A Round-up of Argyle News
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Greens on Screen's Daily Diary is a compilation of Argyle news, with help from these and other Argyle-related sites.
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Also included on the three most recent days, facts from Argyle's history.
Neal Trotman wants to remain a Pilgrim. The Argyle centre-back has been a virtual ever-present since coming to Home Park in August on a short-term contract which expires next month. John Sheridan revealed after Sunday's 1-1 draw at Wimbledon that he has been talking to Neal about a new deal, and Trots said: "I'd love to stay in Plymouth. I feel like I'm playing good football here; I feel like I offer a lot to the team. We are in talks over the right contract and, as I say, I'd love to stay." Neal has seen the Argyle team grow in belief and confidence as the season has progressed – attributes which helped them come from behind to win a point on Saturday. "There was a lot of pressure in the first half but I think we defended well as a team," he said. "Obviously, things aren't always going to go your way so, in games like this, you just have to grind it out, which we did. At the start of the season, we weren't together as a team because it takes time to gel. Now, over the past few weeks, things have started to come together. We are pleased for the fans because they have travelled to Oxford and to London over Christmas, so it is nice to give them a bit of Christmas present with four points from the two games."
While the likes of Reuben Reid, Caolan Lavery and even young Ben Purrington have been grabbing the headlines, Dominic Blizzard has slipped quietly back into the Argyle midfield after an inauspicious start to his life as a Pilgrim. After starting the first six games of the season, the 28-year-old summer recruit from Yeovil was struck down by illness. Following a 19-game absence from the starting line-up, he returned to colours four games ago and has played a full part in Argyle happy Christmas streak of two wins and draw. "It's always difficult when you are not playing, but it is what it is," said Dom, on the eve of the New Year's Day Devon Derby against Torquay at Home Park. "I've had a few knockbacks but you take it on the chin and try to get yourself back as quick as you can and you move on. I feel there is a lot more to come from myself. I would definitely say I've got a few more gears to go up. Hopefully, that will happen with the more games that I get. I haven't played for a while, but I hope it's not too far in the future that I'll be happy about my performances." Despite the stuttering start to life at Home Park, Dom is a content fellow. He said: "I really enjoyed my time so far. I feel really comfortable. I like the surroundings and we have got a good mix of lads. Not to be involved is frustrating and I've not played as many games as I would have liked, but there are plenty of games left in the season." In his unassuming way, Dom is more focused on Argyle getting the victory over Torquay than he is on winning personal plaudits for his performance. "It's more getting points on the board, to be honest," he said. "In a selfish way, you'd like to play well but, if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen; if we win, that's the most important thing. We can then start looking up the league. It's a very congested league; if you put a few wins together and get a bit of momentum, you never know where you might find yourself. We have played a lot of the so-called title contenders or the ones going for promotion and I don't think there's any difference between them and the ones at the bottom who are struggling against relegation. It's highly competitive and it's hard to maintain a consistency but hopefully we can do that going into the new year. I am fully aware of where the club has been not too long ago. It doesn't give us the right to win this league at all, but the foundations are here where, if we do well, the club is ready. There are a lit of positives; it's up to the boys on the pitch now, to give everyone something to cheer about." Dom came off the substitutes' bench to play the final half-hour of November's 1-1 draw at Plainmoor between Torquay and Argyle, who are eight points better off than their visitors at the season's halfway mark. However, Dom cautioned: "The league is unpredictable – I don't expect us to roll them over after 15 minutes. It's a local derby. It will be a hard-fought game, not too dissimilar to the game that we played at their ground not so long ago, which could have gone either way. Hopefully we can raise or game and get the points that we need."
In Reuben Reid, the Pilgrims possess one of League 2's leading marksmen. Since he joined forces with fellow on-loan striker Caolan Lavery three games ago, Reuben has scored four of Argyle's six goals in their two wins and a draw over the Christmas period; Caolan has bagged the other two. The pair will lead the line in the New Year's Day Devon Derby against Torquay United at Home Park looking as the Pilgrims start the second half of their league campaign in decent fettle. John Sheridan is not the least bit surprised that Reuben, who is on a season-long loan from Yeovil, is coming up with the goods. "I expected that – that's why I signed him," said John. "It's no surprise he's got 12 goals. I've stood by him and played him in nearly every game, and he's getting his rewards for his hard work. I try to talk about the team and the squad – it's all about the team and the squad; Reuben is getting all the plaudits because he's scoring goals but it's a team effort and that's why we're winning games and getting results. We're playing well and looking quite confident in ourselves." The strike partnership will continue after Wednesday's derby after Coalan's employers agreed to extend his loan deal for a month beyond its original New Year's Day expiry date. John said: "I've spoken to Sheffield Wednesday and they have allowed him to stay. They are short of strikers and I was a bit worried he wouldn't be able to, but, thankfully, they have let us have him and I appreciate that. He gives us something a little bit different. He plays off the shoulder and works his socks off up front. He'll run the channels and try and get in behind people. Again, he's part of a team that is doing alright."
Ben Purrington's 2014 is going to start the way 2013 ended. Such has been the 17-year-old's impact in his first two first-team games, John Sheridan has already inked him for the New Year's Day Devon Derby against Torquay at Home Park. "I can't leave him out," said John, in the wake of the Pilgrims' 1-1 draw at Wimbledon which followed four days after Ben's debut at Oxford which was described by the Argyle gaffer as "excellent." "Again, I thought he played really well today. He's come in the side and he's a confident kid – not in an overconfident way. He's learning – first-team football is totally different to reserve-team and youth-team football – and he has settled in really well. Full credit to him. He'll be starting against Torquay, that's for sure."
John Sheridan is hoping that Sheffield Wednesday striker Caolan Lavery will stay at Home Park a little longer but will not be extending the loan of defender Jamie Reckord. Left-back Jamie has returned to his parent club, Wolverhampton Wanderers, after nearly four months at Home Park, during which he played 16 games. "He did really well when he first came in," John said. "He's played a part in getting one or two good results for us. I think his form dropped a little bit – I think Jamie would say that himself. He has had a niggling ankle injury which he might need an operation for, but he's got on with it and hasn't made that an excuse. Full credit to him. He was spot on in training; his attitude was very good. There were just one or two performances which didn't go his way and I don't think he picked up from that, but he did okay for me." John has been in touch with former club Wednesday to enquire about extending the temporary deal for Northern Ireland Under-21 international Caolan, who has scored two goals in three starts for the Pilgrims since coming to Home Park in late November. A third loanee, forward Tope Obadeyi, is being recalled by Bury, while John said he has spoken to centre-back Neal Trotman about extending the defender's short-term contract until the end of the season. "I've asked about Caolan, and Sheffield Wednesday are coming back to me," said John. "They have got one or two problems there with injuries, striker-wise. Hopefully, it will go our way and we can get him. I spoke to Neal Trotman. I'd like him to stay for the rest of the season; I'm just waiting for Neal to come back to me. Bury are going to take Tope back, and there are a couple of lads – Hamza Bencherif and Andre Blackman – who I will speak to on Tuesday. I'll also be speaking to one or two people to hopefully bring one or two in. Hopefully, we can get all things done and get everyone settled and ready for after the New Year."
Argyle battled to a 1-1 draw away at AFC Wimbledon this afternoon. The home side went ahead early in the second half when Peter Sweeney crossed for Michael Smith to head home. Reuben Reid netted his 12th goal of the season two minutes from time to maintain the Pilgrims' unbeaten Christmas run. Argyle: McCormick, Blanchard, Trotman, Nelson, Purrington, Gurrieri (Berry), Blizzard, Hourihane, Alessandra (Thomas), Reid, Lavery (Obadeyi). Substitutes (not used): Cole, Boco, Young, Wotton.
