A Round-up of Argyle News
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Paul Mariner was a proud man despite a frustrating 0-0 draw with Barnsley last night. He said: "All points are useful and this one is no different. I will know how valuable it is on May 2. What I do know, I've got a dressing room in there that is absolutely 100% committed to the cause. I'm so proud of the team for what they achieved this evening. I thought they put on a decent show. I'm the last person to make excuses for anybody but the conditions are not ideal - swirling wind, bumpy pitch, raining - all the usual stuff. I would guess that the ball coming in for the headers was probably moving all over the place. Reda has hammered the crossbar, Lala hammered the post but it's just the way it goes when you're down in the bottom. Unfortunately the crowd wasn't a great crowd but I thought they stayed behind us, and I hope that both teams gave them a decent game. It looked like an exciting game from the neutrals point of view. We don't want to be a yo-yo team, we don't want to win and lose, and win and lose - that's not ideal. Over the past 12 games now we have had a modicum of consistency and in adversity we've still got some consistency. I think a lot of teams would be pleased with the way Plymouth Argyle play, it's not an ideal surface and we have to play a certain way - it's certainly not the way that John Carver and I want to play, but it's effective at the present moment. I just think, with the spirit that we've got, hopefully some of the quality will come back from the treatment table. We'll see what happens over the next six games." Another positive for Mariner was a fine debut from Onismor Bhasera, who only arrived in the UK yesterday morning. "In a little bit of adversity to be perfectly frank - Bhasera comes in on the half-past-six this morning from Johannesburg and plays like that," said Mariner. "He hasn't trained for two weeks, so that all bodes well for the future of this club, and when you consider the back four - very, very young back four, we didn't have a chance to even work with them, so I'm very, very proud of the players this evening. Because I know him, I didn't think it would be a gamble because he's a very, very good pro. You can see by the cut of him that he's very, very fit and for him to go 90 minutes is borderline remarkable." Despite Argyle's chances, David Stockdale made good saves to keep out Barnsley. "Mark Robins, quite rightly, will say Stockdale's made a couple of great saves which he did," said Mariner. "I was pleased with our pressure in the second half - I thought we pressed them pretty well. Obviously the conditions were not ideal, it was difficult for the goalies to get the ball out of their halves, so, quite naturally, we were going to have a little bit of pressure."
Craig Noone was one of the substitutes used by Argyle last night, bringing to an end fears that his knee problems might keep him out of action for the rest of season. Noone's knee injury was scanned on Monday, and did not show any major damage. "It was amazing," said Paul Mariner. "The lad wanted to play, and I asked him if he had ten minutes in him. I thought Yala Bolasie might blow up. He has put an unbelievable amount of work in, and he just came off through fatigue. Noone was the ideal replacement."
Jim Paterson has returned to Argyle from his loan spell at Aberdeen because of an Achilles tendon injury and might not play again before the end of the season.
Argyle drew 0-0 with Barnsley at Home Park. Argyle: Stockdale, Duguid, Johnson.R, N'Gala, Bhasera, Clark, Judge, Johnson.D, Bolasie, Mackie, Wright-Phillips. Subs - Mason, Noone, Cooper (not used – Larrieu, Fallon, Folly, Leonard). Attendance - 7,243.
Yoann Folly could make his first start for Argyle in nearly four months against Barnsley tonight after completing a one-month loan with Dagenham and Redbridge on Saturday. As many as eight Argyle players are set to be sidelined this evening, including Carl Fletcher, who suffered a badly gashed knee in the defeat by Blackpool on Saturday. It is hoped Fletcher could be available for the game at Doncaster Rovers. Paul Mariner said: "Fletcher's stitches are in a horrible spot, where you bend your knee. He may be okay for Saturday, but it's touch and go." Alan Judge should be fit to face Barnsley after also being taken off against Blackpool with a groin injury but Chris Barker is unlikely to be rushed back into action. Mariner said: "The dilemma with Barks is this: If we play him tonight and he gets a ball down the channel in the first five minutes and he blows up, then we will kick ourselves. So do we let him build it up this week, and then he has got a better chance for Saturday, and the remainder of the season? That's a decision the staff has got to make." Meanwhile, Mariner revealed Kari Arnason might not play again this season because of a grade two tear to a hip muscle and Craig Noone had a scan of a persistent knee injury yesterday to determine whether he needs surgery or not. Despite all the injuries coming at such at a vital stage of the season, Mariner is refusing to be despondent. He said: "We've got to win. There are two ways this can go. You can either feel sorry for yourselves, or you can pick yourselves up and get cracking. We'll take the second option. There's no room for people to feel sorry for themselves."
The saga over Argyle's signing of Onismor Bhasera continues to drag on. Paul Mariner had been under the impression that international clearance for Bhasera had been sanctioned but it has now emerged that is not the case. Mariner said: "We are still waiting for his clearance. Our FA are talking to the South African FA, and also the Kaizer Chiefs to see who is holding it up. Asked who was responsible for resolving the issue, an exasperated Mariner replied: "That's a good question." Mariner has been told the defender has been training on his own over the past couple of weeks. "He was extremely fit to play when he left for South Africa," he said. "But I don't know what he has done while he has been away." Mariner has given up trying to put a date on when Bhasera could make his debut for Argyle. He added: "I want to clap eyes on him first. When he gets here, he gets here."
Argyle are already planning ahead for the summer, even though the end of the season is still five weeks away. They are set to spend considerable sums of money on a new pitch at Home Park and a training ground at UCP Marjon, Derriford. The plans are set to be officially announced at the club's AGM tomorrow and should confirm that the playing surface will be replaced by a Fibrelastic Turf pitch at a cost thought to be in excess of £500,000. A rubber compound is mixed into the earth and the roots grow through it and bind together, making it a 'soft' surface compared to other types. Its durability would also suit the staging of rugby matches, other sports events and open-air concerts.
Paul Mariner has insisted he is only concerned about what Argyle do, not other clubs, and that he had not been checking the league table. He said: "I haven't even looked at the table, to be honest, because the only things we can influence are what we do ourselves. Somebody put the Palace game on the TV on Saturday and I said 'turn it off' because all you do is beat yourself up with watching it. You might as well just get on with what you can do. I still think we are going to be all right."
Paul Mariner does not expect Barnsley to be docile opposition tonight. "Barnsley got beaten on Saturday, and it's the replay of the abandoned game. They'll want to put it right," he said. When Mariner was asked if the notion that Barnsley have little to play for might work in Argyle's favour, he replied: "I hope so, but I don't think it will. I know Mark Robins well, he's a fierce competitor. He'll want to come here and right the ship. They've lost a few games in a row, and they'll want to finish the season on a high." Argyle's substitutes last Saturday contained two apprentices, because of the diminishing number of fit players in the squad. Sean Kinsella remained on the bench, but right-back Ryan Leonard was given his debut. Mariner knows it is not an ideal scenario for such introductions. "He's a 17-year-old kid," he said. "He has a long way to go, but we're not in a waiting game at the moment. We're in a now game."
Paul Mariner is not about to throw in the towel despite another setback for Argyle in their fight against relegation. He said: "There are a lot of little twists and turns to go on in this league. A lot. There is nothing nailed down." Mariner made a rallying call to his players in the dressing room after the final whistle. He said: "Karl Duguid was beside himself because he didn't deal with the ball which resulted in the second goal. I told them everybody makes mistakes. We have all made mistakes in football. It's how we deal with the aftermath. We can all cry in our beer, or we can all pout and moan, but we have got some points to get. We have got to dust ourselves off and come in to work tomorrow and get after it, because we are pros." Mariner thought his team had enough clearcut chances in the first half to have put themselves into a winning position, but was left to regret their failure to take any of those chances. "I think when you are in our position, sometimes you just don't have the luck," he said. "There was some fantastic defensive play by Blackpool. Bodies were being thrown in front of the ball for the cause. I think Blackpool are a very good side and, obviously, Ollie has got them well organised and they are difficult to break down. We definitely broke them down on a few occasions, but just couldn't put the ball in the net. There were some scrambles in the six-yard box, and Yala had a couple of hits where the 'keeper made decent saves. There was also one which just fizzed past his right-hand post." While Mariner was pleased with Argyle in the first half, he was disappointed with the way they started the second period. He said: "We really didn't come out the way we wanted to. We were sort of on the back foot. Charlie Adam came into the game a little more. We were always conscious of him because he's a very good player. When you go a goal down late on, everybody tends to put their head down, but we didn't put our head down. We kept pushing, and all credit to the players for that. We have got a lot of character in the group."
Ryan Leonard made his debut for Argyle on Saturday, as a 73rd minute replacement for Luke Summerfield. He slotted into the side at right-back, with Karl Duguid moving into midfield. "It's fantastic for him, and he deserves it," said Paul Mariner. "If you look at the upside for the club, you have got a 17-year-old and Mason, an 18-year-old, on the right-side in the Championship. My hat goes off to these kids. They have come up from the youth team and put their nose to the grindstone. The club isn't in a healthy position as far as the position in the league is concerned. But as far as health coming through the ranks is concerned, it's great." Sean Kinsella, another second-year apprentice, was one of the non-playing substitutes.
Luke Summerfield had a good game after replacing the injured Carl Fletcher against Blackpool, until he also had to be taken off because of a tight hamstring in the 73rd minute. Paul Mariner said: "When any team loses the captain, it does tend to shake you a little bit, but I thought Luke Summerfield went in there and did well. One of the first passes he made was a ball inside the full-back for Judgey. On that field, it just didn't sit for him. On another day, that was in the back of the net." Alan Judge was making only his second start for Argyle since they lost at Reading on February 13th. But his involvement in the match ended after 61 minutes because of a groin injury and he was replaced by Joe Mason. Mariner said: "Judgey hasn't played for quite some time and he was tightening up on both sides of his groin, so that was a precaution. Luke Summerfield came off with a tight hamstring but, hopefully, we got him off in time. None of those substitutions were planned, to be honest. Everything goes out the window when that happens." It meant Bradley Wright-Phillips had to play his first full match of the season. Mariner said: "Bradley came through manfully, I thought, and Jamie Mackie was a constant thorn in their side. He works his socks off for the team, and was unlucky not to score today. Their 'keeper made some good saves. All in all, it was probably a good game of football for the fans to watch, but as far as we are concerned we are disappointed. I have said to the players, 'If we keep doing what we are doing, we will be alright'. There are still a lot of points to be played for yet."
Karl Duguid accepted the blame for the goal which sealed Blackpool's win at Argyle, and then stated that they cannot afford to feel sorry for themselves if they want to keep up their fight to avoid relegation. "Whoever scored the first goal was going to win the game," Duguid said. "We had some great opportunities in the first half, and we had a couple in the second half. They hit a post in the second half and David Stockdale pulled off a great save, and they went through and scored and that was it." Duguid started the match at right-back and finished it in central midfield, after Argyle had lost three midfielders to injury. In the build-up to the goal he was defeated by an awkward bounce of the ball, and then by a pass through his legs made by a Blackpool midfielder. "I could not deal with the first ball, so I let it bounce," he explained. "I should have dealt with the second ball, but the lad put it through my legs. Fair play to him. It was a mistake, and we got punished. It's about taking your chances and, when the other team makes a mistake, you have to punish them. We made probably two mistakes, and their second goal was my fault. I hold my hands up. Nine times out of ten, you won't get punished in that sort of situation, but that seems to be the way it has gone for us this season." Duguid did not want to dwell on what happened on Saturday. Instead, he wanted to look ahead to tomorrow's game against Barnsley and the six games to follow. He added: "That game has gone. We have seven massive games now. Tuesday is another one which could be called the biggest game of the season. It's massive. We have to win on Tuesday. It's down to us, and we're capable of doing it. We have to stick together, and we know we'll all give 100 per cent and go out to win the game. That's all we can do." Argyle's injury list has almost reached crisis proportions. "Something happens every game," Duguid added. "We had another different back four this weekend. I don't think we've had a settled back four throughout the season. We're throwing people in at the deep end. It's tough. Our mental toughness has to be good, and I think it is."
Argyle's youth team won 2-1 at Oxford United on Saturday, the goals scored by Matt Rickard and Tom Urwin. Mike Pejic was pleased with much of what he saw, and said: "We played well for the opening 20 minutes, then deteriorated, but recovered in the second half, when we competed well." Argyle: Chenoweth, Stephens, Nelson, Trott, Clifford, Harper-Penman, Connor, Berry, Urwin, Rickard, Sims. Subs – Richards, Baker, Young (not used - Vassell, Varazinskis).
Paul Mariner rued his side's finishing after the loss to Blackpool yesterday. Alan Judge missed his a great opportunity after 14 minutes following a defence-splitting ball from Luke Summerfield. Visiting goalkeeper Matthew Gilks also made a double stop to block Bradley Wright-Phillips after 23 minutes and kept out a 34th-minute Yannick Bolasie half-volley. Bolasie went close again with a rising drive from the angle of the penalty area four minutes later. Wright-Phillips also hit the post in a 67th-minute goalmouth scramble. "Of course I am disappointed, we could have been 2-0 ahead at half time and just didn't come out on fire in the second half," Mariner said. "We lost our skipper early on and still took the game to them. Ollie has got a decent side, they are up there looking at the play offs and we gave as good as we got. We had a chance just before they scored when young Joe Mason had a volley. If he had connected that would have been 1-1 but instead they go up the other end and score. That's football but I remain positive and we have got to keep fighting – and we will. We have got Barnsley here on Tuesday night and we go again."
Carl Fletcher has joined Argyle's growing injury list and has little chance of playing in Tuesday's game with Barnsley. A bad tackle by Keith Southern in the opening minutes of yesterday's defeat to Blackpool has left the captain with a battered knee and Paul Mariner said: "I was disappointed with the tackle on Carl Fletcher. He required 11 stitches and is obviously not going to play on Tuesday. He got melted in the knee. There were both players going down for the ball. My captain gets 11 stitches, below the knee, above the knee and by the side of the knee. Last week at Scunthorpe, Richard Eckersley got absolutely hammered, was carried off the field and his ankle was like a balloon, but the referee didn't see anything. Maybe there has been a mandate from the league to be a little cautious but I wasn't pleased with the tackle." Luke Summerfield was drafted in as Fletcher's replacement but he also came off with an injury, and Mariner is now exploring the option of recalling some loans. "When any team loses their leader and their captain, it doesn't tend to shake you a little bit, but Luke Summerfield went in there and did well," said Mariner. "One of the first passes he made created a ball inside the full-back for Alan Judge, but it just didn't sit for him. On another day, it goes in the back of the net. Luke Summerfield came off with a tight hamstring and we hope we got him early, but none of our substitutions were planned. Everything goes out of the window when that happens. I will have to look at bringing back some emergency loans, if I can."
Argyle lost 2-0 to Blackpool at Home Park. Argyle: Stockdale, Duguid, Johnson.R, N'Gala, Clark, Judge, Fletcher, Johnson.D, Bolasie, Mackie, Wright-Phillips. Subs - Mason, Summerfield, Leonard (not used – Larrieu, Fallon, Kinsella, Cooper). Attendance - 10,614.
