A Round-up of Argyle News
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Also included on the three most recent days, facts from Argyle's history.
Two Argyle apprentices have been offered professional contacts following the expiration of the apprenticeships. Regular goalscorer and Northern Ireland youth international Louis Rooney along with versatile midfielder Callum Hall have been offered deals. A third second-year apprentice Ryan Lane has been offered an extension to his apprenticeship due to a long-term injury that he suffered. Andrew Hannah, Mason Hughes, Tom Moxham and Will Sargent have not been offered a professional contract.
Lewis Alessandra has said that Argyle will do their very utmost to go to Shrewsbury and put in a professional performance in spite of the fact that it would take an extreme mathematical improbability for Argyle not to make it. He said that ensuring they do a professional job is still paramount. Alessandra:"We know we're pretty much there, but stranger things have happened in football. We're just going to go, try and get a result, and to be professional. We know it's a bit of a tall order, with their home form, and they can still mathematically win the league if Burton slip up. So we're expecting a tough game, but we'll be going there, trying to get a good result. It should be good. These are the games you should look forward to as a professional footballer in front of sell-out crowds in the business end of the season. Everyone is looking forward to it. If we do go there and beat a Shrewsbury side that are trying to win the league, it gives you that belief, that 'why not; why can't we win the play-offs'? We have that anyway, but I'm sure it would improve that belief even more."
Alessandra also said that he was pleased to score his 13th goal of the season against Tranmere- therefore hitting his target for year on year improvement in his goal tally: "It was my target before the season, just to better what I did previously. It was starting to irritate me a bit as I hadn't scored in six or seven games; I had the chances, like in the Wimbledon game, when, on another night, I could've had a hat-trick. I didn't let it get to me, I just kept training and working hard and not let it get to me."
John Sheridan has paid tribute to the staff who have worked under him this season and praised the role they have had to play in bringing more success to Home Park this season. He also revealed that he believes Paul Wotton be on a learning curve, saying: "He is at his club his home club. He is well liked here, and respected here. The award he got was well deserved. It is a learning curve for him. Whether he learns from me, I don't know! Hopefully he will keep learning. It is totally different to playing believe me, I'd rather play than be a manager or a coach. It's a lot easier! You have to change your character, the way you are, your demeanour. You have to see pictures. Macca was a good player. Wottsy was a good player. The players benefit from their experience, and the level that they played at. We give them things that will hopefully make them better players. Sometimes Wottsy take the defence, sometimes I take the defence. We're a team John Harbin, me, Sean, Wottsy. I trust them, and Wottsy is part and parcel of the staff. I don't look at individuals. It's a team. If we keep a clean sheet, it isn't because of Luke McCormick. It's a team. I'm sure Luke would say that. It is the five in front of him, too. He gets the credit for clean sheets, but the people in front of him work their socks off for him to get less work. I don't like picking any individuals out. We are a team. When we go up or if we go up whatever we achieve will be as a team. Not me as a manager, or any individual, but as a team."
Argyle groundsman Billy White has won the groundsman of the year award for League Two this season. The awards for each of the three divisions in The Football League are determined initially using marks from referees and away managers for each game. That is then followed by detailed pitch inspections and a review of management operations.
Reuben Reid will be rested by Argyle for the game against Shrewsbury at the weekend. Whilst the match is not a dead rubber, it would require an unlikely 8 goal swing for Luton to qualify for the play-offs at Argyle's expense. Therefore, John Sheridan said that he would be happy to rest Reid for the match. He refused to be drawn on whether Carl McHugh and Peter Hartley (both carrying knocks) would also be rested: "Reuben won't be involved. I feel confident enough that I can give him a bit of a rest. He has had an injection in his foot. Hopefully, the rest will benefit him looking towards the next game. If we needed to win the game, he would be playing. He has had an injection and it just gives me an opportunity to rest him. He can get a bit of treatment and rest. It won't do him any harm at all. We are going there to win the game. We are going to have a go at Shrewsbury. Carl McHugh and Peter Hartley are both fit and want to play but I will make a decision. I'm going to put a strong team out because we have got to go there and be professional and make sure we get the right result."
Luke McCormick is pleased to have finally completed another full season in football. Due to his spell out of the game and his injury last season, this is the first full season he has completed since the age of 24. McCormick vowed to improve his game even further and insisted that Argyle are not in the play-offs merely to make up the numbers, saying: "I have been pleased I have been able to appear in every game so far. I'm also pleased it's my first full season since the age of 24. I feel I benefited hugely from the games that I had last season before my injury. At the same time, I think next season I will only feel the benefit from this year. There is better to come from me. We don't want to go in the play-offs and make up the numbers. That's not what we want at all. We want to go in there and win this thing now. That is no better incentive than playing in a final at Wembley. It would be a shame to come all this way now and fall at the first hurdle. We are confident that, on our day, we are as good as anyone in this league. So we need to show the consistency that we have lacked a little bit this season when it counts."
John Sheridan will use the final game of the regular season against Shrewsbury to prepare and ready his player for the play-offs that are likely to come. He said that he is yet to make up his mind about who may or may not be rested: "We're going to try and win at Shrewsbury. They're going for the title so it will be a good game with a full house. I'm sure we will take a few as well. I'm really looking forward to the game. We'll test ourselves against a really good team one of the best teams in the division so we will go there and want to win the game. We'll be in and we will work hard. There are a few of them carrying knocks and I will make a decision this week. Reuben [Reid] has played today but he was only around 70% fit, because of his thigh and foot. I asked him to play and he put a shift in for an hour. Carl McHugh's got a knock, Peter Hartley has got a knock, Kelvin Mellor has got a knock, but they all wanted to play, and it might just give me a chance to look at one or two next week, against a very good team."