With five goals between them in the two matches they have started together up front, it looks like the strike partnership between Reuben Reid and Caolan Lavery is the one that Argyle have been yearning for. Caolan opened the scoring in the Pilgrims' 3-2 Boxing Day win at Oxford United, with Reuben adding the second from the penalty spot and the third after linking with substitute Tope Obadeyi. "Caolan gives us a little something different," said manager John Sheridan. "He's always on the defender's shoulder; he's a will o' the wisp; he's always pestering strikers. He's a goalscorer. You could see his natural finishing in the first goal. It's probably only him that would have scored that. He's anticipated where the ball might go and that's why he's got his goal. It's a great finish. Reuben gives you that little bit of control and presence, and he likes the ball to his feet, so they are a bit different." There were heroes all over the pitch, though, as John was eager to emphasise. "As a team today, I thought we were excellent," he said. "I thought it was a very, very good team performance. I have got Andres working his socks off, Lewi working his socks off; and young Ben's made his debut and you'd think he'd played 50 games. I thought Dominic Blizzard came in today and looked a lot better. He gives you that bit of presence. It's difficult, leaving Youngy out of the team – he's done well for me – but I went with Ben and Conor because the gave us that bit of balance as left-footed players. Full credit to the whole group. Obviously, the goalscorers get the plaudits but, as a team, I praise each and every one of them because it was a really solid performance." Reuben netted his fifth penalty of the season, taking his overall tally to 11, having previously missed a spot-kick at Chesterfield. That miss had not changed the Pilgrims' penalty-taker policy. "It is up to whoever is confident and whoever feels they are going to put the ball in the back of the net," said John "He's got the confidence to take them – good lad. I'm pleased he scored."
Reuben Reid is happy to have bounced back to form after a below-par performance against Bury and has paid tribute to new strike partner Caolan Lavery. "Obviously it's nice to be scoring and setting up goals when you play," said Reuben. "I was absolutely shocking against Bury, and I know, in my mind, the reasons for it, but that's how football works sometimes. Thankfully, today, the performance for me, personally, was more for the team, putting in the hard work. It paid off, with two goals the reward. I had a really nice feeling after Christmas Day, which I had with my family, coming up against a decent side that is doing well in the league to get three points and push us up the table." Reuben is clearly enjoying playing alongside Caolan. He said: "In my mind, since I came back, Argyle have needed a striker who stretches the play, a willing runner to go in behind. Sometimes you need that player to affect the back four; no matter what, he is looking to stretch the play and get in behind. I think Caolan is that man. He also has proved in training, he's really good in front of goal, as well. It was another great finish from him. It gives defenders something to think about – he might not get the ball or be put in on goal, but, when you are stretching the play, the game opens up and other players can get involved. It's a selfless role but, if he can time his run and get in, he can get goals as well."
John Sheridan raised a few eyebrows when he selected a teenager whose previous biggest match had been an FA Youth Cup tie to face the League 2 leaders, away from home, in front of 10,000-plus fans. But 17-year-old Ben Purrington rose to the occasion and helped Argyle to a 3-2 Boxing Day victory at Oxford United. "I told him in the morning he was playing," said John, who was without suspended Durrell Berry and injured Jamie Reckord. "I said: 'You're playing – ring your mum and dad up and tell them to get down to the game to watch it. I am sure they are very proud, the way he played today. I thought he was excellent. He is only 17 but he has done a pre-season with the first team; he trains with the first team and he doesn't look out of place. He's been playing for the youth team, but he's too good for the youth team. He's a very strong runner; a confident lad, not overconfident; he does the right things and listens. He's got his feet firmly on the ground. He has definitely got something – he's quick; he's strong; he's aggressive. He's got to learn with his passing and to change gear in his game, because he does play one pace – which in 100mph at the moment, but that's a young kid for you." Things got interesting at the Kassam when Ben was booked just after the hour, but John said: "I told him to slow down and relax a bit but he's young kid – enthusiasm is always going to be in him at that age. He played a big part in getting the win." Ben enjoyed the experience of his first team debut; "It was great," he said afterwards. "There was a crowd of 10,000 here and it was great feeling to get the win, as well. It's a great place to come and win, with a crowd like that. It was the best day possible. I did notice there were no other left-backs in the squad," he said. "I wasn't as nervous as I thought I'd be, and once you get out there, it was alright; I settled in. I started off fairly well and tried to continue it through. I got booked, which was a bit scary. I wanted to make a few tackles." The victory saw Argyle rise to 13th in League 2, with a visit to Wimbledon on Sunday, when Durrell – at least – will be available for selection. "It is good to climb up the table," said Ben. "We worked really hard. Hopefully, we can keep it going over the Christmas period and then push on. I have got to keep training hard, try and get in the squad, try and get in the team."
Five goals in a sensational second half at the Kassam Stadium gave Argyle a 3-2 win over Oxford United. Argyle scored within a minute of the second half restart via Caolan Lavery, only for Oxford to level with a long-range effort Asa Hall, as they began to show why they have made it to the top of the division. However, Reuben Reid, the match-winner on Saturday against Bury, once again proved the difference. He scored from the spot after Dave Kitson had handled a cross from a free-kick, then followed up a Tope Obadeyi effort with three minutes remaining. Oxford narrowed Argyle's lead with Neal Trotman's own-goal, but Argyle were not to be denied as they clung for their second maximum points haul of the festive period. Argyle: McCormick, Blanchard, Trotman, Nelson, Purrington, Gurrieri, Blizzard, Hourihane, Alessandra; Reid (Branston), Lavery (Obadeyi). Substitutes (unused): Cole, Boco, Young, Wotton, Thomas.
John Sheridan will wait until next year before revealing his decisions on the six Argyle players whose futures do not extend beyond January 2014. Hamza Bencherif, Andre Blackman and Neal Trotman are all on short-term contracts and John said it will not be until the Devon Derby at home to Torquay United on January 1 that any decision on whether or not their services are being retained will be revealed. "Decisions will be made and people will know what decisions have been made at the right time," he said. "I have spoken to all three players concerned and hopefully I will get a response from all three. I have made them aware of how I am feeling and those decisions will probably come out after the New Year's Day game." Loan players Caolan Lavery, Tope Obadeyi and Jamie Reckord are also on temporary deals and John will take up their case after the Christmas trips to Oxford United and Wimbledon. "I think it is important they stay focused for the games that are coming up," he said. "I will speak to them; it's a decision involving their respective clubs if I want to keep them. Hopefully, if I want to keep them, they will stay; if they don't want to stay, good luck to them when they go back to their clubs." It has been reported that new Bury manager David Flitcroft is keen on having Tope back at Gigg Lane, although the subject was not mentioned in the aftermath of Saturday's Home Park game between Argyle and the Shakers. "I haven't spoken to anyone at Bury," said John. "I haven't spoken to Tope. Like I say, I want him to stay focused. We have got three tough games coming up and the main thing for me is if they are going to be involved, I want them to give 100% and help us get the points we're after." Similarly, John has not talked to his former club, Sheffield Wednesday, about the future of striker Caolan Lavery. "When I need to speak to someone from Sheffield Wednesday regarding Caolan, I will do that," he said, "but they will see he scored a goal, he's getting a bit of game-time. It will only do Sheffield Wednesday good if he is getting football. If you're playing for your club's Under-21s, I think you are doing a lot better for yourself and you will be a better player when you go back to your club if you are playing first-team football."
