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Tuesday 29th December 2009

Paul Mariner hailed a 'total team performance' after Argyle's victory over Reading yesterday. He said: "I think you could make out a case for many of the players to be man-of-the-match. It was a total team performance. You can look at each player individually and say they made a massive contribution. That includes the lads who started the game for us, and the ones who came off the bench. Everybody played some high-level stuff." Mariner insisted the back-to-back wins against Cardiff and Reading were no more than the players deserved. He said: "The players at this club have been magnificent in every single aspect. It's not only their professionalism but their thirst for knowledge and putting it into practice. They are a joy to work with." Argyle's display against Reading did not come as a surprise to Mariner. He said: "I think it has been a combination of the work we have done on the training ground and, obviously, the win the other day. We played against a very tough Cardiff side, who have got some very good players, and that win was a confidence boost for us. The most pleasing aspect about this is that, 48 hours later, we have put in probably an even better performance against a side at the wrong end of the table. It was somewhat of a six-pointer, but every game for us is a six-pointer. But to go out and play at that level, especially in front of your own fans, is very pleasing." Argyle are now only two points adrift of a position of safety in the Championship at the midway point of the season. Mariner added: "I think we are still in the bottom three on goal difference, but the key is we put the points on board and keep dragging people closer to us. Hopefully, we can start climbing away." Argyle have played a 4-4-2 formation in the last two matches, after using a 4-3-1-2 system in Mariner's first two games as boss. He said: "The type of people we are, on the staff side, we are very flexible. We have got a group of players who are very intelligent and we can throw different systems at them and they are happy to adjust. That's good for a team, and good for everybody, they can switch at the drop of a hat."

Alan Judge believes Argyle's new management team of Paul Mariner and John Carver have helped to instil a belief into the team as they aim to pull themselves clear of the relegation zone. Judge, who got two of the goals yesterday, said: "If I'm honest, I think we were due a win and I think I was due a goal as well. As I said in the match programme, someone was due a hammering from us and they were the ones who got it. We took a lot of confidence from the Cardiff game. What were they, fourth in the league at the time? To beat them at their place, we got a whole load of confidence coming into today's game. Also, the gaffer has put a lot of confidence into us, he believes in every one of us, so it makes it easier. The gaffer and John are unbelievable – they are so hands on, which is great. I think that is what we needed, and it certainly seems to be working at the moment." Judge admits he is getting himself back into top form after a sluggish opening to his second spell at Home Park. "I think I was a bit of a slow starter this year," he said. "I think Paul Sturrock was right to pull me out when he did because I wasn't performing to my ability. It made me realise that nobody is guaranteed to play every week, and it gave me the kick up the backside I needed. Now, I think I am in a good run of form, so I'm happy enough." As well as improving confidence within the dressing room, Judge was quick to point out the efforts to which Mariner and Carver are going in a bid to generate more points. "We've watched a lot on the other teams, so we know where the opposition are strong and where they are weak," said Judge. "That's something the gaffer has brought in. We knew the back two for Reading were their weak areas, so we just put the ball in the channels for Mackie, and not many people are going to keep up with him." Judge says more of the same will be needed against Newcastle. He said: "Obviously, we are happy to play a game against them, but the League is our main importance. Hopefully, we will enjoy Saturday and you never know what might happen against them. I don't think they will fancy coming here."

Steve MacLean is poised to make a loan move to Hearts for the rest of the season. Csaba Laszlo, the manager of Hearts, admitted there was a ‘great possibility’ of a deal being done when the transfer window opened. MacLean trained with the Hearts squad for the first time yesterday and Laszlo said: "Steven is from Edinburgh, he is a Hearts supporter who played for Rangers, and he's also a very good goalscorer. He can play the No 10 role or he can play just behind the striker. He can help us for six months." Paul Mariner has confirmed he expects MacLean to sign on loan for Hearts.


Argyle beat Reading 4-1 at Home Park, the goals scored by Alan Judge after 13 and 63 minutes, Kari Arnason (59) and Ashley Barnes (84). Argyle: Larrieu, Duguid, Arnason, Johnson, Sawyer, Judge, Fletcher, Summerfield, Clark, Mackie, Fallon. Subs - Folly, Barnes (not used – Letheren, Noone, Blake, Gow, Barker). Attendance - 12,091

Argyle won for the first time under Paul Mariner at Cardiff City on Boxing Day and Mariner described the victory as a Christmas present for everyone connected with the club. He said: "Obviously, I'm absolutely thrilled, but I'm thrilled for the club. Every single person who works at the club has been extremely supportive of what we have been doing as a team. So the win is a Christmas present for them. I thought the away support today was quite remarkable, and let's hope we can get some people in on Monday to, hopefully, try to keep this going." Mariner was especially pleased for the players, who he has repeatedly praised over recent weeks for the resilience they have shown. He said: "These boys came to work every day and they want to get it right and get the club out of this position. Every single game in this division is a tough game, but the boys were ready to go today. So we knew we were going to get a resilient performance, and to get three points is wonderful for us." Gary Sawyer's first goal of the season came courtesy of a deflection off Cardiff defender Anthony Gerrard. Mariner said: "Sometimes you need a little bit of luck. Gary was brave enough to take the shot on and hit it very, very well. We have conceded many goals this season from outside the box with deflections, so maybe it's just balancing up for us. If the deflection took it by the goalkeeper, I'm going to apologise for that. You have just got to be brave enough to take the shot on." With the return of David Gray to Manchester United, Argyle had to find a new right-back so Karl Duguid moved from midfield to play there. Mariner said: "He did a fantastic job that day, and again today. But I thought the whole team were quite magnificent. To keep a clean sheet against such a high-powered attack as Cardiff have got, is not easy. For me, Bothroyd and Chopra are a handful for anybody." Duguid's place in midfield was taken by Luke Summerfield, who returned from a loan spell at Leyton Orient last week. Mariner said: "It wasn't a gamble. He's fit and we have had some very good reports on him. He trained well with the lads this week and you have got to give people their chance. Even though it is a difficult situation we are in, he was ready to respond. I thought he got better as the game went on actually. He was sliding balls down the channel for Jamie to run onto and milk the clock a little bit. Whenever a striker, or a team, is going through a barren spell you have just got to keep doing the basics and hope something bounces your way. And it happened today."

Carl Fletcher hopes that Argyle’s win at Cardiff City can give the team the confidence to pick up another victory over Reading today. "We got a bit of luck, but you need that bit of luck," he said. "It was pleasing to get a clean- sheet, and nicking a goal was fantastic. We rode our luck a little bit at times, but maybe we deserved that bit of luck, with all the hard work and effort we've been putting in. Once we got the goal, we saw it out, and getting the clean-sheet was something we can be proud of. Hopefully it will be a starting point for our season, but we're not getting carried away. We've got a tough game on Monday and, if we don't put in a performance against Reading, today's result will mean nothing. We've got to start putting runs together, and we've got to focus on Monday's game. It will be a tough game for us, but we'll take a little bit of confidence from today's game, and we've got to work hard and put in the effort we put in today to try to get a result against Reading." Argyle used a 4-4-2 system against Cardiff and Fletcher added: "We were quite solid. That's a positive we can take from the game, and now we need to recover well and to prepare for the game against Reading." Saturday's win was a massive boost for Paul Mariner and his assistant John Carver. "They're both very passionate guys, and everyone in the team wants to do well," Fletcher said. "We want to do well for the team, we don't want to be relegated. Our livelihoods are at stake, and we're trying our nuts off. Hopefully, if we keep on putting in the hard work, it will turn around for us. We're trying to do things the right way and, if we keep doing that, I'm sure we'll pick up more points."

Paul Mariner believes there are exciting times around the corner for Argyle, after the clubs five-year plan was unveiled. He said: "Obviously, it's a broad outline, but I think it's a wonderful thing Sir Roy and the board have put together. For any supporter, and any player for that matter, it seems to me this is a great place to be." Argyle are still in a precarious position, despite the win against Cardiff, and Gardner touched on that in a statement which outlined the framework of the plan. He said: "The board's short-term focus is to support Paul Mariner with the actions necessary to improve our league position. However, in addition, the board believes it is fundamentally important to lay down the foundations for long-term success." Gardner conceded much change was needed for Argyle to be capable of securing promotion to the Premier League within five years. "This can only be an aspiration, but the probability of success can be increased with an appropriate investment in facilities, coaching and the team," he said. "Without better facilities, it will remain very challenging to recruit and support the players we will need." The make-up of Argyle's holding company consists of the club's seven directors, led by Gardner. That set up could change in the near future, according to the five year-plan. One action point is: "Restructure and recapitalise the PAFC holding group in order to put the club onto a sound financial footing." Gardner added: "More details will be announced in due course as appropriate. However, for now, the number one priority is to support the improvement in the team's current league position."

Argyle can call upon Reda Johnson for this afternoon's game against Reading after an agreement was reached with Benin to delay his departure for the African Nations Cup.