John Sheridan has said that he fancies Argyle's chances against any side who they may come up against in the League Two play-offs this season and is not looking for us to face any particular team. Sheridan revealed how his son let him know of Southend's winner against Luton late on in the game: "I heard about it just at the end. My lad Jay rang me with two minutes to go saying Southend were winning, so I said 'Don't jinx me Jay!' We look comfortable but you just never know in football. You've got to be confident but if it's still mathematically possible; you've got to be looking over shoulder and be wary of it. Nine goals is a big swing so it just gives you that bit of leeway. I'm not stupid or naοve; I don't think we've been playing well, but we've picked results up, other results have gone our way. I thought it would be about 71 points that would get you in the play-offs. With all the frustration we've had all season, we've still got a chance of getting out of the division. We've done well to get in this position but it is only the start. We haven't done anything yet. There's a lot of work to be done. We need to get to Wembley, and it will be a great achievement if we get there. I'm not bothered who we play in the play-offs. I am not bothered. Everyone seems to think 'Bury this, Bury that', and Bury are a good team, but Wycombe are a good team and Southend and Stevenage are good teams. I am not bothered who we play. You have got to earn the right and, over two games, I fancy us against anyone. If we're on our game, we'll beat anyone. I'm chuffed for the players. I think we deserved something over the whole season. We've got a chance to get out the division, and that's what my aim was. No matter how you do it, to get out of it is a great achievement, and we've still got a chance to do that."
Sheridan went on to say that he is 'chuffed' for everybody involved in the club after it was all-but confirmed that Argyle will be participating in the League Two play-offs this season. He also paid tribute to Tranmere- relegated to the conference yesterday after 94 years as a football league club. Sheridan said that he does not like to see such a thing happen to any club after showing his appreciation for a magnificent goal by Tareiq Holmes-Dennis: "He's got a great strike on him. In training he can't half hit a ball, and luckily for us he's hit it sweet. It's a great strike and it enabled us to get the advantage again, after the disappointment of switching off a bit for their goal.
"Tranmere are a club with great tradition. I've got a friend who was taking the team today, Shaun Garnett. I played with him at Oldham. I don't wish it upon anyone. We were not far off that a couple of seasons ago, so we know the feeling and I don't wish it upon anybody, but I was just worried about us. We did what we had to do. It was always going to be a bit cagey, obviously with Tranmere fighting for their lives, and I thought they gave us a real good go. The fans were brilliant today, and I thought the players performed and gave us a performance to win the game. That's what we were after, and the result's gone our way at Southend. I'm really pleased for the players, and I'm chuffed for the supporters as well. It just gives them a bit more belief, and we're a bit closer to achieving something"
Finally however, Sheridan did preach a degree of caution going into the rest of the season. The manager kept fans grounded by saying that whilst he was delighted that play-offs looked probable, nothing had truly been achieved just yet and efforts have to be sustained: "We haven't done anything yet. That's the way I look at it. I'm not going home for a week and having time off. I might nip home and have a day off, but there is a lot of work to be done. We need to get Wembley and it will be a great achievement if we get there. Then it's anyone's. I'm not bothered who we play over two legs. I fancy us against anyone.
"Reuben played today and he was probably only 70 per cent fit because of his thigh and his foot. I asked him to play and he put in a shift for an hour. Zak came off the bench and I thought he looked lively. Carl McHugh, Pete Hartley and Kelvin Mellor have got knocks but they all wanted to play. You have got to be confident, but if it's still mathematically possible to be overtaken by Luton you have got to be wary of it. But I'm 90-95 per cent confident we will be in the play-offs. Shrewsbury are going for the title so it should be a good game and a full house. I'm sure we will take a few as well so I'm really looking forward to it. We will test ourselves against a really good team one of the best in the division. We will go there and want to win the game.
"I would have liked us to see out the game a lot easier. I was making substitutions thinking we were really comfortable. But Tranmere got a goal near the end and it was on a knife-edge. I'm really pleased for the players and I'm chuffed for the supporters as well. It just gives them a bit more belief. We are closer to achieving something. Despite the frustration we have had all season we have still got a great opportunity of getting out of the division. The fans were brilliant today and the players gave us a performance to win the game. That's what we were after. And, luckily, the result has gone our way at Southend."
Tareiq Holmes-Dennis spoke of his delight at scoring his first ever senior professional goal and also gave his assessment of the remainder of Argyle's campaign, saying:"We have just got to turn up and do what we know we can do and what we have done in a few games this season. It's about the best team on the day and hopefully that will be us. The atmosphere has been great. In this scenario, everyone would come down and I am sure the atmosphere will be even better. It was a good feeling. It makes you want to go and win it now. It would be decent. If we get to the final, I would be playing there way sooner than I could have imagined. It would be amazing; Bobby has told me, when he went with Bristol City, how great it was, so it gives you that incentive to get there. And when you get there, you want to win; you don't want to get there and be second best. But we can't get too far ahead of ourselves; we have just got to take each game as it comes.
"Sometimes you second guess yourself and don't go for it, but I thought 'no, I have got to hit it'. When it went in I was just too excited. It's my first goal and it was enjoyable. As soon as I hit it, I knew I had struck it well and it was going in the corner. It was like slow motion. When it went in it was all a blur after that. Getting my first goal in my first season was special, but I think because of the occasion and the atmosphere it made it 10 times better. The rest of the lads said my celebration was a bit mad but I didn't even know what was happening at the time. We gave Tranmere a bit of a sniff, which we shouldn't have done. It was maybe my mistake, defensively, for the second goal. I let him beat me too easily. I'm still learning, but we grinded out to make sure they didn't get another.
"Hopefully we have done enough but we have still got to give it our utmost until the last game of the season and then secure it 100 per cent. It was nice to have a good performance to go with the result, but when it gets to this stage of the season you are just looking for the win. Once we heard the Luton result at the end, we were all happy and relieved. We have got to go to Shrewsbury with the same attitude as we had today and do enough to secure the play-off spot."
