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Austria 2004: Official Site (Steve Hill)

Argyle v Bad Aussee

Argyle today travel the short distance over a mountain pass to take on Austrian regional fourth division side Bad Aussee at their smart stadium in a dramatic mountain setting. Argyle gaffer Bobby Williamson would not reveal his team but stated: "Fitness is the key and this week here in Austria and these games are all with that aim in mind. The result doesn't matter as much as attitude, work rate and performance." Argyle coach Gerry McCabe added: "I think the result often shows the right approach so a win would be welcome."

Argyle are likely to play 4-3-3 for tonight's game and will ring the changes, but not too many, later on in the match. Local intelligence reports state Bad Aussee play to a higher standard than Bad Ischl, who Argyle struggled to draw with, 1-1, in their last away game in Austria a year ago

Day one training
 

Good Day Bad Aussee

Keith Lasley scored a superb fourth and final goal for the Pilgrims with two minutes to go in the opening game of the pre-season tour of Austria against Bad Aussee. The strike came when second half substitute Peter Gilbert worked hard to win the ball on the left touch-line, allowing the ball to run through in to Lasley. The midfielder, impressive throughout, collected and skipped past two challenges before playing a delightful one-two with David Friio. With only the keeper to beat he calmly stepped round the hapless stopper to slot the ball home from five yards. The goal was just reward for a more than capable Argyle side playing against part-timers, who showed good approach play but little idea in front of goal. The scoreline of 4-0 also delighted the green half of the 500 supporters who watched from the excellent, 12 month old, all wooden stand.

The home side had to wait an hour for a shot on target, which lacked power but saw Romain Larrieu at full stretch to claim - by which time Argyle had shown the right approach and were comfortably leading. Certainly a very different match experience than last years Alpine sojourn. The first Argyle goal came after 16 minutes when a tremendous diagonal pass from left-midfielder Lee Hodges released Marino Keith on the left side of the area. The attacker had early substitute Ian Stonebridge begging for the ball and unmarked in the centre of the area. It appeared that Keith tried to cross to his partner when a defenders leg, Pavlov Pavluv, directed the ball past his own keeper. One nil with 16 minutes gone. After the game though Keith claimed the goal: "It was going in anyway, I went for the shot but it brushed the defender but didn't change course," claimed Keith.
 

The impressive wooden stand at Bad Aussee
 

There was no doubt about the second goal. An accurate cross from Hodges, and Keith volleyed home off the keepers hands, although it was rumoured that the keeper was claiming an own goal! With two goals to the good Argyle turned on the style with Keith always busy and Lasley proving a danger on the right.  Dave Worrell, who started at left back , deserved better when his shot from a knock down hit the underside of the bar and Paul Wotton also had a shot go narrowly over. The half was marred though by an awful challenge on Nathan Lowndes with just 10 minutes on the clock. As the ginger forward went to head the ball a home defender led with an elbow and clattered Lowndes to the ground. The forward was sent to the bench to have a cut checked, which ended up with a trip to the local hospital and two stitches being applied. Stonebridge replaced him. In the second quarter Lee Makel had to limp out of the game and allow David Friio to take over.

The game became evermore disrupted during the second half as first the home side and then Argyle made more changes. Peter Gilbert came on after the hour for his first taste of pre-season action, after being doubtful to make the trip. His inclusion saw Worrell switch to his more familiar role at right back at the expense of Paul Connolly. Blair Sturrock had replaced Marino Keith on 52 minutes and with 30 minutes to go Steve Milne replaced Steve Adams. The changes saw a formation change to 4-3-3, with Hodges moving from left to right, Lasley moving deep into the centre and Friio moving to the left, leaving the forward line-up as Sturrock right, Milne centre and Stonebridge left. Milne had been on for only minutes when he scored his goal and Argyle's third after 64 minutes. A defensive error allowed Friio to nudge the ball forward and Milne raced into the box, drew the keeper towards him and drilled the ball low into the net. Argyle then went into cruise mode and allowed Bad Aussee to chase shadows, though Robert Höger did well in midflield they had little threat to offer to the Argyle goal, when they threatened to threaten, Wotton and Coughlan swept it all up.
 