Argyle's win against Cardiff was their first in six matches and they will hope to follow it up with another victory when they take on Reading at Home Park today. Paul Mariner said: "We have got a very tough game again against a team who don't want to be down in the position they are at. It's going to be a six-pointer. Is today going to be a turning point for us? Obviously, I sincerely hope so. But, in this league, who knows? I don't think anybody can predict what's going to happen."


Paul Mariner was thrilled as Argyle claimed a shock 1-0 win at Cardiff yesterday. “We worked very hard for that result but the signs have been there for a couple of weeks,” he said. “The players want to get this club out of the mess we are in and we knew we would get a resilient performance from them but three points is a wonderful result. The away support was remarkable and I felt we created a few chances in a very tight game but we needed that little bit of luck. To keep a clean sheet against such a high powered attacking force as Cardiff have is a magnificent effort. We haven’t scored for a long time but you have to go back to the basics and that is what we have done today.”

Paul Mariner praised Rory Fallon after the forward led his team-mates to a 1-0 victory at Cardiff. "I think he is actually playing classic centre-forward football," said Mariner. "If you cast your mind back towards the ways that centre-halves and centre-forwards used to go at it, it was a joy to see and everybody shook hands afterwards. Rory's as honest as the day is long. There's no way is this kid a dirty player. He's a very honest player. His team and his mates are struggling and he wanted to do his level-best to keep the team moving and I thought his game was terrific today." Fallon was the centre of attention from the Cardiff defence, and was on the end of some verbal abuse and gamesmanship that some felt might see him withdrawn at half-time. "It never crossed my mind," said Mariner. "Purely and simply because of the player. He knew what he was doing. There were a couple of words exchanged, but that's fine - if he's not upsetting the opposition, I want to know why not. I spoke to him at half-time, and said we needed him on the field. He's a very intelligent person and a very intelligent footballer, and I felt he played his role beautifully today. I thought the officials did a great job. We asked the referee to be strong and I thought he was strong."

Gary Sawyer, dropped for the first time this season last week, bounced back with a goal which ensured Argyle avoided an unwanted club-record sixth game in a row without scoring. His shot was slightly deflected but Paul Mariner felt the goal was just reward for Sawyer’s enterprise. "Gary was brave enough to take the shot on," he said. "He hit it very, very well. We've conceded many goals this season from outside the box with deflections; maybe it's just balancing up for us. You have got to be brave enough to take the shot on. You have got to hit the target; If you hit the target, you have got a chance. Whenever a striker or a team is going through a barren spell, you have just got to do the basics and hope that something's going to bounce your way. It happened today."


Argyle won 1-0 at Cardiff City, the goal scored by Gary Sawyer after 84 minutes. Argyle: Larrieu, Duguid, Arnason, Johnson, Sawyer, Judge, Fletcher, Summerfield, Clark, Mackie, Fallon. Subs - Folly (not used – Letheren, Noone, Barnes, Sheridan, Gow, Barker). Attendance - 24,010


Argyle will get into the Premier League within five years by investing in facilities and coaching, the board announced yesterday. Revealing the details of the clubs five-year plan, Roy Gardner said: "The Board’s short-term focus is to support Paul Mariner with the actions necessary to improve our league position. However, in addition, the Board believes that it is fundamentally important to lay down the foundations for long-term success. The board has agreed the framework for a new Five-year Plan – from January 2010-December 2014 – which we are pleased to announce today. The World Cup Host City win for Plymouth is great news for the city and region, as well as the club. It will provide an excellent context for the implementation of the five years plan." The plan was discussed at the board meeting on Tuesday and the first objective is to 'achieve Premier League Football within five years. Gardner said: "This can only be an aspiration, but the probability of success can be increased with an appropriate investment in facilities and coaching and the team. Without better facilities, it will remain very challenging to recruit and support the players we will need." The board aims to get planning permission for a new stadium in 2010, provide a new durable pitch for the 2010-11 season, demolish the Mayflower grandstand in June 2011 and build Stage 1 for completion in time for 2012-13 season. Stages two and three of the rebuild will be complete by 2014-15. The board plans to build a new training facility to support the team and youth programme in Devon or Cornwall broadly within 20 minutes of Home Park. The target is to get the new training pitches available by the end of 2010. The supporting training facilities will be developed in stages over two years. The plan says Argyle will secure and develop playing staff to improve and consolidate the team's Championship position and provide a base to achieve Premier League football in five years, consolidate on a core squad of 23 professionals and 4 development players and secure extended contracts for key players who are committed to the club. The board will support the football management team with recruitment of specific players to progressively strengthen the squad over the next few years. On youth development, the plan is to build on the established and successful youth programme. At the same time Argyle will expand the medical and physiotherapy activities and increase the links to the local universities’ medical and sports science activities. The board aims to expand the scouting network nationally and internationally over the next 24 months. The plans second objective is to create a Sports and Leisure ‘destination’ within Central Park, working with partners. Plymouth City Council’s Central Park Action Plan envisaged the creation of a leisure and sporting complex. The PAFC Holding Company will take the lead to create the facilities to deliver this objective, including creating a stadium that can be used for other sports. The third objective is to build the fanbase in Plymouth, Devon and Cornwall and, in addition, an international fan base, initially focussed on Japan and the USA. Gardner said: "While it is understood that results matter in driving attendances at games and general support, there is a need to better understand what makes a fan become committed to a team and what Argyle needs to do to draw a larger percentage of fans from Plymouth, Devon and Cornwall. We have an immediate catchment area of more than 250,000 and a total of 1.7 million people in Devon and Cornwall, yet average gates in recent year’s average 12,000 and current attendance are less than 10,000. We will work with partners to survey attitudes of the general public and of businesses across the region." The board plans a complete study of attitudes to Argyle, improved communication with fans, enhanced markleting in Japan and New England and it will launch Argyle TV online next year. The fourth objective is to provide the business infrastructure and operational team to underpin the achievement of the business objectives. Gardner said: "To achieve our business objectives, we need to operate as a modern global business, with the appropriate tools, facilities, business and capital structure." The board will restructure and recapitalise the PAFC Holding group in order to put the club on to a sound financial footing, provide a modern technology-based business infrastructure to maximise productivity of the business team, operate the business aspects from appropriate modern facilities.


David McNamee is set to return to the first team when Argyle play Cardiff City on Boxing Day. David Gray has returned to Manchester United after his loan spell and Darcy Blake is ineligible to play against his parent club and Paul Mariner said: "Within the group, we have people that have played at right-back before. But I'm going to talk to David McNamee about whether or not he's comfortable playing in an extremely important game for us. David trained on Tuesday, when we worked on 11 versus 11, and he played in that position. We will listen to the medical people, and also to David." With Gray and Shane Lowry no longer available Mariner will also add Chris Barker to the squad. He said: "Barks is close but it is difficult for me say because the all-weather surface we have been training on is pretty dangerous. We have a squad of about 21 we are working with and it just depends on availability and fitness. It's really that simple. The thing with Barks is his experience, his brain, his voice, so he will be in consideration because we've not got a great deal of defensive cover. It is needs-must and you never know what is round the corner after the Cardiff game. The Reading game is only 48 hours later, so, depending on injury and suspension, he comes right back into consideration."

Marcel Seip is expected to return to Argyle next week, when his loan spell with Blackpool ends and Paul Mariner has not ruled out including him in his first team plans. Mariner said: "To be honest, I haven't seen him play, and I know he has been injured recently. I'm not trying to dodge the subject, but I have been focusing completely on what we have available to us at the present moment. But everybody is in our thoughts because they have got to be. We don't want to cut our nose off to spite our face."

There was a training session for the Argyle squad this morning, to be followed by another one at 9am tomorrow. That early start is to allow the players to spend some time with their families to celebrate Christmas. The squad will then set off at 6pm for the trip to Cardiff, where they will stay in a hotel overnight. Paul Mariner said: "We are going to come in a little earlier tomorrow so the boys can be with their families. We will train at 9am and then leave at six o'clock. We will get up there, have something to eat and rest up. It's an early kick-off so we have got to be up bright as buttons on Boxing Day." Mariner has insisted there is still a good spirit among the players, despite recent results. He said: "If the morale was poor then, obviously, I would be very concerned, but morale is incredibly high. John Carver and I commented on it again at training on Tuesday morning. I'm not going to say the boys are flying, but they are getting close to flying. We have got some good leaders and the staff are a very positive group. I think that trickles down to the players. What you will find with the staff is that, win or lose, we are on an even keel. We don't go crazy. And I think the players are enjoying what they are doing in training. They can see they are close. I think they genuinely believe they can get up this league. We are fully aware the front two for Cardiff are probably close to being the best in the league. Burke, on the right side of midfield, is in an extremely rich vein of form. They are very well organised, and from the keeper all the way up to the front they have got good players who know the system. That's why they are where they are."

Bradley Wright-Phillips could be back in training next week. Paul Mariner said: "Bradley may be joining in training next week. That will be a fantastic boost for the club. I can't really put a date on when he will be back playing. Of course, we want him back – we wanted him back yesterday. But we can't afford to push him too much. We need him to be fit for the duration, not just for a couple of games here and there." Jim Paterson continues to be sidelined by a hamstring injury and an early return does not look likely. Mariner said: "Jim doesn't look as though he's going to be close for quite some time."