Luke McCormick is the winner of the official Argyle Player of the Season award for 2014/15 and was presented his award by chairman James Brent before the game yesterday. McCormick has started every single game for Argyle this season and notably has kept the most clean sheets out of any goalkeeper in the 92 Premier League and football league clubs. He also won the Plymouth Herald player of the season. John Sheridan reacted to McCormick's award by saying: "Obviously he's one of the best players in the division, and it's always a good achievement for whoever wins it, but I look at it as a group, and I'm sure Luke would as well. We have been really strong defensively. I think it was about a back three or five and Luke was a big part of that. He's had a lot of clean sheets this season and has been excellent for us."
Argyle's young player of the season award was given to Andy Kellett following the impact he made in his brief loan spell with the club. Due to his presence at Manchester United, Kellett could not pick up the award yesterday.
Luke McCormick offered his personal thanks to the green army who voted for him and stated that it was a humbling experience. McCormick:"It's a huge honour, first and foremost, to be voted as player-of-the-year. It's a very proud moment. I feel lucky to be able to play in front of such fantastic fans week in, week out. The fact they have thought I have deserved the player-of-the-year award, I just feel lost for words. I'm very grateful. People have voted for me purely on football reasons and it's a big thing for me personally. For me, it sums up the Argyle fans that they are big enough people to do that, because I know there are certain issues that surround me. That's another reason why I just feel so lucky and grateful to play for this club. The lads have been excellent all year so to be picked out of such a fantastic bunch is a great feeling," declared the Argyle 'keeper. I have said before that when I re-signed for the club I wanted to repay the fans as best as I could with my performances on the pitch. Hopefully, I have gone some way towards doing that for them.
"The goalkeeper takes a lot of credit for clean sheets, but the boys in front of me have been absolutely spectacular all season. In particular, the three centre halves who just love defending, and love heading the ball and making tackles. I think that was evident against Tranmere with Carl nodding one off the line. We really do consider ourselves a unit as opposed to being individual players. I have to share any credit that comes my way with the lads in front of me. Despite a very valiant effort from Tranmere, fortunately we were able to get the three points and it looks like that result has put us in the play-offs. We have still got a professional job to do at Shrewsbury at the weekend. They will be playing for the title and are going to want to finish on a high, obviously. We are not going to rest on our laurels now and think everything has been taken care of. It would be a massive pie in the face if we were to get absolutely thumped and miss out. It has been a bit up and down and at times we have shot ourselves in the foot. We would be the first to say that, but it looks like we have hopefully crossed the finishing line with enough points."
Finally, Reuben Reid was today named in the PFA League Two team of the season following the 20 goals he has notched up since August. He is the only Argyle player to be represented in the team and the first one since Argyle's return to the league in 2011.
Argyle have all but secured their place in the League Two play-offs following a thrilling 3-2 victory against Tranmere Rovers which also relegated the Merseyside club. Due to Luton Town's late loss to ten man Southend, Argyle are now three points clear of Luton going into the final game of the season with an 8 goal swing required for Argyle to miss out on goal difference. The greens went 1-0 up with Reuben Reid's 20th goal of the season from the penalty spot early on following a foul on Dominic Blizzard but Tranmere equalised shortly after. Before half-time however, a fantastic goal by Tareiq Holmes-Dennis put the greens back into the side. Lewis Alessandra looked to have sealed the game with a headed goal fifteen minutes from time but a Tranmere consolation strike gave Argyle some late nerves. Notably, Argyle have now also completed the double over Tranmere. Argyle: McCormick, Nelson, McHugh, Hartley, Mellor, O'Connor, Bobby Reid, Blizzard(Harvey), Holmes-Dennis, Reuben Reid(Ansah), Alessandra(Banton). Subs: Bittner, Jones, Norburn, Brunt.
Tomorrow's crunch match against Tranmere Rovers could make or break Argyle's season and John Sheridan has full belief in the quality of his players going into the game. The manager said that he doesn't need to motivate them: "I don't really think I have to lift them. They know what's at stake, they know I wasn't happy with the performance against Carlisle and it's down to them to respond. Tranmere will come here in a positive mood after watching us last week but I know what we've got; I know how we can play. It's important we get back to our A-game on Saturday. Obviously I've got to try and pick a team that's going to win us the game. We've trained well, we've had one or two meetings and we know the Carlisle result wasn't acceptable. However, we can do something about it by getting a good win on Saturday. We've still got something to aim for and we can still achieve something."
He confirmed that Olly Lee and Lee Cox would not be fit for the match: "Olly Lee is not available and Coxy is not available. Coxy's got a bit of a quad strain, it happened in training on Tuesday, he felt a bit tight, I think he's had it before on and off so he's not going to be available. Olly Lee has got a groin injury; he's back at Birmingham getting treatment. He's not fit, plus if we do get in the play-offs, Olly won't be available, so it looks like he won't be involved in the remaining two games.
"I pick the team, I pick the players. I ask everyone are they are fit, if I don't get a reaction then I assume everyone's fit and I pick the team - that's the way I go about things. If they are injured I expect them to be honest and tell me they are injured, if no one tells me that, I assume everyone is 100% fit. Once I get that news I will pick a team that will hopefully win us the game. Everyone will find out at two o clock on Saturday what the team's going to be and hopefully it will be a winning team. That's all I'm worried about."
Argyle vice-captain Peter Hartley has called upon the 12th man to see the greens over the line in this the biggest game of the season- and drew on two previous games in which a big crowd has coincided with a big win. He also paid tribute to the role the fans had played throughout the season: "We need a 12th man, and they've been that all season. You look the big games - the Portsmouth and Exeter game - we've won the games comfortably within the first 30 minutes. That's more down to the atmosphere and the fans getting behind us, so if we can get that this Saturday, I'm fairly convinced it's going to be a good win. Tranmere are fighting for their life, and we're fighting to get promoted from League 2 to League 1. I feel that the dressing room is the best I've ever seen it. Everyone is on the same page, and I feel we are more than capable of getting it done and dusted on Saturday. We're taking it every day as it comes and we're focused. If we stay in the present it eliminates all fear. I feel that we're all on the same page. No one is throwing the towel in, and we're ready to go. It's always a funny one when the team changes the manager. Obviously they got beat 3-0 last week to Oxford, so they'll be wanting to give a response, and they'll be fighting for their life. We sort of know what we're going to get at home. When we're at home, generally we pick results up. We haven't always played great, but we've always managed to pick results up."