Christmas came early for Argyle and the Green Army in the shape of winger Nathan Thomas. Free agent Nathan, 19, signed for the Pilgrims on Christmas Eve following a successful trial at Home Park. The former Sunderland apprentice has joined Argyle until the end of the season and has straight into the Pilgrims' squad for their Boxing Day match at League 2 leaders Oxford United. "He's very quick and very direct," said John Sheridan. "When he's on his game, he gets the ball and will gain ground and get us up the pitch very quickly. That is what I am hoping for. He was very highly thought of at Sunderland; they offered him a contract and he refused it. It's a good chance for him to come here and get some first-team football. He has been at Championship clubs on trial, and someone wanted to take him, but he feels he has got a good chance of getting in the first team here. He's travelled a long way and is willing to work hard to get in the team and try to earn himself a contract, which is what I like about him. I like what I see. Hopefully, we can get him on board and he will help us to get where we want to go. He's left-footed and can play right and left. He's a winger, but he's very direct, and he's got a goal in him. He's only young, so we will work with him." Nathan, who hails from Newcastle and was an apprentice at Sunderland, is fully committed to being a Janner until at least the end of the current season. "It's a long way, but I'm not bothered how far away it is," he said, "as long as I get the chance to play first-team football. I'll get home once a month to see my family if I can, but this is more important at this moment in time. The big thing about coming out of Sunderland was looking at the first team and thinking 'I am not going to play in this first team until I am at least 25', and I couldn't sit around for six years. For the development of myself, this is the best move for me. Hopefully, I can push on and prove I can play at this level. I started off at Newcastle and I moved, when I was 14, to Sunderland. I was at Sunderland for four years and did really well. I got in and around the first team a little bit. Then, as happens in football, you fall out with some people and I ended up wanting a new path. I wanted to play some real football, some league football. I went round other clubs but there wasn't a right move. The only way I was going to move was if it was right for me. Coming here is the right move for me. I got offers off maybe eight or nine different clubs, good offers, Premier League clubs, but I wanted the chance to go and play first-team football. I've played reserve team from when I was 16 so this was the next step for me." Nathan appears to be cut from the same cloth as other exciting attacking players that Argyle manager John Sheridan has brought to Home Park. "I like to think I'm very direct in the way I play," he said. "I like to go past people. I like to score goals. I think I'm a little bit different to what we've already got here. I don't think there are many players in the league that do what I do." Nathan has been assigned the number 19 shirt for the rest of the season.
Conor Hourihane cannot wait to get back into the swing of things when Argyle play Oxford United on Boxing Day. The Argyle skipper sat out Saturday's 2-1 home victory over Bury, having picked up five cautions in the first 20 games of the campaign, and admitted he had loathed sitting in the grandstand while his team-mates picked up three vital points. "It was not nice whatsoever," said Conor. "When the first whistle went, the disappointment really kicked in. Obviously I was disappointed leading up to the game but when you see the lads out there, you really want to go out and help them. It was one of those things. A lot of players, over a season, get five yellow cards. I'm back involved now, in the squad for the game against Oxford, and I'm really looking forward to it. Every player wants to go straight back in, but the lads won on Saturday so we'll have to wait and see what happens." With Argyle fairly comfortably mid-table going into the turn of the season, Conor is having a first experience of a season that has been nothing but an abject struggle. Not that he is the least bit complacent about that. "It's been an up and down season, to be honest with you," he said. "We should probably have five, six, seven more points than we have. It's going to be a tough second half of the season but, if we all stick together and put that ball in the back of the net, which we have been struggling to do, I think we will push up the table. It's not a bad position to be in because the last two seasons have been tough; we've always been down the bottom. But, this season, we are making slow, but steady progress." Conor also had words of praise for his stand-in as captain against Bury, young defender Curtis Nelson. He said: "Curtis is definitely a skipper for the future - he leads by example – and I have enjoyed playing with him. He's a good lad, as well. He was very good."
John Sheridan is giving his Pilgrims Christmas Day off. Or, at least, as much of it as is possible before the players journey east to this season's star turn in Sky Bet League 2, Oxford United, for their Boxing Day game. "I think it's important, whatever anyone else thinks, that they spend a bit of time with their family at Christmas," said John. "They will see their loved ones on Christmas Day and we're in the team hotel on Christmas night. You need to be with your family sometimes. I've been in football a long time and I've been in a hotel every Christmas night throughout my career. It's probably one of the hardest things to do when you got kids, your missus, and loved ones." Not that the gaffer's goodwill will extend much further into a busy holiday period for Argyle. "We might just do a little bit of training, have a stretch, on Boxing Day morning," he said. "The games are coming up thick and fast."
With Argyle's busy Christmas period beginning with a 2-1 win over Bury at Home Park, manager John Sheridan is calling for consistency from his players. The manager knows the importance of getting points over this period, and is eager to see the lads continue to put in good performances. Sheridan said: "In the last three league games, we could've easily got seven points. We've only picked up three, but we're playing alright." Whilst these good performances have not managed to bring in as many points as he would like, John believes that consistency is the key - not just to the upcoming fixtures, but for overall success in League 2. "The magic word is 'consistency'," said John. "If you've got six or seven players who will give you seven out of ten in every game, you've got a good side, and you'll win more games than you lose. We're getting better at that." An added Christmas bonus for the Greens is an almost fully-fit squad to choose from in the next couple of weeks – a priceless asset at this time of the year. John said: "I think everyone will be fit for the Oxford game on Boxing Day; Tope Obedayi will back and Conor Hourihane is available after suspension, so I've got a strong squad to pick from."
Argyle are leading the way in nutrition and science with a new vitamin and supplement sponsor that is giving the side a boost. Following Argyle's link up with Plymouth-based sports-testing company Knight Scientific, vitamin and supplement supplier BioCare decided they too wanted to give the Argyle players an extra edge. The Pilgrims have been using the 'ABEL Sport Test', developed in Plymouth by Knight Scientific to give them edge for over ten weeks now. The test takes a small blood sample from a player via a prick-test and can help predict over-training, a dangerous condition in which a player might train too hard without giving the body enough chance to recover, resulting in illness or injury. Argyles' Performance Manager John Harbin called it a 'Godsend'. "The ABEL-Sport test can show me when a player's heading towards over-training, before it happens, so I can adjust what he's doing in the gym or the pool and keep him in match-fit condition" said John. Already the envy of Premier League clubs with the ABEL-Sport test, now Argyle is receiving the best in nutritional support with BioCare supplying free vitamins, supplements and dietary advice to the players. John said: "We're very fortunate to have the best over-training and infection-detection tests in the world at our disposal, and BioCare's generosity means our players now have world-class nutritional support on tap, too." Knight Scientific arranged for John and the players to have a private session with BioCare nutritional consultant Mike Wakeman to discuss how vitamins and supplements could contribute to the fitness optimisation programme that John is championing. "Although the club already provides the players with good nutrition, there are always circumstances in which the right supplements can make a difference," said Mr Wakeman. The supplements and vitamins BioCare is supplying are designed to help the players maintain full fitness and support their immunity - and they are also certified as safe for the team to use. BioCare is one of the few suppliers able to guarantee that any vitamins or supplements it gives the players meet the strict standards of the World Anti-Doping Agency, WADA. John, widely renowned as one of the best coaches in football, has been tweaking the player's training regimes in light of this new scientific support. "This all adds more power to our elbow," said John. "I'm confident that the support we're getting from Knight Scientific and BioCare will help us improve and maintain fitness, reduce injuries, and send our players on to the pitch in the best possible condition to win."
John Sheridan was pleased to see Argyle side "grind out" a 2-1 victory over League 2 strugglers Bury. Caolan Lavery's terrific individual effort in the 10th minute gave the Greens a deserved early advantage at Home Park – a strike which the manager knew was important not just for the match, but the scorer as well. "It was a good goal from Caolan, and I'm pleased for him" said John. "He was quick and direct, and it's a great finish. When you score the first goal, you've got something to hang on to, and a better chance of going on to win the game." Bury replied early in the second half, with a long-range looping strike by Chris Sedgwick. But the visitors went down to ten men when Craig Jones came off with an injury shortly after their final substitution was made and Argyle took advantage with 12 minutes to go, when Reuben Reid tucked home his ninth goal of the season. "Their goal was a good finish from the lad – but it was just too easy for him" Sheridan said. "It just gives them the incentive to push on, but I still think we deserved to win the game." Reid's winner was provided by a cross by Lewis Alessandra, capping off a man-of-the-match performance by the supplier. His showing, and the determined nature of the victory, were highly praised by John. "I thought Alessandra played very well," said John. "He was a threat all the way through the game, with his work-rate and creativity. The most important thing at this stage is getting three points. These results are the real good wins – the ones you grind out – and we did that."