Joe Mason has admitted he has been surprised by the progress he has made this season. He said: "I never really doubted I could do it, but it's still a great feeling to score for my local team in the Championship. It's easy to think you can do it, but until you are actually out there and playing against those defenders, you never know. The lads are really making me feel part of the team now and I feel as if I'm an established player in the squad. I don't feel out of place at all." Mason wants to play his part in making sure Argyle escape relegation. He said: "It's brilliant playing for the first team. I never expected it to happen this season as I'm a first-year. It would be amazing if we could stay up and I could help my local team do that. I never really expected to be involved this season because we have got lots of strikers, even though one or two have gone now. I have been surprised with how much progress I have made." Mason signed an extended contract in January, and it gives him more time to continue to develop his all-round game. He said: "I just want to keep progressing the way I am, and do as much as I can for this club." Mason revealed that morale among the squad was high after their victory over Ipswich. He said: "Everyone was really happy and buzzing in the changing room afterwards because we have given ourselves a chance now. Even though Sheffield Wednesday won, there are eight games to go and we all think we can get out of it. It was a good performance against Ipswich. We played it on the floor quite a lot. The gameplan was to get Jamie and Brad down the sides of the defenders with their pace, and it worked in the end. It's completely different to what we have done before. Usually we have had a big man and a small man up front. Now we have got two strikers with raw pace, and they have both got an eye for goal, so it's looking good. You can see in training every day that Brad's touch and finishing is quality. I'm not surprised at all that he's scoring goals." In each of the four matches that Wright-Phillips has started in, Mason has replaced him around the 70-minute mark. "I'm just happy to be involved still, even if it's for 20 minutes," said Mason. "I'm happy to contribute to the team, whether it's with a goal or by working hard." Mason's alertness inside the area was clear to see when he scored against Ipswich and that should stand him in good stead for the rest of his career. He added: "One of their midfielders headed it back and Jamie has won it and tried shooting. It deflected off their player, and I was in the right place at the right time and just toe-poked it in."
Bradley Wright-Phillips has had to wait a while to make an impact as an Argyle player and is now making up for lost time. "It has gone well," he said. "The gaffer has given me a chance, and I'm just trying to take it." Despite being substituted about 20 minutes before the end of each game he has started, Wright-Phillips is content with his progress. "It has been hard for me to last, but I definitely feel good to start games," he added. "Sometimes I feel like I could play for 90 minutes, and I've told the gaffer that, but I reckon there are people who can come off the bench and give that little bit more than I can give sometimes. It isn't worth me being out there if I can't give 100 per cent. Joe Mason has been coming off the bench, for instance, and he has been giving the boys that extra little lift." Mason replaced Wright- Phillips after 70 minutes at Ipswich and scored Argyle's second goal eight minutes later. Wright-Phillips' goal against Bristol City earlier this month, a bold overhead kick, was his first goal for the club. "It's a good feeling to score your first goal for any club," he said, "but I'd rather score the sort of goal I scored at Ipswich. You're going to get more of those chances. It was nice to score with a bicycle kick, but that sort of goal doesn't come every week." Rory Fallon is not starting games at present, so the ball has had to be kept on the deck more than was customary. Wright-Phillips felt that Fallon had a thankless task at times. "I felt sorry for Rory sometimes," he said. "He's a big man, and it was an easy option just to boot the ball to him. It was hard for him, he needed to be 'Superman' out there, but the gaffer has changed things now. Me and Jamie are not the biggest, so you're going to get nothing if you just boot balls up to us. People are having to think about their game a bit more."
There has been no further movement in talks with four Argyle players about contract extensions beyond the end of this season. Paul Mariner revealed earlier this month he wanted to retain the services of Romain Larrieu, Karl Duguid, Yannick Bolasie and Craig Noone. "Everything has been put on hold for a few weeks, but I think everybody is in the picture about what's going in," said Mariner.
The ankle injury suffered by Richard Eckersley at Scunthorpe last Saturday is not as bad as first feared and Paul Mariner is hoping he could return to training by the end of next week. Chris Barker replaced Eckersley against Scunthorpe, and also started at left-back in the win at Ipswich on Tuesday. But he suffered a hamstring injury in the second half at Portman Road, and Chris Clark moved from the right-side of midfield to take on that role. Barker is not expected to be fit by tomorrow, so Clark will probably be the left-back again, which would see Alan Judge return to the starting line-up. Kari Arnason and Craig Noone are still unavailable. Mariner said: "When Eckersley went for the X-ray the ankle was badly swollen, so the physios couldn't really assess him until it went down. We are hoping he might be able to train at the back end of next week. It's probably pushing it for a week tomorrow, but you never know. He's only a young lad and they heal quick." Mariner is also hoping the injury to Barker is not too severe. He said: "I'm guessing Barks will be out tomorrow. They were working on him yesterday. The story is that it tightened, but it didn't go on him. We are just waiting on it." Arnason suffered his hip injury against Scunthorpe and will be sidelined until the trip to Doncaster, at the earliest. Mariner said: "Arnie can walk now but he can't turn, which isn't ideal for a centre-half" Clark has been one of the most consistent players for Argyle since Mariner took control of the first team. His ability to play on either side of the pitch, and in defence or midfield, makes him a valuable member of the squad. Mariner said: "Clarky went to left-back on Tuesday and did a great job. When you have got so many strings to your bow you become a valuable asset to the club. The players who came on in that match made a tremendous impact. I thought Alan Judge was as good as he has ever been since I have been here. And his effort in training yesterday was absolutely first class. We have also got Summers to go in there if need be."
Paul Mariner has seen his side win two of their last three games. However, he is expecting a tough game tomorrow and is sure Ian Holloway will have his team fired up. He said: "They are one place below the play-off spots, so it's a huge game for them, but, equally, it's a huge game for us. The same old cliches come out again." Mariner did not want to get drawn into any debate about Holloway's exit from Argyle in 2007. He said: "I don't know the rhyme or reason why that happened. It's none of my business. But I know he did some good things here. I really haven't read the history. I have been too pre-occupied with what's happening now. I just know Ollie is going to bring his team here and they are going to be ready to go. He knows the field, he knows the stadium and he knows all the travel pitfalls. His team will be well versed in what we are doing. But the good thing from our viewpoint is that it is about what do. We had an unbelievable result on Tuesday, and every single player that participated played very, very well. Holloway has got some good players. He has got some very good loan signings in and has used all his contacts very well. He has got them extremely well organised and they are very potent going forward."
Gary Sawyer has moved on loan to Bristol City until the end of the season. Sawyer turned down a new contract earlier this season and Paul Mariner did not want to stand in the way of a possible future deal for the defender. "I spoke to Keith Millen and the move was subject to a medical," said Mariner. "I'm ok with him going there. Obviously, we're still waiting on Bhasera coming in and we have Barks. I'm not going to stand in Gary's way if he wants to maybe get a contract and put himself in the shop window. We had a conversation and we're both happy with the situation. He turned down a contract here before Christmas."
Ashley Barnes has moved to Brighton and Hove Albion on loan until the end of the season. Paul Mariner felt the move would be a positive step in his development. He said: "Ashley is a young player making his way in the game this move is good for his development. We had a frank discussion about the striker situation here at Home Park. It is great for him to join up with a good side in League One."
Bondz N'Gala has made an instant impression at Home Park. "Bondz is a unique character," said Paul Mariner. "He is only 20 and came through the ranks at West Ham, so he's been taught very well. He's a very good talker for a young player. His defensive qualities, on the training ground where you expose people to one-on-ones, are very good. He is commanding in the air and he slotted in as though he's been playing for many years. We were delighted for him and delighted with him. He didn't play like a 20-year-old. He played like a seasoned pro and it galvanised the team because they thought this kid can be what you want. He is very strong upstairs. When he gets up for a ball, he punches it and he gets height and distance, which is ideal."
The transfer saga of Onismor Bhasera to has taken another twist. Having secured a work permit and received his international clearance, Bhasera is now waiting for paperwork between the FA and their South African counterparts to be completed. Paul Mariner said: "I spoke to his agent this morning and his I.T.C. is through. For some reason we have to fax from the FA down to the South African Federation, so they can pick his passport up at the embassy. The story gets more and more bizarre, and I'm not holding my breath for Saturday. I hope he's picked it up and he's getting on a plane today."
David Stockdale has revealed he was spurred on by criticism of his performances for Argyle. After some less than convincing outings, which had many fans clamouring for Romain Larrieu to return to the team, Stockdale has been outstanding during the last two games. He said: "It has been a great learning experience for me. I came here to do a job, and that's to keep us in the league. People say things to you, and you read things. The fans are entitled to express their opinions. But I just wanted to show them what I could do, and why I came here. Long may it continue." When asked whether he had been hurt by the criticism, Stockdale said: "I was spurred on. Paul Mariner had the faith in me and he told me, 'We know what you can do'. I had shown that in a few of the games before. Yes, I had a dip in form. Everybody does. It's how you come back from that." Stockdale's display against Ipswich was all the more impressive because he had been suffering from food poisoning, which he picked up during the squad's stay at the Five Lakes Hotel in Maldon, Essex. Despite this he thought the players had benefited from staying away, rather than returning to Plymouth after the game at Scunthorpe. He said: "I got food poisoning on Sunday and I missed training on Monday, so it wasn't so good for me. It was only me that ate the prawn sandwiches! It's not ideal because the lads don't want to be away from their families. But fair play to the gaffer and John. They rallied the lads and kept us going." Bondz N'Gala made his debut for Argyle in the victory over Ipswich and Stockdale was impressed with the way he slotted into the side. "It's hard for a 20-year-old lad coming into the team, but he's from West Ham so he's going to be good," he said. Stockdale did not have a single shot to save in the first half against Ipswich, but was much busier after the break as the home side upped their tempo. He added: "The gaffer and John told me at half-time, 'You are going to be called into action, do what you can'. You just keep your head, but I would rather have had nothing to do and we won 2-0 because it was a bit tense. The lads didn't actually look at the other scores when we came off. They were that happy with the performance we put in." Argyle had beaten Bristol City 3-2 before making the trip to Scunthorpe. Stockdale said: "We have got six points out of three games and if you had offered that to us before those matches I think we would have snapped your hand off. We are on a roll. Blackpool will not be easy, but I'm sure the lads can do it. We beat Barnsley up at their place so, hopefully, that will give us a bit of confidence."
Paul Mariner enjoyed a wonderful return to Ipswich Town last night and admitted that the amazing reception he was given by the entire stadium at Portman Road left him choked. When you add in a 2-0 win, it was the perfect night. "It was pretty special and I was a little choked up," he said. "I look around this stadium and I played over eight fantastic years here. I had a great rapport with the fans, it is a fantastic stadium and I hope I repaid those fans when I played here. It was a special night. When I moved to the States 20 years ago, I didn't think it would come to fruition but it was a tremendous reception from the fans, and I can't thank them enough. Bringing Plymouth Argyle here in my present role was a special occasion."
Argyle threw themselves a huge lifeline in the battle against relegation with a 2-0 victory at Ipswich Town last night and Paul Mariner paid tribute to his players. He said: "Nothing changes for us really, everything is a six-pointer. We are fighting for our lives right now, but we have a bunch of players here who are a little bit peeved about being in this position and they want to do something about. I know some may say it's a little too late, but as long as we have fight and anybody knows me or John Carver, we will keep going. Obviously we have shown tonight there is a lot of fight and grit in this team. You can probably go through every single player, even those that came off the bench, everybody played their part tonight. These lads really want to get out of this and they are buying into what John and I are doing. I'm loving working with all of them and I just hope they are liking what we are doing."
The development of Yala Bolasie and the return to fitness of Bradley Wright-Phillips has given Paul Mariner a new dimension to his side. Add Jamie Mackie to the mix and you have the trio that Ipswich Town failed to cope with in Argyle's 2-0 win last night. "We have an outlet out wide in Yala and two lads up front who worked tirelessly," said Mariner. "You've got to consider that Brad is only just coming back from a serious injury and he's working his socks off for the team. Every single team wants pace and hold-up play up front, and we're no different. We have brought something different to the front-line and Yala has somewhat of a free role out on the left, but he has got to get back in. They are working as a pair up there, Jamie and Brad, and when Brad got tired, Joe came on and did exactly the same thing. He got the goal and I'm delighted for him - a Plymouth lad getting the goal to seal the victory for us. Mason has come from nowhere but, working with him every day, we know what we've got. He has unbelievable pace and is probably the best finisher in the club. When he gets in, he very rarely misses. He's young and has a lot to learn, but when you have a weapon like that on the bench, there is no drop-off, which is extremely important. We've injected some pace into the line-up with Bolasie on the left-hand side of midfield. You can see what he brings to the table with his pace and trickery, and he is a joy to watch. When you also get the combination of Mackie and Bradley up front, with their work-rate, it enables the others to step up and keep pressing the ball in the attacking half."
Chris Barker has joined the growing list of injured defenders at Argyle. A tight hamstring sustained by Barker last night has left Paul Mariner sweating on international clearance for Onismor Bhasera. "Barker's gone down tonight with a hammy," said Mariner. "It tightened and we saw him immediately, and we were alerted to it. He then had to sprint down the channel and we thought he was going to blow it, but he's a tough kid. Apparently, Bhasera is picking up his passport and international papers tomorrow, but I'm not holding my breath. He would be the answer to our prayers but he is in a certain part of the world where they don't exactly rush."
Argyle reserves beat Bournemouth reserves 1-0 at Tiverton yesterday, the goal scored by Matt Rickard. Mike Pejic, who was in charge of the reserves squad, said: "We had a very young side out and they acquitted themselves well. Apart from the first 15 minutes when Bournemouth dominated, the players never looked worried against far more experienced players. Rickard took his goal well and we carved out enough chances to have scored another couple of goals. But, in terms of performance, it was very pleasing." Argyle: Saxton, Stephens, Nelson, Trott, Clifford, Baker, Young, Connor, Unwin, Sims, Rickard. Subs - Richards, Berry, Harper-Penman
Argyle won 2-0 at Ipswich Town, the goals scored by Bradley Wright-Phillips after 34 minutes and Joe Mason (78). Argyle: Stockdale, Duguid, Johnson.R, N'Gala, Barker, Clark, Fletcher, Johnson.D, Bolasie, Mackie, Wright-Phillips. Subs - Judge, Mason (not used – Larrieu, Fallon, Summerfield, Leonard, Cooper). Attendance - 19,316.
Argyle will give a debut to Bondz N'Gala when they play Ipswich Town tonight after Kari Arnason was ruled out by a hip problem. Also, Chris Barker will start at left-back because of Richard Eckersley's ankle injury. Paul Mariner said: "Fortunately, nothing was broken but Eckersley has gone back to Burnley to be assessed by their medical staff. I have been told by our people he could be out for between three to five weeks, which isn't ideal to say the least. But he wants to stay with us and we want him to stay so, hopefully, he can come back at some point. He's only a young lad and they are quick healers. If he's out for four weeks, say, at least he could still help us a little bit towards the end of the season. Arnie felt something pop. At first, we thought he had torn a muscle, but I don't think it's quite as bad as that. He has been limping around the hotel and has just spent some time in the swimming pool. I haven't been given a date on when he could be back playing, but I would say it's going to be around 10 days to three weeks." N'Gala signed on loan from West Ham last week and has been an unused substitute for the last two games. Mariner said: "Bondz is a young player, so he's inexperienced, but there is a massive upside to him. We did some work with him in training on Sunday and, from what we saw then, I don't think there is any problem in putting him into the team." Argyle's casualty list also includes David McNamee, Gary Sawyer and Craig Noone. None of the three are in the squad which has been away from Plymouth since Friday. Noone will see a specialist tomorrow about a knee condition which continues to trouble him. McNamee pulled out of training last week because of a hamstring injury, and Sawyer is suffering from a similar problem. Mariner said: "Gary has been soldiering on manfully with a sore hamstring, which I'm told stems back to an operation he had at the start of last season. He hasn't been able to do himself justice, and might not come back this season." There has been a further injury concern for Mariner, with Luke Summerfield nursing a sore ankle. Mariner said: "The trialist we have got with us gave Luke a hefty challenge in training on Sunday. He did the warm-up yesterday, but didn't take part in the session itself. I think he's going to be okay for tonight, though." Mariner was planning on holding talks with Keith Todd about the possibility of making at least one more addition to his squad before the emergency loan signing deadline on Thursday. In the meantime, Mariner admitted there was a good possibility Ryan Leonard or Sean Kinsella could be on the bench against Ipswich.