Chris Barker is at last available to re-join the Argyle squad after recovering from his calf muscle injury. He said: "I'm watching every game, and it has been disappointing for me because I can't help the boys. Hopefully, from Saturday onwards, I can help the boys – if I'm included on the team-sheet. We just need to push on, and do it very quickly." Barker believes that Argyle can take some comfort from the fact that they have not suffered any severe beatings this term. "Four of the last five games have been 1-0 defeats," he said. "We lost in injury time at Leicester, and then Sheffield United scored against us just after Carl Fletcher had hit the post, but that's what happens in Championship football. If you don't take your chances, the other side will take theirs. Hopefully, on Saturday, we can do what other teams have been doing to us," Barker added. "We're six points adrift now, and we can't afford to wait any longer. We have to move up the table very quickly." Barker also believes that the club have the talent within their squad to beat the drop. "There are decent players here," he said. "There's Jamie Mackie up front, who is being linked with other teams. We need to keep him in January, and hopefully we will. We just need to get a scrappy 1-0 win in the 89th minute, like other teams have gained against us. That would be a start, and hopefully we can get at least four points from the weekend." When he was asked how he would react if he was told to start either of the next two matches, Barker replied: "If I was asked to play on Saturday, I'd last as long as I can. I'm not sure if I could do 90 minutes, but it would be great if I could have at least 60 minutes. I'll do what I'm asked to do, whether it's to start or just to come off the bench. I'm training day in, day out, now, and I played for almost an hour in a reserve game last week. The problem with reserve games is that there aren't enough of them, but I can't hang around. That's the way it has to be, and we have no choice. I have to get on with it. I have to train more and more, and get my fitness back up." Barker was unprepared for the length of his absence from the first-team squad. "When we first had a scan done, we said I'd be out for eight weeks at the very most," he said. "But, after about five and a half weeks, it went again. It was just one of things. We still don't know why it first happened in the warm-up before the friendly against Hearts, but I've just had to get on with it. It's the worst injury I've ever had in my career, but that's not too bad in an 11-year career." Barker has endured a difficult year. His mother, Pauline, passed away in March after a two-year battle against cancer. "I has been a hard year, with my mum," he said. "I just want to get rid of 2009, and hopefully 2010 will be a better year for me and the club. I just want to get out there playing, and help the boys as much as I can. We have to stay together as a team, and we need the fans to get behind us and hopefully we can celebrate a good win on Saturday." Cardiff are fourth in the Championship, and will be testing opponents for Argyle on Boxing Day. "I'm sure a lot of people will be betting on Cardiff to win the game," said Barker. "We have to make sure they don't. If we get at least a point there and then a win on Monday, hopefully that will move us up the table and we can carry on from there."

Argyle have confirmed that Reda Johnson will be required to play for Benin at the African Nations Cup next month. All the countries taking part in the event have the right to insist on their players' presence at training camps from this Sunday, but Argyle hope to hang on to Johnson for at least an extra two days. Paul Mariner said: "We're trying to talk to Benin in the nicest possible way. Unfortunately, we're going to lose him, but it would be a very big problem if we lost him for the Reading game."

Argyle are looking to extend the contract of Kari Arnason beyond the end of this season. Paul Mariner said: "We're attending to it now. Since Paul Sturrock put him back to playing central defence, we have worked with him on the coaching side. He has responded and he really likes that position. He can still obviously play in midfield but he has done a fantastic job back there."

Luke Summerfield has returned from his loan spell at Leyton Orient and could be thrust straight back into action for Argyle. Paul Mariner said: "I was pleased to welcome Luke Summerfield back to the club today, which was very good. Luke's been doing very well, so we're absolutely open to everything. We have had very good reports and he's done very well."


Shane Lowry is waiting to find out whether he will be returning to Argyle in the New Year for another loan spell. Lowry is set to have talks with Villa manager Martin O'Neill, who will make the decision and also insisted he had not been put off a return, despite an altercation with a couple of supporters on Saturday. The fans were frustrated with the team's performance and Lowry became involved in an argument with them. Karl Duguid had to intervene and lead Lowry away from the dispute. Lowry said: "It hasn't changed my mind about anything. I was a bit disappointed about it at the time, but these things happen. Everyone else at the club has been very supportive of me." Lowry is unsure what the future holds for him, and whether it involves another loan spell with the club. "I don't have a clue, to be honest," he said. "I don't think it's any secret Plymouth would like to extend my loan. I have had a word with the gaffer and he wants me to stay. I put my views across to him as well but, at the end of the day, it's between Plymouth and Villa. It's not down to me. I don't make these decisions. But I would like to go out on loan again and play more games. Villa are fourth in the Premier League at the moment so I have got to be realistic. I'm not going to be playing for them. Getting games with Plymouth has done me the world of good." Regular first team football will also improve his chances of making the Australia squad for the World Cup next summer. "Obviously, you do have it in the back of your mind there is a World Cup coming up," he said. "I think there is a chance for me to make it, but you just never know what can happen over the next six months with injuries and form. The manager of Australia has said players need to be playing first team football every week to be considered." Lowry's contract with Villa ends next summer, and it was recently reported in one newspaper that he was set to be offered a new deal. "I read that myself, and a few people have said that to me as well, but I haven't heard anything," said Lowry. "I will speak to the manager and, hopefully, take things forward from there."

The short-term contracts of Kyle Letheren, Ryan Brett and Ben Gerring will come to an end on December 31st and Paul Mariner must decide whether to offer them new deals. Argyle's loan deals for Darcy Blake and Cillian Sheridan are also close to ending.

Reda Johnson is a relative newcomer to the Argyle side, having made only his third starting appearance for the club team against Coventry. Paul Mariner said: "When you look at Reda's record, he has not played that many games. I don't think he has played 20 games in his career. It's quite remarkable. He's a work in progress, but he obviously has some tremendous weapons, and the language barrier is not much of a problem. Romain helps us out with that."


Paul Mariner had labelled the game against Coventry as a 'must-win match', but despite the defeat, insisted he would persevere with the 4-3-1-2 formation he has adopted in the last two matches. He said: "I think it was clear for all to see that we are still trying to get the system down. You can criticise it for lack of width, but if you stay with the system the width will come. We changed it after 60 minutes and tried to get some width on. We had our best spell and then they go up the field and score. But that's football. I can't praise the players highly enough for their attitude and commitment. I thought their goalkeeper was extremely busy and their central defenders were extremely busy. We just got done when we were having a few moments on top." Freddie Eastwood secured all three points for Coventry when he headed home a right-wing cross from David Bell. Mariner said: "It was sort of a training ground goal. You set things up, with no pressure, on the training ground and that's what happens. That's what it looked like to me. The players are absolutely down in the dumps, but there is no reason for them to be if they keep building on the performances in the second half at Preston and today. I'm just proud to be a part of this club, and I'm proud to be working with these players." It has not been the start Mariner would have hoped for since taking over control of the first team on December 10th. He said: "You have got to try to put as much information into the players as you possibly can – when you are chasing the game, when you are trying to hold the lead – all sorts of various scenarios. I would like to think the players are enjoying their learning process. Obviously, we want to try to get some results and points on the board, but the group are highly committed." Mariner made two changes to the team, recalling David Gray and Shane Lowry, who were both playing their last matches of three-month loan spells. Mariner admitted he had opted to play Lowry instead of Gary Sawyer because of his height. "Coventry are very useful on set plays and Lowry has played left-back before," he said.

Kari Arnason admitted it was 'the same old story' for Argyle after their latest defeat. He said: "I thought we deserved more, but that's life. It's the same old story. We aren't giving away too many chances, and they really only had one, but he put it away. That's the difference." Argyle have now played twice since Paul Mariner assumed control of the first team and in both matches have played a 4-3-1-2 formation. Arnason said: "We are trying to play more football, instead of just booting it down the pitch. I think the second half was positive. We created chances, although most of them were on set pieces. We definitely should have scored." Eastwood's goal came when he soared above Arnason to head home a cross from David Bell. Arnason said: "It was a good, deep run from the winger. I was on the back foot when I was jumping, and he just jumped on my back and scored." Arnason twice came close to grabbing an equaliser. First, he had a header from Craig Noone's corner cleared off the line in the 85th minute. Arnason said: "The guy was on the post and it went up and over the bar." Then, in the third minute of stoppage time, Arnason's header from a Noone free-kick was parried away by Coventry ‘keeper Keiren Westwood. Arnason said: "It was an unbelievable save. That one should have been a goal." Argyle have now lost 14 of their 21 Championship fixtures this season and Arnason admitted that was tough to come to terms with. He said: "We are trying to keep our heads up, but it's hard. It feels like we are in a situation where it's always the same. I think we created more chances than they did today, but it didn't fall our way." Mariner appointed John Carver as his assistant coach last Thursday, a move which was welcomed by Arnason. He said: "I think it's an improvement. He's a new face and I think it's a good thing." Arnason wants the fans to continue getting behind the team, despite the dreadful run of results. He said: "Like us, they have to keep going. They have shown us fantastic support so far. We all have to push together towards the same goal. I understand the fans are frustrated, but they have to realise we are doing our best. We are probably more frustrated than they are. They are part of the team so they have to stay positive and keep cheering for us, although it's hard, obviously."


