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Austria 2003: Official Site (Steve Hill)

Argyle in Austria - Day 1

After a long journey of 12 hours from Plymouth the Argyle party, team, management, directors, media and fans arrived at Obertraun in Austria. They were greeted by high temperatures, which were a concern for manager Paul Sturrock, who trained the players at 4:30 pm – he said after the 2 hour session, “I am not as worried about the temperatures for the games as two will be played at this time of the evening and it has cooled considerably.”
The first of the games is on Wednesday night, when the Argyle group travel the 50 odd miles to take on Wacker Burghausen. “It will be a difficult game, it is their sixth pre-season match, and basically our first,” admitted Sturrock. “Hasney Aljofree has an ankle problem after being injured last week, the travelling and flying didn't help and it swelled up again, so he is unlikely to take part. Nathan Lowndes has shin splints and that isn't helped by the hard ground. I have a concerns over a couple of others, but it is the centre back position I am most worried about. I could move Gilbert back there, or even Hodges let alone Steve Adams and Paul Connolly.”As far as the facilities and scenery at the Obertraun base camp, Paul Sturrock said:“I was told the training facilities were good, but I had my doubts, but they are very good and the scenery is breathtaking.”
 

Day one training
 

10 Man Argyle Lose To Germans

Argyle lost the first game during their Austrian sojourn, 1-0 to Wacker Burghausen of the German second division. The goal came after an Argyle mistake on 29 minutes, when hesitation by the central defence and then an interrupted run by young keeper Luke McCormick allowed Younga to toe poke the ball past the keeper. It was undeserved, after Argyle had dominated the first 20 minutes. Early in the second period matters became worse for the Greens when Paul Connolly was shown a second yellow card, for a second rash diving challenge, leaving 10 man Argyle too stretched to get back into the game.

It was as early as the second minute that Argyle frightened the Germans. Mickey Evans collected the ball superbly on the edge of the area, made space to shoot only to see the Wacker Burghausen keeper save with his legs. A good header by Riesener at the other end went narrowly wide, but it came from a rare attack. Bent and Lowndes both went close, with desperate saves keeping the scores level. The Green Army, up to 250 strong, were in good voice and heartened by Argyle’s play. As the game progressed Wacker Burghausen began to show they had five pre-season games under their belt and they started to dominate the pace of the match. The goal allowed them to slow the play further to German standards, with constant pass backs and cross defence balls. Although a “friendly” match it proved far from it, with several fiery incidents, most notably when Younga and Wotton clashed and Coughlan dived in to the fray. Hand bags at 2 yards ensued with the referee brandishing yellow cards and stern warnings. The half ended with tempers high.

Wacker made wholesale changes for the second period, Argyle none. Whether it was an overflow from the bad tempered end to the first half or not I do not know, but when Makhtari was side swiped by Paul Connolly, three minutes into the second period, the sending off was inevitable. Beresford was replaced by Worrell but the game changed. “The exercise was spoiled,” admitted Paul Sturrock afterwards. “All the plans were out of the window and we had to make changes. We still did well, but it was not what we wanted. I am disappointed we have not scored. Paul Connolly has to learn not to make rash challenges like that. If it is reported he could miss a game at the start of the season.” Argyle battled and Evans and Lowndes both went close with flick-ons from free kicks. Lowndes also tested the keeper with rasping, rising shots from outside of the area. McCormick also made two good saves, one at full stretch, but in reality the game changed with the sending off. Wacker played German football and Argyle were stretched at the front. The game finished with Wacker walking the ball across the back four. Argyle sent on Blair Sturrock and Tony Capaldi after 72 minutes, for the tiring and formerly injured Lowndes and McGlinchey, and they both added to the team but couldn’t find the breakthrough. Glowing reports came from the Wacker coach, who reckoned Argyle were very good compared to the other British teams they have played over recent years, Preston, Stoke and Dundee United. They are yet to lose to a British club!
 

Nathan Lowndes in action against Wacker Burghausen
 

Argyle Aim For Peak Fitness

Argyle now have a chance to take a breather from match action in Austria, but it does not mean the players and coaching staff are putting their feet up. Far from it, they are aiming higher. Training continued this morning after last night's 1-0 defeat to Wacker Burghausen. After training it has become regular practice for the players to wander across the road outside the complex and take a dip in the glacial river running down from the Alps surrounding Obertraun. They return looking much refreshed. After lunch all will have a chance for a bit of R & R during the hottest part of the day, with temperatures pushing into the mid-thirties °C. Then late afternoon - early evening the players will face a short training session. Friday will start with training after breakfast, then after lunch a journey by the local cable car system to the Krippenstein Alp (2109 m) with stops at the ice caves, a local attraction, on the way back down. After these distractions it will be time to concentrate on Saturday and the mini tournament at Schwanenstadt. The work continues ....
 