Yannick Bolasie has thanked his team-mates for the support they have given him since he broke into the first team. He said: "I have been waiting for this opportunity a long time, and now it has come. I'm just chuffed. I'm happy the gaffer has given me my chance, and all the lads have been encouraging me." Bolasie produced another eye-catching performance at Scunthorpe United on Saturday and set up Jamie Mackie for the goal which gave Argyle a 1-0 lead. Yet that was no consolation for Bolasie as Argyle suffered a damaging defeat. He said: "I'm glad I set up the goal but, at the end of the day, we didn't win the match." Bradley Wright-Phillips combined with Bolasie in a slick build-up which led to the cross for Mackie to open the scoring against Scunthorpe. Bolasie said: "Me and Brad have got good communication between us. That has come out of training really. It worked out in a match and we got a goal from it." Bolasie could have snatched a last-gasp equaliser for Argyle on Saturday, but completely miscued a shot from close range. He said: "I slashed at it. On another day, I would have put it in the back of the net." Argyle play Ipswich Town tonight and are desperate for a win. It will be a formidable task, however, as Ipswich are unbeaten in their last 14 home games. Bolasie added: "I'm looking forward to tonight. Hopefully, we can put in a good performance and get three points. That's what we are aiming for." Paul Mariner is excited about what the future holds for Bolasie. "You can see people smiling when he plays," he said. "I smile when he plays, and we need more players like that in the game. He's a handful, and he's still learning the game. So long may it continue." Bolasie's current contract ends in the summer and he has been offered a new deal to stay at the club.
Argyle's predicament in the Championship means that Paul Mariner may be unable to make the most of going back to Portman Road tonight. When asked if Argyle's situation overshadowed any nostalgia, he replied: "Yes, it does. It will be a great evening for me, I had wonderful times there, but we need points. Ipswich have really picked up. They were always going to do so, it was just a question of when, but let's hope we just catch them on an off-day." Ipswich have won five of their last ten games and Mariner added: "They're difficult to break down. They've kept clean-sheets in their last four home games. They have a lot of energy, they're a very good Championship team, and they're in a rich vein of form.
Argyle continued to be hit by injuries as they lost at Scunthorpe United on Saturday. Paul Mariner could be without both Richard Eckersley and Kari Arnason for the trip to Ipswich Town tomorrow. Eckersley had to be substituted in the 21st minute because of an ankle injury and Arnason suffered a recurrence of a hip flexor problem in the second half. He had to stay on the pitch until the end of the match, however, because Argyle had already used their three substitutes. Mariner said: "I think the turning point was Eckersley going off. It disrupted us. I felt we were the better team up until they have scored their first goal. We were on the front foot and we played well. We did everything we wanted the team to do, and we scored a super goal." Bradley Wright-Phillips and Yannick Bolasie linked up superbly for the goal, swapping passes before Bolasie's low cross into the six-yard area was converted by Jamie Mackie. Mariner said: "It's nice when your forwards link up like that and a goal comes from it. But Scunthorpe are a very bright team and they caught us with a sucker punch." Scunthorpe equalised just four minutes later, and Mariner said: "It was a shocking goal from our viewpoint, but a great goal from their viewpoint. Coming in at half-time at 1-1 we still thought we could do it, though." The decisive goal came from a shot which deflected off Chris Barker, giving David Stockdale no chance of saving it. Mariner said: "We were maybe a little bit loose in picking up McCann, who we know is a good player. He sprung Woolford, the wide guy, but we thought we had it covered. I think it hit one of the defenders and looped in the net. Again, it was a poor goal from our viewpoint." Eckersley had been hurt as early as the fourth minute but was able to resume playing after treatment, only to take another blow to the ankle later on after which he could not continue. Mariner said: "The kid is probably going to have to go to hospital for an x-ray. I'm very concerned about him. He got hit twice and I'm not saying he was picked out by Scunthorpe, but there were certainly some heavy challenges. I had better just leave it at that. I wasn't very pleased about it." Eckersley had hobbled out of the draw at Coventry City because of a groin strain and had missed the victory over Bristol City last Tuesday. But he was given the go-ahead to play against Scunthorpe, and Mariner opted for him at left-back instead of Barker. Mariner said: "He had worked very hard with the physio to get back in. We thought the balance of the team was nice today, and the injury just upset the rhythm. We will have to see how he is. I'm very disappointed about it." Arnason signalled he wanted to come off only moments after Argyle had made their third substitution of the match. Mariner said: "We thought we would just change it up a bit and bring Rory on. But as soon as we brought Rory on, Arnie wanted to come off, but, obviously, he couldn't come off. So we went to a 3-1-4-2. We didn't just want to sit him out there on the wing because that would have been playing into their hands. We tried to be a little proactive with it, but you need your mobility at this level."
Kari Arnason does not believe he will be fit to face Ipswich Town tomorrow. "I'm struggling," he admitted. "I got a hit on the hip last Saturday and on Tuesday, but I felt fine before kick-off and during the game. Then, with about 15 minutes left, I think I pulled something in the same place in my hip where I got hit." Arnason tried in vain to make way for somebody from the bench. "I forgot that Chris Barker had come on. That's why I was calling for a sub," he explained. "I don't know about Tuesday's game. I didn't think I'd make this one, after the way I felt after last Tuesday's game." Saturday's defeat to Scunthorpe reduced the likelihood of Argyle remaining in the Championship. "It was a really important game, there's no denying that," Arnason said. "I felt we were in control in the first half. The only chances they had came from mistakes we made. They scored the equaliser from a silly free-kick we gave them, when we weren't sharp enough. In the second half, it was hard because the wind was blowing against us. We wanted to press up, but our goal-kicks were only reaching the half-way line and we had to drop so deep to defend. We had to figure something out, but we didn't and it cost us. We just have to keep fighting now, and hope we get a little bit of luck." If Arnason cannot play tomorrow, on-loan defender Bondz N'Gala is likely to be given his debut.
The heroics of David Stockdale were not enough to save Argyle from a disastrous defeat at Scunthorpe United on Saturday. Paul Mariner had made a staunch defence of Stockdale before the match and his confidence was not misplaced, despite the final outcome. Mariner said: "We have spoken to David about a couple of things, and we have supreme faith in him. As I said earlier in the week, he's a young goalkeeper and he has got a lot to learn. He knows that, but he takes criticism extremely well and works hard in training. To leave him exposed one-on-one four times, it sounds as though we played poorly, but we didn't. We were pushing forward. He pulled us out the mire on four occasions with tremendous point-blank saves."
Argyle play Ipswich Town at Portman Road tomorrow, which means a nostalgic return for Paul Mariner to the club with whom he won the FA Cup and UEFA Cup as a player. But the sole focus of the head coach will be on masterminding a victory. When asked after the defeat by Scunthorpe how hard it would be to lift the players for the game against Ipswich he replied: "With this group it won't be hard. We are going to get on the bus tonight and we are going to go down to our training camp. We will lick our wounds tonight, and we will be back at work tomorrow morning."
Paul Mariner has refused to rule out the possibility of signing Rory Patterson. He said: "I believe he's going to be a Glentoran player, but I wouldn't say it has ended our interest in him. I just wish Rory the very, very best whatever happens in his career." Patterson was one of three trialists who trained with Argyle last week, with Mariner not disclosing the names of the other two. However, one of them has travelled with the squad to the away games against Scunthorpe and Ipswich. Mariner confirmed the player had not been signed by Argyle, and added: "He's just here training with us. I need to have another look at him."
Argyle's youth team beat Exeter City 5-1 on Saturday, the goals scored by Curtis Nelson, Ryan Connor, Jed Harper-Penman, Tom Urwin and Lewis Coombes. The trialists, Stoke City second-year apprentices Connor and Urwin, will be spending the next two weeks at Home Park trying to earn professional contracts for next season and will also play for the reserves during their stay. Argyle: Varazinskis, Stephens, Nelson, Trott, Clifford, Harper-Penman, Berry, Connor, Urwin, Sims, Rickard. Subs – Richards, Young, Coombes (not used - Baker, Chenoweth).
Yesterday's defeat at Scunthorpe leaves Argyle seven points adrift of safety but Paul Mariner is not yet ready to throw in the towel. "We are a resilient lot and we will pick ourselves back up from this disappointment," he said. "I thought we played some good football in the early stages and were the better team for the first half-hour. We scored a terrific goal to go in front through Jamie Mackie but for me the turning point came when we lost Richard Eckersley injury. It was a bad challenge on him, one which was deserving of a yellow card. He will go to hospital for an X-ray on what we fear might be a broken ankle. That's another defensive problem for us, we just don't seem to have any luck in that department this season."
David Stockdale answered his critics yesterday, despite Argyle's loss to Scunthorpe. The 'keeper came to the rescue several times as his team pushed forward in search of an equaliser. Stockdale has had his detractors recently, but Paul Mariner is not one of them. "We've spoken to David about a couple of things," said Mariner. "We have supreme faith in him and he's going to be a very good goalie. As I said earlier in the week, he's a young goalkeeper; he's got a lot to learn - he knows that; he takes criticism extremely well, and coaching very, very well. Because we were pushing...to leave him exposed one on one four times seems as though we played poorly, but we didn't. He pulled us out of the mire on four occasions with brilliant point-blank saves."
Argyle lost 2-1 at Scunthorpe United, the goal scored by Jamie Mackie after 28 minutes. Argyle: Stockdale, Duguid, Johnson.R, Arnason, Eckersley, Clark, Fletcher, Johnson.D, Bolasie, Mackie, Wright-Phillips. Subs - Barker, Mason, Fallon (not used – Larrieu, N'Gala, Judge, Summerfield). Attendance - 5,153.
Bradley Wright-Phillips has revealed he has two aims for the rest of his injury-ruined first season with Argyle. He said: "The plan is for me to stay in the team and for the club to stay up. We don't want to go down." Wright-Phillips scored with a spectacular overhead kick against Bristol City but insisted it was 'lucky'. He said: "I was happy, but I don't really remember much about it. It just bounced up. You could probably see what it meant to me with the way I celebrated the goal. First, I had the injury and then I couldn't get in the team. I thought the two strikers were doing well so I had to be patient." Wright-Phillips has been paired with Jamie Mackie in the last two matches, and they have formed a lively partnership. Wright-Phillips said: "We both try to share the workload. Jamie is a good player and has done well this season. It's not rocket science. We just try to close down the defenders. That's what the manager and JC ask of us, and we try to do that." Argyle clinched their first win in seven games when they beat Bristol City, but Wright-Phillips admitted he feared the worst when City drew level at 2-2. He said: "When they scored you feel like 'not again'. It was like we were losing at that time, but Fletch did well to dig us out a win." Argyle try to build on their success when they take on Scunthorpe United, who lost 3-0 at Newcastle United on Wednesday, this afternoon. Wright-Phillips said: "We have got a day's rest on them and we should be confident going into that game, coming off the back of a win." Like Wright-Phillips, Yannick Bolasie has also forced his way into Argyle's side over the last two games, and has certainly made his mark. "He's a good young player," said Wright-Phillips. "He's quick and he has got good feet and he's going to be a nightmare for any defender. Even if he's not doing well, you aren't going to want to play against him because he's always going to be quick." Argyle still face a difficult task to escape relegation, but Wright-Phillips is optimistic. "That belief has got to be there, and not just from the players but from the city as well," he said. "We know we shouldn't be going out of this league, and everyone has got to believe that. It's the only way we are going to survive."
Rory Patterson has insisted he remains committed to signing for Glentoran in the summer, despite spending three days training with Argyle this week. He signed a pre-contract agreement with Glentoran in January, and is set to complete the move in the summer. Such agreements are recognised by FIFA and are as binding as a traditional contract. Patterson said: "I was just asked to go over and train. I don't have any second thoughts about going to Glentoran. I have signed what I have signed and I don't know what the big hoohah is about. It was just a couple of days training."
David Stockdale's loan spell has been extended for a third month, keeping him at Argyle until April 24th. However, Stockdale may not play in the game at Scunthorpe United because of a shin injury. If he is unfit to play Romain Larrieu will step back into the side. Larrieu has not played since January 16th, but Paul Mariner has no fears about his readiness. He said: "Romain is 100 per-cent fit. He has been ultra-professional."
No expense is being spared as Argyle chase points in their fight for Championship survival. Instead of making two separate trips to Scunthorpe United and Ipswich Town, the squad will travel to Ipswich after the game on Saturday and will then spend three days in East Anglia as they prepare for Tuesdays game. They will then catch a charter flight from Cambridge to Plymouth on Wednesday. The players and staff were flying to Robin Hood Airport, near Doncaster, today. Mariner said: "The board have been very supportive. I presented it to them that this was the way to go, and they didn't even hesitate. Travelling is wearing on the body." A win against the Scunthorpe, combined with favourable results elsewhere, could see Argyle move to within one point of safety tomorrow. Mariner was asked whether he thought it was Argyle's biggest game of the season, and he replied: "I would agree with that because it's the next one. The lads know what's in front of them, and how important this game is. It's part of our job to make sure there are no shocks for the players tomorrow when they go out at three o'clock." Mariner pinpointed the important role that Jamie Mackie and Bradley Wright-Phillips will have in the match. He said: "We have got to do exactly what we did against Coventry, and, to a certain degree, what we did against Bristol City. It starts from the front. It always does. If you look at the great teams over the years, the defensive work that the front two do is the key to the success of the team." Wright-Phillips had to be patient for a first team call-up after recovering from a persistent knee injury but now seems set for an extended run in the side. Mariner said: "We have been careful with him. We have been communicating with him all the time because, obviously, he has been wanting to get in the first team. We just thought we would give him a little bit more time to gain his confidence and get some training under his belt. It looks as though we can probably get a very good 70-75 minutes out of him, so that's fantastic for us."
Paul Mariner has made no decisions yet on the three trialists who have been training with Argyle this week. He said: "It hasn't been an ideal training week to get people in and have a look at. But we have seen bits that we are interested in. All of the lads have done very well." One of the trialists, Northern Ireland international Rory Patterson, was on his way back home last night and is expected to play for Coleraine in tonight's fixture at Portadown. Patterson and his agent held discussions with Mariner and John Carver yesterday.
David Stockdale is an injury concern for Argyle's game with Scunthorpe United tomorrow. He sat out training yesterday, after taking a heavy blow to the shin in the victory over Bristol City on Tuesday. Stockdale's recent inconsistent performances have led to calls from Argyle fans for Romain Larrieu to be reinstated but Paul Mariner has made a staunch defence of Stockdale. He has also insisted Argyle are not under any obligation to play Stockdale, as part of his loan arrangement. Mariner said: "There are no stipulations that any player is going to play. It's all on merit. David, you have got to remember, is a young goalkeeper. He has got some fantastic assets. He commands his box and can kick it a mile, but young goalkeepers do make little errors. Unfortunately, when you are in our position, little errors sometimes lead to goals." Stockdale made a stunning diving save to keep out a free-kick from Jamie McAllister, shortly after the visitors had drawn level at 2-2 on Tuesday. But, after Carl Fletcher's late goal, a lapse of concentration almost proved costly. Mariner said: "It was a superb save from the free-kick, going full length to his left. But, after going 3-2 up, he turns his back on the play. It was tremendous vision from the guy with the shot, and it almost embarrassed Stockdale, but he got away with it. He's a young kid who's trying to make his way in the game." Mariner was asked whether he would consider making a change of goalkeeper for the trip to Scunthorpe and replied: "I think about making a change at every single position, depending on how people are. David didn't train yesterday because he got walloped in the shin. It got worse overnight, and we will have to see how he is."