Paul Mariner believes the new system he has adopted will benefit his players, despite the defeat by Coventry. "It was clear for all to see that we're still trying to get the system down," he said. "You can criticise it for the lack of width but, if you stay with the system, the width will come; but we changed it after 60 minutes to try and get some width on. We had our best spell and they went up the field and score, but that's football. You have got to try and put as much information into the players as you possibly can, when you're chasing a game or trying to hold a league - all sorts of scenarios. I can't praise the players highly enough for their attitude and their commitment. Coventry's goalkeeper was extremely busy and their defenders were extremely busy. I was talking about it with the Coventry staff and it was a sort of training ground goal. You set things up with no pressure on the training ground and that's what happens. I'm very positive. The players have been fantastic and they're absolutely down in the dumps. There's no reason for them to be down in the dumps because we can keep building on the performances from the second-half at Preston, and today. I'm proud to part of the club and proud to be working with these players. We have only been here ten days and I would like to think the players are enjoying the learning process. Obviously we want to get some results and points on the board, but the group are highly committed." A lack of goals is an obvious concern, after five games without scoring. "Balls are coming into the box and we're having clean headers, but we're not converting," said Mariner. "The law of averages say that we may convert one sooner or later. Coventry will say that they defended well. It's all little tiny bits, it always is." Another disappointment was the lowest ever crowd at Home Park for a Championship game. Mariner insisted it is down to the players to lift the fans and get people back through the gates. "We said in the dressing room before the game that we have got to raise supporters' spirits and, as you saw, when we started to do it, the fans got behind us," he said. "All you can do is work with the players and see what happens. The players are totally committed to the cause and the illustration of 15 points going into Christmas, you would think they weren't, but they are. We're having loads of fun. When you cross the white line, there is pressure and we're professionals that need to bear the pressure." Mariner's final word was praise for Reda Johnson, who shone in his full home debut. "If you look at Reda's record, he hasn't played many games," said Mariner. "He is a work in progress and he has some tremendous weapons. The language barrier is not much of a problem because Ro helps us out with that. I don't think he has played more than 20 games in his career."


Argyle lost 1-0 to Coventry City at Home Park. Argyle: Larrieu, Gray, Arnason, Johnson, Lowry, Duguid, Fletcher, Clark, Judge, Mackie, Fallon. Subs - Noone, Gow (not used – Letheren, Barnes, Sawyer, Folly, Mason). Attendance - 8,347

Shane Lowry hopes to end his loan spell with Argyle by getting a recall to the starting line-up against Coventry City today, after missing the defeat at Preston because of a one-match ban. He said: "Sometimes this happens, where you get a suspension and someone comes in and takes your place and does really well. I thought Reda Johnson was probably one of the best players on the pitch against Preston. He used the ball really well and he defended really well. I can't really complain if he stays in the team. It was my fault I got sent-off and now all I can do is wait for the gaffer's decision." Lowry was booked early in the second half against Swansea for a foul on striker Gorka Pintado and the pair clashed again in stoppage time at the end of the match. Lowry said: "It was probably the right decision. It was a bit stupid on my part but, hopefully, I will learn from that. The first one was a booking, but I thought the striker was putting his hands in my face throughout the game. With the combination of that and losing as well, I kind of lost my head for about 10 seconds and got sent off. I don't like losing, and the frustration of losing another game built up in me and I kind of just lashed out." Argyle are 23rd in the table going into todays game. Lowry said: "We need a massive three points at home, and I think we can get them if we work hard." Lowry admitted it had been a 'rollercoaster ride' during his loan spell with Argyle. He said: "I have experienced pretty much everything since I have been here, over the past 10 or 12 games. Obviously, I have been sent-off and we have experienced losing, drawing and winning. It has been up and down, but that is what I came out on loan for – to get this experience under my belt. Hopefully, it will stand me in good stead for the future. This has been my first time out on loan, playing competitive football in the Championship. I think I have done alright. I want to get some more games in the future, but I don't know where that will be. I have really enjoyed my time here, and I'm just a bit disappointed we are still in that bottom three." Lowry has also experienced a change of leadership during his time with the club, and added: "Obviously, something like that does affect the team a little bit, but I think it has gone quite well. Paul Mariner is really enthusiastic and John Carver has come in this week and put his point across about what he wants to do in training over the next few weeks. I think it can only be a good thing. It shakes it up a bit and sometimes turns the results around. Hopefully, that will happen here."

Luke Summerfield, whose three-month loan spell at Leyton Orient ends tomorrow, is determined to force his way back into the Argyle reckoning. "I've really enjoyed the three months at Orient," he said. "I came here to play games and I've been given that opportunity. Now I want to go back to Plymouth, see what's about there and hopefully get in the team straight away."

Paul Mariner has described the appointment of John Carver as his assistant as a 'massive move forward' for Argyle and believes his arrival will give the club a boost as they battle to avoid relegation. "First and foremost, we want to get up the table," he said. "The feeling within the dressing room is that we can do this. We have got some very resilient players who have had some serious kicks in the teeth. They have played very well, but just maybe one slight error has cost them. We are trying to put that right on the training ground, and I think it's massive move forward to get a man like John Carver involved with the club. It's absolutely fantastic for me, and we are going to be great working together." Carver will have a considerable input into the work the players do on the training ground on a daily basis. Mariner said: "He will bring everything that I want. He's a fantastic coach and knows the game inside out. We are going to be doing the sessions together. Sometimes I will do it, sometimes John will do it. But the way I see it working is that John will be doing most of the sessions on the training ground because he's absolutely fantastic and why wouldn't I want to use him in that way?" Carver has already done extensive homework on the squad of players at Home Park. He said: "I remember Rory Fallon, who started his career off at Barnsley. We tried to sign him when we were at Leeds. I haven't had personal dealings with any of the players, but I have done my homework and I'm up-to-date on everybody." Geoff Crudgington was the only remaining member of Argyle's backroom staff before Carver's appointment as the No 2 to Mariner. Mariner said: "We are very thin on the ground when it comes to the staff. "It has been a trying week and we have been super busy, but it's all learning. I wouldn't say it hasn't been fun. It has been great fun. The enthusiasm on the training ground on Thursday morning to John's voice was just fantastic."

A company owned by Argyle directors Yasuaki Kagami and George Synan has loaned the club almost £1.5million to 'stabilise' it. Synan said their firm K&K Shonan Management Corporation had, in the past 60 days, loaned £450,000 in 'short-term funding', with another £1million to come between now and January. Interest at 'normal' bank interest rates would accrue on the loan, but it does not have to be repaid until the club can afford to. Synan added that director loans stayed with the club until 'it gets on an even keel' and that the loan was 'money needed by the club' and that the 'additional million' would 'stabilise' it. "Gates are down; the club needs ongoing cashflow support," he said. "We are not running an extravagant operation here. We have cashflow that needs to be met. We are trying to create ways and revenues to sustain it." He said the club's five-year-plan, being drawn up by Keith Todd, would reveal how Argyle intended to increase income. "Keith Todd is working extremely hard to get receipts up and people through the gates," he said. "We want the club to sustain itself in a way that is healthy. Mr Todd will come up with a great plan that makes sense. He's very logical." Synan said talks were already under way with international investors. "We will find the perfect balance of investors," he said. "We have investors at the table right now. It's not just investors; it's people that can add value." Synan also stressed the Argyle directors all 'get along very well. We're all working together. He said: "There is no board rift. We're focused here and know what needs to be done." When asked whether cash would be forthcoming to purchase players, Synan said: "We are committed to supporting Paul Mariner, and what he needs. It's waiting to see what he needs, how much, and we will get together to discuss that.


Argyle are facing a 'must-win' game against Coventry City tomorrow, according to Paul Mariner. He said: "People talk about six-pointers in football, and I think this is one of them. I think there is no harm in talking about how critical these games are for us. We are second bottom of the league and we want to get up the table as quick as we can – and there is no time like the present. Coventry are down where they are, so it's a no-brainer for me that it's an obvious must-win game for us." It has been a rollercoaster ride for Mariner over the past week, but one he insisted he had thoroughly enjoyed. "I have been impressed with how resilient the players are, how enthusiastic they are and how eager to learn they are," he said. "Their thirst for knowledge is there for all to see. It was actually one of John's first comments, coming off the training ground yesterday. That's why we have got every hope this group can come together, with the help of everybody in the club. It's not just the coaching staff, it's everybody pulling together, right from the top, trying to get some points to get up the league." Mariner admitted he was 'extremely excited' about the prospect of his first home match as Argyle boss. He said: "I want us to play well, and I'm obviously very nervous about it. I want the fans to get behind us, and I'm absolutely thrilled John is with me, because I have wanted to work with him for quite some time. I have a great feeling about it, but I'm sure I will have butterflies tomorrow. That's a certainty. It's going to be a special day for me. This club gave me my chance in professional football. I was 20 at the time, and I thought it had passed me by. Now this club has given me another opportunity in a managerial capacity, so it's an incredible feeling for me. I'm very, very proud." Argyle's attendances for their last three matches at Home Park have all been below 10,000 and Mariner added: "We want to get as many fans back as possible. We are no under illusions that we have got a lot of work to do. We aren't in the greatest league position. All we want to do is build, and build, and build. When the players go out onto the pitch, they need to know what their jobs are and where to be when the ball is in certain areas. That's an educational process we are going to go through, and we know this group of players have got a thirst for that knowledge." New coach John Carver expects Coventry to provide tough opposition for Argyle, but believes they can come out on top. He said: "I thought they were hard working and they will be a threat at set plays, especially the long throws. They are well drilled and they have a little bit of flair in the wide areas. They do like to put the ball in the box. They have got a bit of strength up front so we are in for a tough game, but it's one we can go and win."