Caolan Lavery hopes to stay at Home Park after his loan from Sheffield Wednesday expires next month, and it sounds like Pilgrims manager John Sheridan would like to keep him. Caolan scored Argyle's opener in their victory over Bury on his first start, following four previous substitute appearances. He is scheduled to return to Hillsborough in three games time, after the New Year's Day clash Devon Derby against Torquay, but would welcome the chance to lengthen his loan. "I'd be happy to extend it," he said. "I've enjoyed every minute of it so far. It's just down to the management, whether or not they want to extend it, and up to my parent club whether or not they are going to allow me to." That sentiment was echoed by John Sheridan. "I'm pleased he's got his goal," said John. "He got a little tired towards the end but he looked bright all the way through the game. He's only been a sub recently because two of our best players have been Reuben Reid and Lewis Alessandra. He scored plenty of goals in the practice matches, and his took his goal today very well. He's enjoying his football here, and obviously it's up to his parent club if he stays here longer or not." The admiration is mutual. Caolan said of John: "He's been around the game for a long time. I've heard nothing but good things about him. "I've been happy working under him. He's given me little bits and pieces of advice, I'd be happy to stay if it wall works out." Before that, Argyle travel to Oxford on Boxing Day and Wimbledon on the Sunday after Christmas looking to push on from their mid-table spot. "Anyone can beat anyone on their day," said Caolan. "It's just a matter of taking your chances when they come. Like the gaffer has been saying, we've played the top teams and looked the better team, so we are not worried about going there. There's no point of being afraid of anyone. It's just a case of working hard, getting through the battle, and nicking the three points." Asked where he sees Argyle finishing the campaign, he said: "They are a good bunch of lads, good players – the squad of players they have here, definitely top half, if not maybe a little push at the end. The players here are definitely good enough; it's just a matter of scoring more goals, than conceding. That's been a problem here since the start of the season."
Caolan Lavery also spoke about scoring on his full debut. "It's my first professional goal," said Caolan, whose previous appearances, including four at Argyle, have all been as a substitute. "It's a good feeling, just good to get off the mark for the loan. Thankfully, we went on to win the game. First start, first goal – it's been a good day. Hopefully, I can stay in the team now and help the lads push on over Christmas. I've scored goals in the reserves and every level I've played, finally I've managed to get my first professional one. It's a great feeling." The goal was set up by a long pass by Luke Young to the left flank, from where Caolan cut inside, teased defender Nathan Cameron, and slid the ball past goalkeeper Brian Jensen at his near post. "I saw Youngy had a bit of room on the ball so I just span out and he put it over the top," said Caolan. "I came 1 v 1 and just put it in at the near post. It was all a bit of a blur, really." Caolan has had to be patient since arriving from Hillsborough, making do with substitute appearances until Saturday. "You can understand where the gaffer was coming from as the results have been good," he said. "It was just a case of biding my time and, when I got the chance, take it. Hopefully, I've done that today." In a swirling wind, the Pilgrims finally bagged the points in the 78th minute, when Reuben Reid retorted their advantage following Chris Sedgwick's delightful leveller four minutes after half-time. "I think we probably deserved to win in the end," said Caolan. "We had more chances than them. The wind didn't help. You were making runs and the ball was coming and, all of a sudden, it stopped and has fallen to the centre-half. It's a bit frustrating. We said before the game: 'Get the win today and it will put us in the right frame of mind for the busy Christmas period.' It is a perfect platform." In a swirling wind, the Pilgrims finally bagged the points in the 78th minute, when Reuben Reid retorted their advantage following Chris Sedgwick's delightful leveller four minutes after half-time. "I think we probably deserved to win in the end," said Caolan. "We had more chances than them. The wind didn't help. You were making runs and the ball was coming and, all of a sudden, it stopped and has fallen to the centre-half. It's a bit frustrating. We said before the game: 'Get the win today and it will put us in the right frame of mind for the busy Christmas period.' It is a perfect platform."
Reuben Reid's strike against Bury secured the points for Argyle, but he was only on the pitch to score it thanks to a change of heart by the manager. John Sheridan also considered taking off Maxime Blanchard instead, but by the time he had made up his mind, Reuben had tucked in the winning goal. Sheridan said: "We were going to take him off before he scored. Things just didn't go his way today. But he was in the right place, between the posts, and it's a great ball from Alessandra to set him up." Straight after the goal, Sheridan did indeed take Reid off – to a standing ovation from the Home Park faithful – as he looked for more solidity in his formation. "I was going to take a defender off, but then we grabbed the second goal, and decided to go to a solid 4-4-2," said Sheridan. "With a 2-1 lead, playing against ten men, you'd expect to see the game out, and I don't think Bury really threatened us." The manager revealed that, post-match, Reid even looked to offer an apology to the boss for his performance, but Sheridan was quick to reassure Argyle's top scorer. John said: "He came in after the game and apologised to me, and I said: 'What are you apologising for? You ended up getting the winning goal!' "
Argyle returned to winning ways with a 2-1 win over Bury as Reuben Reid's late second-half goal saw them go into Christmas with three valuable points in the sack. Caolan Lavery executed a smart finish in front of the Devonport end after just ten minutes, but Bury was back level within the opening minutes of the second half by an even more eye-catching shot from Chris Sedgwick. Reid netted his ninth goal of the season from close range after fine work on the left from Lewis Alessandra. Argyle: McCormick, Blanchard, Trotman, Nelson, Berry, Blizzard, Young, Gurrieri, Lavery (Bencherif), Reid (Boco), Alessandra. Substitutes (not used): Cole, Blackman, Branston, Wotton, Reckord.
Caolan Lavery will play up front when the Pilgrims face Bury at Home Park this weekend. Caolan, who is on loan from Sheffield Wednesday, will make his first Argyle start on Saturday, having made an impression as a substitute in the last four games. The lack of goals for Argyle has led manager John Sheridan to tinker with his regular two-up-front partnership of Reuben Reid and Lewis Alessandra and give the 21-year-old Caolan his first start as an Argyle player. "I'm not going to make many changes, but Lavery will be starting," said John. "He's come on and done well in the past. In the York game, he could have scored; he got the penalty the other day at Chesterfield and could have scored – the 'keeper made a great save. With the lack of goals at the moment and us playing at home, he could just give us the something different that we need." Argyle welcome Bury to Home Park on Saturday, when they will be looking to secure an important three points in a demanding time for the Pilgrims, who will be playing four matches in 12 days. "It's a busy and important time for us." said John. "The games come thick and fast and, if you if you can get a couple of positive results, you go into the new year feeling good. You can find yourself jumping five or six places very quickly in this league." John also believes the New Year is a good time for Plymouth to steal a march on their rivals. "There's always a team that comes through from the pack in the New Year that no-one expects," he said. "Let that be us." Bury currently sit 19th in the table, just the three points behind Argyle, so John is under no illusions just how important this game is. "They're a very good team," he said, "If they win, they go level with us; if we win, we go six points clear of Bury, so we've just got to focus on ourselves and play our game. "They've got a new manager, so he'll have new ideas but we're at home and we've got to be positive, take the game on and try and get the win." The lack of goals for Argyle has no doubt been a source of frustration for the manager who has seen his team play some good football without scoring the goals their approach play has deserved. "Not getting the ball in the back of the net has been a problem this season," said John. "On our day, I think we're as good as any team in the league and I've got the confidence in myself and in the players that, by the end of the season, we can get to where we want to be."
Curtis Nelson will captain Plymouth Argyle on Saturday when they face Bury at Home Park. Curtis will stand in for suspended captain Conor Hourihane, who will serve a one-match ban for receiving five yellow cards this season. John Sheridan said he believed Curtis has the right attitude to lead the team. "He's got a really good attitude, he's very mentally strong, and I think he's got good leadership qualities," said John. Despite being only 20, Curtis has made more than 115 appearances for Argyle and has twice captained the team before, standing in for Conor when he was banned last season. One of those matches included a 2-0 win against Cheltenham Town at Home Park. "He's a lad that works very hard at his game," said John, of Curtis. "Like most players at this level, without being harsh or disrespectful, they have faults in their game but I think he's one of those that will work really hard to make himself a better player." The Pilgrims' boss believes Curtis has the qualities to become a captain later in his career. "He's got good leadership qualities and could make a good captain in the future" said John. Conor has been central to the team this season, starting all 25 competitive matches and not missing a minute of the Pilgrims' league matches. John said: "He'll be a miss but I can't play him on Saturday, so I'm not thinking about him at this moment. It gives someone else the opportunity. Hopefully, that person will come in and we'll get the win and it'll give me something to think about for the next game."