Craig Noone has been ruled out of the trip to Glanford Park tomorrow because of a knee problem which has troubled him, on and off, over recent months. Instead, Noone will spend the weekend with his family on Merseyside before seeing a specialist next Wednesday. But there could be a return to action for Richard Eckersley. Paul Mariner said: "Hopefully, Eckers may be available for tomorrow." Chris Clark was injured in the closing stages of the game against Bristol City and was replaced by Alan Judge, who would replace him in the starting line-up tomorrow should he not be passed fit. Mariner said: "Clarky did a light session yesterday." David McNamee pulled out of training yesterday because of a tight hamstring.
Bondz N'Gala wants to play a part in making sure Argyle escape relegation this season and is determined to force his way into the first team during his loan stint. He said: "I hope it develops me as a person and as a player. I think I can handle it at this level and I'm ready to prove it." N'Gala could get his chance against Scunthorpe United tomorrow as Kari Arnason did not take part in training yesterday after suffering a blow to the hip on Tuesday. N'Gala added: "There are some good players here but, hopefully, I can force my way into the team. Obviously, the manager has been trying to get me here for a while. I showed him what I could do when I came down to training in January. Hopefully, he has enough faith to put me in the team, and I can repay that." N'Gala would relish the chance to play against Scunthorpe because had a loan spell with them earlier in the season. "I came on in two games, and they were in a similar position to Plymouth at the moment," said N'Gala. "I would love to be able to start tomorrow." Scunthorpe are one position above Argyle and N'Gala acknowledged it was 'a massive game', and knows from his time there that they will pose a stern test. He said: "They try to play football, they work hard for each other, and they have got some good players there. Gary Hooper is a lively forward who has scored quite a few goals, in this division and in League One. I think he will be the main threat to watch out for." N'Gala was philosophical about not playing more for Scunthorpe during his loan spell there. "I think it was a matter of the manager sticking with what he knew," he said. "When a team is in a relegation scrap, it's hard for a manager to just throw in a young defender." N'Gala has captained West Ham reserves, but is eager for the challenge, and responsibility, of playing first team football. He said: "Playing for three points is a massive thing. And it just doesn't mean a lot to the club, but to the fans as well. It's massive for them. A win is always the most important thing, whereas in the reserves it's more about the performance and your development." N'Gala had been expected to sign for Argyle before the draw with Coventry City but the deal was delayed due to 'unforeseen issues at the West Ham end'. He said: "I'm not too sure about what the delay was. I'm just happy to be here and, hopefully, I can get some games."
Paul Mariner has reflected on both sides of the victory over Bristol City on Tuesday. "We are very upbeat," he said. "The boys are very critical of themselves and they're upset about the way the second-half went, but they're on the front foot. To a certain degree, we carried on as we did at Coventry. We didn't play as well but we played as well as we have at home. Going in 2-0 up at half-time was very pleasing. Obviously, you don't want to concede. We didn't concede as early as we have been but we still conceded." City's first goal came from a free-kick driven under the defensive wall and the equaliser stemmed from an error at the back. "If you look at the wall, it jumped, and we don't want the wall jumping," said Mariner. "It obviously doesn't help David. Karl Duguid was blocked off as well. He was blocked off first time and the players told the referee, who chose to ignore him being blocked off again. Conceding a goal down the inside left channel again is not pleasing but we had the resilience and the fight in the team, and it was a super finish by Fletch." Before the winner, the senior players used their experience to rouse the team after losing a two-goal advantage. Joe Mason was also brought on and Yala Bolasie switched up front in an attempt to change the pattern of the game. "At 2-1 I thought we were ok and then, when it went to 2-2, you could see the air go out of the stadium a little bit," said Mariner. "To look at the senior players getting around the rest of the team, you could see they were still fighting and we were hopeful. We always thought we would get a chance. We mixed it up, as we did against Coventry, by putting Joe on and then Yala through the middle, and the work-rate was still high."
Paul Mariner is thriving in the heat of a relegation battle. Despite the pressure of our situation, he is enjoying the experience. "This is what I do and what I love," he said. "This is my life. I love coming to work in the morning. I can't wait to come through the car park and go to training, and meeting everybody in the offices. I've got six or seven weeks of really hard work and then I'll have my holidays, which I'm looking forward to. I'll spend some time in the States and then around Europe looking for players. I wouldn't want to do anything else. I'm surrounded by goods people. The staff are fantastic and I have a wonderful Board, who are sympathetic to what's going on. I work with a great bunch of players, who can't wait to come to work and get on the training ground. We all know we're in trouble but I was down the Barbican last night, and everybody was saying nice things, so I'm very happy."
Argyle's recent improvement in front of goal is down to playing a percentage game, according to Paul Mariner, who believes the team is now playing higher up the field, which has led to more chances being created. "It's down to percentages," he said. "If you go back to the Preston game when we first took over, the first-half was a bit debatable but we played the whole of the second-half in their half of the field. If you look at the stats, you'll find we're playing more of our football in the middle third and the attacking third, so you therefore get my chances. It is percentage football and we've played our best football recently. It is down to better balls coming in the box, better runs and all the things that create chances, and converting." Although he has not joined in the scoring in recent weeks, Mariner feels the work-rate of Jamie Mackie has been a big factor. He said: "Jamie always wants to score goals, as all good strikers do, but he's doing a tremendous amount of work that's aiding us to score goals. He put players under tremendous pressure. When defenders get the ball, they're always looking for Jamie and now Bradley as well. We're also encouraging Yala to get up the field and pressure as well."
Bondz N'Gala has made an instant impression with his sheer presence on the Argyle training ground. Paul Mariner said: "If you look at his presence, he's a fearsome looking character. He is a tremendous header of the ball, a good defender and when you're in the arena of the Championship and balls are being lashed in your box, you need people in there to get it out. It's no secret that we've been light in the central defensive area, so we've strengthened that." Mariner has also been boosted by the return to fitness of Reda Johnson in the win over Bristol City. "The lad Maierhofer was a bit of a handful upstairs but Reda was towering above him," said Mariner. "I've never seen him head the ball better and he cares about what he's doing." The other central defensive option available to Mariner comes from natural full-back Chris Barker, who has again impressed with his stoic displays in recent weeks. "It has been what I expect from Barks," said Mariner. "He is a competitor and this is what he does. As I've said previously, if you can play more than position in a Championship team, you are very valuable. He trains hard and gets on with his work."
Argyle have been tracking Northern Ireland international striker Rory Patterson for some time, Paul Mariner has admitted. He said: "He's training with us this week so we can have a look at him. He has been on our radar for quite some time. I think he has already been the IFA Premiership player-of-the-month on three occasions, which is a record. He's a lovely lad, and our Irish scouts are working hard for us." Mariner was asked whether he could understand why Glentoran were upset Patterson had been training with Argyle. He replied: "Of course, but pre-contracts are worth what? I will leave it at that." Patterson is one of three trialists who have trained with Argyle this week. One of the others has already been told he will be released by his current club at the end of the season.
Paul Mariner has hailed the leadership qualities of Carl Fletcher after his goal gave Argyle their first win in seven matches. "I thought Carl Fletcher put the team on his shoulders and carried us forward," said Mariner. He is a guy that epitomises what we are all about, and it was an unbelievable finish if you really think about what he did. It was underneath his body, he had no backlift, it was slightly on the half-volley and he drilled it right in the corner. That's not a fluke, by the way. He does that for fun – and has done it many times for us this season." Mariner admitted he was 'elated' after the win. He said: "I thought we played almost as well as we did at Coventry on Saturday. It was a sensational finish by Clarky to finish off a nice build-up. And it was a bit of a special goal from Bradley. He froze the 'keeper, who didn't have any idea it was coming." Mariner was not surprised Bristol City made such a strong comeback after the break. He said: "We were under no illusions that Gary Johnson would reorganise and get his lads geed up. They have got some quality players going forward and caused us all sorts of problems. But I was obviously delighted to be on the right end of a late winner. I would be lying if I said my heart didn't sink when they got back to 2-2. But I knew the players were up for this. I have been shouting from the rooftops about how resilient these guys are, and maybe we just deserved it." Argyle seemed in a perilous position when they lost at QPR last Tuesday. But a draw with Coventry, followed by three points against Bristol City, has given belief they can stay up. Mariner said: "We didn't give a good account of ourselves at Rangers. We were very disappointed with that. But I think we have got some momentum. We have really got our tails up, to be honest. We have got a lot of fight in the dressing room. The players really care about what they are doing. We all have ownership in where we are in the table, and they want to put it right." Reda Johnson impressed against Bristol City on his return from a groin injury and Mariner said: "I thought Reda was spectacular in the first half with his heading. It was something to behold. But, as we have seen throughout the season, the defence can only withstand so much pressure."
Argyle Reserves lost 4-1 at Swansea City yesterday, the goal scored by Ashley Barnes. Geoff Crudgington was far from displeased with his young team efforts and said: "While it's always disappointing to lose a game, I can't fault the effort of the young players. Our's was a very young side, which included a couple of schoolboys, and they had to deal with the likes of Lee Trundle for the first time. So, I felt they acquitted themselves well and will learn from the experience. That's the point of giving them a run-out against experienced pros." Argyle: Saxton, Stephens, Nelson, Trott, Clifford, Young, Leonard, Kinsella, Barnes, Rickard, Cooper. Subs – Sims, Coombes, Harper-Penman (not used - Chenoweth)
Paul Mariner hailed Carl Fletcher after the captain scored a stoppage-time winner to defeat Bristol City last night. Mariner said: "I don't like to single players out but that was a very important goal and it was a lot more difficult to score than it looked. It was under his body when the ball broke to him and yet he has drilled it right into the corner of the goal. It was a brilliant finish and worthy of winning any match – and you could see how much it meant to him." Overall, it was a draining occasion. "I'm tired but elated," Mariner added. "I felt we played almost as well as we did at Coventry. I was delighted to go in with two quality goals. It was a sensational finish by Clark to finish off a nice build-up, and it was a bit of a special goal from Bradley. Obviously the win was important and to be two ahead at half-time was important but I knew that Gary Johnson would have them fired up for the second half and that proved to be the case." When asked if he feared his team were defending too deep after the break, Mariner replied: "Yes." He was then asked if his heart had sunk when City levelled the scoreline. "I'd be lying if I said it didn't," he said, "but I knew the players were up for this. I knew they were ready for it, and maybe we just deserved it. Maybe, if it was a boxing match, we got five rounds out of seven, or something like that. We've got some momentum, and we've got our tails up. It was great to get the win and we will let that sink in tonight before we start looking ahead to going to Scunthorpe on Saturday. Scunthorpe have a difficult game at Newcastle tomorrow night but we just look at what we are doing – and that's what we concentrate on."
Argyle have caused a furore in Belfast by bringing Northern Ireland international striker Rory Patterson to Home Park on trial. Patterson has scored 33 goals this season for Coleraine and he has signed a pre-contract agreement to join Glentoran in July. His prospective employers were not best pleased to find out that he was heading for Plymouth this week. "As far as we're concerned, he will be a Glentoran player next season and, if Plymouth want to sign him, then they'll have to negotiate with us," Glentoran chairman Aubry Ralph said. "I spoke to Coleraine chairman Hugh Wade on Saturday, and he told me Rory would be in Plymouth this week. Despite texting him, I didn't hear anything before he left for Plymouth. I think the advice he's receiving is poor, and it's a bit disrespectful not to let us know he was going to Plymouth. Maybe he's just being a little naive." Paul Mariner confirmed on Monday that three trialists were training with Argyle this week, but would not reveal the names of any of them.
Argyle beat Bristol City 3-2 at Home Park, the goals scored by Chris Clark after 31 minutes, Bradley Wright-Phillips (45) and Carl Fletcher (90). Argyle: Stockdale, Duguid, Johnson.R, Arnason, Barker, Clark, Fletcher, Johnson.D, Bolasie, Mackie, Wright-Phillips. Subs - Mason, Judge (not used – Larrieu, N'Gala, Fallon, Summerfield, Cooper). Attendance - 9,289.
Argyle today finally signed Bondz N'Gala on loan until the end of the season, but Onismor Bhasera has had to return to Africa to sort out some formalities which have delayed his addition to the squad. Ralph Nkomo, Bhasera's agent, said: "He has passed his exam, and now he needs a stamp from his country of birth on the papers to finalise the work permit. He is flying to Zimbabwe on Tuesday, and he will then return on Wednesday night once he's got the stamp. I'm going to check with the South African FA to see if Kaizer Chiefs have handed them the international clearance needed to complete his move to Plymouth, but I don't foresee a problem as Chiefs have been co-operating well with us. If all goes well, Bhasera will play for Plymouth over the weekend."
Argyle will be forced into yet another defensive reshuffle when they take on Bristol City tonight. Richard Eckersley has been ruled out by a groin injury suffered in the draw at Coventry and there are also doubts over the availability of Kari Arnason. Paul Mariner admitted it was 'touch and go' whether Arnason would shake off a calf injury in time. Craig Noone will also be an absentee tonight, having pulled out of training yesterday with a sore knee. Reda Johnson, however, has returned to fitness after sitting out the last three matches with a groin strain and both Karl Duguid and Gary Sawyer have shaken off the injuries they picked up on Saturday. Mariner said: "You need a settled back four. It doesn't matter whether you are top, middle or bottom of the table, but we just can't get it. It's not an ideal scenario, but we will get on with it."
Paul Mariner is keeping his cards close to his chest about whether Yannick Bolasie will start against Bristol City tonight. He replied 'maybe' when asked whether Bolasie would be in the side and added: "You have got to be careful with young players. They do tend to be up and down. I'm not saying Yala is going to be up and down. But, from experience, young players have a flying game and then they tend to have a drop off in performance. We will study Bristol City a little closer and then make assessments on that." Argyle are desperate to pick up three points tonight to boost their chances of staying up. Mariner said: "I'm not saying it's going to be a gung-ho approach by us, it's certainly not. But we are at home and we need to ignite the crowd and come out with all our guns blazing." Bradley Wright-Phillips is set to start tonight after making his full debut for Argyle in the draw with Coventry. Wright-Phillips played for 74 minutes at the Ricoh Arena before he was substituted and replaced by Joe Mason for the closing stages of the game. Mariner said: "He seems to have come through it okay." The introduction of Mason saw Bolasie move into a central striking role, and that tactic almost paid off. Mariner thought moving Bolasie inside from the right wing had worked out well. He said: "We just thought that if Jamie got a flick, or a ball was played through, his pace might get onto it. Bolasie almost scored late on with a volley, with tremendous technique. He's an unknown quantity, as far as the opposition is concerned."
Liam Head has signed on loan for Tiverton Town until April 24th and could make his debut in their away game against Chippenham Town tonight.
There has been a further delay in Argyle's attempts to sign Bondz N'Gala on loan from West Ham United and Onismor Bhasera has yet to be granted an employment visa for the UK. There was still a chance N'Gala could complete his move before the game with Bristol City tonight but Bhasera will definitely not be available. Paul Mariner said: "We are still trying to resolve the N'Gala situation. I can't really tell you why it has been dragging on so long. He was at the game on Saturday and I thought everything was finalised, but obviously it's not." When it was put to Mariner the delay could have been caused by another club, closer to London, taking an interest in N'Gala, he replied: "I honestly don't know." Mariner has confirmed there are three trialists currently training at Home Park, but he would not reveal the names of any of them. He said: "Two of them had their first day with us yesterday. We didn't do a great deal obviously, because of the workload of the players, but they looked fine. They are here all week, so we will be able to assess what's going on." None of the three are on trial with a view to signing before the deadline for loan deals on March 25th. Instead, Mariner is taking a look at them as possible recruits for the summer.