Romain and Trigger take a breather
 

The Lads Are Pooped

Despite playing on Saturday all the players faced a gruelling training session on Sunday morning in temperatures in the high 20's. With fast five-a-side matches in the afternoon they were really feeling the burn. Walking off the training pitch at the the end of the day David Friio admitted: "I have never felt this exhausted - I have also never worked so hard after playing a match the day before." During the evening the players were well up for the fight for fitness, Paul Wotton led again by example. "I love this, bring it on again tomorrow," stated the Captain.


 

Setting off on a training run through the forest
 

They faced another double training session on Monday, which started with a 2.5 mile run through the forest above the training camp. This was followed by training that was also a bit of fun. Football tennis on the tennis courts with the players seperated into teams and playing against each other. This was followed by work in the gym before a break and further work in the afternoon.
 


 

On Tuesday they face their next opponents and a team that beat them 1-0 last season, Wacker Burghausen a Bundesliga second division side, placing them on a level with Argyle. It will be a tougher task than the one they faced against Bad Aussee. The match has also been shifted back an hour, it will now kick off at 6pm local time. As far as the squad is concerned Bobby Williamson has already stated that the players who did not feature on Saturday will be included sometime in the match on Tuesday - either from the beginning or off the bench.

Two players got less out of Saturday's game than anticipated, Nathan Lowndes came off after just minutes and needed two stitches in a gash on the back of his head. He resumed training on Tuesday but was not allowed to head the ball - no doubt ruling him out for the Wacker game. Lee Makel is still struggling with the ankle injury that saw him replaced in Saturday's victory and has not resumed training. "Lee is in rehab," explained Bobby Williamson, "It is a case of allowing time for the ankle to heal," he concluded. Graham Coughlan is another player who had to miss training on Monday morning with shin trouble and although he returned to training later in the day he will not be included after playing on Saturday. Looking the worse for wear on Monday was Mickey Evans, who was suffering from a swollen eye due to an insect bite, leading Paul Wotton to rename Trigger as Quasimodo. Mickey should be clear for selection. The match is being played at Eben-im-Pongau which will be the longest journey the team will face in Austria, about 60 km over mountains.

Argyle Look For Revenge

Argyle take on Wacker Burghausen, the Bundesliga Second Division side, today. The two teams met last year in Argyle's opening match of their tour, Wacker Burghausen scored the only goal of the match with Argyle going down to 10 men after Paul Connolly was sent for a rash challenge. Argyle will find this game a better test of their improving abilities as they can be regarded as on a par with the Germans, with both teams now in the second League of their respective countries ladder systems.

Wacker had a dificult season last year, struggling against relegation until late on, when a fine run towards the close kept them clear of the drop. Next season could be a tough one for them as they will also now face several pedigree Bundesliga clubs who have dropped down. 1860 Munich are in their league, as are FC Koln, Dynamo Dresden and Eintract Frankfurt. Burghausen is a small town, remote from most other teams, with only 18,000 inhabitants. Despite these problems they have done well to remain in the second league and have several experienced players.

Last season they played to form; after taking the lead they killed the game, thus denying Argyle little chance of getting back into the match, particularly with 10 men. Argyle's playing line up will be taken from the squad not included on Saturday in the victory over Bad Aussee, with the possible exception of Dave Worrell who could start at right back, plus one or two who were on the bench or came off the bench on Saturday. The squad went through lightish training on Tuesday morning in temperatures rising to 30° Centigrade

 


 

Argyle 1 Wacker Burghausen 3

Argyle lost for a second year in the row to Wacker Burghausen of the German Bundesliga 2. The Germans raced into a three nil lead just after the half hour as Argyle looked stretched and at sixes and sevens. In the second period Argyle were a different team and if not for two bizarre refereeing decisions would have come away on level terms. After the match Bobby Williamson identified the problem of the performances over two halves. "With the training we've been doing the players were stiff, by the time the second half came along they had loosened up," explained the gaffer. That assesment certainly rang true with what was seen on the pitch.