Argyle players and staff visited Derriford Hospital on Wednesday to dispense some seasonal cheer. Many members of the first team squad, along with manager John Sheridan and performance manager John Harbin, stopped by the children's ward and children's theatre and recovery unit armed with chocolates, books and gifts from the Argyle club shop, all of which was paid for from their own pockets. Skipper Conor Hourihane said: "Obviously it's not the best time of year to be in hospital and if we can help cheer people up, that's great. It's lovely to be able to put a smile on their faces, especially the little ones when we hand them their gifts. The books and chocolates go down especially well. This is the third time I have come up at Christmas now and I enjoy it every time." Paula Evans, Head Nurse of Children and Young People at Derriford, said: "I want to thank each and every one of the players who came along today. Every year they come up to the hospital and bring so many lovely presents for the children who are with us at this time of year. I want to pass my heartfelt thanks on to them from myself, all the staff working here and our patients and their families."
Argyle have announced a special offer for this Saturday, when Bury visit Home Park. A family ticket in the FIL Family Zone For All - that is one adult and one under 18 - will cost only £15. Even better, for every additional under 18 family member you bring along to the Zone, it will cost you just £1 each. For example, one adult bringing along four kids will only pay £18 for the whole group to see the game.
Argyle have also announced that the Community Trust's annual 'Christmas Cracker' course will take place this Thursday, and will be attended by the first-team squad. The party, which takes place at Home Park, will give the chance for youngsters to get involved in a training session at Goals with the Argyle team. This will be followed by a meet and greet of the team where they can collect autographs, take photos and chat to the team. Pilgrim Pete and Father Christmas will be also be in attendance. Each person will receive a goody bag, a Christmas card and the chance to win lots of prizes.
John Sheridan believes midfielder Dominic Blizzard will have benefited a lot from his first start for Plymouth Argyle for more than three months. Blizzard played for 78 minutes of the 2-0 defeat away to Chesterfield in League Two on Saturday before he was replaced by Luke Young. It was the first time the 28-year-old had started a game since the Pilgrims lost 2-1 away to Morecambe on August 31. Blizzard, a summer recruit from Yeovil Town, had a lengthy spell on the sidelines because of injury and illness after that. His call-up against Chesterfield came after he had made substitute appearances in the previous four fixtures. Sheridan decided to play Blizzard in the centre of midfield with Conor Hourihane after Young suffered an injury in training last week. Sheridan said: "Youngy twisted his ankle on Monday and then aggravated it again on Wednesday. He was really sore, but we took him to Chesterfield with us and he declared himself fit on Saturday morning, but I went with Dom. It was his first game for a while and I thought he did okay. He had to get to the pace of the game but he did well in patches and it will do him the world of good to get a run-out in first team action." Blizzard had started the first six matches of the season for Argyle before his spell on the sidelines. He was guilty of giving the ball away cheaply at times in the game against Chesterfield and Sheridan thought that was because of the tempo the match was played at. Sheridan said: "It's totally different to reserve team football and practice matches. I thought as the game went on he got a little bit better. It's always difficult. He has been out quite a while. It won't do him any harm getting a first team game under his belt."
Conor Hourihane believes that Argyle need to put together a run of results over the busy Christmas period and are more than capable of doing so. The Pilgrims' skipper was speaking after Saturday's 2-0 defeat at high-flying Chesterfield, where soft goals conceded in the first 45 minutes and Reuben Reid's second-half penalty miss proved costly. "We definitely shouldn't have been 2-0 down at half-time," said the Argyle skipper, after the match. "We were the much better team. We probably lost our way a little bit in the second half, but got the penalty and missed it which kind of took the wind out of our sails, and we faded out in the end.Reuben has scored so many you can't point fingers at him. It's just one of those things. We've just mentioned, in the dressing-room, that we've played Burton, Scunthorpe and Chesterfield, who are all near the top of the league, and should have got something out of all the games. We maybe just need to be that little bit more clinical in front of goal. Once that falls, I'm sure we won't be far away, but we need to be taking chances sooner, rather than later. We have got a good squad here. Ruthlessness in front of goal is key. Get a few wins over the Christmas period and you are right back up there. It is vitally important we get a little run over Christmas. You can pick up a lot of points in a short space of time." Conor was involved in the melee that saw referee Andy Haines awarded a spot-kick for handball as he and team-mate Curtis Nelson went to ground in the penalty area. "It wasn't stonewall," said Conor "The referee said that whoever fell on the ball handballed it. I was on the blind side. I can't really say." The ever-present skipper picked up a yellow card for disputing the award and, with five cautions to his name now this season, will miss the pre-Christmas Home Park game against Bury. "It happens when you are a central midfielder and play as many games as I do," he said. "It was going to come sooner, rather than later."
For an hour on Saturday, Argyle outplayed high-flying Chesterfield. However, the home side were already a goal up before that hour started, and, during it, the Pilgrims conceded a soft second from the penalty spot. Even so, they continued to dominate, only fading away in the game's final quarter after Reuben Reid missed the game's second penalty. As such, a 2-0 defeat was hard to take for John Sheridan. "I don't think we deserved to lose the game, I really don't," he said. "We were excellent, going forward, in the first half. We really played well, but we gave two poor goals away again. I don't think Chesterfield caused us a problem in the first half. Their 'keeper made a great save in the first half, a great save in the second half. When you look at the goals we conceded, it gives you a real mountain to climb, but I can't fault the way we played. We dominated the first half, but were two down so we can't have dominated it that much. They were very poor goals on our part, but we responded well. Even going in 2-0 down, I said to the lads: 'We can get right back into this game if you believe in it'." Chesterfield's first, in the ninth minute, came from a corner that was headed home by debutant defender Matty Brown after goalkeeper Luke McCormick appeared to have been blocked. "First and foremost, it was a cheap corner," said John. "The ball should have been headed back, not out for a corner. Whether Luke was blocked, I don't know – he says he was – but, full credit to Brown, I think his desire to score the goal was there. It settles them and puts us on the back foot. We took over the game then. I seem to be saying the same old thing – I think we deserved something out of the game, but we haven't got it. I don't make excuses. I thought there was definitely something to get there." Chesterfield doubled their lead three minutes before half-time when Marc Richards netted a penalty given after both Conor Hourihane and Durrell Berry went to ground challenging for the same ball. "I can't see if it's handball or not," said John, who thinks that the ball should not even have reached the Pilgrims' danger zone. "The referee didn't give it. It was the linesman who gave it. The official who was 50 yards away gave it. "The ball shouldn't have bounced in our half. One of our lads should have headed it. Then it wouldn't have even got to the penalty stage. The ball was there to be won and headed back into the opposition's half, and we didn't do it. That's why we got in the position we did."
John Sheridan is convinced that Reuben Reid's second-half penalty miss in Argyle's 2-0 League 2 defeat at Chesterfield was crucial to the destination of the points. Reuben saw his 64th-minute spot-kick well saved by Spireites' goalkeeper Tommy Lee as Argyle sought to bounce back from conceding first-half strikes by Matty Brown and Marc Richards against the run of play. Brown was sent off for fouling substitute Caolan Lavery to give away the penalty and John said: "It was a very big moment in the game. If we'd scored that, we are on the front foot and we get a bit of confidence in ourselves and believe we can get something out of the game. It would have been a totally different game. But we haven't scored and, because we missed the penalty, we just went flat from that, giving silly balls away and we didn't pass it as fluidly. We didn't get Andres Gurrieri in the game, who was one of our best players in the first half, and we didn't work Chesterfield hard enough to break them down. It shouldn't happen. There were still 25 minutes to go, still plenty of time. I said to the players: 'You have got to see pictures' and I think they are lacking in communication sometimes when they should tell each other what to do a little bit more on the pitch."