The second month of David Stockdale's loan spell from Fulham to Argyle will end after the trip to Scunthorpe but Paul Mariner is planning on extending it for a third and final month, subject to the approval of Fulham.
Argyle and West Brom have both been fined £20,000 by the FA for failing to control their players but £7,500 of the fine for each club has been suspended until June 2011. The two clubs were charged following an incident in the Home Park fixture on February 6th.
Kari Arnason thought Argyle were unfortunate not to take maximum points against Coventry on Saturday. He said: "I think QPR was a one-off. It wasn't a good team performance in general. I can't say anybody had a good game against QPR but today, especially in the first half, we fought for each other and we could have been 3-0 up, to be honest. We had some great chances and should have finished the game off. Our problem has never been that we haven't been showing a good spirit. But it's hard to come back again, and again, and again, after being scored on. It's tough, but we are not going to quit. We are going to keep going." Arnason headed home from a free-kick taken by Damien Johnson for his second goal of the season. He said: "It was a great ball in by Damo, and we just make our runs like we are supposed to. I think our set pieces have been brilliant actually. We have always been dangerous on them, and it paid off today. The ball was delivered well and the keeper made the error to go for it." Arnason added: "I don't think Coventry saw us coming. They probably thought it would be an easy game, but we showed them differently. Like I say, we should have finished the game in the first half." Coventry's equaliser came when Carl Baker sent a low cross into the penalty area which neither Arnason nor Chris Barker could cut out. The ball reached McIndoe beyond the far post and he squeezed a shot past David Stockdale from a tight angle. Arnason said: "It was a good ball played into the six-yard box. It was hard to defend because if I had got a touch on it I could have put it in my own net. And if the keeper had come for it he might not have got there, and it would have been an open goal as well." Both teams had chances to score a winner in the closing stages of the game, and Yannick Bolasie had one of the best of them. His left-foot volley seemed destined for the net, until it struck Jamie Mackie. Arnason said: "Yala's great strike was going in, actually, but it hit Jamie. That's our luck this season." Argyle have now won only one of their last 10 league games and the threat of relegation is looming ever larger. Arnason said: "When you are fighting your heart out and not getting the results we maybe deserved, it is hard. The gaffer is doing a good job of picking us up, and the spirit within the team is still fantastic."
Argyle remained firmly in the relegation mire after their draw at Coventry City on Saturday but Paul Mariner took heart from a much improved performance. He said: "I think both sets of fans would say that was a good game to watch. It was pretty apparent there were two teams trying to win the game. There was nobody shutting up shop. I think Chris Coleman is probably a little more pleased with the result than I am, but after our performance on Tuesday, which really didn't have our stamp on it, that was much more like us." Argyle took the lead in stoppage time at the end of the first half when Kari Arnason headed home a free-kick from Damien Johnson. Mariner said: "We have good movement from set pieces and the service from Damien was absolutely excellent. It was a very difficult ball to defend. The goalkeeper decided to come out and Arnie just nipped in front of him and looped it into the net. I felt we maybe deserved another goal during that first 45 minutes. We had a couple of opportunities. Jamie was a constant threat and I thought Bradley did very well considering he has been out for such a long, long time. I said to the lads at half-time 'we look like a football team today'. Our units were good, our spacing was good, our passing was good and our endeavour was good. Everything was right about every single individual in the team."
Argyle are set to have defenders Onismor Bhasera and Bondz N'Gala both available for the visit of Bristol City to Home Park tomorrow. Bhasera has signed a contract with the club until the summer of 2012 and is now completing all of the requirements to secure a visa to stay in the country. Meanwhile, N'Gala's delayed loan signing from West Ham United should be completed before the game. On Saturday Paul Mariner said: "He hasn't signed yet, but he was here today. I have got to speak to the football secretary, Carole Rowntree, but I think everything is clear with West Ham. Hopefully, he will be training tomorrow or, if not tomorrow, Monday." Asked about the hold-up, Mariner said: "It has just got dragged out for various reasons. There is nothing to worry about. We are also hopeful Bas will be available for selection on Tuesday." Mariner has another trialist at Home Park, but is declining to reveal his identity. "Why am I not telling you his name? Because somebody will come and nick him," he said.
Craig Noone should be fit for the game against Bristol City tomorrow after missing the last two games. Paul Mariner said: "Nooney actually took a harder knock than we thought and he didn't train all week. He wasn't quite right, but he will be back in full training tomorrow."
Argyle will carry on fighting for their Championship status until they 'have no breath left', according to Paul Mariner. After the draw at Coventry he said: "I'm the type of person, and the squad is the type that, until we've got no breath left, we'll still be fighting. I think you could see from today that we gave Coventry everything they could handle. Coventry have just come off a five-game in six winning streak, and are absolutely flying. They haven't been beaten here since September, and everybody thought it would be a slam-dunk home win. We have got a lot of fight in this team; we've got quality in this team; we've got people who can score goals - we've just got to keep clean sheets. Easier said, than done. People said 'Is your team a dead team walking?' It most certainly is not. I think everybody could see that today. We've lost two games in seven and we are down the bottom - there's something to hang on to there."
Yala Bolasie and Bradley Wright-Phillips made their long-awaited full debuts for Argyle yesterday, and both lived up to expectations. Paul Mariner said: "There's a time and a place to give young players debuts and I just felt today was the right time to give Bolasie his debut, because he deserved it. I thought he was absolutely fantastic, probably worth the entrance money. It is a credit to the lad - he's been out on loan, he's come back, he's listened to John and me: we're not concerned when he's got the ball but we've been worried about the other side of the game. He had a lot of experience behind him today with Duguid and with Eckers, and I thought he was sparkling. That is the norm for him. We see him every day in training. Bolasie nearly capped his first start with a late winner that would have meant so much to the team. Mariner added: "His left-foot volley coming over his shoulder hit Jamie Mackie on the socks. Whether it was going in or not, I don't know, but it certainly was goal-bound." The performance of Mackie and Wright-Phillips also delighted Mariner. I thought the front two were sparkling in the first half," he said. "I felt they did every single thing we wanted them to do. They were a thorn in the side of the defence, got in on a few occasions and - the other side of the game, which is so important - we defended from the front. They were in the forefront of that." Wright-Phillips was substituted midway through the second half, with the Mariner having one eye on the midweek game against Bristol City. "I thought 70 minutes was probably his limit today," he said. "When he came off, I gave him a hug and said: 'Get ready for Tuesday.' I thanked him for what he did and said 'You've got to build on the first 45 minutes. It's an incredible ask for a player whose been out for so long to go through for 90 minutes. I never thought he would do that, but I think everybody was pleased with what he did today."
Argyle's injury curse struck again during the draw at Coventry City as they lost two defenders. "Gary Sawyer has taken a hell of a clattering on the shin, so that's probably just bone bruise," said Paul Mariner. "Richard Eckersley came off with a groin injury. I hope we caught it fast enough, but I'm guessing he's struggling for Tuesday." Mariner Paul is now keen for potential replacements Bondz N'Gala and Onismor Bhasera to complete their moves to Home Park. He added: "Bondz was here today, in the stand. I think everything is cleared with West Ham. Hopefully, he will be training tomorrow; if not, Monday. We're hopeful Baz may come in. He's going to Cardiff - I think it's Cardiff - on Monday for his visa."
Paul Mariner expressed pleasure that his team had put behind them Tuesday night's lacklustre defeat at QPR as they bounced back to form with a draw against Coventry City. He said: "After the performance on Tuesday, which really didn't have our stamp on it, I think that had our stamp on it today. I said to the lads that we looked like a football team today. The units were good; the spacing was good; the passing was good; our endeavour was good - everything was right about every single individual in the team. We were thrilled and I really felt that during the first 45 minutes, we deserved another goal. We had a couple of opportunities; Jamie was a constant thorn; Bradley did very, very well considering he's been out for such a long, long time. It was pretty apparent there were two teams, both trying to win the game - there was nobody shutting up shop." Kari Arnason scored the Argyle goal in first-half injury time, heading home Damien Johnson's floated free-kick, only for Michael McIndoe to level soon after the break. "I wish it was the 94th minute," said Mariner, about the goal, "but never mind. We have good movement from set-pieces and the service from Damien was absolutely excellent, a very difficult ball to defend; the 'keeper had decided to come out and Arnie just nipped in front of him and looped it into the net."
Argyle drew 1-1 at Coventry City, the goal scored by Kari Arnason after 45 minutes. Argyle: Stockdale, Duguid, Eckersley, Arnason, Barker, Clark, Fletcher, Johnson.D, Bolasie, Mackie, Wright-Phillips. Subs - Sawyer, Mason (not used – Larrieu, Fallon, Judge, Summerfield, Cooper). Attendance - 18,127.
Karl Duguid has admitted he wants to stay at Argyle 'for a few more years' and that he is currently in talks with the club about extending his contract. He said: "We are in discussions at the moment. The gaffer has said some nice things about me and he has spoken to me about a new contract, which is great. I have really enjoyed being here for the last two years. Obviously, we aren't in the position I would like us to be in, but I have enjoyed every minute. I was the captain last season, which was great. I loved it. And I played a lot of games. I have played a lot of games this season as well, and the gaffer has rewarded me by talking about a new contract. I have got a meeting with him and the board next week so, hopefully, I can get that sorted out and be here for a few more years." Duguid had previously spent his entire career with Colchester before moving to Argyle. He added: "My wife and I had twins towards the end of last season, and at first it was a bit tough, but we have got used to it. We have moved into a nice area and a bigger house. We are settled in really nicely now where we are. Obviously, you are a long way away from the rest of your family. But we have got a nice house with plenty of rooms for them to come and visit us." Duguid insisted the spirit among the Argyle squad had remained high despite the struggles on the pitch this season. He said: "We have got a great bunch of lads here, but people don't see that. Obviously, they see on a Saturday we are very disappointed when we lose, and with the position we are in. But we all know we can get out of this position. That's the way we are thinking. I want to help keep the club in this division, and then next season push on. The gaffer and John Carver are trying to do the right things to push the club forward." Duguid has played all across the midfield for Argyle this season, as well as having a recent stint at right-back. He said: "I love playing football, whichever position I'm in. I will always give 100 per cent and put in a shift for the team. Managers like players like that. I have got a good relationship with the gaffer here. He knows what I'm going to give to the football club every week, and that will never change. I will always put in that 100 per cent. If it's not good enough sometimes, so be it."
Paul Mariner admitted on Thursday that his side's display at QPR was unacceptable. He has assessed what went on with his staff, and he said: "We feel that was one of the worst performances since I took over, and that was disappointing. We all feel that. We really didn't perform as a group. We've analysed it, and the players are aware of certain things that we need to do better. We just tend to shoot ourselves in the foot, and we don't tend to be able to recover from that." What happened at QPR is in the past though and the game at Coventry is all that matters at the moment. "We're looking to bounce back on Saturday," Mariner added. "We feel we can do that. We can't do anything about yesterday, we can do a lot about today and tomorrow, and the players are in full agreement." Mariner and his coaching staff are in agreement about what they and their players need to do. He said: "You have to go right back to the basics, and you have to re-vamp and re-think absolutely everything. That's exactly what we've been trying to do since Tuesday. The three of us have been together constantly after the game. We had a word with the players on Thursday morning, and we told them exactly what we needed to do. We've pointed out the obvious things, because sometimes you can't see the wood for the trees. You can't see the obvious things." Mariner conceded that individual errors by his side contributed to the two goals which QPR scored, but he still feels that there is some cause for optimism. He said: "I've said to the players that it isn't all broken. Yes, it was a performance that we weren't particularly pleased about, but it isn't all gone to nothing. There's still a lot to work on, a lot to build on, and you have to maintain your belief systems. You have to give yourself the best opportunity. Our job is to put the players in the best frame of mind, come three o'clock on Saturday, to be successful. Then all you can do is hope that the training kicks in. As a coach, you can't play the game." Mariner has some selection decisions to make, depending on fitness reports on a few players. Craig Noone is slightly doubtful, Chris Clark and Reda Johnson are very doubtful. Mariner has not ruled out sticking with Alan Judge, who began Tuesday's game, if Noone cannot play. He added: "I thought Judge did OK the other night, but we were two down and we just had to inject some pace into the team." When Judge is used on the left, Argyle have a right-footed player on that flank, but Mariner does not see that as a problem. He explained: "A lot of teams play people on the opposite side. Not many teams are going to the byline these days. What they're doing is they are cutting back in and they're fizzing balls to the far post, in between the defence and the goalkeeper. They're very difficult balls to defend." Asked to assess Coventry's strengths, Mariner replied: "They're uncompromising, as most teams are, they have quality in certain areas, and they're on a high. They're winning games, which is difficult to do in this division. I respect Chris Coleman, he has done a great job in the game, and he has put a good unit together. But I don't think there's anything to fear for the players."
Craig Noone is hoping to be fit enough to play a part for Argyle today at Coventry City, the venue where he enjoyed the best day of his career so far. Replacing Jamie Mackie after 58 minutes of scoreless action in last season's game between the teams he scored a fabulous solo goal four minutes before full-time. Noone missed the defeat at QPR because of an injury suffered against Preston North End. "It was painful," he said. "I thought I'd got away with it and just nicked it past him, but he came in and caught my standing foot. My foot just stayed there and I went over the top. When I got up and tried walking on it, I felt the pain." A week's rest and recuperation might have done the trick and he is hoping to be involved against Coventry today. "My shin is feeling all right now, and so is the foot," he added. "I'm hoping to be available. I'd say my chances are a bit better than 60-40." Noone was only given half a game against Preston last weekend, despite his performance in the previous home match. He scored a good goal and played very well in a 1-1 draw with Leicester City. When asked if that game saw him have his best game for the club, he replied: "It was my best 90 minutes. I think it might have been my only 90 minutes, so it was a big game for me, but Southampton on Boxing Day last season was probably my best start." Noone helped Argyle to a 2-0 win that day, which came just over a month after his starring role at Coventry. "That was probably the best moment of my Argyle career," he said. "It was my 21st birthday as well, so I'm always going to remember it."
Karl Duguid has insisted there is still a strong belief among the Argyle squad that they can escape relegation. He said: "The games are getting less and we have got to start winning now – not next week or the week after. We know that as players, and that's what we are aiming to do. We are all sticking together. The gaffer and everyone else is keeping positive because we know we are not a million miles away." Duguid pointed to the recent draws at home to Leicester City and Preston North End, to back up his assertion. He said: "We should have won against Leicester, and there was only one team in the game in the second half against Preston. We know we didn't deserve anything against QPR, but the games are coming thick and fast now and you can't worry about the one before. QPR has gone, and we have got Coventry tomorrow. Then we are at home to Bristol City next Tuesday. They are all great games to play in, and we are all looking forward to them. We feel we have got some great games to win, and keep us in this division. We will be pushing as much as possible to do that." Argyle can take confidence from the fact they won on their last visit to the Ricoh Arena. Duguid said: "We went there last season and won so why can't we do it this time? Obviously, Tuesday wasn't good enough. We will hold our hands up, but that's going to happen now and then. I think it came too soon after Neil Warnock got the job there. They were a good side, but so they should be. They have got lads there on £15,000 a week, and they have paid lots of money for these players." Duguid started the games against Preston and QPR on the right-side of midfield after a spell at right-back. He said: "I really enjoyed it at right-back, but the gaffer felt he needed to get a right-back in, and so be it. I'm happy to play anywhere in the team. I think the gaffer knows that, and that's why he has done what he has done. If I need to go back there again, he knows I will do it with pleasure because I did really enjoy it." In each of the last two games, Duguid has ended up in a central midfield role after substitutions have been made, which has highlighted his versatility. He added: "I enjoy playing football so I'm not too worried whether I'm at right-back, right midfield or in the centre. That's the gaffer's decision." Duguid has been impressed at the way Richard Eckersley has fitted into the team. He said: "When you get new players in it gives you a boost, and over the two games he has played he has done very well. He has come from Manchester United, after all. He's a confident lad and you can see that in the games he has played."