Argyle looked the better team as the game started, but within 10 minutes they were trailing. A ball down the Wacker Burghausen right to the feet of the impressive Stefan Reisinger, saw the skilful striker dance around two Argyle defenders, turning them inside out before firing home at the near post. The Argyle back four seemed to lose shape and Argyle were struggling to string together any play, constantly giving the ball away and having to defend desperately. Little shape; little cohesion. Nine minutes after the first goal Wacker had doubled their lead. A free kick on their right was sent in with force and met by Tom Geiße, who headed home powerfully.

Argyle were now chasing shadows, as the Germans were using long balls into the pacey strikers to catch the Greens on the break and when Argyle attacked they seemed to have 15 defenders in the area, charging down anything towards goal. The third goal came after 32 minutes when the ball dropped to Peter Gilbert on the half-way line. The left back brought the ball down but half touched it forward and straight to the feet of Martin Forkel, the Burghausen right back.  He sent a diagonal ball towards Veselin Popovic who was trying to get around Mathias Doumbe. The Argyle centre back stretched to get a foot on the ball but only set it up for Popovic to volley a brilliant goal from 30 yards, over the head of Luke McCormick and into the net. Argyle looked as if they were facing a european emabarrasment, hence the half-time whistle came as a relief.

The gaffer's half-time talk and the reason mentioned earlier saw a completely different Argyle side, although the same players came out for the second period. Passion started to come into their play, which was matched by flair on the park. The defence kept its shape and the midfield won its battles. The forward two of Evans and Crawford started to win balls. Argyle gave themselves a further boost just six minutes into the half when David Friio pulled a goal back. Tony Capaldi sent in a right wing free kick to the far post, Mickey Evans rose to head down into the area. David Friio bravely put his head in where it counts and forced the ball into the goal.

The Germans were shaken and Argyle began to dominate. Burghausen had a free-kick just outside the box thunder against the crossbar from captain Roland Bonimier's drive - but that was the only true danger in the second half as the Greens took the game to their opponents. David Friio returned the favour with a left side free kick from 25 yards that hit the cross bar and bounced away for a goal kick. As the game progressed, Paul Connolly replaced David Worrell, the forwards swapped with Steve Milne and Marino Keith and Keith Lasley came on for Steve Adams. Burghausen made five substitutions throughout the second period.

The changes gave Argyle fresh legs and when the ever dangerous David Norris was upended just outside the Burghausen box the travelling Green Army sensed blood. Hasney Aljofree stepped up for the kick, just before he made contact with the ball the referee blew his whistle, but Aljofree bent the ball over the wall and perfectly into the top right hand corner of the goal. Celebrations ensued but the referee pointed for a goal kick. The Argyle players were protesting and eventually the referee indicated that it was an indirect free kick, yet no one saw him raise his hand beforehand or knows why he blew his whistle as the kick was taken.

As the game neared it's conclusion a long ball forward was aimed at Marino Keith, he was sandwiched between two German defenders but the ball fell to Steve Milne running through on goal, he scored with aplomb but the referee pulled the ball back for the foul on Keith. Bobby Williamson's protest were long and vocal from the Argyle bench. The last real goal action of the game saw a Capaldi long throw come through to Keith, who had a free header from six yards but he put it into the keepers arms. Afterwards the team were frustrated but knew their second-half performance had lifted them from first-half disgrace. John Blackley stated sagely on the way back to the coach: "This is pre-season. the result doesn't matter. It's what we learn from the game and it's part of the training we have been doing - that's the important thing."


Keeper Crisis and Venue Change

Two keepers drops to one as Luke McCormick gets injured

Argyle are due to play SK Ceske Budejovice at Bad Goisern at 6 o-clock Austrian time on Friday- but the venue is likely to be changed to a larger venue but it is still to be determined which one. As soon as the venue is known it will be displayed on the official site with the hope of informing all fans in Austria for the tour. Only today (Thursday) on Argyle World we have been enjoying two top class keepers, with interviews and footage of Luke and Romain's intensive training in Austria - the inevitable happened and Luke McCormick has now damaged his knee. The extent of the injury will not be known until the next couple of days but he will be ruled out of the game against SK Ceske Budejovice and probably Portsmouth at Home Park next Wednesday - hopefully no longer than that but his knee is heavily strapped at this moment. Argyle hope to have goalkeeping cover tomorrow with the help of their opponents who seem favourably disposed to allowing the Greens to use one of their keepers

