am going to play this. Do we have enough offensive players on the pitch from last Saturday, because we are the home team? That is something we are going to have to think about. Duguid seems to be comfortable playing wide midfield. But do I change the system and bring another offensive player into the team?" Sturrock added, suggesting he would adopt a more attacking approach tomorrow: "The bread and butter about any league progress is winning your home games and we haven't done that. Away from home, the way we have played in some games this year, we have merited more points which we haven't got. But what I would say is our form over the last 18 months away from home has been as good as any – we could be a top six team on results away from home. Our home form, however, has probably been the worst in the league. That is what we have got to get to the bottom of. I am putting a blueprint together to come up with something which we can have a look at again tomorrow. I have got to decide: are we offensive enough for the game, if I was to play the same troops I played last Saturday? It would be easy for me to not put my neck into the noose again and say, 'On you go boys, you are the ones who got a result at Middlesbrough, now go and do it again'. But sometimes it is difficult, when you play a system like we play away from home, to all of a sudden think that is going to do at home." Argyle had fitness concerns over David Gray and Rory Fallon earlier in the week but both are now expected to be available. "David Gray will train today and Rory Fallon trained yesterday, so we are very hopeful both of them will be available," Sturrock added.

Yoann Folly overcame a big hurdle with his performance at Middlesbrough and his next challenge, according to Paul Sturrock, is to hold down a regular place in the team. "Yoann's job now is to stay in the team," said Sturrock. "The easy bit, at times, is performing to get selected. The hard bit is staying in the side. He has done enough over the piece to merit selection, which I'm pleased about. There is a spring in his step that I've not seen since he came to this football club. He did have a virus when he first came and this kind of thing can cling to you for a long time. You can feel ok but people have different reactions, and I'm just hoping that might have been the cause of his problems. He wasn't being selected, he lost confidence and his head went down, which made it worse, but, for the last three weeks, he has looked the Yoann I know. He realises what he has achieved and how he achieved that. If he does that, we have a new player on our hands."

Luke Summerfield is back training at Argyle, as his loan club, Leyton Orient, prepare for the FA Cup first round. Paul Sturrock is reluctant to allow Summerfield to be cup-tied, so has taken the opportunity to bring him back to Home Park for a week. Sturrock said: "Summers is just gently training on his own because we don't want him injured. He is just keeping himself ticking over. He is out on loan and doing very well for them. I talked to their manager yesterday and he is very pleased with him. He is playing regular and enjoying his football, whereas he was on the periphery here. He played 30 games last year and there was no way I was allowing him to be cup-tied because the importance of the Cup for teams like us is the finance, and maybe getting another Arsenal or something like that."

Jason Puncheon still has a chance of making a name for himself with Argyle at some point in the future, according to Paul Sturrock. When asked yesterday if there was any prospect of Puncheon being recalled from his loan with MK Dons in the new year, Sturrock replied: "It depends on the circumstances. I'll have a conversation with his manager and with the laddie as well. He wants to play football. He is guaranteed that every week with the MK Dons, and I'll have to try and see him in the flesh again before the end of the window to make a decision. If I was to tell Puncheon that he would be playing every week in the Championship, he'd run down the road. That's the situation. We've been in a very difficult situation for a lot of months now. The Dons have a system that allows him to be free. It would be nice to be able to do that, but we can't. In their system, Puncheon is not required to do any defensive work. He has a roving commission. I'd love to think that we could get ourselves into a position in the league so that we could afford to do something like that, because he would be an ideal player for it. But we have the boy Gow now, and he plays in a similar position. We have invested in Gow. It would be nice to have two like that, but then that means one does not play. In the circumstances, it's better to have Puncheon playing football games. That enables him to become a better player, and he's still under contract here next season. He has now proved in his own mind that he's a top League One player." Sturrock confirmed that part of the attraction of Puncheon's move to Milton Keynes was the player's personal circumstances. He added: "His girlfriend was having a kid, and the upheaval of bringing them all down to Plymouth was not an option for him, so obviously he wanted to be close to home when the kid was born and in the first three or four months."