Young Argyle midfielder River Allen will not require knee surgery following the revelation that the injury he picked up whilst on loan at Truro is not as bad as first feared. Physio Paul Atkinson said that he only needs to take some rest: "He has had the knee scanned but it's not too serious. It's not as bad as it could have been. Hopefully, with rest and rehab it will settle down within six weeks."
John Sheridan has admitted he is at a loss to explain Argyle's poor performance in their 2-0 loss to relegation-fighting Carlisle United. He stated that the players needed to show a greater focus: "What do I do? Do I keep going on about how poor we played today? I've said it now so everyone knows. Or do I start from now and try to pick them up for the big game on Saturday? Do I be on a real downer? We have got a massive game next week. I am not satisfied with the way we played, not one little bit. I am a very angry man at the moment, but can I show them I am really angry? Whether I'm expecting too much of them, I don't know, but we have got some good payers in there and while we have still got an opportunity we're very fortunate in my eyes ; results keep going our way we are still in with a shout. I don't know if we think football, some of us, 100 percent of the time. Most good footballers do. You are focused as a footballer to want to achieve something and be a winner. You can't go out and just give a performance one week and then I don't see you for two or three weeks. It's just no good to me. Carlisle worked harder than us. I can't make a player run around or work, or show enthusiasm. I can shout at him, but I can't make him do it. Our performance and team selection is not at a standard that it should be."
He also dammed his players for not being able to account for their substandard performances in the loss, bemoaning their lack of urgency. He added:"I've just tried to get answers out of the players and not one player's responded. I said: 'Why have we performed like we have just performed, with the importance of the game and knowing what was at stake?' I can't answer it. I went with the same team because I felt we had a good performance on Tuesday. Obviously I'm doing the wrong thing because some of us were flat. We've prepared properly for the game, the best we can. The club sorted us out and we did everything we could because we wanted to be fresh, but we probably gave our most lethargic performance of the season. I asked them before the game 'Which dressing-room would you rather be in ours or theirs?' because we are trying to get in the play-offs and they were trying to get points to avoid relegation. I felt the game was there for the taking. I said to Wottsy in the first 15 minutes: 'This game is here, if we want.' And we just didn't pick the tempo up. It was too slow. Carlisle got men behind the ball and we didn't move and create opportunities and get in positions quickly.I could see there was a bit of nervousness in Carlisle, but we just didn't act or respond the way we want to. We had one or two decent opportunities but we can't play like that. I just felt there was no urgency. It was like a testimonial, the way we played. It's a poor, poor result. It's not what we're after. I've said the same things a few times this season, when we've had a good performance; I stick with the same team; we have a really poor performance; and I'm thinking to myself 'Should I have changed the team?' I stuck with the same team, so I've obviously I've picked the wrong team."
Argyle lost 2-0 in their longest away trip of the season at Carlisle United with the goals coming either side of half-time. A bleak display saw the players booed off at full-time but other results ensured that Argyle remained in the box seat for the final play-off spot. Argyle: McCormick, Nelson, McHugh(Brunt), Hartley, Jones(Cox), O'Connor, Bobby Reid, Blizzard, Reuben Reid, Alessandra. Subs: Bittner, Mellor, Purrington, Banton.
Bobby Reid has already been to Wembley once this year- seeing his Bristol City teammates beat Walsall 2-0 in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy final. He said that this has given him the extra inspiration to do it again with Argyle- this time on the pitch. Reid said:"It makes me more eager to play at Wembley now, so we'll see what happens. It's a big occasion and a big stadium; a lot of people want to play there and don't get the chance sometimes; we have got a great opportunity to do that."
John Harbin explained how Argyle have altered their travel arrangements in the lead up to their longest away trip of the season at Carlisle. Instead of the usual Friday trip up North, the team's journey will instead be broken up by an overnight stay in Preston due to the contacts Argyle have with Peter Ridsdale. Harbin said: "We're travelling today to Preston. We'll train before we travel, and we're training at Preston tomorrow. The manager will meet us in Preston tonight, we'll have another session and a session in the morning - all systems go. It's just breaking the journey down. Some of those trips have taken ten or eleven hours and whether you like it or not they do have an effect on the team, so now we've cut it down so it's now nine or ten. There's no training time being reduced. Jason Turner is good friends with Peter Ridsdale and that's been organised at no cost to the club; we are grateful to Preston for that. We're putting special emphasis on the game, it's crunch time and the closer you get, it will end up almost like play-offs before the play-offs. They're crucial games. Even though its Carlisle and they're down the wrong end of the table, we've had them watched, we've had videos and had scouts watch them and the manager watched them himself last night. There's an emphasis being placed on the game without going over the top and being gung-ho and aggressive at training or on edge, so there's a calmness there."
Young midfielder River Allen could require knee surgery after his loan spell at Truro was cut short due to an injury to his medial ligaments. He has returned to Argyle for treatment.
John Sheridan said that he was gutted in spite of an excellent Argyle display in their 1-1 draw against AFC Wimbledon. The reason was simple- he said that at this time of the season, results count more than anything else. Sheridan elaborated: "I'm gutted we didn't get the three points. I think the performance well deserved three points. It's probably the best we've played in a while, that. We would've loved three points but it was a really good performance. I thought that with our delivery from set plays, we looked a threat most of the night. Set plays are all about your delivery, putting it in a good area, and your desire and willingness to get a goal. Anthony's made a great run around the back and it's a good little finish. We get the goal and I could not see them scoring. I thought we were going to go on and win it. I was very pleased with the way we played. It was a good response and I thought there was a bit more tempo to us. There's no blame anywhere. We're disappointed with the result. We would've loved three points and it just gives you a bit of leeway, but it wasn't to be and we've got to accept it and move on. The performance was a lot better than what we have been showing of late. I thought Bobby Reid was outstanding he ran the show. I thought he was quality. He was up and down, creating things and really pushing us on to try and get the win. We created the opportunities but the keeper's made some great saves, and on other occasions we haven't hit the target or when we could've done better. It's about putting the ball in the back of the net at the end of the day. We've played well tonight but we haven't won the game. I'd rather play poorly and get three points to tell you the truth. We picked our game up which is a good thing. It's just a crying shame to get three points because we know the importance of getting them, but we move on.
