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Argyle won 1-0 at Wolverhampton Wanderers, the goal scored by Paul Gallagher after 1 minute. Argyle: Larrieu, Gray, Cathcart, Seip, Barker, Clark, Gallagher, Duguid, Fletcher, Mackie, Barnes. Subs – Judge, Fallon (not used – Paterson, Noone, Timar). Attendance - 25,710
Paul Sturrock is under no illusion about the task facing his team today, but he is backing them to rise to the challenge. "The expectation will be that we're going up there to be cannon-fodder," he said, "but there's many a place that we've gone to over the past year or so where we've been expected to lie down and die – and we've come back with credible results. I'm confident that the players will roll their sleeves up and battle, and we'll see what transpires. The boys are looking forward to the challenge. If we can play on the crowd and make things difficult for them, who knows what might happen? We're hopeful that scenario might be a benefit to us." Sturrock knows however, that Wolves are a major force to be reckoned with. He added: "We have to be positive in our approach, but we have to be very thoughtful when they have the ball. They have people who can hurt you all over the football pitch. They're not top of the League for nothing. It shows you what a zany league it is that they've won one game in ten, and yet they're still top. If I had a tick-list of games we're expected to win, this would not be one of them. It's a difficult place to go and do the things we want to do but, after the start to the season that we had, who would have said that we would go to Watford and Crystal Palace and come back with six points? We're still capable of that, and we need a game like that. If we could come back from Wolves with a victory on Saturday, it would bolster the whole place. It would take off, and last Saturday was a game to build on."
Alan Judge has yet to be part of a winning Argyle team and when asked if he was surprised about the club being 20th in the table, he said: "To be honest, we shouldn't be down there, with the players that we have." He pointed to the way the Pilgrims played against Sheffield United last weekend to prove his point. Carl Fletcher has come in with a good bit of quality, and Paul Gallagher can produce what he showed last Saturday at any time. Our luck has to change, and we thought last Saturday that it had, but two stupid goals done for us again. We know have to concentrate. We shouldn't be down there near the relegation zone, but it's our own fault that we are. Hopefully we can get out of trouble." Despite the league position, Judge insisted that the team spirit at Home Park remains positive and strong. He said: "I don't know why people are asking about the team spirit. I can't say it's never been better, but it has been good. There are no separate groups, we're all together, and it always has been that way since I've been here, even though we've lost games." Asked how he has enjoyed his first month at Home Park, Judge replied: "I'd like to say I've enjoyed it, but it's hard to do so because we haven't won. But, as for my personal experience I'm loving it, playing games every week. To be honest, I'm a bit tired, because I'm not used to playing so many games, but it's great to be doing so. That's what I've come here for, and I'll give the team everything I can." Asked if he has been happy with his own form Judge said: "There's still more to come. I've felt I've played well, but I feel there's a whole lot more in me. I'm just looking forward to showing that." Argyle will be the underdogs at Wolves today, but Judge believes they shouldn’t be written off. "Anything can happen," he said. "Hopefully there will be a good pitch up there, and we can get the ball down. We can't really make excuses about our pitch, but it is not in the best state. We want to show what we can do on our day with a proper pitch in front of us."
Marcel Seip and Jermaine Easter are both added to Argyle's squad for the trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers tomorrow. Paul Sturrock said: "Marcel trained yesterday and we will see how he reacts to that. Jermaine got 65 minutes for the reserves and he had to plough a lone furrow after we had someone sent off. I was very pleased with his fitness level. His sharpness was a wee bit missing, as was his first touch, but his exuberance was there to be seen, and it's something we need. He's telling me he wants to be involved tomorrow, but I will have to make that decision come the time." Wolves have won only one of their last 10 league games but are still three points clear at the top of the table. "The expectation levels will be that we are going up there to be cannon fodder," said Sturrock. "But we have been to many a place over the last year where we have been expected to lay down and die, and we have come back with creditable results. I'm confident the players will roll their sleeves up and battle and we will see what transpires at ten-to-five. The boys are looking forward to the challenge." Sturrock believes Argyle must try to frustrate the home fans by making it very difficult for Wolves to break them down. He said: "If we can do that, who knows what can transpire in the game? But if we lose a goal in the first five minutes, things can swing the other way. We have got to be really positive in our approach, but very thoughtful when they have the ball, for the simple reason they have got people who can hurt you all over the football pitch. They are not top of the table for nothing. But it shows you what a zany league this is that they have won one game in their last 10 and are still top. We are hopeful that scenario might be a benefit to us." Sturrock wants to build on the improved performance in the draw against Sheffield United last Saturday. "We are a young team and, to be fair, the youngsters responded properly in that game," he said. "There has been a lot of positiveness coming out of last Saturday. We have worked very solidly in training this week, but I wouldn't say we have gone over the top. Yesterday was a high tempo day, and they responded very well. Today will be a lighter day, with a lot more shape and organisational stuff." Sturrock does not expect to make any more loan signings before the trip. He added: "I think we have talked too much about it, and everybody in the world knows our problems. In the end, we just have to get on with it."
Jermaine Easter is on a mission to score the goals that will keep Argyle in the Championship. He said: "I'm glad to be back. Hopefully, I can score some important goals to help the team. You will have to ask the manager about whether I will be involved tomorrow, but I hope so. I have told him I want to be, so it's down to him to make the decision now. If he needs me I'm ready." Easter was pleased with the way his comeback went in the reserve game against Swansea. He said: "It was decent, to be fair. I felt fit and strong, and my knee was fine, so it was good. I have done a lot of rehab with Maxie and I feel better now than I did before I got injured." Easter was a trainee at Wolves for two years but did not make any first team appearances for the club. He said: "Mark McGhee, Colin Lee and Dave Jones were the managers while I was there. It's a massive club. They are flying high at the moment and they are going to think they can get the three points against us tomorrow. But we need to get points on the board so we will be going out there to win, as they will be. It will be a good game. There were a lot of good strikers at Wolves when I was there. Robbie Keane was one of them. They paid £5 million for Ade Akinbiyi. They had a lot of experienced players and I was only a young lad. It was a tough, but when you are at big clubs like Wolves it's always going to be tough." Wolves will be favourites to beat Argyle, but Easter believes they are capable of causing an upset. He said: "Everyone is going to expect them to win. They are top of the division and we are in a dogfight. But I don't think any footballer goes into any game thinking they are not going to get a result. We have got to go there, hope things go for us and see if we can nick something." Easter was unsettled at the start of this season and asked to leave Home Park but took stock of his career during his injury lay-off and sees his return to fitness as a fresh start at Home Park. He said: "There are 12 games to go now, and I want to play as big a part as possible in them. I'm going to get my head down and see what happens. I made a mistake in asking to leave. There were other things going on outside of football which I let affect me. The injury gave me time to reflect on that and now I'm 100 per cent focused on the job in hand."