John Sheridan also commented on the continuing problem of scoring. "The biggest problem is the lack of goals," said John, "Are we hungry enough to score goals? Because I see balls going in the box and they are bouncing and we are not on our front foot; we are not reacting, anticipating, and that's what you have to do in the penalty area. Everyone's more or less waiting until the ball comes to them; they are not working an opening for themselves. Sometimes, we're too flat-footed in the box. We should be scoring more goals. We had some good balls going into the box, but you need those predators. Will I be able to find one or two? They usually cost a few quid but, for all our good football, you can have all the possession and all the good play you want, if you are not going to put the ball in the back of the net, you are not going to win football matches. That's the way the game went. We played a team that is at the top of the league and, if I am being realistic I thought we looked a better team than them on today's performance. We know we can go and beat teams, but we need those goal instincts, the desire to out the ball in the back of the net."
John Sheridan could not repeat his victorious winning return to his old territory for a second consecutive season, as Argyle lost 2-0 at Chesterfield. Matty Brown headed the home side in front inside ten minutes and Chesterfield doubled their lead before half-time when Marc Richards converted a penalty. Argyle had good spells of attacking possession during the match and had a penalty of their own in the second half, which led to Brown being sent off, but Reuben Reid could not convert from the spot. Argyle: McCormick, Blanchard, Trotman, Nelson, Berry (Reckord), Boco (Lavery), Blizzard (Young), Hourihane, Gurrieri, Reid, Alessandra. Substitutes (not used): Cole, Branston, Wotton, Bencherif.
Of all the Pilgrims journeying to Derbyshire this weekend, it is not just John Sheridan that has a sweet leaning towards Chesterfield. The current Argyle manager won promotion into League 1 with the Spireites three seasons ago, and lifted the Johnstone's Paint Trophy 12 months later. However, his most recent triumph at the Proact Stadium came in April last season, when the Pilgrims all but ensured Football League survival with a 2-1 victory courtesy of goals from Joe Bryan and Curtis Nelson. "It was great result for us," recalls John, who began the 2012-13 campaign in charge of Chesterfield before being sacked in favour of Paul Cook. "I thought we were excellent on the night – we played really well. "It was a big result for us: it enabled us to stay in the league and, when you look back, it jeopardised Chesterfield's hopes of the play-offs." Chesterfield have regained that play-off momentum this season and, despite not having won any of their three previous league matches, are currently second in League 2, heading a pack of five teams that lie just one point behind leaders Oxford United. They also reached the northern area final of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy earlier this week by winning a penalty shoot-out against League 1 Oldham, after a 1-1 draw. John said: "They are having a decent season – Paul Cook is doing a decent job there – but, other than the other night when they got through the cup-tie, they have had one or two not-great results. They must have of the biggest budgets in the division and have got some good players for this league, a good strong squad. We're in decent form ourselves, so we will go there confident of getting something from the game." No-one will be more aware of that form than Cook himself, who personally took in the Pilgrims' last league match. "If he was at the Burton game, I think he will be wary of us," said John. "Hopefully, we'll give them a good game and get the right outcome. We have been working hard to try to affect the game. I think we can beat anyone on our day, if we perform; that's what I try to instil in the players. It's important that we try to get three points from every game we play to try to get ourselves closer to the teams above us." So will there be just the twinge of sentimentality in the Sheridan heart on Saturday? Not a bit, apparently. He said: "Just because I have been there before, it doesn't bother me; I don't think about it any more. I just concentrate on the job in hand here. I had some good times there, but I want to go back and try to win the game with Plymouth."
Argyle's on-loan forward Tope Obedayi will not play again before Christmas. The Bury winger has failed to recover from a hamstring tear picked up in the Pilgrims' last league game against Burton in time to play a part in this weekend's visit to Chesterfield. Even if he passes muster next week, the terms of Tope's loan forbid him from playing against his parent club in Argyle's pre-Christmas home game the following weekend. "Tope's training and not too far away, but this Saturday has come a little too early for him," said John Sheridan, who has drawn a line under a below-par second-half performance against Welling. "I think we were brilliant in the first half and got the game won – that's all I look at," he said. "The club has been knocked out by a non-league club for the last two years, so give a bit of credit to the players. I wasn't happy with the performance, but I'm not going to dwell on it. The problem was that too many players thought the game was over and it wasn't."
Argyle's third-round FA Cup tie at Port Vale has been moved to Sunday, January 5 at 3pm – on the toss of a coin. The match has been switched from the previous day because Vale's Potteries' neighbours, Premier League Stoke City, have also been drawn at home the same weekend, to Leicester City. With no agreement possible between the two clubs, the FA decided who had Saturday primacy by flipping a coin. Having failed to land a glamour tie, Argyle manager John Sheridan is looking forward to pitting his wits against former Leeds United team-mate Micky Adams, his counterpart at League 1 Vale. "It'll be a tough game," said John. "I know Micky really well and they are going really well. We would have liked one of the big boys, for financial reasons, but if we play to our best, we have got a good chance of getting through the game. I think Micky will realise that. He probably wanted a home draw and he's got a second division team, so they will be confident of going through. They have got some good players but we'll go there, give it our best shot and we have got a chance if we play to our best. We are not going to go there thinking we are beaten already. We have got a chance of winning, if we can play the way we have been playing."
John Sheridan believes that his Pilgrims would deserve to be punished "very hard" if they gambled with their careers by liaising with bent bookmakers. The current purge on players believed to have been involved in assisting spot-fixing in games has highlighted a potentially dark area of the game. That, in itself, should act as a further deterrent to all players, including Argyle's, thinks John. "They know the consequences," he said. "They can see how it's come out now. They have been told it's wrong to bet on your own team or get involved in anything that's dodgy. If they get caught, they know they are going to get punished very hard. That's the way it should be. It's a stupid thing to be involved in. If you get caught doing anything like that, you find yourself in big trouble. Anyone who has been bent and tried to concede a game, or do something which is going to cost their team. It shouldn't go on at all. Whoever is caught, hopefully they get punished for it." Not that John, in his long and distinguished career for club and country, has come across any such activities. "Obviously it's been going on because people are finding out now," he said, "but I've never seen anyone at any club I have been at or played with any players who have been involved in that."
John Sheridan has added his voice to the chorus of praise for the Pilgrims' youth team after a bravura performance in this week's FA Youth Cup tie at Aston Villa. The youngsters were beaten 4-3 by the Premier League outfit, coming from behind before being beaten by a late goal. John said: "They were very unlucky – Villa are probably one of the favourites to go on and win the competition. I don't think people expected too much and for us to go there and nearly win the game against a good Premiership side that, over the years, have produced so many players. It was a team effort, and full credit to the players. It was a great effort to try and get into the next round and a great shame they didn't."
Marvin Morgan will be a guest at the Plymouth Argyle Supporters Association London Branch (PASALB) Christmas Social. Following a very successful evening with Martyn Starnes in October, Argyle forward Marvin will talk about his time with Argyle and varied career in football with PASALB on 19th December. Marvin will be joined by former fans' favourite, Kenny Brown, who played for the club with distinction from 1988-91. In addition, Argyle historian Steve Rhodes will be revealing what life was like at Home Park back in the late 1950s/early 60s. There will also be a raffle with a range of Argyle related goodies up for grabs. The event will be held in the Upstairs Function Room at the Hoop and Grapes, 80 Farringdon Street, London, EC4A 4BL. Doors open at 6 p.m. It is free to PASALB members and entry includes a complimentary pasty and mince pies. There will be a £5 charge for non-members.