John Carver admitted he was surprised by the quality of players in the Argyle squad after his first day at the club. "It was fantastic getting back on the training ground yesterday and I realised I have still got my enthusiasm for the game," he said. "I have watched DVDs of the lads, but it was important to get to know names and faces. I have done that now, and I was quite surprised at the quality we had in the squad, with regard to the position in the table." Carver was at St James' Park when Argyle lost 3-1 to Newcastle United in September. "I was at that game and I thought they were very unfortunate," he said. "I honestly don't think there is much difference from the top end of the Championship to the bottom end. I have told the players if they believe in themselves, as a group, they can get out of this situation. And I saw signs of that yesterday." Mariner took over first team affairs at Argyle last Thursday and immediately targeted Carver as his assistant. Carver said: "Paul called me and I said 'yes' straight away. I was out of work at the time and I was itching to get down here as soon as possible. But these things take time, and you have to get yourself organised, and you have to deal with your family as well. It's not as if Plymouth is just around the corner from Newcastle. I think this is the furthest south I have ever come but, let me tell you, Toronto is a lot further away from Newcastle than Plymouth. As soon as I decided I wanted to come down and join Paul the family were great about it, and I jumped on an aeroplane. My wife didn't actually know I was leaving at the time. I turned up at her work, gave her the car keys and said 'I'm off' because I wanted to get down here as quickly as possible. Thursday is a big day before a game, with regard to preparation, so the earlier I got here the better." Argyle will play Newcastle at Home Park in the FA Cup third round and Carver is relishing the prospect. He said: "I have already had a few texts asking for tickets. I'm sure there will be a few people coming down. It's a game I'm looking forward to, but the most important one is Coventry City tomorrow. That's how I do things – it's the old cliche about taking one game at a time. You have to concentrate on the most important game, which is the next one."

Paul Mariner believes there is still a lot more improvement to come from Jamie Mackie and revealed he was working hard with him on the training ground on all aspects of his play. Mariner said: "I think there is a lot more in him. We are working with him daily on individual work and, obviously, within the team framework. He sets high standards for himself and was a little bit disappointed he didn't get a goal last Saturday. He's a player who wants to improve, and that's what you want from all of your players." Mackie has made 19 starts for Argyle this season, usually with Rory Fallon alongside him in attack. Mariner said: "For me, it's a classic partnership. You have got Rory who can flick things on and hold the play up, and you have got Jamie with the pace in behind to try to break open the defences. What we have been trying to work on with them has been the other side of the ball. That's going to help the team by keeping them higher up the pitch. They are the classic duo – the big fella and the not-so-big fella who's very quick." That partnership has meant limited opportunities for Alan Gow. Alan Judge played behind Mackie and Fallon in a new 4-3-1-2 system last week but Mariner thinks Gow would be suited to that attacking role as well. Gow had been set to play for the reserves in their home game against Salisbury City at Home Park on Tuesday but he did not arrive at the ground in time because his flight to Plymouth after a couple of days away was delayed. Mariner said: "We are trying to create a culture here where everybody knows what's going on when we are doing the sessions. Everybody needs to know if they are going to go into a certain slot what their job is, and Alan has been part of what we have been doing. It was unfortunate his flight was delayed. We have had a talk to him about that. Alan Gow is a talented player and, to me, it looks as though this type of system may help him, but Alan Judge did very well last week, as did numerous players in the second half. So I think, at the present moment, you have got to say Judgey has got that position."

Paul Mariner has hailed Plymouth's achievement in being included as part of England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup. He said: "It's fantastic for everybody that was involved in putting the bid together. I must say, I really don't know how they did it. They put an incredible bid together in such a short space of time. If my little one per cent, or whatever it was, helped then great. I'm absolutely thrilled for everybody involved. It's going to be fantastic." Mariner believes there will be many spin-offs for Argyle, whose finances have been under strain recently. He said: "It's going to help with sponsorship, it's going to help with investors and it's going to help with a lot of things. The main thing we are interested in is the team. We are hoping it's going to help the team. Everybody has seen the plans for the new stadium, and it looks quite spectacular." Keith Todd was one of the prime movers behind the successful bid. He, and the club, have come in for criticism from some supporters for spending too much time on the World Cup bid and not enough on the team's struggles this season but Mariner defended Todd. He said: "I know there has been criticism of Keith Todd, and people have been saying he's only interested in the bid and he's not really interested in the club. I can honestly say that is so far from the truth it's unbelievable. This man works tirelessly for the club and his frequent-flyer and train miles must be incredible. He comes down to Plymouth, then he goes back up to London for meetings and then he's back the next day. Keith needs a lot of credit for what's going on at this football club." Mariner thought the local media and fans had played their part in the World Cup campaign. But he added: "Keith has spearheaded this incredible bid and now the fans of this club, and the people of Devon and Cornwall, are going to reap the benefits of that. There are going to be hundreds of millions of pounds pumped into this area. I genuinely think it's going to be wonderful for everybody concerned, from the humble corner shop all the way up to the hotels. You name it, it's going to be fantastic."


Plymouth was yesterday chosen as one of 12 cities in England to host World Cup matches in 2018, should the bid be successful. Paul Stapleton said: "Some people said we'd never get this – now they've got to believe us. The England selection panel had the courage to do the right thing. I could have kissed someone when the decision came through. There was a wave of emotion for everything that has gone into our bid and everything it means for the region. Hundreds of people have been involved in this. It has brought people together from across Devon and Cornwall. Now we have to show FIFA the shovels in the ground. We need the transport infrastructure, the stadium and the hotels." The bid director, Argyle's Keith Todd, has already announced plans to increase Home Park to a 46,000-seat stadium for the tournament. He said: "What came across was how united a team we were. It was unbeatable. We know we've got to improve things on the pitch and we've got to connect with the fans. We have to do things differently. This has already generated massive national interest." Doug Fletcher, the bid chairman, believes there would be a huge legacy not just in bricks and mortar, but in health and social benefits. He said: "Babies born now will be eight and a half when the World Cup comes to Plymouth. They will have lived with it all their lives and it will stay with them. This is a really great Christmas present for Plymouth, Devon and Cornwall. There will be a huge lift for the local economy. We've seen the evidence in Germany 2006 of how great that benefit will be. We are looking to start the legacy benefit because that is so important to FIFA. This will raise people's aspirations. Hopefully they will think about sport, and maybe get out and kick a ball or pick up a racquet."

Paul Mariner has the right sort of selection problems ahead of Saturday's game with Coventry City. Mariner is confident of having David Gray and Shane Lowry in his squad, to challenge Kari Arnason and Reda Johnson in central-defense. Mariner does have injury worries though over Rory Fallon, Darcy Blake and Jim Paterson. He said: "David Gray trained today and he looked fine, as did Shane Lowry. I'm in the fortunate position in that we've got some selection problems – and it's just the way I like it. We've got people fighting for positions, which is the nature of the beast in football. Darcy Blake has got a heel injury that's still sore. And we've been nursing Rory Fallon a little bit because of an Achilles tendon injury which he's had for a while. When I first arrived here, he had the injury and the physios are looking after him. But we're not nursing him too much." Mariner has admitted the 'fantastic relationship' between himself and captain Carl Fletcher will be crucial in the coming months. He said: "I like his professionalism, his manner and his attitude. I like the way he conducts himself and how he interacts with board members, coaches, youth team players and players who are on the fringe. He's a pretty special human being as far as I'm concerned."

Former Newcastle and Leeds coach John Carver has been appointed as Paul Mariner's assistant at Home Park, and will be officially unveiled in his new role today.

Craig Noone is waiting to find out how big a role he has to play for Argyle under Paul Mariner. At Preston last Saturday, Argyle started the game with two strikers, three midfielders, and an attacking player in between the midfield and the strike force and Mariner has indicated that he intends to use the same system against Coventry City. "I think, with the personnel we have at the club at present, this is a system which can help us," he said. "I think it's tailor-made to suit certain players." If Noone wants to start games, he may have to adjust his play to suit the formation, rather than waiting for Argyle to adjust their system to suit him. Mariner added: "You can make out a case that Craig could play off the front two. You could make out a case that he could play on the left side of midfield. He's a fit lad. It's all down to how people pick up the gauntlet."