Paul Sturrock is optimistic that he can attract further loanees to Home Park despite the club's geography. "Just getting people down here and getting them to see the place and everything else is important," he said. "We were lucky to get Fletcher to change his mind. I dogged him for months and he's come here and is now enjoying every minute of it. He's come down here because he needs football games and I'm hopeful there are a couple of other targets that need games as well."
Superstitious Paul Sturrock has not left any stone unturned as he prepares his players for the game against Wolves. "We've been doing all different things in training and just trying to dig something out of it," he said. "I've driven to the training ground every day in a different direction. I've been wearing all different kinds of knickers and socks as well as crossing my legs and fingers. On the Friday travelling to the bus I will travel nine miles in a different direction to try and get a win."
Argyle reserves drew 0-0 at Swansea City last night. Jermaine Easter played 65 minutes of the match, but Paul Sturrock believes the trip to Wolves on Saturday 'might come too early' for him. He said: "It was Jermaine's first game for a while, but he definitely didn't look out of sorts. He's bursting to play, and that's a good hour under his belt now. We'll give him a wee rest tomorrow and get him some massage, and see what he looks like on Friday. Saturday might come too early for him, but you've got to remember we've got three games in a week coming up, so I think he'll take part at some point." Yoann Folly also completed 90 minutes after being out of action with an ankle injury. Sturrock added: "It was a very good performance. The young boys were excellent. Lewis Edwards unfortunately was sent off, so they had to play with 10 men, but worked very hard and did very well. Joe Mason was outstanding." Argyle: Saxton, Leonard, Gerring, Brett, McCrory, Edwards, Folly, McCall, Grant, Mason, Easter. Subs – Kinsella, Head (not used - Trott, Chenoweth).
Three Plymothians, the younger brother of a first-teamer and a highly-rated European goalkeeper are among the nine teenagers to have won full-time apprentices with Argyle. Luke Young, Dan Evans and Seb Broomfield are the local trio and they are joined by Bideford-born centre-back Sam Sawyer, brother of Gary, Ben Clarvis from Newton Abbot, Matt Rickard and Connor Clifford – both from Exeter, and Jake Baker from Jersey. The final apprenticeship has gone to Latvia under-16 international keeper Raivo Varazinkis, who was first spotted playing against Argyle's schoolboys in a tournament in Riga last May. Mike Pejic is hopeful of adding more school-leavers to his squad over the next few weeks and he said: "We shall be a bit thin on the ground with second-year apprentices next season. So we're taking on quite a few first-years and we may add to that. But the new ones have not been signed to boost numbers – it's because of the improvement that they've shown."
Argyle players and staff enjoyed a team-bonding session at Scott Dann's gym on Tuesday. The players watched Home Park staff men Chris Opie, James Greenacre and Chris McIntyre take part in a training session, and Rory Fallon said: "It was great to have all the lads out together to let off steam and have a laugh. We haven't had one of these get togethers for quite a while and we all enjoyed it. Normally, our routine has been to go to matches, train and prepare for the next match. Obviously, it's important to prepare properly for games, which is what we do. But it's also good to have team-bonding sessions, too, which is what we did. Hopefully, we will have another one next month."
Paul Sturrock is hoping for the best with the Home Parl pitch. He said: "There were a few tired legs out there last weekend, because of the strength-sapping nature of the pitch. I'm very hopeful dry weather will prevail and will take the sogginess out of the surface, but the next problem we'll have is that it will be bone dry and it will be like a bouncy castle. The pitch is not helping us, obviously. It is a key feature. Jim Paterson has three shots and a pass against Sheffield United where the ball bobbled all over the place. It's just one of those things that's happening to us."
Ashley Barnes is living a dream and loving every minute of it. "It was brilliant to get my Championship debut," he said. "I was so over the moon, I couldn't believe it. It has taken a long time. I could have moved on at the start of the season but I decided to stay and fight for a place at the club. The loan spell at Eastbourne has helped me massively. It has given me the confidence to believe in myself. You have got to show that you are willing to try your hardest." Saturday's draw with Sheffield United saw Barnes come very close to grabbing dramatic headlines. A deep ball into the box found Barnes, who controlled the ball on his chest, but a momentary delay allowed the defence to recover, and Barnes has found it hard to forget the incident. "I was gutted with the chance," he said. "I was thinking about it all night and I struggled to get to sleep in the end. All I kept thinking was 'why didn't I just hit it on the volley'. I do look back on things that I could have done better and things I could improve on, and that was a half-chance. I should have put it away and won three points for the lads. They are a top class group. All I have ever wanted is the chance to start a game and I can't believe it is happening. When I first signed from Paulton Rovers, it took a few days to sink in and it feels like that again."
Jamie Mackie knows Argyle face a massive test when they play Wolves on Saturday but believes they can take confidence from their much-improved performance in the draw with Sheffield United and the draws at Ipswich Town and Preston North End. He said: "Charlton wasn't great, but in the two games before that we got a point from each. A lot of that we owe to Romain, because he was brilliant in those games. But we have proved this season we can go away from home and turn teams over. Wolves is a massive test for us, but we will go there with a little bit more confidence than we had before last Saturday." Paul Gallagher will have been boosted by getting his first goal for nearly three months against Sheffield United. Mackie said: "Gall's goal was a very good finish. He has got that ability and we need to get him in and around the box as much as possible." The experience of Carl Fletcher will also be invaluable, according to Mackie. He said: "We have got a lot of young lads in the team – myself, Cath, Gray and Gary – and we need a couple of older heads. We have got Doogie in there with Fletcher. And we have got more experience to come back as well." Argyle will relish playing at Molineux after two successive games on the heavy Home Park pitch. Mackie added: "People say it's the same for both teams, but we are playing on it 23 times a season and other teams are playing on it once. I tell you now, it takes a lot out of you. When you have got two games on that in a week, it's like playing three or four. It will be nice for us to play on a decent pitch against Wolves, and people expect them to win."
Jermaine Easter is determined to make amends for asking to leave Argyle in August. "I made a mistake by asking to leave the football club," he said. "Everyone makes mistakes and I just want to put the mistakes I have made right." Easter should play for Argyle's reserves against Swansea tomorrow, and he added: "I've spoken to Maxi and the manager and I will probably 60 or 70 minutes in the reserve game, which will be great for my fitness. I just want to get back into it now. I have wasted too much time this season. I am playing the game tomorrow and it is then down to the manager, and what he wants to do."