Argyle youth boss Kevin Hodges reckons his team could have pulled off an FA Youth Cup shock at Aston Villa if they had believed in themselves more. Argyle nearly pulled off the improbable win in their third round tie at Aston Villa on Tuesday night, going down 4-3 at Villa Park. Goals from Aaron Bentley, River Allen and captain Ben Purrington allowed the Pilgrims to equalise three times against their hosts, before Villa were able to finally edge ahead for good. Hodges said: "They gave a good account of themselves and they really worked hard. As their manager, you want more and you want the boys to get into the next round. I thought we were well organised and we caused them problems from set-pieces." Hodges felt, however, his side could have pressurised Villa more. He said: "I felt we showed them a bit too much respect and allowed them to play to their strengths. We were really positive and put ourselves back in the game and I am proud of the boys. It wasn't a comfortable game for Aston Villa. I think, though, that if we'd believed in it a little bit more and taken the game to Villa a little bit more, than we might have had a shock result here. But they didn't disappoint and they can be proud of themselves and hold their heads high." Hodges said the defeat had been an emotional experience for some of his players, but he said he would be interested in the response they gave to this weekend's game. "It's always mixed emotions. Naturally, there was a lot of disappointment and there were a few second-year players with watery eyes. For them, it was the last chance to play in the FA Youth Cup. On Saturday, we've got Bristol Rovers. It's a real game and recovering from defeat will be one of the challenges they will come up against if they become professional footballers."
Argyle Under-18s' winning run in the FA Youth Cup came to an end at Villa Park but only after they had given their lofty opponents a huge fright. Three times Villa took the lead and three times Argyle pegged them back, before Khalid Abdo's 75th-minute goal finally settled the tie in the home side's favour. Argyle: Hannah, Hughes, Summers (Moxham), Bentley, Purrington, Wheatley, Asumadu-Sakyi (Sargent), Allen, Miller, Hall, Rooney (Stark). Substitutes (not used): Hutchinson, Harvey
The Home Park buzz this weekend might have been all about the FA Cup, but, for one section of the club, talk has been not of Welling and Port Vale, but of Aston Villa. For, on Tuesday, Argyle's youngsters take on the midland Premier League side in a Goliath v David third-round FA Youth Cup-tie on the same Villa Park turf which regularly hosts the country's footballing superstars. "We're delighted we've been given this opportunity of playing on such a big stage," said Academy Head Kevin Hodges. "It's about the boys making the most of that opportunity by going up there and putting in a good performance. There is still a chance of us progressing if we perform on the night and do our jobs really well. It's a cup game. On the night, anything can happen. We might get lucky; we might be unlucky – who knows? As long as our approach to it is right and we work extremely hard. For us to succeed, each and every one of them is going to have to be on their game. That is something we are striving for on a consistent basis, anyway. If these young boys want to become professional footballers, they have got to show a level of consistency and a level of performance. We can't overestimate what a big task it is going to be, playing against potential Premier League players. That, in itself, is a fantastic challenge for our boys' education, coming up against these sorts of players and seeing the difference between us and them." The Pilgrims reached the stage in which – like the FA Cup – the big sides enter the competition after wins over Bristol Academy, at home, and at Colchester, where they prevailed after leading four times in a 4-4 draw and winning a penalty shoot-out. "We put in a very good performance up at Colchester against a very good team," said Kevin. "We did it the hard way by scoring first on four occasions and then going through the drama of a penalty shoot-out. But we held really firm and showed some really good mental qualities on the night." It is 30 seasons since Kevin was the width of a post away from scoring a notable Argyle goal at Tuesday's famous venue, although that is in the back of his mind at the moment. "I have had experiences of playing at Villa Park," he said. "I was fortunate enough to be involved in the FA Cup semi-final team. It was a fantastic day. The stadium was full. I have also had the pleasure of playing league games there and I think I might have scored a goal there, as well. But, importantly, it's about the boys. It's a big occasion for them and an opportunity which they have made for themselves."
Argyle have been drawn away to Port Vale in the third round of the FA Cup. The game will be played on the weekend of January 3, 4 and 5. Vale, managed by Micky Adams, are currently ninth in League 1, having been promoted from League 2 last season. The Valiants have reached round three by virtue of victories against non-leaguers Shortwood United and Salisbury City, winning those ties 4-0 and 4-1 respectively. Port Vale and Argyle have never met in any cup competition outside of the football league before.
John Sheridan encouraged his side to not "let their foot off the pedal", after their 3-1 FA Cup second-round victory against Welling United. The Greens dominated the opening 45 minutes at Home Park, putting the game virtually beyond doubt with a 3-0 lead going into half-time. but conceded early in the second half. After the game, the manager was critical of their second-half performance, when the Pilgrims let the visitors grab a goal and risked letting them back into the game. John said: "I think we just went out in the second half thinking we'd already won. I don't think we played well, and, full credit to Welling, they got their goal and got back in the game. We had a lot of chances, but too many players just thought the game was already over and done with." Whilst the Pilgrims' recent run of form shows reason for optimism, John knows that the side's positive results will continue only if they produce good performances against all opposition: He said: "I know we made mistakes on the pitch, and no disrespect to Welling, but they weren't going to punish us like a good team with good players would do. Luckily for us, we got away with them. The players need to get where I'm coming from into their heads - regarding those mistakes - because it would just make us a better team." Argyle's season is currently offering many reasons for fans to smile, and John is keen to continue their success in both league and cup competitions. He knows that good performances from start to finish are what is necessary to keep it going. He said: "I'll praise the lads for trying to get the job done in the first half, but I think we got lazy with our game in the second. I think the players unfortunately went out with the wrong attitude, which I'm not too pleased about. I just thought we were very lazy in our game."
Argyle have progressed to the third round of the FA Cup after overcoming the potential banana skin of Welling at home with a 3-1 victory. All of Argyle's goals came in a blistering 8 minute period between minutes 13 and 21. Andres Gurrieri, Curtis Nelson and Lewis Alessandra all found the net. Welling scored their only goal in a second half which they had the better of but they could not make their improvment count for anything more than a consolation effort. The end to the game was marred by an injury to Jake Cole who had to be replaced by Luke McCormick. Argyle: Cole (McCormick), Blanchard (Boco), Nelson, Trotman, Berry, Hourihane, Young (Blizzard), Gurrieri, Reckord, Reid, Alessandra. Unused subs: Blackman, Bencherif, Branston, Wotton.
John Sheridan is committed to making at least two changes for the FA Cup visit of Welling United to Home Park on Saturday. John has already said that goalkeeper Jake Cole will replace Luke McCormick from the side that faced Burton Albion last Saturday. In addition, winger Tope Obedayi will not be fit to face Welling, with the club still waiting to learn the full extent of the hamstring injury suffered by during the game with the Brewers. Apart from long-term absentees Marvin Morgan and Matt Lecointe, and a few niggles, Sheridan is fortunate to currently have a squad with a near-clean bill of health to select from. "Everyone's fit other than Tope, who is still out, but he's improving day-by-day," said John. "The team's not going to change too much." One other player who looks unlikely to feature against the Wings is midfielder Dominic Blizzard, who picked up a thigh injury in the 1-1 Devon-derby draw at Torquay United. John said: "Unfortunately for him, he got a little bit of a pull at the top of his thigh, and is still feeling it a bit. "We've got to be very careful with that. It's a shame because I thought he did well when he came on at Torquay. It's a funny injury and we've got to be really careful because he's dying to get back in the game and looked really good in training," Recent loan signing Caolan Lavery is also unavailable for selection, having not been given permission to play by parent club Sheffield Wednesday, but Durrell Berry is ready to play having missed the last game because of a long-standing knee injury. "Durrell's fit," said John. "He's training today. It's just the amount of games; that's the only problem. It doesn't give him that much time to rest it."