Argyle reserves lost 2-1 to Salisbury City at Home Park this afternoon, the goal scored by Cillian Sheridan. Argyle: Letheren, Nelson, Timar, Barker, Clifford, Folly, Kinsella, Paterson, Donnelly, Sheridan, Rickard. Subs - Gerring, Young, Baker (not used Gow, Chenoweth). The positive side to the defeat for Paul Mariner was the return to action after five months out for Chris Barker. The downsides were a poor second-half performance and a recurrence of a hamstring problem for Jim Paterson. Mariner said: "We have got to take into consideration that a lot of players haven't played for a long time but it was an extremely disappointing result. They looked a little bit ring-rusty to be perfectly frank and I don't think too many people will be knocking on my door tomorrow to be requesting a place in the first-team. We were going to take Barker off at half-time but he felt ok, so I listened to the physiotherapist who said, 'if he feels good, let him go'. Paterson's looks as though it's a recurrence of an old injury. When you've had a hamstring, you're obviously conscious of it and Jim's an experienced professional. As soon as you feel something coming, you can sometimes catch it. It didn't look as though he did catch it. He looked to stop pretty quick, which is unfortunate."

Paul Mariner has made light of a Football League embargo on Argyle's transfer dealings. He said: "I am perfectly happy with the situation. I have been made aware of it. It didn't affect anything that we did prior to the window closing and I'm told that it will not affect anything that we do in January. The more people get to know me they will realize that I am guy where the glass is half-full rather than half-empty. I have always been an optimist. I have always looked on the bright side and, at the present moment, I'm focused on working hard with the players, and I'm enjoying doing that."

Argyle have been banned from making player transfers as a punishment for failing to pay debts. The Football League has issued the embargo because the club failed to pay creditors on time. Argyle has said it is a technicality, and claims the situation will be cleared up by the end of December, ahead of the transfer window in January. Keith Todd said: "There is a temporary embargo but it has no bearing on our transfers. We will be in the market in January in the normal course of events. It relates to a historical issue and a technicality. It is not a problem." Mr Todd said he did not wish to disclose what the reason was for the embargo being introduced, but added: "It is just an issue which needs to be resolved. It will get resolved and we will be fully in the market in January. It will be cleared. It is unfortunate that it has happened but it is absolutely not an issue. It has not affected how we operate and will not affect us in January."

Paul Mariner has refused to rule out a return to the first team at Argyle for Marcel Seip, who has been on loan with Blackpool since the end of September. The loan runs out at the end of December and although Mariner would not comment directly on the prospects of Seip playing again, he did admit: "There is a possibility that anybody who is in the squad could play."

Paul Mariner will attend Argyle's reserve team game against Salisbury City at Home Park today. Among those set to play will be Krisztian Timar, Cillian Sheridan and Chris Barker, making his long awaited return from injury, but David McNamee and Steve MacLean will not play. McNamee had an operation on a broken bone in a hand on Friday, and MacLean's future still seems to be away from Home Park. When asked why MacLean would not play for the reserves today, Mariner replied: "Because of my choice at the present moment." Meanwhile, Mariner wants to recruit some backroom staff as soon as possible because he is currently solely responsible for coaching the first team squad. He said: "I could do with a couple of extra pairs of hands, to be honest. There is a lot to do on the football side." Mariner's first match in his new role ended in defeat at Preston, but he still took a lot out of the experience. He said: "I will probably never say this again, after getting beaten 2-0 in a game, but I really enjoyed myself on Saturday. I love being around these guys."

Paul Mariner wants to renew loan deals to keep David Gray and Shane Lowry at Argyle into the New Year. Both loan deals will end after the game against Coventry City on Saturday but cannot be renewed until the transfer window reopens on January 1st. Mariner said: "We have spoken to the players and they totally understand. We will take it forward as quickly as possible. I would like them back. I think they are tremendous boys." Lowry served a one-match suspension when Argyle lost at Preston North End on Saturday and Gray was ruled out of the game after suffering a hamstring injury in the defeat by Swansea. Darcy Blake replaced Gray at right-back. Mariner said: "We put David through a rigorous fitness test on Friday because of what we wanted to do with the team. We needed the full-backs to bomb on." Mariner hopes to have Gray available again for the visit of Coventry. "The medical team tell me there is a very good chance," he said. Decisions must also be taken soon on the futures of Blake and on-loan Celtic striker Cillian Sheridan. Asked about the pair, Mariner said: "The answer is watch this space. I don't want to be evasive but I can't really tell you."

Chris Clark believes Argyle must try to build on their improved second half showing in the defeat at Preston North End on Saturday. He said: "The second half was just a massive lift – and you could see little bits coming in the first half. We tried to play with a smile on our faces, after what had obviously been a difficult week for everyone, and I think you could see in the second half that we enjoyed it. We came off the pitch disappointed with the result, but we created a lot of chances. We hit the bar twice, and that probably sums up our luck at the moment. Rory and Jamie also had chances, so there are positives to take from it." Clark played on the right-side of Argyle's midfield against Preston, only his fifth start of the season. He said: "I think the new system suits a lot of us. We were solid in the middle, with myself, Doogie and Fletch. And it gives protection to the back four. They limited the number of chances Preston had in the second half. It also gives us a base to go forward. With Judgey behind the two strikers it gives them a little bit extra. It's something I'm sure we will work on and I think everyone is going to enjoy playing it." Clark was a first half substitute for the injured Yoann Folly when Argyle lost at Swansea City last Thursday and was thrilled to stay in the side against Preston. He said: "It was good for my confidence to play again on Saturday, after coming on as a substitute on Tuesday night. I really enjoyed it." Next up for Argyle is a crucial game with 19th-placed Coventry City at Home Park on Saturday. Clark said: "We have got to take our second half performance against Preston into that game, and be positive. The fans will be behind us – they always are."


Plans for Plymouth Argyle's new £50 million stadium have been released. Assuming that Plymouth is chosen as a World Cup host city, the 46,000-seat stadium will be built in three stages, but Phase One – to increase capacity to 27,000 – will become a reality whatever the outcome. Keith Todd said the new stadium could be built even if the city's hopes of World Cup glory were dashed, because the club hoped to turn it into a major regional sport and entertainment venue. The first phase would begin at the end of next season, whatever the World Cup bid outcome. Phase Two, for an extra 8,000 seats, and Phase Three, taking it to the full 46,000, would happen in time for the 2014-15 season, he said. The design is by Populous, the firm behind the new Wembley Stadium, the Lansdowne Road Aviva Stadium in Dublin and Arsenal's Emirates Stadium. "The expectation is that the current grandstand will be replaced at the end of next season," Todd said, adding that the first phase would cost about £20 million and the whole stadium would be 'the best part of £50 million'. "All the funding elements are being put together at the moment and the commitment on the funding will come together during next year, we're confident about that. In the event we don't get the World Cup, we'll still go forward with Phase One. Depending on the success of the club and the venue, we could decide to go ahead with the other two phases. I'm very excited." The existing pitch will be replaced next summer with a tougher surface that will allow much greater use of the ground. "We're intending this as a venue for music and entertainment for more than just the present two days in the summer. We're also intending to have big rugby matches here."

Reda Johnson made only his second start for Argyle on Saturday after signing from French club Amiens in the summer, and Paul Mariner was delighted with his contribution. "I thought he was outstanding", he said. "I really had no hesitation in putting him in there because he's an aggressive young man. He has got a very nice left foot, he has got pace and he attacks the ball. There is not a lot he can't do, and that's just his first game, so I'm sure he's relatively pleased with his performance. I was extremely pleased with his performance, as I am with Arnie. I thought the two of them were terrific." Mariner added: "You ask any of the great managers in the world, their teams are built on a solid back four. That's what every good team needs. We need to get a steady back four going."

Argyle reserves will play Salisbury City at Home Park in the Combination tomorrow, kick-off 2pm.


Despite their fourth defeat in a row and being thoroughly outplayed in yesterday's first half, new 'effective' manager Paul Mariner was brimming with praise for his players last night. Whatever was said at half-time, it was a very different second half performance as they became more accustomed to a new 4-3-1-2 shape that had been introduced only a couple of days earlier. "The players have been absolutely incredible this week, a traumatic week for a lot of us," said Mariner. "We changed the system. We have devised a system that's going suit the players we have got. We worked on it for one hour on the training-ground. Obviously we had meetings, but you can't play this game on blackboards. I saw enough in the first half - we had a about seven-minute period, which I know is not a great deal in 45, when we actually started to put some stuff together. We went in at half-time and I was completely honest with the players. I thought we needed a bit more quality on the ball and that we would stick to the system." He went on: "I believe in the players. I think this is their system. I had a conversation with the captain, with Fletch, as we came out - I have a fantastic relationship with him - and there was no need to change it. They responded magnificently. I thought the second half was a joy. I saw players playing with incredible energy. Their passing was good; technically, everything was coming together; and we actually put Preston under a great deal of pressure. I can't speak highly enough about these players. They are young men. They haven't been around the block as much as some of us. When you lose the manager and someone else comes in and you've got 36-48 hours before you play an away game and have just lost three on the belt, there is a lot to think about." Mariner continued: "We have lost 2-0. It's not a great feeling as far as that is concerned, because I'm used to winning. I love winning. But, from what I saw, I think it put a smile on the faces of supporters who have travelled a great distance, and it definitely put a spring in the step of the players. So, I'm obviously concerned about the defeat and the way we conceded the goals were pretty poor - almost schoolboy errors - but what I saw and what the fans saw was not bad. I think - I hope - the way that we are playing will create more opportunities in the attacking third, therefore more crosses will come in, so more balls will bounce in the box, and then the percentage game with some intelligence behind the system." Mariner kept the pressure on Preston during the second half by withdrawing both full-backs, bringing on midfielders Jim Paterson and Craig Noone, and dropping Carl Fletcher into a three-man defence. "Nooney gave us a Spark and Jim Paterson gave us great experience," he said. "I have never asked them to play 3-4-1-2 before. I am pleased to be around them and I think there is some mileage in these kids. I'm pleased with the day's work - I'm extremely pleased with the second half."