Paul Stapleton wants the Green Army to ‘fill Home Park’ for the two crucial matches next week. An adult ticket for each of the two matches will cost £15, a saving of £11 on matchday prices, while the cost of a seat in the Mayflower Enclosure has been cut from £22 to £12. Argyle are also reducing their concessionary admission prices. Stapleton said: "We recognise these are difficult financial times for everyone so we are doing our bit to help our loyal supporters. We want the Green Army to fill Home Park for the games against Watford and Reading, create an atmosphere even better than the fantastic one we had when we played Sheffield United, and help lift the team to victory in these vital matches. We hope that Home Park will be a sea of green from now until the end of the season and that our '12th man' will get behind the players and play their part in achieving the results we need. They have always been superb for us and this is our way of saying 'thank you' and keep it up." Fans who have already bought tickets for the Watford and Reading games will be able to claim the discounted prices on any two of the other four remaining home games.
Paul Sturrock is finding it difficult to add further loan signings to his squad. He said: "We have been chatting to several clubs about the availability of some players. It's a difficult time to bring somebody in because we have five at this minute in time, and you are only allowed five in the 16. If you bring another one or two in, one or two will not be stripped, and that makes it even more difficult. But I think there is still one area of the team we have to strengthen, and possibly another one. At this juncture, I'm very hopeful we will get another one loan in. The first problem we have is that we have got to get players to come here. The geography has put a lot of people off. Even this week, I have had many a 'no' so far and it's nothing to do with the club, the team or anything else. People are just not prepared to move themselves to this area and the distances they have to travel. We know that's in our make-up and there is nothing much we can do about it." Sturrock insisted he was not under any pressure, financially, to move players out before bringing in more loan signings, but there are some players he wants to move on because they are not part of his plans. He added: "I don't want players of the quality we have got here just being on the periphery. We can do as much as we can, in trying to find clubs to take them, but these agents get paid a lot of money and it's maybe time they stand up and be counted. All these players merit playing in somebody's first team – at whatever level. I'm trying every week to do something about it, and I'm hopeful the agents and the players will be receptive to it now. We are going down a road where certain players at this football club have got to appreciate they have got to go and play football. We send out circulars all the time, and I'm starting to think about phoning around all the managers again, and seeing if there is any interest from them. It has been like that for weeks now, trying to get people moved on. Some clubs are not going to be able to afford their wages, so we are going to have to sort that out as well." This problem for Sturrock is clouded further by the need for his development players to gain first-team experience in the lower leagues. "There's about four of five that are in development and 23 competing for a first team spot," he said. "We've got Bolasie and we've got Smith out. Damian and Sacko are the other two. The only way to develop them is by putting them back out again. The decision I will have to make is with their new contract. It's something I'm going to start looking into now to benefit the club in the long term. If I do decide to tie some of these players up again, my aim is to put them out on loan until the end of the season. I think Barnes has proved without a shadow of a doubt the best thing to do is put them out because he has come back a different person. Just the confidence of being involved in the game on Saturday and the competitive nature has benefited him." The emergence of Barnes in recent games is in stark contrast to some higher-profile members of the squad who have dropped out of favour. Sturrock added: "I'm expecting my door to be rattled a lot over the next few days, but at the end of the day that's football. I do expect a few conversations with some players that have been taken out of the team and have been on the periphery."
David Gray made his home debut for Argyle in the draw with Sheffield United on Saturday, more than seven weeks after he signed on loan from Manchester United. Gray aggravated an ankle injury which he had sustained in training when Argyle lost at Nottingham Forest on January 17th, and that led to a five-week lay-off. "I have got the knock in training on the Thursday," he said. "I was able to play, but I just made it worse in the match. I had a scan a couple of days after and it was more serious than I thought it was." Gray carried out his rehabilitation at Manchester United's training complex. He said: "I did my rehab up there. Obviously, they have got great facilities and good staff. I felt it was easier if I went and did it up there. I came down and trained on Friday for the first time, and then played on Saturday, so it was really good. I had a few aches and pains afterwards and it was a test fitness-wise, especially with the pitch being so heavy. I'm obviously not as fit as I should be, but I only had one training session before the game, so it was good to get 90 minutes. I'm looking forward to getting back into a routine again and playing." Gray followed Argyle on television while he was recovering. "I watched as many games as I could," he said. "I have seen the highlights, and stuff like that, and it was good we got a result on Saturday after the run we have been on." The draw against Sheffield United ended a run of three defeats, but Argyle dropped to 20th in the table. Gray said: "Obviously, their first goal was a mistake, but you have got to accept things like that. And, having got ourselves back in front, it was a shame we couldn't hold on." Romain Larrieu’s error which led to the first goal was in stark contrast to his current form. Gray said: "I think it was just a one-off, and he had a few good saves on Saturday as well. He has been so reliable all season and kept the team in games. It was one of those things. With us going in front twice, we would have liked to win the game, but it was just good to end the run of defeats. And to get a point is obviously better than a defeat." Argyle's first goal was scored by debutant Carl Fletcher. Gray added: "Fletch did really well. He steadied the ship in there. He has got lots of experience and talks to other players. You always know where you stand with him. He's a good addition to the squad." Next up for Argyle is a game at Wolves. Gray said: "We have broken the back of the defeats now so, hopefully, we can go and get a result up there."
Paul Sturrock is hopeful that Marcel Seip will be available for Saturday's game at Wolves. "Marcel is still under the physio, and will probably come into training later this week," he said. "I'm very hopeful he'll be training tomorrow, but the worst scenario will be Thursday. At the moment, Marcel is very close to being fit. He was very close last Saturday, but the pitch was a key factor in not bringing him back. Only time will tell whether he comes back into the squad or not. We're still not sure of the total extent of the groin injury. He's stiff in that area, and we'll wait and see. There are a lot of rumours going around, but we can't make any plans until he comes back into training and we see if he has any reaction."
It has been confirmed that Emile Mpenza has suffered a grade two tear of his hamstring. Paul Sturrock said: "We just don't know how long it's going to take to heal. There is another wee area in there they are not happy with."
Argyle's reserve game at Swansea City tomorrow should see plenty of senior players in action. Chris Clark, Mat Doumbe, Krisztian Timar, Jim Paterson, Simon Walton, Steve MacLean and Luke Summerfield may all make the trip, as will Jermaine Easter and, probably, Yoann Folly, who are both completing recoveries from injuries. Sturrock said: "Jermaine is back in full training, and will be involved in the reserve game this week. Yoann is back in training today, and we'll see how he reacts. It's vitally important that we get the whole squad fit as soon as possible. It will mean headaches for me, but I'd rather have those sort of headaches than the situation that has transpired over the last four or five weeks. We've got two home games coming up after going to the table-toppers next Saturday. That is going to be a really difficult game for us, but expectation levels won't be high. If we go there with the spirit we showed against Sheffield United and work very hard as a team, who knows what we can achieve? Then we come back here for Watford on the Tuesday and Reading on the Saturday – those two are key games.