"We're still there in the top seven and we would've loved three points, but if anyone's telling me we haven't deserved to win, they're watching a totally different game to me. I told all the players in there that it was a really good performance. We've just got to stick together and believe that we will be in the top seven come the end of the season. It's a tough game at Carlisle now. This result makes it even more important now that we go and win the game. It'll be a tough game Saturday, then I look a Tranmere and I can't believe where they are when you look at their players. I know Micky Adams and he'll be fighting for his life he's a really good manager. Tranmere are in a dogfight and Carlisle are still in danger of being caught up in it. It's difficult to predict things in this league but we take care of ourselves and hopefully we can get enough points to get where we want to be at the end."
He also confirmed that striker Reuben Reid is playing because he declares himself to be fit enough, explaining:"I've had a chat with him; I wouldn't say he's playing through the pain barrier but he hasn't got that same sharpness that he had at the start of the season, or leading up to when he got the injury against Exeter. He declares himself fit so that's why I play him he's got 19 goals this season. He's a big player for us, an important player for us."
Argyle drew 1-1 with Wimbledon with both the goals coming in the second half. The greens took the lead from another Anthony O'Connor goal which came from a Bobby Reid set piece although Wimbledon equalised shortly afterwards. Argyle probably had the better of the play but could not win the match. The result however was a good one in the context that most other teams around Argyle in the play-off shake-up dropped points. Argyle: McCormick, Nelson, McHugh, Hartley, Jones, O'Connor, Bobby Reid, Blizzard(Lee), Reuben Reid(Ansah), Alessandra. Subs: Bittner, Mellor, Cox, Brunt, Banton.
Ahead of the game against Wimbledon on Tuesday evening, John Sheridan called upon his Argyle players to take their winning momentum into the match against tough opponents. He said: "All I've got to say really is: 'just go and win the game.' I don't have to keep going on and on; they've heard enough from me throughout the season. It's just about go and win the game. I'm not really bothered about Wimbledon. It's about us, and if I can focus on us and get the best out of us we'll have a really good chance of winning the game. As I've said before, on our day we're as good as any team in the league. Wimbledon are a decent team. Only two or three weeks ago they felt themselves they could have been in the play-off position so I'm expecting a tough game. We've had them watched again - they play good football and they've got some good players going forward so we'll be wary of that. We'll work on what they're going to throw at us. I expect us to win the game and that's what we're going to do. I've got a lot of time for Neil Ardley and his assistant. I know them both really well and they're both great lads and they're doing a good job there. I want to concentrate on us and we've got to try get at them and get them on the back foot."
However, he did also want his players to make use of the ball and if possible play better football. He added: "I'd like us to improve possession wise; ball distribution has been our downfall and I feel we've got to take care of the ball a bit better. If we can play well and have a good performance, even better, but three points - and I keep saying it - is the most important thing and I'll be telling the players that. I said ten games ago it will probably go down to the last two games; even the last game. We've just got to stay focussed and if we keep winning then obviously we're going to be in the play-offs. There's not a lot between the teams, we've just got to make sure that we can try and perform the way we can."
John Sheridan warned his players that their spot in the team should not be taken for granted following the four changes that he made to his starting line-up for the match against Mansfield. He said that even at this late stage of the season, he was not afraid to make changes where needed: "I hope no-one thinks they are comfortable in their position and that I won't leave anyone out. I'm not frightened of leaving anyone out. I've just said that one or two need to buck their ideas up, because I'm not frightened of changing the team at all, no matter who it is. We play the same system and I feel as though everyone knows how we are trying to play," said John. "Kelvin has been excellent for me this season in that 3-5-2, but has possibly gone off his game a little bit because he was absolutely flying when he first came; he was unbelievable. Olly Lee has been scoring goals all week in training; if you play Zak and Jason, there's probably more of an attacking threat, but I felt we should have a bit more balance to our team and I think it worked alright. Young Gethin is a really good player and a really good trainer and, when he comes on, he is really bright."
Sheridan also revealed that he used the prospect of Wembley to motivate his players before recent games, saying: "I told them before the game: 'In three or four weeks' time, you could be playing at Wembley with 40,000 of our supporters there.' It's something to aim for, us as a club and the players. Half this division are playing for nothing; we're playing for something. We have got to stay focused and take it into the game on Tuesday."
He finally added how happy he was that Argyle are finally improving their delivery from free kicks in the absence of Conor Hourihane: "Two set-plays; good delivery from Bobby Reid.After Conor Hourihane, who had the best delivery in our division last year, our delivery hasn't been that great, but we scored against Burton from a set-play, so three goals from set-plays, and different people scoring goals, is good. All I say is: 'Put it in an area where you make them defend and it gives us a good chance of scoring goals; and, in around the box, if you are trying to bend one in, just hit the target; make the 'keeper work'. But, this year, when we have had good positions in and around the edge of the box, we haven't really worked the 'keeper enough. Sometimes, in this league, set-plays are very important and I am pleased we got a couple today.