 

Luke Improving

Luke McCormick is out after sustaining a knee injury at the training camp on Thursday, although far more positive news arrived on Friday morning as the swelling had gone down somewhat, he was in a lot less pain and off crutches. Ian Leigh, Argyle's physio was delighted: "I am very pleased, things look a lot brighter today. It is positive news. We could have been looking at six weeks recovery but I am far more confident of a shorter time now." Ian wouldn't be drawn on a prediction as to when Luke would be fit again, but Luke was far more confident. "Tell the fans five days," he quipped in the physio's room at Obertraun, while undergoing ice-pack treatment to the troublesome joint.

Luke on Friday morning
 

Argyle Add Game In Austria

Bobby Williamson wanted a further look at his charges before the Argyle squad departed Austria, hence a last minute game has been arranged for the final night in the alpine country. Argyle will play FC Blau Weiss Linz at Wels, south east of Linz, Saturday at 5.30pm. FC Blau Weiss Linz have also argeed to loan Argyle a goalkeeper for the game. After the injury to Luke McCormick and due to it being Argyle's second game within 24 hours, as they play Ceske Budejovic on Friday, the club do not want to risk Romain Larrieu twice in two days. FC Blau Weiss Linz play in the same regional league, the middle Austrian third division, as SC Schwanenstadt, who Argyle drew with 0-0 in a 45 minute game during a mini-tournsment last year, in fact Linz finished a place above the latter last season. They are a grade up from Bad Aussee, last Saturday's opponents.

Last week Paul Sturrock's Southampton beat Linz 2-0 in a game at Gmunden. The Chairman, on tour with the squad, wanted to underline to supporters that this is very much a last minute arrangement and he apologises to fans in Austria that they will have to make changes to their final day travel plans. One advantage will be the location of the match. Wels is on the main train line from Salzburg, where many fans are headed, and also on a main Auto Bahn route. The ground is home to FC Wels

 

Argyle 0 Ceske Budejovice 2

With the Czech top flight team Ceske Budejovice coming away two-nil winners from today's clash with Argyle it would be easy to think the Greens were outclassed, but this was not the case. As Bobby Williamson admitted after the match: "We know the technical ability the Czech's have and they showed that tonight, when they could just up the pace of the attack. Plus the way they got behind the ball and made it difficult for us." It was true that SK Dynamo CB are a very good team but for periods, particularly in the first half, it was Argyle who had the better approach play, while the Czech's resorted to hopeful long balls trying to hit their pacey strike force.

Argyle made things very difficult for themselves as far as the scoreline was concerned when they conceded in the second minute.  A long diagonal ball to the Ceske left bisected Paul Connolly and Paul Wotton and span off behind them. Romain Larrieu chased out of his area towards the approaching ball but the long grass slowed the ball rapidly and Ales Matousek had continued his run to reach it before Larrieu, he knocked it beyond the keeper but then did well to steer into the open net from a tightish angle. Argyle did not allow the early set-back to upset them as they started to knock the ball around very well with Keith Lasley showing quality in the centre of the park. Argyle had started with striker Steve Milne playing wide on the right and Blair Sturrock on the left with Mickey Evans and Nathan Lowndes up front. Evans' bustling and strength upset the Czech's and Argyle started to pepper the area with crosses. The Czech's looked dangerous on the break and the back four had to keep their concentration but Argyle were looking the better footballing team.

Argyle went close with a couple of Evans' headers that were too high and shots from Hodges, Lowndes, Sturrock, Lasley and Milne that lacked power and direction. The best chance came at the midpoint in the half when a Connolly cross was met by Evans. Jakub Kafka, the keeper, did well to save but could only parry the ball to Hodges, whose fierce drive was saved again by Kafka, the ball ran to Lowndes whose shot from the right pinged off the post. In another attack Milne's cross came off the top of the cross bar as Argyle tried in vain to find away though. Larrieu then had to be at his best when Matousek again broke on the left and switched feet to fire a rising drive across the keeper from the left side of the area, Larrieu went full-stretch to deny him. One Argyle attack saw a melee of players challenge in the air and Ceske midfieder Jaroslav Chlebek fell awkwardly and was replaced by Ivan Dvorak, who was a fiery character and was soon in the book after clashing with Lee Hodges, and even kicking him on the ground.