Paul Sturrock has confirmed that there has been no interest in Steve MacLean. "There has been very little at this moment in time," he said. "We've sent out a circular to most of the clubs about Steve, and I'm hopeful that people will bite over the next week or so."

5th

Paul Mariner believes Argyle should view challenging for a place in the Premier League as a realistic long-term goal and sees no reason why they cannot target a place in the play-offs in the near future. "We are all striving for a top-six finish desperately," he said. "If you look at the careers that Paul and I had playing-wise and coaching-wise, the only thing we have had is success. That doesn't go away from us and it doesn't go away from the players. I am sure the players are striving to be the best and if we can give them confidence and a few tips, then all well and good. The league is harder now than when I used to play, what with the Premier League teams coming down. There is no doubt it is a very difficult league, where the top teams can beat the bottom teams and vice-versa. It is no surprise to anybody when that happens. There aren't many leagues in the world where you can say that. It just seems that some teams have a difference-maker who just pushes them over the edge in a particular game. We think we have got those difference-makers, and we think we can organise a team so we are very difficult to beat. I said when I came and I met everybody briefly at the Bristol City game, I was really surprised by the team spirit. The team spirit is fantastic and that is a credit to Paul and the coaching staff, and what they have brought to the table. When you have got that to cling on to, it didn't surprise me that we got a point against Ipswich and a win at Middlesbrough, because of the players we are working with. We have a core group of players, and we have got people waiting to come back from injury, who are more than capable of doing well for themselves and each other. Our main focus is that we are in it together, the players and the staff, and we will work for each other tirelessly. Both Paul and I believe in the players and the players believe in each other."

Paul Sturrock has said the appointment of Paul Mariner as head coach has given him a new appetite for the game. "The zest Paul has brought has been great for me, but getting back on the training ground has probably been the huge bonus," said Sturrock. "I didn't know how much I missed that until the last two weeks. I am now hands-on and I have definitely got a spring in my step thinking about training, individual players and what we want to do. Those things have come to the fore again. Sometimes it is a difficult one because when you are sat in the middle of the forest you don't see the outside. You are better being on the outside looking in. I have realised now you are better being in amongst it. It is better because you get hands-on, you get to have your finger on the pulse and I am back able to have one-on-ones with players again. Getting back into it again has definitely been great for me." With the departure last month of John Blackley Sturrock is now assuming responsibility for defensive coaching duties whilst Mariner is working with the forwards. "I have taken most of the defensive side so far and let Paul concentrate on the strikers," said Sturrock. "We are sharing the load, but at this minute in time, Paul is concentrating on his field. It has been great – the two of us have gelled very, very quickly. Paul has brought a zest and enthusiasm to the squad and that has been a big benefit."

Paul Mariner believes the win at Middlesbrough was a real confidence booster for the side. "I don't think the players have ever lost belief," he said. "But losing does become a habit and when you get almost close to the finishing line in games, it can be difficult to get pushed over. Saturday at Middlesbrough was absolutely massive, I thought. It was a massive challenge, we were determined to get the win, we set our stall out, we played very well and we got a good result. Everything rolls into each other – the technical work on the training ground, the encouragement from the coaches and the encouragement from within the group. It all goes to making a win possible." Mariner added of Argyle's first clean sheet of the season: "To have a stable back four, albeit for a couple of games, does mean a lot. You get the clean sheet and for a team, it means a hell of a lot. Not only as a defensive unit, but the whole team is a defensive unit when we haven't got the ball. It is little spots which we have been trying to encourage the players to pick up for the benefit of the whole group. We are on the right track."