There has been a hold-up in Argyle's attempt to sign Bondz N'Gala on loan from West Ham United. N'Gala had been expected to train with the squad yesterday, but instead he stayed in London and had a meeting with West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady. Asked about the delay, Paul Mariner said: "He has got some issues to work out with West Ham."
Paul Mariner has revealed the lengths to which Argyle went to make sure they secured a work permit for Onismor Bhasera. Bhasera's international team-mate, Manchester City striker Benjani Mwaruwari, wrote a letter in support of the bid to sign him on a permanent deal. There are still some more steps to be taken before he can officially complete his move however. Bhasera must make a visa application in Cardiff, and Argyle also need to get international clearance for him. Mariner said: "I was delighted with what happened on Wednesday. We had a tremendous hearing. The members of the panel were very sympathetic to what we were voicing, but they were very rigorous in the procedures." Mariner was accompanied by John Carver, Geoff Crudgington and Carole Rowntree. Argyle's performance analyst Scott Russell also played an important part in the case. Mariner said: "Scott put footage together from when Kaiser Chiefs played Manchester United in a pre-season game. He was going up against Tevez and Rooney, and gave a very good showing. Scott also put together some highlights of other Kaiser Chiefs games, so it was pretty compelling viewing. Sometimes DVDs are a little false, but we tried to stretch it out into some free-flowing play, and not just a highlight reel." Mariner believes Bhasera has the potential to be an excellent acquisition for Argyle. He said: "Baz, as we like to call him, has got tremendous pace and is tremendous in the tackle. He has got great recovery speed and could actually play as a wing-back in a five if you needed him to. Him and Bondz have not put pen to paper yet, but it's getting closer and closer."
Yannick Bolasie is now ready to make an impact from the start of matches, rather than only off the bench, according to Paul Mariner. "He has got a chance of starting games now," said Mariner. "He's on a very fast learning curve. It was noticeable in training yesterday as well. The things he wasn't doing before, he's doing now." Mariner is set to choose from Bolasie, Alan Judge or Craig Noone to play on the left-side of midfield. Noone was ruled out of the game at QPR because of shin and ankle injuries he sustained against Preston but should be fit to face Coventry. Noone was hurt near the end of the game against Preston after a reckless tackle and Mariner thought the damage could have been more severe than it was. "That was one-hundredth of a second away from being a very nasty challenge," he said. "He just left his feet at the right time. So we are fortunate we haven't lost Craig for longer. We will have to wait and see with him for tomorrow. The main thing is whether he's mentally ready to go. When you get bone bruising and slight twists, you haven't really got that zip. And a player like him relies on his quick feet and the dip and go sort of stuff. Hopefully, he will join in training today. If he doesn't, then he won't go to Coventry."
Ashley Barnes has returned to Argyle after a one-month loan spell at Torquay United. Paul Mariner said: "We have brought Ashley Barnes back from Torquay because the squad is light. Barnesy can play in quite a variety of positions, and we just need that option at the present moment."
Paul Mariner bemoaned more defensive lapses after Argyle's defeat by QPR on Tuesday. Rangers took the lead in the 35th minute with a penalty after Kari Arnason needlessly pulled back QPR striker Tamas Priskin. Mariner said: "It was a poor penalty to give away at that stage of the game. There was nothing really in the game. They had a lot of possession in front of us, but without hurting us." Argyle did not make any substitutions at half-time, but there was a change of tactics. Alan Judge, who had been playing on the left-side of midfield, was pushed forward in support of Rory Fallon and Jamie Mackie, but, within four minutes of the restart, they conceded a second goal. Mariner said: "We tried to adjust and change it up a little bit. You see a ball going into the box every five minutes in this league. For somebody to have a free header on the far post is unacceptable. A team in our position, we can't keep shooting ourselves in the foot." Yannick Bolasie and Joe Mason were both sent on as substitutes soon after QPR had gone 2-0 up but they could not make much of an impact. Mariner said: "Two-nil is a dodgy lead. Everybody knows that in football. We just couldn't crack a very strong, and well-marshalled, QPR defence." After the final whistle at Loftus Road, Mariner spent a while talking to Carver and Geoff Crudgington out on the pitch. He said: "We were just talking about what went on, and trying to analyse the performance of all the players. I think we have got some players who are low on confidence, and it's pretty plain to see there are communication problems when you have got different people coming in on loan, and you can't keep a steady back four. It does tend to affect the team, but we are going to stay positive." Argyle did not even have a shot on target against Rangers, which meant the 863 away fans at Loftus Road did not have much to cheer about. Mariner said: "The support was superb again. We are just sorry we couldn't give them a better show."
Argyle have been given the green light to sign Zimbabwe international Onismor Bhasera. The club's application for a work permit was heard and granted at an independent tribunal in London yesterday and Paul Mariner was delighted. He said: "The panel were sympathetic to our case, which was presented by our coaching staff and Carole Rowntree, and was aided by backroom staff at the club. I want to express my thanks to everyone involved in putting such a strong case together." Mariner has for some time been keen to recruit the left-back, who has been training at Home Park for the past few weeks after impressing Portsmouth during a trial. Pompey were unable to sign Bhasera because of a transfer embargo. "Baz came very highly recommended to us by Paul Hart," said Mariner. "Having watched him work over the past few weeks, seen him interact with the players, and seen his technical ability, it became a very important step for the club to sign this young player."
Argyle could have two new defenders in their squad for Saturday's visit to Coventry. Today Paul Mariner will head a delegation at Wembley which will try to secure a work-permit for Onismor Bhasera and tomorrow West Ham centre-back Bondz N'Gala will travel to Home Park to hopefully agree a loan deal. Both players have trained at Home Park in recent weeks. Mariner said: "N'Ggala's a very, very strong defender. He's not an archetypal Championship defender - he's got more ability than that - but he's an uncompromising defender who likes to defend. He's been on our radar. He came in for a week's training and we wanted to keep him but it wasn't happening. West Ham had some injuries. Now they've got players coming back, and Gianfranco Zola and Steve Clarke have lent him out to us. We're very grateful. He's a very intelligent player. He's a quick learner. The important thing is that he likes to defend. It bothers him when either the team he's on concedes a goal, or he gets beat. Which is not very often, to be honest."
Argyle have a dozen games left to play in their quest to stay in the Championship after last night's defeat to QPR and Paul Mariner admitted they got what they deserved. He said: "It was a poor penalty to give away at the stage of the game. We conceded a goal at the wrong time. They had a lot of possession in front of us before that, but there was nothing really hurting us. Then we conceded a goal from a ball going into the box to the far post, which you see in every game in this league. For somebody to have a free header at the far post is unacceptable. As a team in our position, we can't keep shooting ourselves in the foot." Despite the setback, Mariner is not in surrender mood. He said: "People have been writing us off ever since I took over, but it doesn't bother me in the slightest. There's a tremendous amount of fight in the team. I'm enjoying working with the players, and I believe the players are enjoying working with John Carver and I. You can debate until you're blue in the face about the quality of the squad but, if you come in and look at the day-to-day happenings at the club, everything is hunky-dory." Mariner is not denying that times are hard, though. He added: "There is a great deal of pressure on the players to perform on match days and, when you're in the position we're in, where confidence is low, it's up to us as a management team to instil confidence in the players."
Argyle lost 2-0 at Queens Park Rangers. Argyle: Stockdale, Eckersley, Arnason, Barker, Sawyer, Duguid, Fletcher, Johnson.D, Judge, Mackie, Fallon. Subs - Mason, Bolasie (not used – Larrieu, McNamee, Summerfield, Cooper, Wright-Phillips). Attendance - 12,013.
Plymouth Argyle Football Company today announced that it is to sell Home Park to a newly created holding company and issue 90,000 shares to fans in a bid to cut debt. The company has sent its shareholders the accounts for the year to May 31, 2009, together with a circular containing a notice convening the 2010 AGM on March 31, 2010. The circular also contains details of an open offer of 90,000 new shares to shareholders at £22.22 per share that is being underwritten by the holding company, Plymouth Argyle Football Company (Holdings) Limited (PAFCH), as well as a plan to sell Home Park at market value to a new property company wholly owned by PAFCH. These actions are aimed at reducing debt levels in PAFC and strengthening its balance sheet. A press release issued this morning says the club 'came down to earth with a bang in 2009'. A spokesman said: "However, we managed to finish 21st in the league, thus retaining our status for a sixth consecutive year. It is true to say that some of the permanent signings did not produce the required effect, for whatever reason, and we had to rely heavily on loan signings. This, together with the much increased player squad, led to our wage bill for 2009 being the highest in our history, which combined with the fact that our average attendance fell for the fourth consecutive year, has contributed greatly to the loss shown in the Financial Statements of £2.8m. The trading position of PAFC continues to be challenging, with revenues from gate receipts lower than planned and the cost-base higher as PAFC has not been able to transfer players that are no longer required for the core squad. As the Board moves the club forward, these challenges will need to be addressed alongside a further reduction in PAFC's cost-base and in seeking ways to increase commercial and gate income. The Board is focused on both of these issues in a short-term and long-term context. The playing squad has been reduced by loaning out players, but, in many cases, PAFC still has to contribute to their costs. Despite the financial challenges, the Board has been supportive of Paul Mariner's request to bring in additional talent. In order to further develop the football side of the club, PAFC must improve the club's facilities, and the Board will shortly be announcing its plans around the pitch, training facilities and community activities. PAFC's commercial revenue will need to be improved, and the Board are working with partners to use the stadium as a venue so that the cost of the stadium can be spread over many more occasions than the 23 home games in a football season. In addition, the Board is seeking further commercial partners and looking at what it can do additionally to encourage more spectators to attend matches." Roy Gardner said: "This is one small step in the overall plan to strengthen the club, not just on the field, but also the facilities the club uses and the balance-sheet of the club. We are hoping that shareholders will support this by subscribing for their allocations and passing the resolutions laid before the AGM. Shareholders should review thoroughly the documents being sent to them and seek appropriate advice. On the field, our priority is to win games and move ourselves out of the relegation zone. There are more than enough points available to achieve this."
After a very promising debut against Preston, Richard Eckersley will retain his place at right-back against QPR tonight. Karl Duguid is likely to play in front of him on the right side of midfield. Paul Mariner said: "The relationship between Richard and Karl was there for all to see, even in such a short space of time. If Richard goes, Karl sits. That's something we're looking to exploit." Mariner may move Carl Fletcher back into central midfield for the game. He said: "We have to find the best balance. For me, Carl is one of the best central midfielders in the league. He did a good job for us at the back on Saturday, but I do think it's fair to say that we missed him in midfield."
Argyle's fight for survival will see them play four of their next five matches away from Home Park and Paul Mariner believes his players are capable of picking up a decent haul of points from the four away games. He said: "I take my hat off to the board. They allow us to fly to most venues, which is easier on the players. We are also cautious on the amount of legwork we give the players. But they have been around the block before and they know how to take care of themselves and what it's going to take to get in the best possible condition for the games. We have obviously got to keep an eye on it, but we also respect the fact the players are very good professionals." QPR will be playing for the second time tonight since the appointment of Neil Warnock as their new manager. Mariner said: "I don't think Neil is going to change the way he plays the game, but obviously the personnel are different. They rose to the challenge on Saturday and we are under no illusions this is a tough game. If we had played them 10 days ago, it might have been a different story. But with a new manager coming in, especially Neil with all his experience, he will get them fired up."
Argyle are close to agreeing new contracts with Romain Larrieu, Karl Duguid, Yannick Bolasie and Craig Noone but Gary Sawyer could be set to leave the club in the summer. When asked yesterday about the contracts, Paul Mariner replied: "We've already had discussions with all four players. The talks are advanced, as far as I understand." When asked if he was hoping to have the deals sorted out sooner rather than later, he replied: "Yes." Sawyer rejected a contract extension offer earlier this season and Paul Mariner said: "He did turn down the initial offer, which we thought was a good one. We are just going to have to wait and see, so watch this space." Argyle are now pushing ahead with their plans to sign Zimbabwe international left-back Onismor Bhasera. He is a free agent after leaving South African club Kaiser Chiefs last month, and was at Home Park yesterday. Bhasera impressed Paul Mariner during a two-week trial last month and Argyle are preparing to apply for a work permit from an independent tribunal, which may be heard as early as this week. Also out-of-contract this summer are Lloyd Saxton, who is training with Crewe Alexandra this week, David McNamee and Yoann Folly. Mariner said: "McNamee has been injured a lot, and he's coming back to fitness. Saxton is at Crewe training this week. It isn't a loan deal, it's just a change of environment for him." Meanwhile, Mariner hopes to make another loan signing later this week, before the trip to Coventry City on Saturday. He said: "I have got to wait for an answer on Thursday from a Premier League team about a central defender."
Chris Clark and Craig Noone have been ruled out of Argyle's game a Queens Park Rangers tonight. Clark hobbled out of the draw against Preston North End with thigh and hamstring injuries and Noone suffered ankle and shin injuries in a late tackle. Paul Mariner is optimistic both will be fit for the trip to Coventry City but has opted not to take any chances on their fitness tonight. Mariner said: "It was a bit of a rash tackle on Noone, to say the least. I thought Nooney had seen it coming and had managed to get off his feet. I assumed Jones had missed him, but he obviously didn't. I think Clarky and Noone will both be available for Saturday. Clarky has had an ongoing situation which he has been taking care of, and it restricted his movement on Saturday. It's his thigh and hamstring. Could they both play tonight? Probably. But with the games coming up, I think it would be a bit foolish." Reda Johnson is still out after being injured in the second half of the defeat at Sheffield United. Mariner said: "Paul Atkinson has organised a scan for him. It's just a precaution. We need it to be clear, in the player's mind and in our mind, that it's nothing serious. He jogged on Sunday, but when Paul asked him to up it a little bit he felt it. And that was just straight stuff, so he's quite a way away."
Alan Judge was absent from the Argyle squad on Saturday because of a tight hamstring, after playing for the Republic of Ireland under-21s last Wednesday. Paul Mariner said: "It was just a precaution. He had a tight hamstring after playing a full 90 minutes on the Wednesday, coupled with the travel. He trained well yesterday and is in the squad." David McNamee and Sean Kinsella have also been called into the matchday squad.
Richard Eckersley was disappointed his debut for Argyle did not end in a victory over Preston North End. He said: "I thought, as a team, we didn't get going in the first half. But, in the second half, we should have beaten them easily." Eckersley had only two training sessions with Argyle before the game, and added: "I think in football you have just got to adapt to wherever you go and make your mark quickly. That's hopefully what I did today." Argyle tried to bring Eckersley to Home Park during the January transfer window, but Burnley would not allow him to leave until a transfer tribunal had ruled on the fee they would have to pay Manchester United for him, and that was finally resolved last Monday. Eckersley has made only three substitute appearances for Burnley and none of them have come since Brian Laws took over as manager in January after the departure of Owen Coyle. Eckersley said: "I have been chomping at the bit to get playing at Burnley. But, for some reason, I wasn't playing, or even involved. Brian Laws said to me I needed games, and I agreed with him totally, so I'm happy to come down here. Plymouth is a good club. I have played at centre-back for United reserves, but at this standard I have always played at full-back."