Friday In Obertraun

The Argyle squad continue to make good progress in their preparations for the mini-tournament on Saturday and more importantly for the season ahead. Part of the training involves the use of an inhaler type device known as a 'power breather'. "It's a bit like weight lifting for the lungs," explains Argyle physio Paul Maxwell. "It is becoming common practice, England use it as do other clubs. It is good preparation before the efforts of training and opens up the lungs so they are more efficient," he concluded.

'Power-breathing!'
 

The main injury concerns for the match on Saturday surround Graham Coughlan, who is expected to be fit, and Dave Norris who will not play due to a thigh strain. Hasney Aljofree returns to action and maybe called into the starting line up, while Jason Bent continues his recovery from the blisters picked up while playing for Canada. Paul Sturrock would not name a team: "Players who were not involved on Wednesday will come into the reckoning for Saturday. I want to play the same 11 in both 45 minute spells," revealed the gaffer. Argyle play one game but a different team in each half. The first 45 is expected to be against hosts Schwan Schwananstadt and the second period against Rumanian first division outfit Astra Ploiesti
 

Players Enjoy The Heights

On Friday afternoon the majority of the Argyle squad took the opportunity to take the cable car up to the alps surrounding their training base at Obertraun in Austria. The Dachsteinbahn cable car runs from 531 metres up to the 2100 metres Koppenstein station, with views over the Dachstein plateau to the Dachstein alp and glaciers. A short hike took the party to a view over Obertraun and the lake. Some players decided to miss out on the breathtaking views to rest, while others do not like heights and decided to keep their feet firmly on the ground. When the squad met up together for training at 5 pm the coaching staff had a small surprise for them, they decided to allow the squad some light relief by arranging a beach volley ball tournament instead of regular training.
 


 
 

Tournament Too Hot For Argyle

Argyle failed to score in the three match tournament at Schwanenstadt on Saturday afternoon. The first 45 minutes brought a goalless return against the Austrian host side Schwan Schwanenstadt, with the second game of 45 minutes seeing the Pilgrims losing by a single goal to Romanian side Petrolul Astra Ploiesti.

The first game saw a below par performance from the Greens, that was largely due to the heat which was in excess of ninety degrees, forcing the spectators to take shelter in the stadium’s only covered stand. After the match Argyle manager Paul Sturrock revealed that four of his players were dehydrated. Hosts, SC Schwan Schwanenstadt, who boast a number of Austrian U19 and U21 players plus two players with full international caps, were an organised team. Argyle should have been able to have gained the upper hand, but despite much Argyle possession it was the home side that almost scored in the later half of the game. Paul Wotton misread the bounce of the ball, allowing a break away. The ensuing shot beat Romain Larrieu but an acrobatic sliding clearance in front of the line by Peter Gilbert averted the goal. Soon afterwards the best scoring opportunity for Argyle fell to Paul Connolly, who met a cross that he headed inches wide.

Paul Sturrock made just one change for the second 45 minutes game against Petrolul Astra Ploiesti, kicking off just 15 minutes after the first match, when he brought on Graham Coughlan in place of Paul Wotton. The Romanians had fresh legs in the heat, but were also a class or two above Argyle. Afterwards Paul Sturrock estimated that Ploiesti were: “At least of lower half Premiership standard, they were a different class to us. They taught us a lesson.” Although Argyle lost to a single goal after 18 minutes, when Petrescu latched onto a ball through the middle, it could have been more as Argyle defended desperately on many occasions, so often chasing shadows. Then Romain Larrieu pulled off two breathtaking saves – one which came after a deflection off one of his own players and sent the ball in the opposite direction to which he was already diving. Despite their superiority the introduction of fresh Argyle legs in the last 20 minutes gave the Greens their best chances. Lee Hodges, Blair Sturrock and Steve Adams put a little more zip back into Argyle’s play when they entered the fray. Graham Coughlan had a header go narrowly wide and then Blair Sturrock was put through with only the keeper to beat, but his left footed drive never had the power to beat the keeper. Ploiesti also beat the Austrian side 1-0 to claim maximum points. Paul Sturrock was upset by the performance in the first match and praised the ability of the Romanians in the second.
 