Argyle lost 2-0 at Preston North End. Argyle: Larrieu, Blake, Johnson, Arnason, Sawyer, Duguid, Fletcher, Clark, Judge, Fallon, Mackie. Subs - Noone, Paterson (not used – Letheren, Folly, Barnes, Gow, Mason). Attendance - 12,231

Argyle are set to be without right-back David Gray and midfielder Yoann Folly against Preston North End this afternoon because of injuries sustained in the midweek defeat at Swansea, and on-loan centre-back Shane Lowry must serve a one-match suspension. In the absence of Lowry, Benin international Reda Johnson could get the chance to make only his second start for Argyle. However, midfielder Carl Fletcher is also an option because he has had past experience of playing in the centre of defence. Either Darcy Blake or Karl Duguid will play at right-back as a replacement for Gray, whose loan from Manchester United ends next weekend. Chris Clark was a 21st minute substitute for Folly against Swansea and is the most likely to replace him in the starting line-up today. Mariner said: "It's not so much a skeleton crew, but people are going to be called upon to help us out." Striker Steve MacLean and defender David McNamee were both out of favour under Paul Sturrock, but there is a possibility the two Scots could both be considered for selection by Mariner at some point. "Everybody on the playing staff is available," said Mariner.

Shane Lowry's loan spell with the Pilgrims will end after the home game against Coventry City next Saturday. Argyle will be keen to renew a deal for the 20-year-old Australian when the transfer window opens on January 1st, but there has been speculation that Championship rivals Sheffield United could try to take him on loan to Bramall Lane instead.

Paul Mariner has given a glowing endorsement to the squad of players he has taken over. Mariner said: "The spirit of these lads, the resilience of these lads and the character of these lads is quite remarkable because they have gone through a lot – and they are going through a lot. In training on Thursday morning, it was as buoyant as I had seen them for a long time. They look as though they are ready to go." Victory over Preston in Mariner's first match in charge of the Pilgrims would be a massive boost for all concerned at the club. Mariner said: "Obviously, one game doesn't turn around your season. We had a fantastic win up at Middlesbrough, which we thought would give us a platform, but it didn't. The truth of the matter is we aren't leaking goals, and the players have certainly worked very hard on the training ground to try to plug whatever holes have been cropping up. It would be enormous if we could get a point or a win today – absolutely – but it's a long-term thing. It's about getting the cohesion and all the things that coaches talk about for teams. We have just got to get it going."

Club captain Romain Larrieu has insisted there is still time for the Pilgrims to beat the drop. Larrieu and on-field skipper Carl Fletcher were giving their reactions after manager Paul Sturrock was removed from carrying out first team footballing duties on Thursday. Larrieu said: "It's up to us - the experienced players - to guide those who haven't been in this position before. It's up to us to stick together. If we pull in the same direction, there's enough quality to stay up, I'm sure of that. We need to keep playing together and working hard – it's the only way out. There's no need to push the panic button yet, because there are a lot of games left and a lot of points to fight for." Larrieu made it clear he had been around long enough to appreciate that if a manager is replaced, it was best to try and move on. In a personal view of the situation, Larrieu said: "You'd have to ask every player what they think, but when one goes, it's because of something that hasn't been done on the pitch. But you can't dwell on that. It's gone; it's history. You've got to face up to what you've not done well and improve." He added: "I think the mood is good among the players – people want to get on and get the points we need to move us up the table." Larrieu said the first team coaching changes had given a lot of Argyle players a lift. He said: "It is a new beginning and players will be thinking 'Can I prove myself and get in the team?'" Carl Fletcher admitted the removal of Sturrock from his first-team responsibilities had been a shock. He said: "It's always a shock when a manager goes. Obviously results haven't helped. At the end of the day, we're judged on results, which haven't gone for us. We've had three 1-0 defeats in a row, but had things gone for us, we could have been sitting here discussing a six-match unbeaten run. Whatever things have changed, you have to get on with it and stay focused – the most important thing is 3pm on a Saturday." Fletcher added: "We know what it's going to take. The new gaffer told us when we had our get together. We've got to stick together, right from the cleaning ladies to the managing director. It's a challenge to prove ourselves, not something to be afraid of or feel it's too daunting. We have got to stand up and be counted. A few results can start things snowballing and that can take you anywhere."


Paul Mariner has insisted he is not afraid of the challenge facing him now that he has taken over first team affairs at Plymouth Argyle. He said: "I'm confident in my own ability. I'm a very good communicator and we have a group of players we want to help." Mariner is in the process of trying to bring in staff to work with him. He said: "I'm already in discussions with the board about that. They are extremely supportive. They haven't given me any timeframe but, obviously, it's an urgent matter." It is thought that Mariner will continue to be titled as Argyle head coach for the foreseeable future because Paul Sturrock has a contract as manager until the end of next June and it has not been paid up. Keith Todd told Sturrock of the board's decision on Wednesday night, in the aftermath of the Pilgrims' third consecutive 1-0 defeat. Todd and Mariner had a 9.45am meeting with the Argyle squad in the boardroom at Home Park yesterday. That was followed by a briefing from Todd and Sturrock to the club's non-playing staff. Mariner took the Pilgrims' squad for training at Harper's Park, before he attended a 12-noon media call to announce his elevation in status. "I know the measure of the challenge, but if this morning's training session is anything to go by, we will be okay," said Mariner. He added: "I actually got very emotional during the talk with the players because Paul Sturrock, to me, is a fantastic football brain and a fantastic coach." Todd described Sturrock as being 'realistic' about the situation the club, and he, found themselves in. "I don't think anybody can challenge the fact that Paul Sturrock has got Plymouth Argyle in his heart," said Todd. "Whatever mistakes may have been made, and whatever opinions there are, he has always put the football club first, and he understands the reality of this game. It was time to move on."

There is no exact timescale on how long Paul Mariner will be responsible for all football activities. Argyle deputy chairman Paul Stapleton said: "At this point in time, we can't use the word 'permanent'. Paul is here and he's taking over first team affairs. We know he might need some help sooner rather than later, which we are going to look at, to try to get Plymouth Argyle away from the foot of this league. We have a board meeting on December 22 when we are all going to be in Plymouth and we will discuss the matter further then." That will be attended by London-based chairman Sir Roy Gardner and, possibly, Yasuaki Kagami, the club's Japanese director. Stapleton said: "Sir Roy is coming down and we hope we will have Mr Kagami as well, because it's important we make the right decision going forward. Let's put it this way – Paul Mariner is in the prime position – but this has all happened rather quickly. You might say, 'You should have been planning for it', but once you take the decision you have got to act. Paul Mariner agreed to accept the role of being in charge of the first team, and we will take it from there and see what evolves. We will have our board meeting on December 22 when there will be further comments to make." When Mariner was appointed as Argyle head coach it was with the intention of him eventually becoming manager, but the club would probably have preferred to wait until the summer, and Sturrock's contract ended, before making the change over. Todd said: "I think it has been a pretty open secret where this was going to end up. The decision was when to do it." Mariner added: "I'm extremely happy to take over. It's a little earlier than I thought, but I wouldn't be sat in this seat if I didn't think I could do it."

Keith Todd paid a moving tribute to Luggy after yesterday's announcements. He said: "Paul Sturrock is very realistic about the situation. He feels personally disappointed that his leaving this time has been triggered by results. He hasn't once flinched, either pre or post-decision from putting Argyle first." Todd added: "Like all of us, the players had an emotional feel for Paul Sturrock and for all he's done and the situation he's in. But they were very realistic and professional. They understand it's time to move on and they've got great respect for Paul Mariner. It's a strange old game, isn't it? Sometimes when there's a new dawn, a new awakening if you like, the players will come out in support. We've had some good sessions with them, Paul and I today, just talking through the way we want to be. But we'll have to see what happens on the pitch."