Carl Fletcher made an immediate impact on his debut for Argyle, scoring the opening goal in a man-of-the-match performance. The one disappointment for Fletcher was that Argyle did not come away with a win but he felt there were plenty of positives to take from the match. He said: "We are disappointed we didn't go on and get all three points, after taking the lead twice. We conceded a couple of sloppy goals, but that's football. It's a start in the right direction. I had reasons for optimism after training on Friday. It was all very sharp and there are a lot of good players here. Once you get into a bad spell in the Championship, it's hard to get out of it. But you have got to keep believing in each other and what you are doing on the pitch is right. If you have got everyone pushing in the right direction, it will turn around." It took Fletcher only 49 minutes to open his goalscoring account for Argyle. He said: "I had a couple of shots in the first half that we won't talk about too much. It was obviously nice to score because I don't get forward that much. But I was up there for the corner and, luckily, it just fell to me in the air and not on the bobbly surface, and I was pleased to see it go in." That was the first of four goals in a 23-minute period and Fletcher added: "We were disappointed to concede so early after taking the lead for the second time. I think if we had held on for a little bit longer, we would have gone and got all three points." Argyle were loudly applauded off the pitch, both at half-time and after the final whistle. Fletcher said: "I thought the fans were superb, especially at the start of the game. I have seen the results haven't been going the way you want them down here. And I have been at other places where the fans would definitely have turned on their team by now. But the support that was there at the start, and throughout the game, was fantastic. It definitely spurred the players on and it's nice to see because it's so easy these days for fans to turn and start booing, and that does no-one any favours. So for the fans to get behind the lads was excellent." Fletcher's loan to Argyle is initially for one-month but they will hope to extend it for the rest of the season. He said: "I was told about coming here on loan on Thursday. Palace just said it was for a month, and that was about it really. So I don't know anything more." Asked whether the deal could be extended for the rest of the season, Fletcher replied: "You will have to speak to the manager about that."
Paul Sturrock seems set to continue as Argyle manager for the foreseeable future. "There is no time frame on this at all," he said. "The board have asked me what kind of players I would like to bring to the football club. So that's what we are doing at this minute. We are trying to look for the right type of players. I think Fletcher proved he's a good addition, and I'm still not finished yet." When pressed on his future at Argyle, Sturrock said: "At the end of the day, you can surmise anything you want. I'm bringing players to this football club."
Paul Sturrock used Chris Barker at centre-back on Saturday and when asked about the selection of Barker in his new role, he said: "We had lost nine goals in our last four games. I had used a mixture of centre-backs, and hadn't been comfortable with the blend. I needed a talker and an organiser, and Barks is aptly named. He rallied the troops today."
Argyle’s under 18’s drew 1-1 with Yeovil Town on Saturday, the goal scored by Josh Grant. Argyle: Brooks, Leonard, Trott, Kinsella, Brett, Gerring, Edwards, Young, Mason, McCall. Subs - Levet (not used - Sawyer, Troupe, Clarvis, Baker).
Paul Sturrock was pleased with his vastly-improved team after the 2-2 draw with Sheffield United. "I was very pleased with Fletcher and David Gray as well," he said. "I don't think Fletcher has had many first-team games at that standard this season but with his experience in the second-half, he was always there or thereabouts with the ball. He is a very quiet man and I don't think much fazes him, and I was very pleased with his contribution today. He is still off the pace a wee bit and you saw that now and then. I have been looking for leaders. That has been one of the key problems to us - we haven't had men, experienced men. I am delighted he has come down and I am not finished in the market yet. There are a couple of other areas I would like to strengthen, just to make sure that we can build a platform from this." The return of David Gray from injury was another boost for Sturrock, and he added: "David Gray tired dramatically in the second half but still showed the professionalism and got through the 90 minutes. Barker was outstanding in his new role at centre-half today, which is very pleasing because he led a lot of young players in that back four. We have lost ten goals in the last four games and I have used a mixture of centre-backs, and I wasn't comfortable with the blend in the centre of defence. It was appropriate because I needed a talker and an organiser, and Barks is aptly named. He rallied the troops today and Fletcher and Duguid did a lot of organising in midfield. I am also pleased that Gallagher got a goal. It was a great finish from him and let's hope that he kicks on from there." The downside for Argyle was two poor goals conceded. Sturrock said: "If you came here and watched the game today, you would have seen a team with spirit that worked very hard against a team that hasn't lost in their last 11 away games. They have got strikers on the bench that people would die for and a real nucleus of a strong squad. It has been a tussle that we have matched and we're gutted because of the zany types of goals that we lost. The first one epitomises what happens when you are in the position that we are. Rory is lying in there absolutely gutted because he has let somebody run off him. The pitch is not helping obviously. That is a key feature but we have come out with something. I am greedy and we need the three points. We have a shot in the first-half that hits the post. If it comes out the normal way, Duguid puts it in the net. Jim Paterson has three shots and a pass where the ball bobbles all over the place. It is just one of those things that is happening to us. The pitch is a big disappointment to us but there is nothing we can do with the conditions and the weather we have had." The big decision of the day arrived in the first-half when Jamie Mackie was hauled to the ground but the referee waved away the penalty claims. Sturrock said: "I can't see from where I am but everybody on the football pitch and in the stadium knew it, and Jamie says he was just pulling his leg back to shoot when the arm came out. Again, it is a scenario that happens when you are in this position in the league. It is just one of those things. The whole world is against you - that is how it feels. These players have shown grit and determination. A very young team was put out there today. They have taken the second-half performance against Palace into today. Nervous tension was the problem at the end and a lot of them had drained themselves because of the nervousness of the situation. We had a very young squad of players on the pitch at the end." Argyle can now enjoy a rest before turning their thoughts to the trip to Wolves next Saturday. Following that match, Argyle face crucial home games against Watford and Reading. "We have got two home games coming up after going to the table-toppers next Saturday," said Sturrock. "That is going to be a real difficult game for us but expectation levels won't be high, so if we go back with that spirit and work very hard as a team, who knows what we can achieve. We come back for Watford on the Tuesday and Reading on Saturday - those two are key games. We have a free week now and we'll get their legs sorted."
Paul Sturrock feels the spirit shown by his players yesterday is proof of the desire in his dressing-room. He said: "I have never had any qualms about the players. They have proved to me over the last two games that they are in my camp. They want to do well for themselves, they want to do well for the supporters, they want to do well for the football club, and I'm part of that. We went three nothing down last Tuesday night and six or seven of them could have downed tools - then I would be more worried about the scenario. They've proved to me today that they want to do well and organise themselves to get results. I'm just gutted that the type of goals we lost were so zany." Sturrock confirmed he has plans to delve into the loan market again, a situation that was discussed in the midweek board meeting at Home Park. "A board meeting is a board meeting," he said. "A football manager gives his comments and the board give their opinions and that is how it should be - in house. The important thing for me now is to try and build what we achieved today. There is no time-frame on this at all. The board have asked me what type of players I would like to bring to the football club, so that is what we are doing. Fletcher proved today that he is a good addition and I'm not finished yet. The problem we have is the geography of this football club is costing us dear. I am delighted that a professional man like Fletcher and an international captain has decided to get some games with us. We live to fight another day."