Craig Noone maintains that his priorities lie with Argyle and securing a starting place at Home Park, despite admitting he thoroughly enjoyed his spell at Exeter City. He said: "When I joined Exeter I wanted to play games, prove a point and get back into the Plymouth team. That was my priority. I would definitely consider going back to Exeter. I enjoyed my time there. It's a good club and they treated me well. I liked the lads, the training ground and the manager, I played some games, did well and scored a few goals as well. But I would definitely go back to Exeter if it didn't work out at Plymouth. I was keen to go there in the first place. They have got a good team and play good football."

Shane Lowry has been called up to the Australian squad for their Asian Cup qualifier with Oman on November 14th

4th

Argyle will be seeking revenge when Doncaster Rovers visit Home Park on Saturday. Rovers did the double over Argyle last season and Paul Sturrock believes playing at a higher tempo will be crucial to avoiding a similar outcome. "They came here last season and gave us a lesson in how to pass the ball," he said. "We couldn't get near them and it was pretty similar up there. If you let them pass the ball, they will hurt you. We have got to put food for thought to the players on what we would like to see on Saturday and reinforce that. They are not the same team when they don't have time and their heads are down, but you need to have an engine to do that over 90 minutes. We have worked very hard on that over the last couple of weeks because I did feel it was a feature at Bristol City, when we didn't last the whole minutes. We managed 97 minutes on Saturday against Middlesbrough and we will take that kind of effort into the game again. We have to get in their faces and battle. We want to close the gap on as many of the teams as possible. We would like to see it become a ten-horse race. The three points was very important to us and sucked in some teams. Winning is habit-forming and we've had three wins and a draw in the last six games. If that kind of form is transported to the rest of the season, we will comfortably be in mid-table."

Paul Sturrock has revealed that Argyle are set to begin contract negotiations with several of their key players. Kari Arnason, Karl Duguid, Romain Larrieu and Gary Sawyer are all out of contract at the end of the season, as are Yannick Bolasie, Yoann Folly, Joe Mason, Damien McCrory, David McNamee, Craig Noone and Lloyd Saxton. Sturrock has decided now is the right time to consider which of his players are deserving of a new deal. "I am now starting to contemplate certain people's contracts because I think November is an appropriate time," he said. "I will begin discussions with several players now about lengthening their deals." When asked if one of those players was Jamie Mackie, who has been publicly coveted by Derby County, Sturrock said: "As I said, we will be talking to several players." Sturrock said of Nigel Clough's praise of Mackie: "Most managers would be complimentary of Mackie. At the end of the day, it doesn't faze me or bother me, it is a compliment to Jamie. There are several managers who he has played against this year, who would say exactly the same because he has done well for himself. I feel playing him on the wing was a great benefit to him. I think that was one of our better ideas and to be fair he has benefited from that because he has now got two strings to his bow. Away from home he has been devastating through the middle. I am very pleased for him; he has worked very hard." Paul Mariner was also full of admiration of Jamie's work-ethic, and is looking to improve him even further. He said: "There are loads of areas they can all improve but he is such a willing workhorse that we're trying to work on some of his runs. A lot of stuff is between the ears and you can save yourself a lot of yardage, if you switch on. It sounds simple but it's not the easiest when you're in battle."