Maxime Blanchard has warned his team-mates against underestimating their FA Cup second round opponents Welling United as they prepare to face the non-leaguers on Saturday. Having been a part of the Pilgrims 11 that was knocked out of last year's competition at Dorchester Town, the Frenchman is taking nothing for granted going into this weekend's clash. "They're not coming here just for the sake of it," Maxime said, "so obviously they want to upset us. They're here, so they've won games. It's going to be a tough game, a really tough game to play. Apparently, they're big and strong; this is what I've heard. So it's going to be a physical game as well, but we just have to be better than them and win the game." Although Argyle are considered favourites, Blanchard does not believe the division gap is an indicator as to who will progress in the cup. He said: "If it were like that, it would be really easy. We all know it's not the case; we all know they'll be right at it; and they probably have really good players as well. Just because they're in the Conference, it doesn't mean they're not a good team. They're probably a very good team." Although recently featuring in the team at right-back, Maxime started in central defence last season, when a Jake Gosling goal for Dorchester knocked Argyle out of the cup after captain Conor Hourihane had been sent off. The 27-year-old Frenchman recalls as one of the worst moments of his career. "I hated it," said Max. "The circumstances were hard with the red card after five minutes, but you know it's always going to be a scrap. You want to kill them in the first 15 minutes and when it's not happening, all of a sudden you see them grow in confidence. It was a big disappointment." The defender admits to not knowing too much about Saturday's opponents, but is confident of the Pilgrims reaching the third round if they just concentrate on their own game. "Even in the league we just focus more on ourselves rather than the other team," he said. "Sometimes you know one or two players because you've played against them, but I think, more or less, you just have to focus on yourselves and trying to be better than the other team. We have to make sure we do our job properly. Hopefully we put in the same performance as against Lincoln and try and score early, and don't give them the confidence to think they can beat us." Argyle's eight-game unbeaten run was brought to an end by last weekend's 1-0 defeat to Burton, and, although the team will be looking to kick-start another run with a win on Saturday, Blanchard tries not to get bogged down by such stats. He said: "I'm not obsessed with runs; we just want points really. We want consistency in the performances and, if the results are consistent as well, this is really good. I think the consistency has been there, even with the game last Saturday. It's a poor goal and should have been a clean sheet again, so it should have been nine in a row really. But we have to keep going and not think too much about results and runs, and keep trying to improve and keep the performances consistent."
John Sheridan is calling on his players to carry their recent form into Saturday's FA Cup tie with Welling United on Saturday. Despite losing 1-0 in last weekend's League 2 clash with Burton Albion at Home Park, the boss was pleased with his side's performance in defeat. "I thought we were excellent against Burton," said Sheridan, "No matter what anyone says. Everyone just looks at the result, but I've watched the DVD and I thought we were excellent. We'll try and take that form into the game and if we do that, we'll have a good chance of winning it. We've had them watched and they've got some decent players, so we'll take them very seriously." Welling are currently eighth in the Skrill Conference Premier table, but despite being in the division below his side, John has no thoughts of underestimating the opposition. He said: "I expect a very tough game even though they're in the Conference. Welling will look at coming to a big ground, a big club, and it can sometimes give that so-called 'inferior' opposition that buzz that makes them raise their game 20 or 30%. That's what I expect on Saturday. Welling will come and I think they'll have a really good go, so we've got to be ready and wary of that." Sheridan has been impressed with what he has seen from the Wings in their recent league matches, and knows a good start in the match could be vital to progression in the competition. John said: "We watched them at Luton and have seen the DVDs of them at Luton. They've beaten Luton this season and were unfortunate to lose there in the league a couple of weeks ago. It helps in any game if you can get the opposition on the back foot early and get that break. So if we can do that and hit the ground running, do what we did against Lincoln, then I'll be well pleased. But you have to earn the right no matter who you're playing. So we'll hopefully start on the front foot and try and get an advantage early on in the game." Having been taken to a replay by fellow Conference side Lincoln City in the previous round before winning 5-0 at home, the gaffer is pleased to be in familiar surroundings again for this one. Although he would like to see a good performance put on for the home faithful, his main priority is making sure Argyle are one of the names in the hat for a potential moneymaking third round draw. "No matter who we played I wanted a home game, and we don't want to be going back to Welling," said John. "I'd love a great performance, but the most important thing is getting through the tie. It's very important that we get through to the next round, both financially and for the chance to play against some really good opposition. It's always nice to be in the FA Cup with the buzz and excitement it brings with it. Hopefully we carry on what we've been doing of late, playing a lot better and causing them problems, but we need to get through the game first and foremost. It's a massive game for us."
Tope Obedayi is making decent progress after suffering a hamstring injury. The on-loan Bury attacker limped out of Saturday's home game against Burton and has since been assessed by the club's medical team. "The injury is settling down well," said head Argyle physiotherapist Paul Atkinson on Tuesday. "We will have a much better idea of where we are towards the end of the week, when it has settled down more." Paul also reported progress for young striker Matt Lecointe, who injured his cruciate knee ligament in a pre-season game. "Matt's doing well," he said. "He's been back running for a week or so, and is looking good at this stage."
Argyle's defence of the Devon Challenge Cup has ended having been knocked out by local rivals Exeter City in the quarter-final at Home Park. The game remained goalless until the 82nd minute where Exeter took the lead. Argyle fought back though and a last gasp equaliser from Caolan Lavery secured a 1-1 scoreline after 90 minutes which took the match to penalties. Argyle missed all of their first three from Lavery, Boco and Wotton and Exeter made no mistake in punishing each error. The Grecians won 3-0 on penalties and progress to the semi-finals. Argyle: Cole, Purrington, Wotton, Branston, Richards, Vassell(Hutchinson), Asumadi-Sayki(Wheatley), Bencherif, Blackman(Stark), Boco, Lavery. Unused subs: Hannah, Bentley.
John Sheridan is remaining upbeat, despite losing 1-0 to Burton Albion. The League 2 game was decided by a single, well-taken, goal by Adam McGurk in the 12th minute which ended the Greens' eight-game unbeaten run in all competitions. However, the home side outplayed Burton for the majority of the match – particularly in the first half – a level of performance which has given Shez good reason for optimism. John said: "Burton made it very difficult, but I'm very positive with the way we played. "Obviously we want to win every game, but I think, apart from the goal – which was very poor on our part – we went about the game very well, and I've told the players that." Argyle played considerably better than the final score suggests, knocking the ball around the park with ease for large periods of the match. Despairing Burton blocks on the goal-line and a lack of luck in the final third prevented them from getting a well-deserved point, or even three, from the game. Despite not being able to find the net, Sheridan refused to be critical, praising the new, more positive mentality around the squad. "I think there's a difference in us now, and you can see that in the players, with the way we wanted to try and win the game" he said. "No-one was hiding, everyone was on the front foot, and I think we should've won the game, so that's the way I'm going to look at it." The defeat for the Pilgrims leaves them 15th in League 2, but only three points away from being in the top half of the table. The manager believes that, if the players continue to put in performances like they are, losses such as this one will be rare occurrences. John said: "I thought the whole team performance was a very good one, and that's what I'll be taking from it. If we carry on the mentality that we've got at the moment, with that desire and will to win, we'll win more games than we lose."
Argyle have a double reason to beat Welling United at Home Park next weekend. The first is progress into the third round of the FA Cup, and to keep alive the dream of a big club and a big payday in the New Year. The second is to start another unbeaten run after their previous eight-game streak without defeat was brought to an end by Burton Albion. However, John Sheridan is happy that a repeat performance against the Conference side will not see a repeat result. "If we take that performance to the Welling game, they'll have a very difficult afternoon," he said. "Everyone expects us to win because they're a non-league team, but they'll bring a lot of fans and make a day of it, so we have to make sure we play well and get through." John was pleased with the way his players took the game to Burton, led by rejuvenated forward Reuben Reid. "You can see a difference in him," said John. "That's what he's got in his locker, so that's what I expect of him. But I think Andres gave us that as well, and a couple of other players did, too. We just didn't get that break or that little bit of luck. Burton made some great blocks, and we haven't hit the target when we should've done." Argyle may have to take on Welling without winger Tope Obadeyi, who limped off early against Burton. "I'm not sure how severe it is," said John in the immediate aftermath of the game, "but it is a hamstring injury. When we first got him, I thought we had on a player on our hands who is too good for this division - he's got a great attitude. I'll look after him as best I can." Also a doubt is full-back Durrell Berry, who missed the Burton game. Fortunately, Jamie Reckord has recovered from a virus and slotted into the left-back position. "Jamie has been out ill for a couple of weeks, and he hasn't trained much," said John. "Whoever plays at left-back, I expect them to do a good job. I thought he played alright. He's an excellent player."
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