The omission of Craig Noone from Argyle's starting line-up on Saturday was the main talking point after the draw with Preston. Paul Mariner was concerned about his makeshift defence and so opted to play Luke Summerfield and Damien Johnson in the centre of midfield, with Chris Clark and Karl Duguid either side of them. Noone's display as a substitute, though, had some supporters wondering why he had not started the match. Mariner said: "We just wanted to protect the back four as long as we could. Then the game plan was to either bring on Yala or Craig." Noone came on for Summerfield, and gave Argyle the attacking thrust they had been lacking. Mariner said: "I made the change, not because of what Luke did but because we needed that winger-type of midfield player. Noone brought that little bit of pace on the outside and I think it energised us." Argyle almost equalised in the 43rd minute, but Lonergan made a stunning reflex stop to keep out a header from Joe Mason. Mariner said: "It was a great save. I had a fantastic view of it from where I was. Joe timed his run to perfection and he was close in. It was an incredible reaction save." Chris Clark had to be replaced by Rory Fallon in the 54th minute because of a sore thigh and hamstring. Mariner said: "With so many games coming up we didn't want to force the issue and lose him for a period of time. That was a precaution, so we just slipped Joe out to the right-side of midfield and I thought he did terrific." Argyle are now seven points from safety but Mariner remains upbeat about the chances of staying up. He said: "There is such a lot of football to be played. People are going to get injuries and suspensions. There are going to be some twists and turns before anything is resolved. All we have got to do is try to take care of our business. We have got to keep clean sheets and put the ball in the back of the net. Until there is no breath in us, there is no way we are not going to continue to compete." Mariner confirmed he was still trying to sign a centre-back on loan to bolster his defensive options. He said: "It's there for all to see that we are light in that spot, and it looks like Arnie has got a hole in his shin from a challenge. We can't afford for anybody to go down, so we have got to be on the ball."
Carl Fletcher is undaunted by the challenge of trying to keep Argyle in the Championship, despite the loss to Preston North End on Saturday. He said: "We have just got to keep plugging away and keep believing in what we are doing. You only need a couple of wins and it soon changes everything around. All the lads are still confident and working hard to put things right." Next up is a game at Queens Park Rangers, and new manager Neil Warnock, tomorrow. Fletcher said: "It always seems to happen that a new manager changes the fortunes of the team around. We have got eight games in the month, which is going to be tough, but it's a challenge to look forward to, not to be afraid of. If we can steer clear of injuries and suspensions then, hopefully, we can get a few wins that will help us out." Fletcher did not play in his usual midfield role against Preston, Paul Mariner opting to play him in the centre of defence, rather than move Chris Barker from left-back. Fletcher admitted Preston striker Jon Parkin had been difficult to contain in the first half. He said: "He's definitely a big size, and not someone you are going to come up against every week. Obviously, with Reda being out injured the gaffer asked me to do a job and I'm happy to play anywhere really for the team. We started slowly, which is disappointing, but although we didn't play that well it was just a set piece that cost us the goal. The longer the game went on, the more we got to grips with it." Richard Eckersley made his debut for Argyle at right-back and Fletcher was impressed with his performance. "He did well," said Fletcher. "It's always tough coming in and playing, especially on this pitch. Rich had a good bit of aggression and a good bit of quality on the ball, so he's an ideal right-back for us." Argyle almost snatched victory late on, when Craig Noone crashed a shot against the crossbar and Rory Fallon's header from the rebound was superbly saved by Preston goalkeeper Andy Lonergan. Fletcher said: "If you look back and see how many saves Dave had to make and how many saves their goalie had to make, you think we could have come out with three points. I think we need to stop giving teams a headstart on us, and maybe we will be a bit more successful. But we have got to start somewhere and it's not a loss, it's a draw. Hopefully, if we can turn the draws we have been getting recently into wins it will make life a lot easier."
Paul Mariner had his first brief look at Youth Alliance football when he took in the first half of the under-18's derby against Torquay United at Haye Road on Saturday. He had to leave at half-time to begin his preparations for the game with Preston North End, but Mike Pejic reckons the boss saw the best part of a disappointing performance, as Argyle lost 2-0. "We knew from our two earlier games against Torquay that they would come at us - I warned our lads about it just before the game - and they did," said Pejic. "However, I thought that during the rest of the first half we did quite well, Our approach work was good, but we let ourselves down by either a poor final pass or poor finishing. However, our performance in the second half was unacceptable, and I told the players that." added the demanding former England international, who excluded only Jordan Trott, Connor Clifford and Raivo Varazinskis from his criticism. Argyle: Varazinskis, Stephens, Trott, Nelson, Clifford, Head, Berry, Young, Baker, Rickard, Sims. Subs – Kinsella, Richards, Coombes (not used - Chenoweth).
Paul Mariner said after yesterdays draw with Preston that Argyle need to be more clinical in front of goal. He said: "Some people are saying it was the tale of two halves but I think it was a tale of a third and two thirds. For the first 30 minutes we weren't at the races at all and Preston could have been out of sight. Luckily they weren't and in the end we could have won it. I thought their goalkeeper Lonergan had a fantastic match for them and Malwene and St Ledger defended resolutely, and they had to. We just have to be a little bit more clinical in front of goal, every manager says it. It's good that we are creating chances but we didn't get enough balls into the final third in the first 30 minutes. In the final 60 minutes we did everything bar put the ball in the net again."
Richard Eckersley turned in a man-of-the-match performance on his Argyle debut yesterday. Paul Mariner said: ""You can see he likes to defend; he's got pace; he is strong in the tackle; and his distribution is excellent. He needs to get to know the league. After the education he's had at Manchester United, where they play, for want of a better expression, total football, building from the back, playing one-twos, and getting it out from the defending third. You can't do that in the Championship and you can't do it on our field, so there was a slight adjustment Richard had to make. I thought he did it, piece of cake. He looks as though he's going help us to keep some clean sheets."
Argyle drew 1-1 with Preston North End at Home Park, the goal scored by Damien Johnson after 71 minutes. Argyle: Stockdale, Duguid, Arnason, Eckersley, Barker, Summerfield, Fletcher, Johnson.D, Clark, Mackie, Mason. Subs - Fallon, Noone (not used – Larrieu, Cooper, Wright-Phillips, Bolasie, Sawyer). Attendance - 9,582.
Paul Mariner has predicted another unpredictable outcome when Preston North End visit Home Park. "We will be hoping to take care of Preston but they will obviously have other ideas," he said. "My thoughts on this league have not wavered one iota since I became in charge of the team. Every single game is an extremely difficult game and nobody can predict the results in our division." The fixture is a reverse of Mariner's first game in charge of Argyle, a 2-0 defeat at Deepdale. "The main thing I learned from the Preston game is that we have a good group of lads," he said. "I learned that the players we have in the squad are more than capable of getting out of this situation that we're in. We've been extremely unlucky in many games. We've put a lot of hard work in and we've got done by a penalty here or a late goal there. What we've got to do now is go on a run and start taking points. It depends on which partnership they go with but Wellbeck and Parkin are obviously a smash and grab type of forward line. Parkin is an extremely powerful player. He holds it up well and keeps their team playing, and you can see the quality of Wellbeck in his finishing."
Reda Johnson is a major doubt for the visit of Preston North End to Home Park today and Paul Mariner also has concerns over Gary Sawyer, who damaged his knee in training. "Johnson is struggling," said Mariner. "I think he's struggling for Tuesday at QPRas well. Apparently Sawyer is ok but he took one hell of a whack last week. It was a crunching tackle on his knee, but it is one of the options."
Paul Mariner believes George Donnelly will learn a lot from his loan spell with Stockport County. He said: "I thought he took his two goals very well last weekend. I saw them on the television. Stockport seem to be happy with him, which isn't a surprise to me. He's a high energy player and he needs to be playing in battle conditions. The time I was working with him he was getting into the positions but he just couldn't finish. Half the battle is getting into those positions and not many people can do that. Then there is the finishing bit. Hopefully, he will hone those skills at Stockport."
Paul Stapleton does not know whether he will still be on Argyle's board of directors next season. Roy Gardner and Keith Todd have options to further increase their stake in the club by purchasing all, or some, of the shares owned by Stapleton, Robert Dennerly and Tony Wrathall. Stapleton said: "There has been no change since last July. Yes, there are options in place, but nothing has been exercised yet. So we are in exactly the same situation, where Mr Kagami and KKS have 38 per cent, Keith Todd and Sir Roy Gardner have 13 per cent, and the other three of us have the rest, equally. I'm not sure whether all of us will still be there next season. We have a lot of experience and a lot to give, but who knows?" Argyle are close to securing a new training ground, which is reported to be at UCP Marjon in Derriford. Stapleton realises, however, that most supporters will be more concerned about the team's league position. "There has been a lot of good work done on the stadium, the training ground and various other facilities," he said. "But I know the fans will look primarily at the first team and say 'where are we?' Well, as I think Paul Mariner has said, we are where we are. We have got to get seven or eight wins – hopefully, seven will be enough – and do whatever we can to stay up. I'm sure Sheffield Wednesday are thinking the same as us – 'why are we in this predicament?' But some team always has a bad run at the end of the season. We are just hoping we fight through it."
Jamie Mackie will have few complaints if he has a change of partner up front today and would not mind being asked to play alongside Joe Mason. "It would be a different combination," he said. "I'll try my hand at playing with any other striker. It would be a nice change to play with Joe, if that's what it's going to be. I'll just adjust my game to suit who I'm playing with. Everybody knows the way I play, and I'm not going to change that, but I've just got to add a few more bits and bobs if, for example, we're playing without a target man." Mackie feels that a playing style which keeps the ball on the ground as much as possible suits his game. He said: "I like it, because I get the ball into my feet around the box a bit more, and I get a few more chances. Obviously, like any striker, I thrive on chances, and hopefully I should get some more playing like that. It's a different way of playing. If you've got me and a similar type of player up front, it keeps the centre-halves guessing as to who's doing what. When we're playing with Rory, they know it's likely to be long balls to Rory and me trying to get on the end of flick-ons. It gets a bit predictable. Now, we've had a little bit of a change in style, and me and Joe have done well when we've played together." Mackie advised against expecting too much from Mason too soon, however. He added: "He has done really well coming on a sub, but it's a totally different kettle of fish starting games. In the Championship, the first 20 minutes are extremely scrappy. There's not a great deal of football played until the game opens up, but, in my opinion, Joe is a really good footballer and he's got a really good future. He's got a good footballing brain, and hopefully he can get a run of games." Naturally, Mackie does not want to lose his place to accommodate Mason or anyone else. He said: "I'm delighted that I'm playing every week, and I feel that I'm repaying the gaffer with good performances.Without sounding too ruthless, I just worry about myself, and that's a fact. I can only affect what I do, and I think I've been playing well and I want to carry on doing that - whoever I play with." Argyle are desperate for points against Preston today, in order to make up for last week's loss at Bramall Lane and to avoid being further adrift in the bottom three. "Every game we lose, it's making our task even harder," Mackie admitted. "There are a lot of points to play for, but eventually time will run out. We know we need to get points on the board, and I'll be delighted if we can do that this weekend, whoever scores and even if it's a scrappy, horrible 1-0 win."
Argyle are to sign defender Richard Eckersley today, on a one-month loan from Burnley. Paul Mariner said: "He is a player that left Manchester United and was highly thought of by Owen Coyle. He is a player that gives us options that we haven't really had and at an ideal time. Richard has joined us because of the injury to Reda Johnson. He can play full-back as well. We will look at the DVD's on Preston and make a firm decision. I saw him playing for Manchester United reserves a long time ago and I can see why Burnley got him. He is very mobile and should be ideal for us. Brian Laws has deemed it that he can go out and we're very grateful." The signing of Eckersley means Argyle will almost certainly not be pursuing any further interest in Derby County defender Jermaine Johnson. Argyle have given trials to two other defenders within the past four weeks, Zimbabwe international left-back Onismor Bhasera, who remains without a club, and Benin international Romuald Boco, who has joined Burton Albion.
Rory Fallon has not been ruled out of playing against Preston North End tomorrow. Paul Mariner said: "Having made that trip myself numerous times, I'm guessing Rory is going to be tired, but you certainly can't rule anything out. He's a young lad and pretty resilient, so we will see. I would guess he will be eager to play. The thing is, if you are a professional footballer and you are not eager to play then there is something wrong with you. Knowing Rory, he will look after himself by drinking a lot of fluids and doing the right things the best he can." Mariner has several options open to him when it comes to a strike partner for Jamie Mackie. He added: "Something to consider is the aerial threat that Preston possess, so we will assess that."
Paul Mariner is retaining faith in David Stockdale. He said: "David is a resilient boy and mentally he's very tough. He apologised to the lads after the game against Sheffield United, but it was just one of those things. It was a once-in-a-lifetime error. John Carver told us a great story about Shay Given, from when they were both at Newcastle United. He said the exact same thing happened to Shay Given and look where he is now. He's one of the top three or four keepers in the Premier League. So, sometimes you grow and learn from errors, and I'm sure David will and become a better keeper." Mariner spoke to Stockdale by phone on Sunday, before leaving for a flying visit to America, and had words of reassurance for the loanee. "I told him he had helped us out a number of times by making crucial saves," he said. "You can't dwell on things like that. I don't think there will be any changes in the goalkeeping spot."
Joe Mason and Yannick Bolasie both staked strong claims to start for Argyle against Preston after impressing as half-time substitutes in the defeat by Sheffield United. Mason has been away at a training camp with the Republic of Ireland under-19s for much of this week but was back at Home Park when Argyle held their training session yesterday afternoon. Paul Mariner said: "Joe has been on international duty so we will assess how he is. There is no doubt he came on and did very well indeed, as did Yala. Yala is a strong, direct player, and actually did a great job on both sides of the ball, which we needed at the time. For both subs to come on and score is quite something."
Paul Mariner has admitted it is important Argyle bounce back from their defeat at Sheffield United when they take on Preston North End tomorrow. He said: "We have been extremely unlucky in many games. We have put a lot of hard work in and got done by a penalty here and a late goal there. What we have got to do now is go on a run and start picking points up. We thought we had started that run, but we came unstuck against Sheffield United."
Paul Mariner has admitted he was slightly surprised that Rory Fallon did not start in New Zealand's friendly defeat to Mexico on Wednesday. After protracted negotiations about travel arrangements and Fallon's involvement in the game he was only used as a second-half substitute. Mariner said: "I was surprised but I didn't see the squad that was selected. He scored the goal to get them there, so I thought there was a good chance he would start." Joining Fallon on international duty were Kari Arnason, Alan Judge, Joe Mason and Sean Kinsella and Mariner added: "I look at it two ways. In one way we need to get them on the training ground and work with them. On the other hand, it is always fantastic to represent your country. I am pleased there are so many players going away and representing the club. Arnason and Judge both played, and we have got Joe and Sean going away as well, so it looks like we're producing players."
Argyle's game with Newcastle United at Home Park, scheduled for April 17th, has been moved to Monday April 19th and will be shown live on Sky Sports.
Argyle will make a decision tomorrow on whether to take Jermaine Johnson on loan. John Carver said: "We're not going to make any decision over whether to borrow the lad until Friday morning. The physio is working on Reda's injury and so until we get a clearer picture of how he is fixed, we're not going to rush into anything. The reserve match was so one-sided in our favour that it's impossible to judge anyone on that one game, anyway. We went 2-0 up through Bradley Wright-Phillips and Luke Summerfield after 10 minutes and then we took our foot off the gas. But the kids like Jamie Richards and Jake Baker all acquitted themselves well, which bodes well for the club." Carver said Gary Sawyer has recovered from a gashed knee, while David McNamee's groin strain did not react after 90 minutes at Ladysmead.
Karl Duguid knows Argyle will have to tighten up defensively if they are to escape relegation. They continue their fight for survival against Preston North End on Saturday and Duguid said: "It's down to us to work hard and keep going, and hopefully we can stop conceding the goals because we are creating chances and scoring good goals. We have got Preston at home on Saturday and that's what we are concentrating on now. We scored three good goals against Sheffield United, and we are working on the defensive side of it. We will keep going forward, trying to create the chances we have been doing."