Craig Noone has been challenged by Paul Sturrock to prove he can make it at Championship level, after recalling him from his loan spell at Exeter. He said: "We have got a couple of niggling knocks with players and we have got a couple of suspensions as well," said Sturrock explaining the reason why Noone has been recalled. We don't want to leave ourselves short of that kind of player. His form has been good and we are at home this weekend as well, so if we are on the front foot, we need that kind of player. Craig has got his confidence back. I think he went through a spell where he came here carefree and then we tried to get him to think about the game and his confidence takes a wane because of that. Now, to be fair, he has learnt his trade, he has been working very hard and now the jigsaw puzzle fits again. I think Craig realised he has got work to do when the other team has got the ball. He is an influence to games, whether he starts or comes off the bench. His one start was here in the 2-0 victory against Southampton, so it gives me food for thought. I have only been to see him twice for Exeter, but our scouts in the area have said he has done very, very well. The great thing about Nooney now is that he has proved he can play in the first division. I have brought him back so he can try and prove that he can play in the Championship. He has done it already quite competently, but now he has to prove that he can do it on a regular occurrence." There is a likelihood that Noone could be included in the squad for Saturday's visit of Doncaster. Sturrock has injury concerns over Alan Judge and Karl Duguid, while Carl Fletcher and Darcy Blake are suspended. "I have got Clark, Pato and Duggy to make a thought process over," he said. "David Gray and Judgey have got wee niggling things that are a wee, bit sore every time they play. Judgey gets a tightening behind his knees every time he plays and we will wait and see how that develops. David Gray has had a wee bit of everything – he has a wee groin problem at the moment, something he has had for a while." Rory Fallon and Reda Johnson are both looking to make a comeback sooner rather than later and Sturrock added: "Rory is getting better, while Reda has come back to training, but he is well off being ready because he missed pre-season as well. We are trying to get a reverse game for next week, so we can give him 45 minutes. Rory should be back in training tomorrow and he should be available for Saturday. We will just have to see what sort of reaction he has after treatment on Thursday."

Paul Sturrock has announced ambitious plans for Argyle to expand their scouting network. He stated that the club will initially look to cover the whole of Britain before, long-term, hoping to spread their wings as far afield as the Far East and the United States. "We are going to be adding several scouts to our system so we can have a perusal of the whole of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland," he said. "At this minute in time the administration of the scouting system has been taken over by one of the scouts, so games and positions are getting looked at now, as are individual players recommended to us. That is all being done, but what I have got to do now is bring seven different scouting areas into play. So, I am putting out feelers for people who would be interested in doing the jobs in those areas so we have a blanket effect over the whole lot. The 'admin boy' will hand out all the games the scouts are supposed to go to and when we need a player – a right-back or a centre-back – we will have the files of all the games they have been at. Then it will be up to me and Paul Mariner to go to games and peruse two or three of the candidates and take it from there. I want to streamline everything at the club and the first thing is the scouting system. The first thing is to get Britain done. Then we can start thinking about Europe, the Far East and America. If we want a scout for the MLS in America, we have got Paul. If anything is going to come from that end, they have to have work permits and we will have to deal with the MLS. But if there is something there which takes our fancy, I am sure we will get something sorted come the summer or the January transfer window." As for adding to his current staff, Sturrock said: "I am reviewing everything at this moment in time. The important thing for me is time-frame – I won't be rushed. I have several options in mind – people who are in contracts with other football clubs, people who are coaching at other clubs and people who are playing at other football clubs. There is a lot of water to go under the bridge before we determine anything. The important thing was to get kick-started with the team. We have pushed the team on and that was the important thing, to get that started. There is no point in having great ideas about coaching stuff if all of a sudden we are dead and buried. The important thing is to get this gap which has developed closed as quickly as possible to another five or six teams."