Argyle drew 2-2 with Sheffield United at Home Park, the goals scored by Carl Fletcher after 49 minutes and Paul Gallagher (70). Argyle: Larrieu, Gray, Cathcart, Sawyer, Barker, Judge, Duguid, Fletcher, Mackie, Fallon, Gallagher. Subs – Paterson, Noone, Barnes (not used – MacLean, Timar). Attendance - 10,044
Crystal Palace striker James Scowcroft turned down the chance of a loan move to Argyle yesterday as, according to Neil Warnock, he has ‘one or two other irons in the fire.’ Paul Sturrock is reported to still be interested in signing Palace striker Shefki Kuqi. Warnock said: “I have spoken to Paul about a number of players. All of them are considering offers from a number of clubs, but I would like to try to help Paul if I can.”
Carl Fletcher has joined Argyle in a one-month loan deal and is set to make his debut against Sheffield United tomorrow. Paul Sturrock said: "I have been after Carl for a while and he has come in for a month to strengthen and bolster the midfield area. It has been very difficult in that position this year because everybody wants to keep their experienced players. We needed another captain in there and he has captained Wales and many other teams in the past, so there are leadership qualities in him. When we are going through the kind of spell we are going through, we need that kind of generalship from experienced players. He is very thoughtful when the other team has got the ball. He talks and organizes your midfield, and he sees a pass when he gets on the ball. He is all fit and ready for tomorrow." Fletcher believes his experience can be vital in Argyle's bid to end the recent run of results. "I had not really been getting a look in at Palace," he said. "I needed to play some games and the manager here wanted a midfielder, so it worked quite well. Hopefully, we can help each other out. I want to help get some results while I'm down here and then we'll see where it goes. I am getting on in years now, so I suppose people will call me experienced. I've played a few games in my career and I give 100% and work hard in every game I play in. If we can put in a good performance and get one win, then more wins will come naturally afterwards. If you can get the odd goal here and there, things can turn around as quickly as they have gone badly. You have got to stick to your beliefs and do the basics right. If you are doing what you believe in, things will turn round. When I was at Bournemouth, we went about 20 games without winning but you just keep trying, keep working every day in training. You have got to train the way you want to play and if everyone is pushing in the right direction, something will turn for you. It is about having that belief amongst each other that you are doing the right things." Fletcher remembers Home Park as the fortress it used to be and he wants to help recreate that status, starting tomorrow. He said: "This was always a tough place to come and one of those games you didn't look forward to because you knew it would be a hard game. The crowd is always behind them and the team would be in your faces, and invariably you would come off the pitch knowing that you had been in a game. If the manager wants me to play, then I feel ready. I obviously haven't played in a while, so I feel fresh. I've seen the pitch and it looks a bit heavy, and it is going to be a tough game. Sheffield United are a good side. They have spent a lot of money and they have some good players, but, in this league, anyone can beat anyone. We have to go out there, concentrate on our own game and get the right result."
Paul Sturrock is planning to target wide areas against Sheffield United tomorrow following a narrow formation used in the defeat to Crystal Palace. "We had it look at it and it was obviously something to try and get our fortunes changed," he said. "We had a look and then went back to our more orthodox formation. We have got to be right up against Sheffield United and play with a bit more width than we did the other night. They are a different type of team and with the width that we have, we can cause them a lot of concern." Plans to make better use of the width leads to thoughts about Craig Noone, although Sturrock feels he has recently suffered from a slight dip of form. "Noone came in with an absolute bang," said Sturrock. "As usual with these types of players, they have a bedding-in period and then it's all of a sudden hard work again. Noone has had his bang and he is going through a wee lull at this minute in time but I am very confident that he will bounce back. There were signs of it when he came on the other night and it is food for thought on whether I should play him on Saturday." The wing options could also be extended to Jamie Mackie and Paul Gallagher and Sturrock added: "Jamie has shown an enthusiasm out on the wing and through the middle as well. He can do either job. Gallagher came on against Palace and started to show signs that he was back to his best again, so there are a lot of things I have got to mull over. I have got to come up with an offensive unit that is going to score us goals."
Paul Sturrock did not carry out his usual pre-match Press conference before the visit of Sheffield United tomorrow. None of the coaching staff or the players were available for interview either, with Sturrock wanting everyone to focus their attention on the game. There was therefore no opportunity to ask Sturrock about his future as manager following reports in national newspapers yesterday that Argyle are reluctant to sack him because they would have to pay him £500,000 compensation. Sturrock did carry out one interview yesterday however, with Argyle's communications officer Tim Herbert. He said: "They are difficult opposition. They are very mean and have got a good defence so we have got to be as positive as we can and get that first goal. The first goal changes a lot of games. When we were winning games, we were nipping the first goal and playing on from there. Every time we lose a goal now it seems to be a kick in the teeth to us, and for 10-15 minutes we lose concentration levels. It's something we tried to work on in training yesterday. We have got to get on the front foot and be positive. I'm asking the fans for their backing again because they were excellent the other night, and I'm hoping the players respond properly."
Paul Sturrock could be set to make loan moves for Carl Fletcher and James Scowcroft of Crystal Palace. Fletcher and Scowcroft are currently out of favour with Neil Warnock and neither were in the squad when they won 3-1 at Home Park on Tuesday. Sturrock tried to sign Fletcher on a permanent transfer last summer, but he decided to stay at Palace. Sturrock could also consider making a move for Palace striker Shefki Kuqi. Sturrock said: "We are working very hard behind the scenes at this minute in time. We have committed ourselves to bringing players in. With the circumstances we are in, it's very difficult to get the right people, but we are hopeful we can." Meanwhile, Sturrock has been pleased with the way Alan Judge has settled at Home Park despite Argyle's recent results. He said: "He has come in at a real difficult time and, to be fair, he has adapted very well. I think the fans like him."