Keith Todd says that one of Paul Mariner's first tasks will be to both trim and strengthen the Pilgrims' squad in January's transfer window. Todd did not appear to rule out paying off the remaining contracts of players who were no longer part of the Argyle first-team. "There are too many players and that's not good for them and it's not good for the team," he said. "We'll take each situation on its own merits, but it makes no sense for a player or for the club to sit around if he's not in the core squad, whatever his contract may say. Paul Mariner will be reviewing all the options he's got open to him, including those players who are out on loan. Then our intention is to move reasonably decisively to narrow down to the core team to move forward." Asked if that would mean existing squad players having to leave before Mariner is able to bring new signings in, Todd was non-committal. He said: "Well, we didn't operate that way in July, so it's not necessary we'll do that in January." Todd admitted the club would be taking steps to make the club and its appearance more attractive to potential new recruits. "We understand that Argyle's geographical position is a problem, which is behind other aspects of what we're trying to do, like training facilities, the stadium," he said. "Those things are all part of the attraction. With due respect to the present Home Park, it leaves a lot to be desired from a training point of view. That all plays into whether people want to come here. To coin a phrase from our World Cup bid, Plymouth 'is a beautiful location' – when people come here they want to stay."

Deputy chairman Paul Stapleton believes Paul Sturrock should be held in 'high esteem' by the club's supporters. He pointed out that Sturrock had effectively led Argyle to two league title triumphs, in 2001/02 and 2003/04, during his first spell as manager. Stapleton, who stood aside as chairman after a transfer of power within the Home Park boardroom in the summer, praised Sturrock's contribution to Argyle over recent years. "It's a sad day for me because I have brought Paul Sturrock to this club twice," said Stapleton. "We would like to thank Paul for his considerable contribution to Plymouth Argyle Football Club over many years. He was the manager, effectively, when we had two promotions. We trust he will be held in high esteem by all Argyle fans to what he has contributed to us." Sturrock will continue with Argyle in a business support role, working with executive director Keith Todd on a series of off-the-pitch projects, such as improving the training facilities. Stapleton said: "This is a point of debate, but it could be a longer term role. Obviously, he has now got a period of time in which to show the board he can move from a football manager's role to a football club related role. I made a comment a few years back that when Paul Sturrock was first here he was almost like a chief executive in the way he approached everything. I'm sure members of staff will verify that fact. It might be a natural progression really, but we are reviewing it."

Keith Todd has strongly denied the club's attempts to become a host city for England's 2018 World Cup bid had been a distraction for the board of directors from the team's poor results this season. He said: "I have answered that more times than I care to remember. The World Cup needs to be taken in context. It's going to be a great asset, if we pull it off, to Plymouth Argyle Football Club. It hasn't distracted us for one minute in terms of what has been happening on the pitch. I don't do the coaching. That is operated completely cleanly. I know people keep on wanting to put a link between the two, but the World Cup bid hasn't at any time got in the way of what has been going on on the pitch."

Keith Todd has revealed that Argyle's new five-year plan will probably be unveiled shortly before Christmas. An announcement is expected after a meeting of the board of directors on December 22.


Paul Sturrock's second reign as manager of Plymouth Argyle ended today. It was announced at a midday press conference that Paul Mariner will take charge of the team with immediate effect. Argyle Chairman Roy Gardner said in a statement: "The board has decided to make this move following the continuing poor set of results. Paul Mariner will take charge of all football matters until further notice. We are convinced that we have the capability to improve our performance and remain in the Championship." The statement also said that Paul Sturrock will continue with the club in a business-support role, working with Argyle Executive Director Keith Todd.

Argyle's FA Youth Cup ambitions came to an end in extra time last night after a 1-0 defeat against a talented West Ham side at Home Park. The visitor's 104th minute winner was a crual blow to Argyle's youngsters who, despite a predominantly defensive gameplan, gave as good as they got against their illustrious opponents. The match almost didn't take place after an electrical fire at the base of one of the floodlights at around 2pm. Three fire crews were soon on the scene to put out the flames. The floodlight, which was in the corner of the Grandstand and the Devonport End, was so badly damaged it could not be used for the cup tie. However, both sides agreed the game should go ahead, even though that part of the pitch was in near darkness. Argyle's line-up: Oliver Chenoweth; Curtis Nelson (Jack Stephens 90 mins), Ryan Leonard, Jordan Trott, Connor Clifford; Matt Rickard, Sean Kinsella, Luke Young (Dan Hart 108 mins), Jake Baker; Lewis Coombes (Sam Sawyer 74 mins); Liam Head. Substitutes: Jamie Richards, Raivo Varazinskis.


Argyle's miserable season continued at Swansea last night as they crashed to a third consecutive Championship defeat. The Pilgrims have now lost 12 of their 19 league games and, already, the threat of relegation is very real. Only one goal separated the two sides at the Liberty Stadium, but it was a match which the hosts dominated. Their enterprising attacking play was rewarded in the 52nd minute when their two half-time substitutes combined for Lee Trundle to slot the ball into the net. Argyle rarely threatened a goal of their own, although striker Rory Fallon was denied an equaliser in the 63rd minute by a fine save home goalkeeper. The night ended on a sour note when defender Shane Lowry was sent-off in stoppage time at the end of the match. It means Lowry will serve a one-match suspension when the Pilgrims travel to Preston North End on Saturday. In addition, David Gray and midfielder are both injury doubts for that game. Manager Paul Sturrock was pleased with the attitude shown by his players, despite the result. Sturrock said: "This is a difficult place to come to. They have got some very good players who can pass the ball. Their width players are very exciting as well. We just don't seem to be able to get that goal we need. It's three games now that we have lost 1-0 and we have been kicked in the teeth again. I'm gutted for the players because their workrate over these three games has been phenomenal. They have put a great shift in and come out with nothing. We have just got to keep churning and churning."

Paul Sturrock expects his players to tell him things he does not want to hear when the Pilgrims report for training on Thursday. He admitted that, to avoid his post-match team-talk sounding too familiar, he wanted others to have their say. "It's like déjà vu," he said, "saying the same things you have said before. So I thought it was appropriate tonight that the players take stock of the situation; that the management team and the coaches get their thoughts together. We'll come together on Thursday morning as far as where we think we can benefit the team. I hope there will be an honesty from the players. I hope they will tell me not things I want to hear. I want to get right to the bottom of it all."

Argyle Under-18s will be bidding to claim another famous Premier League scalp when they take on West Ham United in the third round of the FA Youth Cup at Home Park tonight (7pm). Mike Pejic's young Pilgrims have an enviable record in the cup having reached latter stages of the competition in the past two seasons. In 2007/08, Argyle reached the quarter-finals after beating academy sides Coventry City, Portsmouth and Birmingham City before bowing out to that season's eventual winners Manchester City. Last year, Argyle's under-18s continued their impressive cup form, defeating Fulham and Millwall in the third and fourth rounds. Their run ended in February when a highly-talented Tottenham Hotspur side left Home Park with a 3-0 victory. West Ham's multi-national youngsters are likely to be just as formidable as their north London rivals and will start the eagerly-awaited tie as favourites. Pejic said: "The lads are definitely up for this match and determined to give a good account of themselves. We haven't got as strong as squad as we've had in the past two years, but we're going to make life as difficult as we can for West Ham. We only have four second-year apprentices in the line-up so a lot will rest on their young shoulders. But we've punched above our weight in this competition before and although it's going to be a hard fixture for the lads, they're determined to do Plymouth and Argyle proud tonight. It'll be a great experience for many of the first-years who will be playing against a some of the best young footballers around at the moment."


Argyle lost 1-0 at Swansea City tonight. Argyle: Larrieu, Gray, Arnason, Lowry, Sawyer, Folly, Duguid, Fletcher, Judge, Mackie, Fallon. Subs - Clark, Blake, Noone (not used – Letheren, Johnson, Barnes, Gow). Attendance - 14,004.

Jamie Mackie is expected to return to the side for tonight's game at Swansea City. Manager Paul Sturrock would not be drawn on his team selection for the match at the Liberty Stadium, but it would be a surprise were Mackie not to be paired in attack with former Swansea striker Rory Fallon. Sturrock said: "Jamie comes into contention. I have got to study Pro-Zone first, but his goal threat is something we are going to have to think about." Loan signing Alan Judge impressed in a new central midfield role for Argyle against Sheffield United, but Sturrock could try a different system this evening. He said: "I thought Judgey did okay on Saturday, but we have got to decide on the formation." Argyle will also be away on Saturday when they play Preston North End at Deepdale. It means that Sturrock could decide to rotate his squad for these two matches. He said: "We have maybe got to think about these games as a pair, and selection may go hand-in-hand with that." One player who will be hoping for a return to the starting line-up in the near future will be striker Alan Gow. The 27-year-old has been in and out of the team of late and was used as a substitute in stoppage time at the end of the game against Sheffield United. Sturrock spoke to Gow when the Argyle players reported for a warm-down at Home Park on Sunday morning. "He doesn't like not playing, but the scenario was explained to him," said the Pilgrims' boss.

30th November

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.


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."


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."


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."


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."


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."


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).


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.”


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."


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.


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."


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."


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).


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."


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


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.


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."


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."


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.


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."


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."


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."


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."


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."


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


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.


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.


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."


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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