Paul Mariner and Paul Sturrock are preaching togetherness in the early days of a new coaching regime at Home Park. Mariner has been delighted with the team spirit and togetherness in the squad, and sees that as the platform for success. "I said when I came and I met everybody at the Bristol City game that I was really surprised with the team-spirit - it was fantastic and a credit to Paul and the coaching staff," he said. "Has it surprised me that we got a point against Ipswich and beat Middlesbrough away? Not really, because of the players we're working with. We have a core group, and players to come back from injury, that are more than capable of doing well for themselves, and each other. Our main focus, and we keep repeating this, is that we're in it together - players and the staff. We will work for each other tirelessly." A return to Home Park after 33 years has been a comfortable transition for Mariner, and one that has been helped by his instant rapport with Sturrock. "It's as if I've not been away," he said. "It's familiar territory to me. The great thing about is that we get on like a house on fire and I hope that transfers over to the players because we're only interested in their welfare and well-being, and getting them ready for 3 o'clock. I'm enjoying every aspect and the parallels with working with Steve Nicol are striking. Obviously, they're both from Scotland, but I picked up a lot from Steve and I'm picking up a hell of a lot of from Luggy. The nice thing for us is that, touch wood, the players seem to be responding to our voices and to have a stable back four does mean a lot. When you get a clean sheet, it means a lot to a team. The whole team is a defensive unit when you haven't got the ball. It is the little spots we have been trying to encourage players to pick up for the benefit of the whole group. We're on the right track and I'm thoroughly enjoying working with all the players." Mariner's enthusiasm is echoed by Sturrock. "It's been great," he said. "We've gelled very quickly, although it won't take me long to be an insane asylum with the jokes he cracks. He has brought a zest and an enthusiasm to the squad, and that's been a great benefit. I have taken most of the defensive side so far and left Paul with the strikers. We're sharing the workload." The win at Middlesbrough was a huge plus for both, and Mariner added: "We believe in each other. We believe in the players and the players are believing in each other - I don't think they have ever lost that. Saturday was a massive challenge. Gordon Strachan has gone in there as the new manager and their players were trying to impress him. We set our stall out very well and got a result. Everything rolls in - the technical work on the training ground, the fitness work, encouragement from the coaches and encouragement from within the group all goes into making wins possible." Sturrock said: "You have to remember that we have also got other parts to the coaching staff. The sports scientist has done a fantastic job because he's combining ProZone as well and Claire Taylor has come in to do the physiotherapy, and done everything very well. Ro went through a sticky spell and Crudgie's done a lot of work with him over the last two weeks, and it has reaped benefits. We have a staff, a whole group." Mariner added: "There is no doubt this is a very difficult league. The top teams can beat the bottom teams, and vice versa, and it's no surprise to anybody when it happens. There are not many leagues in the world where you can say that. It just seems that some teams have a difference-maker that can push them over the edge and we think we've got those difference-makers. We are all striving for that [the Premier League]. If you look at our careers as players and coaches, the only thing we've had is success, and that doesn't go away from us. The players are striving to be the best and, if we can help that, then all the better."

Damien McCrory has returned home early from his loan spell at Port Vale. Paul Sturrock admitted he was disappointed, but understanding. He said: "I am disappointed that Damien has come back. They felt an experienced player was needed from the manager's point of view, so Damien finished up playing bit-parts. He felt it was appropriate to come back and spend time with us because his contract is up this year. He's obviously got to make a dent in my thoughts to get a new deal. I am now starting to contemplate contracts and I will be going into discussions with several players." With two players coming back to the club and one extending his stay away, Sturrock said it was unlikely there would be any more transfer movements in the coming weeks. "Not really, at this important time we want to be out on the training ground," he added.

3rd

Romain Larrieu has urged his team-mates to use their display at Middlesbrough as a working model for the rest of the season. He said: "I think we are starting to look like a team, but it has taken us so long. We've now got a fight on our hands but everybody is up for it and we're not going to give up. We had been due a result, because the boys have been working incredibly hard. Now we need to go on a run. Saturday was only one result and we need to keep going. There is nothing like the feeling of winning and it's time this squad learned about it. Whatever happens in our next match, we can say, 'We got it right against Middlesbrough, and it worked'. It's a reference we can keep for the season, which makes me very hopeful now." Argyle's next challenge comes at Home Park on Saturday when Doncaster Rovers are the visitors. "It's important we continue to put pressure on more teams," Larrieu said. "It looks like Derby are in it with us and we could do with two or three wins more. Yes, Saturday's game is a big match, but all these games are big games. We've been through 15 big matches and we've got another 31 to play. It was a good result at Middlesbrough. We look for more of the same on Saturday."

Argyle have recalled Craig Noone from his loan period at Exeter City. Paul Sturrock said: "We've had some injuries and suspensions over recent weeks and I just felt we needed the right armoury for the games to come. Craig has done very well at Exeter and he gives us another attacking option with his ability to beat people on the wing. We have had him monitored regularly and I'm pleased to have him back."