David Gray could return to action for Argyle against Sheffield United at Home Park tomorrow but Marcel Seip is unlikely to be fit as he continues to be sidelined by a sore groin. It is hoped Seip will resume training next week, and could be in contention for the game at Wolves on February 28th. Paul Sturrock said: "David Gray is going to train with us today and we will see what reaction he has. He has been training 80 to 90 per cent full-out since his injury, so it wouldn't take him much to be able to play tomorrow. How he looks in training today will determine that. Marcel is getting better, but I think tomorrow will come too early for him." Meanwhile, Jermaine Easter and Yoann Folly both returned to training yesterday after injuries. Sturrock said: "Easter came back into training yesterday. It has been a long time for him, but he has worked really hard to get back. At the beginning of the season, I felt his mind wasn't totally with Plymouth Argyle, but he has shown a commitment since he has come back again. I think he appreciates the grass isn't greener elsewhere. He wants to commit to this football club and he wants to get in this team. He should be able to play a reserve game next week, and he should be available for the following Saturday. I would like to think he will come back with the positiveness that he showed when he was playing regularly for the team last season." Argyle are still waiting for a final assessment on the latest injury to Emile Mpenza but it is thought he could have ruptured a hamstring. If that proves to be the case, it would rule him out for the rest of the season and increase the chances of a contract settlement being negotiated.
Romain Larrieu has confirmed that Argyle’s current losing streak is taking its toll on the squads confidence, but not, he insisted, on the spirit in the dressing room and the will to turn their season around. He said: "I don't want this on my CV – relegation to League One in 2008/09 and neither does anyone else at this football club. Yes, we are on a really bad run at the moment, not scoring and conceding goals – a bad recipe, that's obvious. And, yes, the confidence has taken a hit, but that's to be expected when the results and the rub of the green doesn't go your way. You could see the lads care so much on Tuesday against Palace when we thought their second goal was offside. The lads were incensed over that. We had a chance just before half-time when the score was 3-0. If that had gone in, who knows? It would have made Gary's goal in the second half a lot more interesting. But that's how it's been for us this year – hardly any luck at all for all the hard work we've been putting in. We start off well, go close, hit the post or the bar but the ball just doesn't go in. So, yes, our confidence is not what it was before the bad spell. But the spirit in the team and the will to work hard remains the same. I'm absolutely convinced these lads have that fight inside them to go on and dig us out of the position we're in now. There are 39 points left to play for, so there is everything to play for and while there is, I will be fighting as will the other players. Look at Doncaster: a while ago they couldn't even draw, they were on such a bad run. Now they can't stop winning – it shows it is possible." Sheffield United, managed by former Argyle goalkeeper and coach Kevin Blackwell are the next opponents, and Larrieu added: "I didn't know him, he was before my time, but I know Sheffield will be a hard, hard game. They are in the play-offs and in the FA Cup next week, so the players will all be keen to play in that one. We'll have to be on our guard, but everyone is beatable. We just need our luck to turn."
The Argyle Board released this statement this evening: "Today, we conducted our regular monthly meeting of the Argyle Board of Directors. During the course of the meeting, we held talks with the manager in which the deep concerns of the Board regarding the team's position in the Championship were fully aired. The Directors believe that Argyle staying in the top two tiers of the league is paramount for the future of the club and will do all in their power to ensure that situation endures."
Paul Sturrock is adamant he will not walk away as Argyle manager. He said: “Paul Sturrock isn’t going to quit. I have never quit in my life. Apart from the first season I was a manager, when I took over St Johnstone which was doomed, I have never been relegated in my life. I don’t expect to be relegated this season. People will turn around and say ‘one win in 15’ and, yes, I have got to put my hand up and say I have contributed to those results. But I will not slink away slowly into the darkness. I’m here for the long haul.” Argyle have now lost 10 of their last 15 league games, and play Sheffield United at Home Park on Saturday. Asked whether he thought he would still be the manager then, Sturrock replied: “That’s for somebody else to answer. I’m expecting to be in charge of the football club on Saturday, and until I’m told differently that’s where it is. I feel sorry for everybody involved with this football club because we are going through a torrid time. I have never been associated with anything like this but we have got to rally the troops.” Sturrock has been compiling a list of possible loan targets, and added: “As far as I’m concerned, I’m going into the board meeting to discuss making us better. I’m here and I want to be here. I came back to Argyle to do a job and, yes, I’m here under difficult circumstances at this minute in time. But we have got 13 games left and I believe we need to find 15-18 points. We have just got to keep biting and scratching and, sooner or later, we are going to turn this around.” Argyle trailed Palace 3-0 at half-time last night but Sturrock took encouragement from the fact the players showed some resolve in the second half, and the fans stayed behind the side. He said: “I thought the fans were absolutely superb. They backed the team right through. The players could have quite easily capitulated after that 15-minute spell in the first half, but they kept at it. At times, a manager looks to see if he has lost the changing room. But the boys went out and gave everything they had, and that, to me, shows there is a bit of caring in there.”
A lack of goals has been Argyle's problem in recent weeks but defending has emerged as the new nemesis and Paul Sturrock admitted a big problem has developed. He said: "We seem to be a team that used to pride ourselves on being hard to beat, hard to break down. We are now a team that goes chasing the elusive ones - the goals - and we have forgotten the knack of defending. In the last two games the defending in front of our goals has been unacceptable. We haven't cleared our lines on two of the goals this evening and it has finished up lying in the back of the net." Sturrock hopes the return to fitness of some players wil help the situation. He said: "I am very hopeful that one or two of my defenders will get healthy as quickly as possible. The Gray's, the McNamee's, the Seip's - these are the types of players we need back and healthy as quickly as possible. David Gray and Seip could maybe muster themselves for Saturday but that will be a debate between now and then. We have mixed and matched the last three or four games, and we just do not have the solid base that we used to have. We can't seem to get a blend. Our two right-backs are injured and we don't seem to have a pair at centre-back. When Seip is there, we have a covering centre-half and a big centre-half. Mat and Cathcart and Timar have not gelled together as I expected them to. It is really costing us dear and the third goal epitomised how ragged defensively we are at this minute for somebody to run 60 yards and put it in the net. Our defence, which was the real key to us, has capitulated. They have lost the confidence now. Cathcart did ok at right-back. He was definitely very competent and Sawyer had a good game as well, but it is just getting settled in the centre of defence. I am gutted because, again, we have lost that goal and seemed to lose concentration, lose spirit, lose that attitude for a 15-minute spell after we always lose the first goal. Again, it has cost us dear tonight. We were very competent for the first 20 minutes and then the 15-minute spell was very disappointing. We were a match in the second-half. It was a reasonable game. People will say they dropped a bit but that is too easy to say. We seem to be a team that shoots ourselves in the foot all the time. It seems to be a mirror-image. We seem to lose that first goal. To be fair, the first goal was not what you would call a Plymouth mistake. It was very well-worked and the boy did well with the finish. The next two were a comedy of errors. At this minute we are not psychologically strong, as we proved again tonight, and every time we lose a goal now. We have got to change that and come up with a mental approach. If we scored the first goal, it would change the complexion of the whole place. We were losing games one nothing or 2-1 and they were tight games, but we have lost so many goals in the last two or three games." Luck also played its part in the game, as Palace's second goal appeared to be offside and Argyle were denied a clear penalty after the break. "That's what happens when you are in the position we are at this minute," Sturrock added: "We looked as if we had a penalty in the second-half. There was a push in the back of somebody and, in normal circumstances, you get that. At this minute, we seemed to be getting kicked in the teeth all the time."