Anthony O'Connor said that he is happy to play wherever manager John Sheridan wants him to in the last few games of the season- and sees it as a compliment that he is trusted in so many differing position. O'Connor explained: "I was gutted to miss the Burton and Portsmouth games two massive games. Obviously Burton are top of the league - in my eyes, they're going to win the league - and Portsmouth speaks for itself; a big game with a big crowd. I was gutted to miss them but it's football. It's part and parcel of the game. I had a groin injury and there's nothing I could do about it if I played I might've made it worse. So I'm glad I'm back to full fitness now and I'm glad to win today, and hopefully I can be part of a successful team come the end of the season. No matter where I play, I always feel comfortable," he said. "I'm comfortable on the ball, I love tackling, love heading, so these are the attributes you have to have to play in any position. I feel like I've got a lot of attributes to my game and I think the gaffer knows that. I'm happy that he trusts me in so many positions. You won't find a manger around that trusts you in so many positions. I don't moan if he tells me he wants me to play somewhere; I just see it as a big compliment. Obviously on Tuesday, Nelson is back in the team, so wherever he puts me I will be happy to do my best for the team. We know what Wimbledon are all about and we know who they have got in their team, so they're going to pose a threat in that area of the pitch, but we've got players more than capable of dealing with it. We went there earlier in the season and took a clean sheet from them, so hopefully we can do the same again Tuesday, put the ball in the back of their net and take three points."
Argyle returned to winning ways with a 2-1 victory over Mansfield. Anthony O'Connor's early header from a Bobby Reid corner put the greens into the lead and they doubled their lead from Carl McHugh's second half header- this too from a Bobby Reid corner. Mansfield pulled one back within a minute of the restart but they did not have enough to get anything from the game. Argyle: McCormick, O'Connor, McHugh(Jones), Hartley, Mellor, Blizzard, Bobby Reid, Lee(Cox), Holmes-Dennis, Reuben Reid, Alessansdra(Ansah). Subs: Bittner, Harvey, Brunt, Banton.
John Sheridan wants the fringe players of Plymouth Argyle to prove their worth and increase their application to win a first team spot. He particularly mentioned young prospect Tyler Harvey in this breath. The manager added that talent alone does not make a footballer. Sheridan said: "He needs to learn the game. There are a lot of players who haven't played a lot this season. Ollie Norburn and Aaron Bentley weren't in the squad over Easter, so I don't think it's right I should talk about one person and leave others out. Tyler is a talented footballer but you don't get anywhere with just talent. I have said it all along and I will keep saying it he has got a chance of having a successful career. Just because I don't pick a player, and involve a player as much as he would like to be, doesn't mean I think he's a poor player. Every manager is different. I played under managers who didn't fancy me as a player, and I played under managers who really fancied me as a player. That's just the way sometimes things are, but you have to have a work ethic and a winning mentality, no matter if you are in League Two or the Premier League. And you have got to have it on a day-to-day basis, not just when you feel like it.
"Tyler is a talented footballer. He has got a lovely touch and I think he sees things. But I never see him getting involved in the ugly things, playing man-for-man against Bobby Reid or Coxy in training. I have explained this to Tyler. I still think he's a midfield player I do. He has got the attributes to play in there. He has got a good size, he's good on the ball and he can move it quickly, but you have got to have this work ethic. When it's going tough you have got to stand up and be counted. You just can't go through the motions. There will be 300 players with talent being released this year. It's very difficult, no matter where you are, to make it as a footballer, but you have got to have this edge about you and a winning mentality."
John Sheridan has a clear message for his players ahead of two crunch matches against Mansfield and Wimbledon: win at all costs. He stated that he is not bothered about the performances as long as Argyle get the victories that are necessary for the play-off push. He explained: "I'll say it right now: I'm not even bothered about the performance. It's the three points that matters. It's obviously about getting the right team out on the pitch to get the win. Starting with Mansfield, the importance of three points is massive now. It's not a time for me to worry about anyone else. We know what we have got to do. We've got to go and win the game and try and create problems and scoring opportunities. That's what we are going to try and do. Obviously you respect the other team and go through their strengths and what you think they will try and do, but I want us to just concentrate on the massive importance of trying to get three points. We know the importance of the game, and that's the only thing I really have to say: go and win the game."
He also gave a fitness update on a number of his player including Anthony O'Connor. He went on to confirm that Peter Hartley will take the captain's armband in the absence of the suspended Curtis Nelson: "Anthony O'Connor trained this morning and we will assess him again tomorrow, but hopefully he will be fit. I had 22 players training. Other than Deane Smalley, everyone else is fit. Young Rodders is back in the fold and I even think Kelvin Mellor could play in central defence. But, obviously, Anthony is the prime person to go in there. We will see how he is today. Pete is the most vocal player on the pitch and I think it will give him a bit more responsibility by wearing the captain's armband. You would like to think you would have three or four captains on the pitch but, unfortunately, we don't. We are a quiet team. I'm sure he will get the players pumped up. That's just in his game anyway. Whether he has got the captain's armband or not, I don't think it's going to make much difference to Pete. It's always good when you get the opportunity to be a captain and, hopefully, he will lead the team out and get us the result we are after."
Jason Banton is ready to end his season on a high note in spite of what has been a frustrating campaign for him personally with a plague of injuries disrupting his momentum regularly: "It has been very difficult, through injuries and with the team doing well and it being hard to get back in, but that's just football for you. No-one is ever guaranteed a position. You have just got to work hard. I have never had a season like this injury-wise. Normally little niggles have kept me out for a couple of days, but I have had injuries which have kept me out for a few months. Better later than never, I'm back fit and able to help with the final push. It has been up and down for me, but we have something that we can achieve as a team and everyone strongly believes we can do it. If it was half-hearted, we wouldn't be where we are now. I really think we can push on and get in the play-offs. We are not looking too far ahead of ourselves. We are not thinking about the play-offs or Wembley. We are just taking it game by game and the first step is Mansfield at the weekend. Obviously, I'm happy to be back in the team. But this season we can really achieve something so it's not about individuals, or who's playing and who's not. Olly Lee came off the bench against Portsmouth and scored a great goal. Everyone in the squad is going to be needed for this final push."