Argyle warm-down after the tournament
 

Open Day In The Sun

It may have been Sunday, but the Argyle party were still busy in the baking weather during the afternoon after a late return from Salzburg the night before. Many fans turned up at the training centre in Obertraun on Sunday afternoon to meet the squad and take a look at the base of operations for Argyle throughout their stay in Austria. The highlight for many was the football match between the official tour party and the unofficial group of supporters, watched by the Argyle squad and manager. The official team had the unfair advantage of being able to call on vast experience in the shape of Kevin Summerfield, John Blackley and Paul Maxwell, which ultimately proved the difference between the two teams as the official team came out on top 3-0. The game kicked off at 2:15 pm with temperatures in the mid 30 degrees centigrade, much too hot for football! Kevin Summerfield again displayed his deep understanding of the game by coming well prepared when he put a knotted hanky on his head. After the game there was a chance for all to fraternise while the squad worked through their paces in training. The fans appreciated the afternoon and the club appreciated their attention and their support throughout the tour. The Argyle party will also be bringing home a trophy from Europe after the efforts of the official tour party on Saturday morning. An invitation had been extended to the party to enter a team into a nine side football tournament involving local teams. Despite only winning two of the five games a fine goal difference earned the Pilgrims a trophy. The best goal of the tournament came from the right foot of director Phill Gill, when he turned on a sixpence to send a shot 25 yards into the top corner of the net
 


 

Argyle Face Final Tour Match

On Monday morning Argyle manager Paul Sturrock decided to lighten up on the tough training schedule his charges have been put through while in Austria. He gathered the squad together to discuss and run through what they had been going through in training. “I want what we have been doing to get inside,” explained Luggy, “I want it to sink in. So we will run through what we have been doing and have a discussion with the boys” The players will then rest ahead of tonight’s game against SV Bad Ischl and the long journey home on Tuesday. Bad Ischl are described as an ambitious team who are currently a couple of Divisions lower than Saturday’s Austrian opponents Schwan Schwanenstadt. The game kicks off at 6.00 pm Austrian time (5.00 pm UK). The main injury concern has been David Worrell, after he had gone over on his ankle in training; he missed the mini tournament on Saturday but is now available again for selection. A fresh pairing in the centre back positions should prove interesting, with young Paul Connolly and Hasney Aljofree filling the roles. Dave Norris retains his place as the manager feels he needs more games, as does Steve Adams, who missed the end of last season due to injury.
 

Bad Day In Bad Ischl

It was a bad day in Bad Ischl, after scorching heat over the weekend Argyle had to play in half the temperature and rain - which should have been a welcome relief. The day became worse for the Pilgrims on 54 minutes when poor marking allowed a pulled back ball to the edge of their area to reach unmarked David Svarovsky. His drive deflected off Christian Stangl, also unmarked on the edge of the area, and slipped inside the far post to give the hosts the lead. A silver ray shone on the day when 9 minutes later Argyle scored their only goal of the tour. Nathan Lowndes sprinted free wide on the right and played in a low cross to the on-rushing Beresford. The nippy winger collected the ball, rounded the keeper but allowed the ball to run away from him, a defender claimed and kicked to clear only to see the ball rebound off Beresford's knee and into the net. Scant reward for Argyle, but barely deserved.

Bad Ischl are basically an Austrian fifth division team playing in the Zweite Landesliga, a regional division two levels below Schwan Schwanenstadt, Saturday's Austrian opponents. Argyle were looking for their first win and first goal and should have been able to overrun the Austrian side, but they could not cope with their 3-6-1 formation. Luke McCormick could have sat the first half out, as the home team rarely got near his goal. Argyle on the other hand proved indecisive around the Bad Ischl box, when they did get through they found keeper Alfred Fellner, a 17 year old school boy, more than equal to whatvever they sent towards his goal. As the manager Paul Sturrock said afterwards, "Their keeper did well, but we hit everything at him." The best chance in the opening 45 fell to Nathan Lowndes, who met a McGlinchey cross completely unmarked and with only Fellner to beat, he headed into Fellner's arms. Connolly, Aljofree and Lowndes, again, all had attempts saved by the youngster with many other efforts going over or wide.

In the second half Argyle's day didn't look to be getting any better when on 52 minutes the home side should have taken the lead, a fierce drive from the right was well saved by McCormick but the rebound fell to the edge of the area and only a last desperate block by Peter Gilbert prevented the ball hitting the net. The warning was left unnotticed by the team who were suddenly a goal behind a minute later. The corner was returned to the right and the ball pulled back to the two unmarked players that combined to steer the ball home. Argyle responded well and managed to carve out the lucky goal, although Beresford should have made it certain himself. A minute after the goal McGlinchey had a great shot but Fellner dived to his right to push it away. Argyle had the possession but without dangerous penetration, altogether a frustrtating dull day. After the match Paul Sturrock said: "They got 11 bodies behind the ball but that is no excuse. I am very disappointed by the shape of the team and leadership qualities shown by some of the players. I talked to certain individuals at the end of the season and the start of this season and nothing's changed, and that is really disappointing."
 

Action from Bad Ischl

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