Argyle lost 3-1 to Crystal Palace at Home Park, the goal scored by Gary Sawyer after 68 minutes. Argyle: Larrieu, Doumbe, Cathcart, Timar, Sawyer, Judge, Duguid, Mackie, Paterson, Fallon, MacLean. Subs – Noone, Barnes, Gallagher (not used –Summerfield, Clark). Attendance - 10,710
Paul Sturrock is staying tight-lipped about his team selection for the game against Crystal Palace tonight. Sturrock told his players before training yesterday morning what the starting line-up would be but at his pre-match press conference was reluctant to give away any clues. Sturrock did confirm though, that Marcel Seip will be sidelined again by a groin injury. He said: "The team has been named. We have worked on it in training over the last two days and the 11 players know exactly what we are looking for. I just felt they needed to be settled in their minds what I was looking for, and they could get ready for the game. It's something that has been taken away from me a lot of times this season because we have had niggling injuries to people and I have had to leave it later and wait on fitness tests. So it's nice to be able to make an early decision. There has to be a freshness put into this team so several players who didn't play on Saturday are selected for tonight." Seip had a scan of his groin injury on Saturday. Sturrock said: "There is a lot of inflammation in the groin. We will take no chances on him so he's not available tonight." There is a chance David Gray could be fit for the visit of Sheffield United on Saturday, but he will not play tonight. Sturrock said: "David Gray has had a very slight niggle after coming back into training again, so he was rested yesterday. But he has been able to do 80 per cent of his work, despite his injury, so he has fitness that might enable him to be involved come Saturday." Yoann Folly is also unavilable at the moment because of an ankle injury sustained in training. Sturrock hopes the clear-the-air meeting in the changing room after the defeat by Charlton will lead to a much-improved performance against Palace. He said: "As I told the players yesterday, talk is cheap, and actions are what we are looking for now. They have learned a bad habit of losing, and they have learned a bad habit of putting their heads down when we lose a goal. All that was discussed and, at the end of the day, we need winners out there. They have got to roll their sleeves up. We have to put wins on the board as quickly as possible, and we have to be up-and-at-them in these next two home games."
Paul Sturrock hopes to bring in at least one loan signing before Argyle take on Sheffield United at Home Park on Saturday. He said: "We are working very hard on bringing in loan signings. I think tonight has come too quick for me to, all of a sudden, push somebody in there. We are looking at our options at this minute and making a list up. We are finding out the availability of everybody who is on that list, and then we will take it from there. There is no doubt there are certain areas of our team we have to strengthen, and that's something I would like to do before Saturday. But that can all go on the backburner until after the game tonight." Argyle already have four loan signings at Home Park and only five temporary transfers can be included in a matchday squad of 16. Sturrock said: "In an ideal world, there are three areas of the team I would like to strengthen. But the availability of some of the players I would like to bring to the football club, and the finances to do it, are what will be discussed in the next couple of days. The freshness of that type of player might be a great benefit to us, coming in until the end of the season." Meanwhile, Sturrock confirmed there had been no offers to take any of his players on loan.
Skelmersdale United have rejected Argyle's offer for striker George Donnelly. Skelmersdale chairman Frank Hughes said: "We have had an offer made for George Donnelly but it has been rejected. The offer is not a million miles away from what we believe to be his true worth but it is back in the hands of Plymouth. At the moment the offer just falls short of our valuation of George, we have invested a lot in him over the last two years."
Paul Sturrock has sent out an appeal for support to Argyle fans, admitting the supporters have an important part to play against Crystal Palace tonight. He said: "I do believe the fans can be a great influence to us tonight – whether we are good, bad or indifferent – by getting behind the team. The fans were terrific in the last home game through a disappointing second half performance. The important thing now is that they get behind us tonight, because we need them as much as anything else. We are desperate for as many people to turn out as possible and get behind the team. They are part of it. They are called the 12th man for a reason, and we have got a fight on our hands. We now know – and we have probably known for two or three weeks – that we are in a relegation tussle." Palace have not had a game for 17 days but Sturrock is more concerned about his players, than those on the opposing side. He said: "I'm not thinking about Crystal Palace. It's what we do, and how we go about our jobs. I'm expecting the players to sweat blood, following their comments after the game the other day."
Karl Duguid has promised the Argyle squad will keep battling to turn around their current form. He said: "It's down to us – the team, management and staff. Everyone has got to stick together and push on, and get us back to where we were. There's no doubt in my mind we can do that." Duguid and Romain Larrieu were both booked after Charlton scored their first goal in the 32nd minute. Duguid said: "We felt it wasn't a corner but, to be fair, the referee has shown the staff the video and it was a corner. But it wasn't the fact whether it was a corner or not. It was the fact the linesman took an age to give the decision. He held his flag up in the air and we were all waiting for him to point for a goal kick. But he hesitated and then gave the corner. He has given the decision and we have switched off from the corner. A few of us turned our backs on the ball, so they took a quick short corner. Then I think the lad has bent his shot around the referee, which may have blocked Romain's view." The referee further infuriated Argyle when he awarded Charlton a penalty in the 49th minute, but Larrieu ended up saving the spot kick. Duguid said: "We were disappointed about that decision again, but I couldn't really have a go at him because I had already been booked." Argyle now have two home games coming up, against Crystal Palace tomorrow, followed by Sheffield United on Saturday. Duguid said: "Once we get our first three points, I'm sure we will be alright. We have got to work very hard on the training ground in the next couple of days to get the three points on Tuesday. Whatever 11 the manager puts out, I'm sure they will be giving 100 per cent." Duguid also called on the fans to play their part in helping the team. "We need the fans to be our 12th man," he said. "The Charlton fans didn't get on their backs. They were very good and got behind them all the way, and that can only help. Getting on people's backs is no good to anyone. I think, to be fair, our fans have been good all season, and we need them to back us and keep us going." Despite the loss, Duguid thought Argyle performed well at Charlton. He said: "Results wise, it doesn't get any better, but I thought we started off really well. We've got points at Preston, Ipswich and at Burnley this season, and I think we started today's game better than we started all of those games. It all boils down to conceding that first goal again. If we get that first goal, they're under a lot of pressure. I really though the penalty save was going to spur us on to get a result, but it wasn't to be. We ended up with three at the back and we tried to push on to get a goal, but we haven't got one. We know we're not scoring enough goals, but we'll keep battling on. We've got a group of lads who are going to stick together. It's down to us."