Darcy Blake has been called up to the Wales Under-21 squad for the UEFA qualifying match against Bosnia-Herzegovina on November 18th.

Marcel Seip's loan spell at Blackpool has been extended until the end of the year.

2nd

Paul Sturrock insisted the victory at Middlesbrough was no fluke, but a reward for the hard work put in on the practice ground. He said: "It went to plan inasmuch as we've worked very hard over the past two weeks. We had a settled back four for the second week in a row. I think a lot of our woes this season have been because we've not been able to put out the same four players in consecutive matches. But a lot of hard work has paid dividends." Sturrock paid particular tribute to his defence and also had sympathy with referee Mick Russell, who gave Boro an 80th minute penalty. "A lot of stuff came into the box and Kari and Shane set the standard," said Sturrock. But it was more a team game, than being about individuals. As for the penalty, it was a difficult one and looked a bit soft to me. But it was difficult for the referee who had the fans on his back for two or three others and it can be like that in football sometimes." Sturrock conceded there had been some tense moments in the second half. "Look, you're not going to come to a place like Middlesbrough and they're not going to have chances – they've got some quality players," he added. "But if you think about some of the saves their goalkeeper made, it puts it into context that our boys did very, very well. But it wasn't one of those back-to-the-wall scenarios. In fact, Jamie should have scored in the second half before he did and in the first half their goalie's had a great save off Dugy. We didn't just sit back." Sturrock also praised the qualities and efforts of Alan Gow, who started in place of injured Rory Fallon. "I thought it was a difficult game for Gow, as it was like Sauchiehall Street in there at times," said Sturrock. "But he managed to get himself on the ball and see passes for Jamie to run on to. But you'd have to ask Alan what his best position is, as I'm unable to tell you. He's a natural footballer who has great vision and a great first-touch. But trying to accommodate him is difficult, as he has to give me some of that defensive stuff, which is a bit alien to his style. I thought, though, he did the right things and moved it in the right areas and closed down the midfield. And if you get the ball to him and he starts to drive, then Jamie Mackie becomes a very dangerous player, when all of a sudden he's coming off shoulders. Jamie is a deceptively strong player, I think their centre backs had a very tough game."

Yoann Folly was pleased with his performance in a hard-working win against Middlesbrough and said he wants more game-time having made his comeback. "Yes, what a comeback and to people outside, it must seem like out of nowhere and a bit of a surprise," he said. "But I've been keeping my head down and working hard just waiting for my chance again. I haven't started since Nottingham Forest in January so it's a long time. But that's football, I guess, and you just have to be professional and work hard and when the chance does come, take it. I thought it would be a tough game to play, especially away from home, and I was right. The lads worked well together and kept a good shape, which is what gave us the win, I think. We didn't come here overawed and worrying about the other team, as we've got quality players in our side, as well. And we also did what we're good at, which is tackling and keeping our shape. And I just tried to do my thing and it worked." Folly is now hopeful that the frustrations of the past few months are behind him and that he can start enjoying his football again. "It has been really, really frustrating and you moan about it," he said. Now I'm just going to carry on working hard and, hopefully, I'll get my chance again."