John Sheridan thought that Argyle played well in their defeat against Portsmouth on Monday and did not deserve to lose, saying that it was difficult to accept. However, he also said that he was frustrated with the manner of the goals that Argyle conceded-especially the first: "It's a very hard result to take. I don't think we deserved to lose the game. I was pleased with the way we played. We went in at half-time and I felt comfortable. We had had good chances. The lads felt comfortable and I just said to them to raise it by five to 10 per cent and the game was there for them. Then we go out and give away possession of the ball from a kick-off, 30 seconds after talking for 15 minutes. The ball goes back to Pete, he kicks it up the pitch and there is no-one near. Portsmouth get possession of the ball and the next thing it's in the back of the net. It's just astounding to think that you do something so small but it ends up costing you. That's why good players are good players they do the small things very well. Even at 1-0, I was quite pleased with the way we battled and tried to get something out of the game."
He expressed his frustration at Curtis Nelson's red card due to the fact that he felt Nelson tried to fairly win the ball. However he understood that the referee was doing his job to the letter of the law. Sheridan said: "I can't be bothered talking about referees. Players get booked for everything nowadays. He made a genuine attempt for the ball and if he doesn't get the ball first it's a booking. They should have ex-players refereeing anyway. That's my view because they would know how players work and see things a little bit differently. But he's there to do his job and he probably feels as though he has done it properly."
He also explained the absence of Lewis Alessandra from the starting eleven having been a virtual ever present all season so far: "Lewi wasn't dropped. He has been one of my best players all season. I thought he did really well when he came on. He was the one who gave us a little bit of a spark. It was just a case of giving someone else a bit of game-time and giving Lewi a little break. I don't feel Lewi has been his usual self."
Peter Hartley went as far as to draw comparisons with the game against Portsmouth at home in November- a match in which Argyle overwhelmingly dominated. He also reiterated the importance of pushing on for the final five games: "I thought we had various chances to kill the game in the first half. We were like I remember us being when we were down there at Home Park, but we didn't take our chances. We created chances, we were on the front and we were defending decently. We had chances to win the game but it just wasn't to be for whatever reasons; shots off target or blocks being made. We didn't start well in the second half, and obviously with any team that gets the first goal in the game, it gives them a foothold. We still had plenty of time to get back in the game; Olly scored a great goal and we had chances to equalise but it just wouldn't drop for us. It was one of those days. Teams could just go down and call it a day and they may as well not be out there, but after the second goal there was a decent reaction. We got a goal and could have got something out of the game but it just wasn't to be. The gaffer said he thought we were the better team and we could've got something out of the game, which I have got to agree with. Although we were not at our best, we still thoroughly deserved to get something out of that game. We have got two home games back-to-back now, and if we put up six points from them, it can all change straight away. We've got Mansfield and AFC Wimbledon. Obviously we'll be missing our captain for the Mansfield game but he'll be back for Tuesday, so we have to make sure we get maximum points out of Saturday for Nelse, then we'll move on to Tuesday."
Argyle are out of the League Two play-off zone following a 2-1 defeat to Pompey at Fratton Park. The two teams went in goalless at half-time but Portsmouth took the lead within a minute of the restart. They got their second later on in the second half and whilst Argyle immediately pulled one back via substitute Olly Lee, it was not enough for the greens to equalise in spite of some late pressure. Curtis Nelson was sent off late on for a second bookable offence meaning that he will miss the match against Mansfield on Saturday. Argyle: McCormick, Nelson, McHugh(Lee), Hartley, Jones, Blizzard, Bobby Reid, Banton(Alessandra), Holmes-Dennis, Reuben Reid, Ansah(Brunt). Subs: Bittner, Mellor, Purrington, Cox.
Carl McHugh stated his anticipation for the Dockyard Derby at Fratton Park tomorrow, saying; "There is going to be a big crowd at Fratton Park on a Bank Holiday. It's a brilliant game for us and we're all looking forward to it. It's good to go there on a positive now, and I think it is a massive positive that we did get a big, big point. I love playing games one after another. You don't train much you're just out there, playing games. We know how to prepare ourselves. We're going there now in good shape but it will be tough they will be looking for revenge for what we did to them here, but we will go there and try to win the game."
John Sheridan spoke about the large quantity of players who he has available for the game at Pompey. He could afford to leave Ollie Norburn, Lee Cox and Aaron Bentley out of his 18 in the previous match against Burton. Sheridan said: "I've said that the next few games are big games. We will go and try and win the game and that's what we have to do. It's very tight with all the results, so there's still teams in and around, believing. We're in a good position so we have just got to try and keep winning games, or try and get something out of games. We'll train early Sunday and then it won't be long. It's just looking after people who have got little knocks. Obviously there are loads of games coming thick and fast, so it's just a stretch and a little loosener and getting people prepared, if I have to make changes for the game, which I won't be frightened of doing, possibly I'll do it. We've got lots of players available; I left three players off the bench today: Ollie, Coxy and Rodders. One or two might get a chance, but I'll go and try and put a team that I think can obviously win us the game."
John Sheridan has praised Argyle's persistence and determination in coming from behind to claim a point. Whilst he was not entirely happy with certain aspects of the performance such as Argyle's use of the ball, he ultimately considered it to be a good point well gained: "All goals conceded are poor but it's took a deflection and gone in the back of the net. They're a decent team and they're up there for a reason. They're very well organised and have one or two decent players. They get men behind the ball, keep their shape and sometimes you've got to be patient to break them down. I felt our biggest problem was that we just didn't keep the ball well enough today. We kept giving the ball away when we were in comfortable possession and I thought it was our downfall today. I felt that, if we did keep it better, we could've caused them one or two more problems. I said at half time that I felt as though we could get back in the game. I thought it was tight. There was not a lot between the two teams I think a draw was probably a fair result. Full respect to the players; the second half was a battling performance but you've always got to be wary of them Burton. They've got some good players on the break and we're trying to chase a game and get something out of it, but I definitely felt we deserved something. It was a very good, workmanlike performance ugly at times. They're well known for getting a 1-0 result, so for us to come back against a top of the league team shows a bit of character, and it could be a really valuable point in the end. We kept plugging away and I think the fans appreciated the way we went about the game. We didn't play great but we kept plugging away and got our rewards in the end. Everyone stuck together, and we got a point a good point."