Kari Arnason played for Iceland in their goalless draw with Cyprus yesterday. Rory Fallon came on as a 55th minute substitute for New Zealand in their 2-0 defeat to Mexico in Pasadena and Alan Judge played the entire match as the Republic of Ireland under-21's lost 2-1 to Armenia.
Bradley Wright-Phillips is still hoping to play some part in Argyle's attempt to avoid relegation. After the reserve's match on Tuesday he said: "It was good to get 90 minutes under my belt." He agreed that the season had not worked out as he would have wished, and added: "That's how it goes sometimes. You come to a new club with a plan and you try to make a name for yourself, but it doesn't always work out like that because of injuries, and other people playing well." When asked about the state of the knee he injured, he replied: "The physios at the club have been excellent. They have been strengthening it up, but this was my first 90 minutes for a while, so it's still getting stronger. It's just a case of getting fitter. I'll always think I'm ready to play. Whenever the manager feels I'm ready, I'll go in the team and see what I can do. It has been hard, watching the team down there at the wrong end of the table and not being able to help. The team have been under-achieving, and I've not been contributing. It gets frustrating." Wright-Phillips is aware that a first-team comeback may not be imminent. "Like any other player, I want to play in the games that are coming up, but it obviously won't go like that. I just want to try to get to where the manager wants me to be and then, when he thinks I'm ready for selection, I'll be ready to go."
Michael Foot, a devoted Argyle supporter for nearly 90 years, died today aged 96. The former Devonport MP and Labour Leader was a director of the club from 2001 to 2005 and an honorary member of the playing squad in 2003-04 to celebrate his 90th birthday.
Argyle reserve's won 2-0 against Forest Green Rovers at Ladysmead last night, the goals scored by Bradley Wright-Phillips and Luke Summerfield. Argyle: Larrieu, McNamee, Johnson.J, Trott, Richards, Leonard, Summerfield, Young, Bolasie, Cooper, Wright-Phillips. Subs - Stephens (not used - Chenoweth, Clifford, Baker, Head).
Argyle will take a close look at trialist Jermaine Johnson in training this week before they decide whether or not to try to loan the defender from Derby County. John Carver said: "He's here for a week for us to have a look at. He played at centre-back tonight, but he isn't big enough to be a centre-back. I think he's a right-back. It's an open-minded thing. We'll have a look, and we'll see what we think. Tonight wasn't a real test for him, to be honest, but we'll see what he's like with the rest of the players in three good days of training. We have to make sure he's good enough for us."
Argyle are working hard to keep their finances under control, Paul Stapleton has admitted. He said: "Every business I have dealt with in my day job over the last year have had to watch their cashflow and watch their turnover. Football clubs are no different, and perhaps in some respects they are worse. But we are working very hard on making sure everything is paid and everything is working forward, and not affecting the team on the pitch. I think it's fair to say that we haven't got rid of any players the management felt were necessary to the first team." There was widespread speculation about Jamie Mackie being sold during the January transfer window, but he remained at the club. Stapleton said: "We haven't had any forced sales. I think it's always a sign when things are going really badly that you look up and your best players have all disappeared. There was a lot of talk about Mackie having to go in January, but he didn't go." Argyle will soon publish their annual report and accounts for the year ending May 2009 and Stapleton added: "They will show a substantial loss, but we were aware of that because it was announced at the AGM last March it was going to be a difficult year. Particularly with the high wages being paid on players to try to keep us up – such as Mpenza and Gallagher." A considerable drain on club resources has been loaning several out-of-favour players to other clubs, but continuing to pay a large slice of their salaries, such as Simon Walton, Steve MacLean, Jim Paterson and Alan Gow. Stapleton said: "We have loaned out surplus players who have not been part of the first team squad and they have all had a cost. It's a cost you could do without, and it's something we haven't really experienced in my time at the club. We have had players on really good salaries going out to clubs who can't afford to pay all of their wages. So, for the first time, we have had extra expense that we didn't want. That, coupled with the recession and also the poor results, has caused difficulties. Now, the board are working to rectify that. And they have worked to rectify it. There have been injections of capital. We were aware when the new board came in last July that would be the case. Don't forget, we have forecasts and budgets in place. All we are hoping now is the people of Plymouth come and support us because you don't want anything untoward to go wrong. But there are also some very attractive fixtures in the home games that are left this season. There are Blackpool, Bristol City, Middlesbrough and Newcastle United, for example. Everybody will be needed to help shout us to victories in those games, because it does make a difference when the crowd shouts for a decision and the referee has a split-second to make up his mind. Look at our game against Reading the other week. Reading got a soft penalty at their end in stoppage time to win 2-1, and we didn't get anything out of the game, which was demoralising because we deserved to. That can happen to us if we get more people in our stadium." Stapleton admitted Argyle's lack of success in the transfer market over recent times had been a disappointment to him. He said: "It has been a strange period, with so many players who were signed with great intent not being selected, for whatever reason. That worries you then about the selection process, and it worries you about the waste that happens in football. There is nothing worse than seeing a player who is on really good wages not playing for you."
Paul Stapleton has said there is still 'every hope' that Argyle can escape relegation and believes the team must improve on their lacklustre first-half performances in recent games to give themselves a better chance of staying up. He said: "We conceded a late goal when we lost away to Derby County and our season went to pot from then. It deflated everybody and everything. Even though different methods were tried to change the results, we couldn't seem to get anything at all. That led to a malaise setting in, which has taken a long time to overcome." Paul Mariner has compiled a record of four wins, two draws and seven defeats since taking control. Stapleton said: "It took a couple of games before things started to take shape, but I think we are definitely on the up now. There has been some momentum gained, even though when you look at the statistics they don't really show a great improvement. Those of us who have watched the games have seen a better level of performance, and some unlucky results because of individual errors. If we can cut that out we have got every hope going forward for the last 14 games. This is a personal opinion, but it seems in the last four or five games we have performed very poorly in the first half. Then we have either changed things at half-time or improved anyway in the second half. So there must have been some good work being done at half-time in those games. What I would like to see going forward is the good work done before the game starts. That's a personal opinion, and I haven't had a chance to speak to Paul Mariner about it, but that's my feeling." Argyle narrowly escaped relegation last season, finishing one position and five points above the drop zone. Stapleton said: "I was hoping we might have learned from being in the relegation mix last season and been stronger for it this year. That hasn't happened, and we have been embroiled in it again. We have got to do everything in our power now to make sure we stay up. The last four games have seen eight goals scored by us, which is where I felt we were losing out earlier in the season." Stapleton vividly recalled the 1-0 defeat at Leicester City in November. He said: "It was in the 94th minute, and came from a corner that never was, but I think we only had one goal attempt in the whole game. It's all very well trying to hold out for a 0-0 draw, but you have got to shoot and have some goal attempts. I do feel with the eight goals we have scored in the last four games we have realised that now. And we have people on the pitch who will have a shot and have a go. We have got to take that into these next games. It's no good us holding out for a 0-0 draw now. We have got to win games. What's better for us? Fourteen draws or seven wins and seven losses? You can do the maths on that." John Carver arrived at Home Park a week after Paul Mariner took over and the pair have worked very closely. Stapleton said: "In the situation we found ourselves in, fighting against relegation, you wanted to see some passion from the touchline. Well, Paul Mariner has certainly brought that, and I think John Carver has passed on his knowledge of the English game to him. There was a change of formation attempted for the first couple of games, but then we reverted, more or less, to Paul Sturrock's play, I thought. But I think that is starting to change now, with the introduction of Damien Johnson in particular. We have added a wealth of experience in the midfield. Paul Mariner will be the greatest thing in history if he keeps us up. He knows he can do his CV a lot of good by what happens between now and the end of the season. We are doing everything we can to give Paul and John the tools they need to keep us in this league."
Joe Mason will not return to training with Argyle until Friday because he is on international duty with the Republic of Ireland under-19s squad this week. Mason admitted he would rather have spent all of this week training with Argyle, rather than being away for the training camp. He said: "It's an honour to represent Ireland, even though it's just a training camp, but I would have liked to have stayed and carried on from Saturday. I'm not back until Thursday afternoon, which isn't really ideal. I would have liked to train the whole week, but there isn't much I can do about that." Meanwhile, Mason has admitted Argyle will be desperate for a win when they play Preston on Saturday. He said: "I thought the second half against Sheffield United was a really good performance, but we didn't get the win. At the end of the day, we got nothing out of the game. So we will take any sort of win, instead of a performance."
Joe Mason, Yannick Bolasie and Luke Summerfield have earned the respect and praise of their team-mates for the way in which they helped Argyle come close to rescuing a point at the weekend. Karl Duguid said: "The three lads who came on, every single one of them did themselves proud. They were the ones who changed the game, and we needed someone to do that. Summers came on and was brilliant and the other two scored a goal each, so you couldn't ask any more of the boys who came on. They're good professionals, they train hard all week, they don't moan, they just get on with it. They showed how good they are on Saturday, and what a promising future they all have." Saturday was a hard day for another young player, David Stockdale. His error happened seven days after Kari Arnason scored an own goal in the draw with Leicester City and Duguid said: "That's two weeks in a row, with Arnie's own goal and then this goal. They're freak goals and, when you're down where we are, it seems like those sort of things happen to you. David was very down after the game, but he'll learn from that." Duguid is now preparing for Saturday's game against Preston North End. "In the situation we're in, we can't mope and moan," he added. "We've got another game on Saturday. We'll kick on. We've got Preston next, and that's what we're concentrating on now."
Trialist Jermaine Johnson will be included in the Argyle squad for today's reserve fixture with Forest Green Rovers at Ladysmead. Johnson is currently contracted to Derby County.
Rory Fallon has held clear-the-air talks with the chief executive of New Zealand Football, Michael Glading, in the wake of a club-versus-country row. Paul Mariner and Fallon had expressed some dissatisfaction regarding the flight arrangements for Fallon's trip to Los Angeles this week and then Glading stepped into the row. He said: "I'm disappointed Rory is choosing to talk to the Press before finding out the facts. He would be better off sticking to talking about the stuff he knows about. We are a bit annoyed because he's out of line. We do understand player welfare and we have always tried to do the best for the players within the economic reality of things." When Fallon became aware of those comments he made contact with Glading and, according to the striker, the matter has been resolved. Fallon said: "As soon as I saw it, I rang him up. If I have got a problem with someone I will tell them. It's sorted. That's all I can really say. He seems to think that they quoted him wrong. At the end of the day, it's forgive and forget, and move on. I know there are a lot of journalists in New Zealand that are gunning for me, but, at the end of day, that's life. I'm the kind of person that just gets on with it, and I don't hold grudges. I just get on with it, no matter what. I'm not going to get upset about it and I'm not going to get frustrated. I'm just going to enjoy myself." Fallon is now keen to put all the controversy aside and concentrate on the friendly against Mexico. He said: "I just want to get it done and dusted, and then start thinking about Plymouth again. I'm happy to go. That's it – simple. I can't complain about things. I'm just blessed to even get the chance." Fallon will not return to the UK until late on Friday, so it is highly unlikely he will start in the game against Preston North End. He said: "I'm probably going to miss the game on Saturday, which is hard, but we are in capable hands. There are some good boys coming off the bench, and no one man is bigger than the team. I have always said that. It's a team game and let someone else have a chance now. As for me, I'm going to go to America and give my 100 per cent, like I always do."
Paul Mariner will look into making a loan signing this week after Reda Johnson hobbled off against Sheffield United. Johnson had been a doubt before the match because of a groin strain and aggravated the injury. Mariner said: "He did it in training on Thursday. We nursed him on Friday and we thought he would be okay. We caught it before it got serious, but the chances for next week are probably slim. Who knows? He's only a young boy and they heal pretty quickly. They are not like us!" Johnson was replaced at centre-back by Carl Fletcher, while Luke Summerfield came on to play in midfield. Asked about the possibility of adding a defender on-loan this week, Mariner said: "We will try. We can adjust a little bit. We have got players in there who can play that position. But the question is, does it take away from other areas of the field? We will have to weigh that up." Fletcher has filled in at centre-back on a couple of occasions for Argyle this season, and every time he has impressed. Mariner added: "That's why he's our captain. He's just a tremendous professional with quality in abundance. I'm happy he's our captain out there."
Damien Johnson has withdrawn from the Northern Ireland international squad to play Albania this week. A statement on the Northern Ireland FA's website said: "Damien Johnson has recently returned from injury and has had heavy club commitments, so is resting."
Joe Mason has set his sights on scoring more goals and helping keep Argyle in the Championship. After scoring the first goal of his senior career on Saturday he believes he is now ready to make his mark in the Championship. "It's really hard, especially the physical side," he said. "Their defence today was very strong, but I feel I'm settling in quite well. I just want to push on now, score more goals and help us get up that table." Argyle trailed 2-0 at half-time at Sheffield United, which prompted Paul Mariner to send on Mason and Yannick Bolasie. Mason then struck in the 58th minute, to cut the deficit to 3-2. He said: "Luke got up and won a header well and I knew exactly where it was going to go. I knew I had to keep my shot low because the one before the 'keeper saved." David Stockdale gifted the home side a fourth goal before Jamie Mackie scored a fourth. Mason said: "I saw Jamie around the corner and I have just flicked it to him. Me and him have got quite a good understanding, I think. He took it well. He got a good connection on it and the 'keeper had no chance." Deep into stoppage time, the ball broke to Mason 20 yards out and his low drive went just outside of the left post. He said: "That was literally inches away from going in. I was gutted. I honestly thought I had got us a point then." Mason stands a good chance of starting for Argyle in their next game with Rory Fallon away on international duty this week, and he added: "If it happens, then I will be happy to do it. That's what I'm looking forward to. I'm happy to play with Jamie. He's a hard worker and he's a good player as well. I like to think we work well together. There is definitely the potential for us to get up the league. It's just going out there and doing it now. There are still enough points to win, and we believe we can do it."
Paul Mariner has revealed that David Stockdale apologised to his team-mates in the dressing room after the game on Saturday. "He feels as though he could shoot himself, but he's a young goalkeeper and he's learning his trade," said Mariner. "I would think that Mike Kelly has told him a million times, when you get the ball and you are going to roll it out, have a little check behind you to see who is there. On that occasion, because of all sorts of things that are going on, he didn't do it."
Paul Mariner experienced mixed emotions after Argyle's defeat by Sheffield United on Saturday. Defensively, he admitted his side had conceded some 'poor goals', but was proud of the way they battled back from a 3-0 deficit. He said: "Obviously, the first half just wasn't good enough. As a coach, you question yourself whether the preparation was right, so we will look at that. We knew what Sheffield United were going to bring in the first 15 minutes. The crowd get behind the team and we had to try to quieten them, but we obviously didn't do that. We gave away poor goals and you just can't do that in this league. But, trying to look at the positives, the reaction of the players to going 3-0 down after 48 minutes was excellent. I knew we would fight back because that's what we do." The key to the turnaround was a double substitution at the start of the second half and Mariner admitted it had been a 'gut feeling' to send on Bolasie and Mason at the start of the second half. He said: "You have also got to go with what you see in training. The two lads have been terrific in training, so I thought I would give them a go. Joe Mason is an incredible talent. He's going to be a very good player. He already is a good player to a certain degree." Mariner was also pleased with the impact made by Luke Summerfield, who was a substitute for the injured Reda Johnson. "Summerfield has trained his backside off, he has kept his trap shut and he has never come in to see me," said Mariner. "He has been a very good pro. I thought he went in there and did very well, when we adjusted it with Fletch going back after Reda came off."
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