Jamie Mackie paid tribute to Gary Sawyer after he set up his goal which gave Argyle three points at Middlesbrough. He said: "Gaz is a great player - he is not going to think about last week. It's one of those things. Gone. You saw how he played today - fantastic again. I think he's been one of our most consistent players this season. It showed again today - another assist for him. I'm glad for him. The lads defended brilliantly and Gaz, again, put a wonderful ball in for me to score the goal. He's getting up the park and creating a lot of things for the boys. I'm grateful to him for putting that ball through, and I'm glad I took it. Gary's got a great delivery. I used my strength to get in and kept the ball low. I took it well." Jamie also had praise for Alan Gow. "Alan Gow is a fantastic footballer," he said. "You can give him the ball in tight areas and he creates a bit of space for me. I can live on the shoulder of the opposition knowing that someone is going to thread it through for me. I've been doing a little bit of work with the manager and with Paul Mariner this week about me getting in the best areas for my game, which is on the shoulder. No defenders can cope with that. I really enjoyed playing with him today. I hope we can get a little partnership going." Mackie believed that the win was a triumph for the whole team He said: "We're going to be on the back foot when we come to teams like this but it's about being resolute and strong as unit, which we were, and leave me up the park to cause trouble when we clear the ball. For Romain and the back four, getting a clean sheet is brilliant. It's what they work hard for in training all week. They defended really well, so credit to them. Karl Duguid is solid and nullified the threat of Johnson, and Yoann's a really good footballer who showed that today. He came to the show and did really well. It is a massive result for the lads. We needed those three points. We've been playing really well away from home, excluding the Blackpool game, which was a blip. We put that behind us really quickly, and we were outstanding today." Jamie had a chance to open the scoring before getting his winner, but was denied by one of several saves from Brad Jones. He said: "I was really disappointed - I should have hit it low - but one thing that everyone knows about me is my head's not going to go down. I'll create chances at any level and I'm starting to take them now, and people are starting to take notice. I have got to keep doing well for Plymouth, and that's my main aim." Jamie immediately celebrated with the 700 Argyle fans, who he wants to show the same level of support when Doncaster Rovers visit Home Park next weekend. "The away fans are second to none in the country," he said. "We need to try to create the same noise at home next week. It gives us a boost. The win is something to build on. We've got a home game next week, and it's vital to get three points and go into another international break with another three points. Winning breeds confidence. We need to crack on."

1st

Paul Sturrock hailed his defence as Argyle kept a first clean-sheet of the season in their victory at Middlesbrough. He said: "I think I've preached all season that a lot of our woes have been because we couldn't put the same four players out for two games in a row. An awful lot of work went in on Tuesday, Thursday and even yesterday on the shape of team and what we're looking to do, and it paid dividends. We've worked very hard over the last two weeks with a settled back four. A lot of stuff came into the box, but I thought Shane was outstanding, so was Arnie, individually. But it was more of a team game today." Shane Lowry made a vital stop in the first half, nipping in to deny Marvin Emnes. "It was a certain goal," said Sturrock. "Even I thought the boy had to score. He came from nowhere and blocked it. It was an incredible block. He smells danger. It doesn't matter what age you are - if you smell danger, you are going to be a good player. He has that knack. He is a young player who is benefiting from playing here and is going to be a tremendous player." Kari Arnason also made a crucial late intervention to deny Leroy Lita, a brave tackle because the Icelander had conceded a penalty 10 minutes earlier when referee Mick Russell had wrongly awarded a foul against him. Although the penalty was missed Argyle paid for the decision by losing Carl Fletcher for next weekend's game against Doncaster Rovers as he was booked for protesting. Sturrock said: "The referee had his head nipped by the fans for two or three others, but it looked a bit soft to me. Romain's claiming he saved it. He had it covered." The chances of sending out the same back four for a third consecutive game hinge on the next week. "David Gray has a bad groin strain," Sturrock added. "I would hate to break the team up, so I am hopeful we will get to work with him during the week and get him fit for next Saturday."

Paul Sturrock admitted he took 'a big chance' on selecting Yoann Folly for a first appearance since January. "I've always known there's a footballer in Yoann but he hasn't shown it on a regular occurrence," he said. "For the last couple of weeks, he's been very much like of old, so that was why I took the chance. I thought he was excellent. I thought the freshness was needed and I think he had proved to me over training and in reserve games that he merited the chance. It was a big chance to take because he hasn't been involved and we've been trying to move him on, but now he's staked a claim and he'll take it with both hands."

Diary Archive:


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