In the second half Bobby Williamson wanted to check Milne out up front so switched Lowndes and Milne around, from striker to wide right. Argyle lost a certain amount of effectiveness but held their own for the opening period. Ceske made many changes at the break. Gradually as time progressed Argyle seemed to be running out of ideas, with little quality into the forwards. They defended well but so did their opponents and little looked to be opening up for the Pilgrims. One cross from Connolly was met by Evans, but his header was always too high and a pull back by Lowndes managed to go behind Evans but didn't quite have the legs to reach Sturrock. Sturrock also had a chance as Evans battled for the ball, it fell to him in the area but it was flicked away before he could strike. Shortly afterwards the hapless Scot couldn't get the power or direction behind a volley to threaten the Ceske goal.

As the hour was reached Argyle were caught out as a quick, accurate ball was slotted past the last defenders into the path of Lubos Mysak who sped towards goal with only Larrieu to beat, the big keeper advanced and saved the shot but it ran to the edge of the area for Ceske captain Martin Vozabal to side foot home despite two defenders standing on the line. Argyle kept pushing but as they tired Ceske were breaking through evermore and should have added at least a third goal as they broke through the Argyle defences but the shot was skewed too wide to worry Larrieu. Argyle were tired after the match, the same 11 played throughout and those players had taken another big step towards fitness. They had lost but were not beaten
 

Action from Argyle v Ceske Budejovice
 

Argyle Game Washed Out

Argyle were due to play a last minute extra fixture in Austria against Blau-Weiss Linz but the game was cancelled after torrential rain for half an hour before the kick off, due at 5.30pm Austrian time. The pitch was not ideal and Argyle manager Bobby Williamson was not happy about sending his lads out to play on it. Once the rain had filled the pot-holes and dips, plus flooding the pitch, there was no doubt about the match being called off anyway. "I was not happy with the surface before the rain," said Williamson. "With the water lying on it now there is no way we can play. It can't be helped, it's one of those things. I will have to take a look at some of the players over the next two weeks to determine that starting line-up for the first game."

Many Argyle fans had made changes in their travel plans to get to the game but were in good spirits despite the disruption. There also seemed to be a good following for Linz, who added a continental feel to the occasion by letting off smoke bombs and flares. The Argyle players provided entertainment, with several of their number running 10 yards from the dressing room to aqua-plane full length through two deep puddles near the touch-line. The players then threatened Director Phill Gill with his traditional dunking but he beat them to it by displaying his own belly-flop slide through the pools. As many left the ground two Argyle fans decided to have a kick around on the pitch, slipping and sliding in the process. They were soon joined by six or seven Blau-Weiss Linz fans who stripped off to just their boxers to join the kick around. Eventful, unusual and unfortunately a waste of time and effort, but hey "that's football".
 

The Argyle players watch the weather at Wels
 

Alpine Peaked

The Argyle players returned from their training camp in Austria on Sunday - feeling tired but in better shape for the season ahead. All the players found the training and the games hard work but all were very positive about the work they had achieved, knowing how vital it is they are prepared for the rigours of the season ahead. Pre-season is hard work and the squad are looking forward to the routine of the regular season, training and matches, but they all appreciate the importance of the intense pre-season work.

They face two major pre-season games this week as the Pilgrims take on Premier League sides Portsmouth on Wednesday and Southampton on Saturday. Argyle manager Bobby Williamson had wanted to have another look at his squad with a hastily arranged extra game against Blau-Weiss Linz on Saturday, but the weather ruled the game out. On Saturday Williamson was going to use the players who did not feature in the game against Ceske Budejovice on Friday, will this now mean that this squad will now move forward to Wednesday’s game? That is yet to be confirmed and we will await the manager’s statement ahead of Wednesday’s game

 

Linz fans create their own entertainment after the match is called off

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