The one player who he gave particular praise to was debutant Gethin Jones, praising the energy of both him and his counterpart Tareiq Holmes-Dennis on the left hand side. Sheridan said: "He bombs up and down, doesn't he? He and Tareiq have some energy about the pair of them. They are both young lads and are obviously at Championship or Premier League level. Gethin only joined up with us yesterday. Kelvin Mellor only trained for one day, and I think if Kelvin would've trained for three or four days, I would've started with Kelvin, but I just didn't want to throw him in. Anthony O'Connor's groin's still sore and hopefully he'll be alright for next week. Gethin slotted in straight away. He suits that position he's naturally a right back but you can see the confidence in the kid. He bombed on and has loads of energy about him."
Carl McHugh scored his first league goal for the club against Burton and gave a similar viewpoint to his manager that Argyle played well in parts but also had elements of their "It is well, well, well overdue, but it's come at a good time and hopefully it will be an important goal for us. I've had a few 'keepers making good saves that's all I'm going to say! No, I should have chipped in with more goals this year. Hopefully, I can get one or two more this season; there's no reason why not. If I hadn't have blocked it, it probably would have gone wide or safe into Luke's hands, but you have to try to block a shot when it's at the edge of the box. They go for you sometimes, and sometimes they don't. Hopefully, we will get a few more before the end of the season which go for us. It was devastating because I think we started the better of the teams. I didn't really think Burton caused us a massive amount of problems all game; they just had their goal to hang on to and played really deep in the second half, which makes it really hard. When a team sits ten men behind the ball really deep on their box, it is hard to make chances, and the equaliser was just probably going to be from something like a set-piece or a ball running across the box. Thankfully, we got something that went in for us. I was expecting them to come out more and try to get the second goal and shut up shop. They probably showed a bit of respect for us they know we're a decent side and we have flair going forward. I'm just thankful we didn't let them go home with the three points.
"It just shows how tight it is going to be towards the end of the season. I think it's going to be nip and tuck. There are going to be twists and turns, ups and downs. We just have to stick together whatever happens we may have a few bad results and be in the top seven at there at the end of the season. Anything can happen from there and I'd definitely back us once we get in there. Coming from behind against the league leaders, and looking the way the other results went, it was a massive point but we just have to go on to Monday and make it a really good one by winning at Portsmouth. We might not have played the best, but we stuck in there together and showed a real desire to get back into the game. We are going to need that for the last six games."
Argyle have drawn 1-1 against Burton- coming from behind to draw for the first time since November away to the same opposition. Burton went 1-0 up before half-time but an 86th minute headed equaliser from Carl McHugh (his first league goal for Argyle) ensured that the spoils were shared once again. Argyle: McCormick, Nelson, McHugh, Hartley, Jones, Blizzard, Bobby Reid, Banton(Lee), Holmes-Dennis, Reuben Reid(Brunt) Alessandra (Ansah). Subs: Bittner, Purrington, Harvey, Mellor.
John Sheridan has given as assessment of Argyle's remaining 7 games. He has stated the need for consistency and concentration only on their own results. He said: "We have got a really good record. I think it's 20 clean sheets, so a lot of credit has to go to the players. To have a record like that is a great achievement and obviously over the last couple of games getting goals has been the problem, but it was pleasing to score three goals again and no goals against. It could be really important at the end of the season, the goal difference. Ours is good and when you look at how tight things are at the moment, it gives you that little bit of an advantage. It could come into play towards the end of the season. I do know who's playing who, but I think we have just got to concentrate on ourselves. If we win our games, we will be where we want to be. We are just concentrating on getting three points from each game. I know that it's tight but results are very hard to predict in this division. I've said all along that it's about the team with most consistency. I wouldn't like to say who is the best team we've played this season, because I feel anyone can beat anyone on their day. We've had really hard games against teams who are in the lower regions, and we've done alright against the teams who are going really well at the moment. The main thing is getting in the playoffs. It doesn't matter if you finish fourth or seventh, in my eyes, because everyone is fighting for the same thing. I felt as though our form dipped with the lack goals but then there was last week, and the second half against Newport I thought we played well.
"We have just got to maintain it and pick something up from each game. Preferably we want three points but if it has to be a point, you take it and move on to the next game. I've said all along that it could go until the last game. I did have a points target, but I don't feel as though we are going to need that many now. There are still teams below us like Stevenage, Northampton, even AFC Wimbledon and Exeter, that will feel as if they've still got a chance of getting in the playoffs. We just need to concentrate on ourselves, and that's what I'm going to try to do over the last few games. We have got a good goal difference and it could be really important at the end of the season. When you look at how tight things are at the moment it gives you a little bit of an advantage because it could come into play."
He also provided a fitness update on Reuben Reid who has been perennially struggling with a foot injury: "He has still got the little niggle and he has his injections, but if I didn't feel as though he was fit to play I wouldn't be playing him. He misses the odd day, but he just needs to get his sharpness. Hopefully, the couple of goals he got last week will give him that confidence. We need him on the pitch."
Dominic Blizzard agreed with Sheridan's sentiments about the remainder of the season to come, adding that he felt Argyle could not afford to write off any games. Blizzard said: We know what's needed," said the 31-year-old. "It's stupid to think we can lose a certain amount of games we are going into games thinking we can win and trying to be as positive as possible. They are all big games from now until the end of the season. Where we are in the league might chop and change, but you want to play against the better teams and certainly we've got two of the better teams in the league over the coming days. Hopefully, we can get some positive results. I feel confident and all the boys do, but it's all well and good saying you feel confident and then going out and not performing. At the time of the season now, the most important thing is the wins we'll stick together and see where that takes us. Around this time of the season, you are there through how you have performed throughout the season. They are a decent team and it will be hard game, but it is something we can rise to. We are always confident at home. Even if we haven't always played well, we've picked up points. That's been very important. We go into the game confident and will try to take the game to them. Particularly at home, getting behind the team is really important. The fans have been excellent all season, home and away. We'll do our best and hopefully the fans will get right behind us and spur us on to get the victory."
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