The future of Paul Sturrock is hanging in the balance, and his fate could be decided by the outcome of the game against Crystal Palace at Home Park tomorrow. Paul Stapleton made no attempt to hide the seriousness of the situation and said: "I do think Paul Sturrock can keep us up, but he's not daft. He knows very well that results dictate what happens, and we are no different now to what we have ever been. I was on the board when we removed Kevin Hodges as manager. The only manager we have removed since I have been chairman is Bobby Williamson. The others have left of their own accord as it happens. We know the rules. We know what goes on and we know what happens. At the end of the day, this football club is bigger than any one person. It's bigger than me, and it's bigger than Paul Sturrock. We have just got to make sure that we are all working together and fighting hard. We are in a position where we have got two points out of the last seven games and one win out of 14. It's not what we expected and it's not what we want, so we have got to do whatever we can to make sure we don't get sucked into the bottom three in this league. The current form is cause for concern, and I'm going to spend five hours on the bus talking to the manager so, in some respects, that's good news. We have told him if he needs replacements, we can get them. There is no problem about getting people out before we get people in. At the end of the day, we have got to make sure the hard work we have put into the last eight years continues. That means being in this league. This league is the one we need to be in. Now, our gates are second bottom, and they are lower than the top two clubs in the league below, but that's beside the point. Plymouth Argyle needs to be in the top 40 clubs in the country. We are going to do everything in our power to make sure we don't get relegated." Three other struggling sides – Norwich City, Nottingham Forest and Southampton – were also beaten on Saturday, but Stapleton added: "We can't rely on other teams. We have got to start picking up points. The first opportunity we have got is on Tuesday, and we need everybody behind us to do that. Neil Warnock is coming back with Crystal Palace and I'm sure he will try to put one over us, even though he does like Plymouth. They have lost four in a row, I think it is, so we have got to win that game. If we win that game, suddenly the atmosphere changes. I remember back in February 2005, when we had home games against Sheffield United and Crewe Alexandra in one week. We won them both 3-0 and the doom and gloom disappeared. There was talk then about whether Bobby would be sacked that week or not, but we won both games. Let's do the same again this week. It's so important Plymouth Argyle stays in this league and, as I say, we will do whatever we can to make sure it does."
Paul Sturrock kept his players locked in the dressing-room after the defeat at Charlton. He said: "I've just had an hour with the players. I've poured my heart out and a lot of players have poured their hearts out, as well. I felt it was a very useful exercise. There were a lot of harsh words at the start, but, by the end, there were a lot of people who were bonding together, rather than shouting and bawling at each other. It is something that had to be done. The words in there had to be said for the simple reason that this team - I'll say it again and again - went from 24th to fifth in a 14-game run. It's in them, but we've lost the knack. Confidence around the goals is low, and when we lose a goal, you can see confidence seep out of their bodies with the realisation that we are not going to score a goal. People are not thinking about scoring goals at this moment in time. We'd rather shun away from it, than make the attempt because the confidence of making that attempt is very, very low. They have aired what they think would be a way round it; I've aired what I think; and now we've got to get it right. This club cannot afford to be relegated, and we have got to go and do the appropriate things to make sure we start winning football games. Like any manager, you put yourself under a microscope. I'm a realist to understand that winning football games is what my job is all about and we're not doing that. So you have to look at yourself closely, and listen to what other people are saying about how they feel the club is being run, how the training is, how we are playing. There's many a thing I put my hand up for - and my staff did - but the players, at the end of the day, have got to be respective that they've got to do the business when they go out on the football pitch. I think too many of them don't look in the mirror after the game and have a look at themselves." Sturrock admitted that he had never experienced a run like the one that Argyle are currently on but backed himself to turn it around. "Never will Paul Sturrock walk away from a challenge and, by gosh have I got a challenge," he said. "I'm the manager of football club who, at the end of the day, carries the can. I have a great affinity with and affection for Plymouth Argyle. I want to do well. I know I can do well. But, at this juncture, I am frustrated, and annoyed, and angry, with myself and with others. Like any manager, I look back at the training that we do, I look back at the selections we have, the systems we play, the style we play. At this juncture in time, I'm getting things wrong. I'm quite prepared to look at myself. I'm very hopefulthat, after the conversations we have had today, the players will look at themselves. I think my record speaks for itself over the last six or seven years. This is the first time I have ever had a run like this in my whole career and it is exasperating, to say the least." Argyle bossed the game yesterday until Racon blasted home from the edge of the penalty area following a 31st-minute corner. Sturrock said: "In the first half, we were very competitive. We had several half-chances and hit the bar a couple of times. The back four were very uncomfortable in the second half. Our two centre-halves did not get to grips with their two centre-forwards and that was the key to how we played in the second half. You could not fault the players for effort in the first half. They were very, very competitive. They have not, in any way, chucked it. They were still working as hard in the last ten minutes as they were in the first ten. I want to be a crossing team. I want people to cross the ball, and I want people to attack the ball in the box. We just seem to have a fear. We seem to want to hold on to what we've got and, invariably, when you hold on to what you've got, you lose a goal. That is basically what has been happening to us, repeating itself, game after game, after game."
Paul Stapleton has offered his unequivocal support to Paul Sturrock and has told the manager that the board will finance the loan signing of any player he wants. "We are all in this together," said Stapleton. "We've said to the manager that, if he wants anybody else in, we can help him. We don't have to get rid of anybody before bringing anyone in." Argyle's lack of goals has not been helped by the loss of Emile Mpenza to injury for virtually the entire season. "That has annoyed me because we haven't had value out of him," said Stapleton, "but, if we need a striker - if we need anyone - I've told Paul he can go and get him, irrespective of the money. If he wants someone else, he can go and get him. He does not need to worry about getting people out. If he needs a bit of freshening up, we will support him. At the end of the day, it's important that Plymouth Argyle stays in the top 40 teams in the country."
Argyle’s fans are vital to the clubs survival hopes, according to Paul Sturrock. He said: "We have got a very good away record for the league, but for Plymouth Argyle to have the record we have at home this year is where we are hurting. We have two home games - the time has now come. I call upon the fans to turn up, and, whether we are good, bad, or indifferent, to back us right through the 90 minutes, because three points are vitally important." Sturrock had already decided before the defeat at Charlton that he would revamp the team’s line-up. He said: "I'd committed myself to a freshness for Tuesday's game, and there will be many changes so we have the legs. We have got to go out there and get the three points. We have got to turn it around."
Argyle lost 2-0 at Charlton Athletic. Argyle: Larrieu, Duguid, Cathcart, Timar, Barker, Judge, Summerfield, Walton, Clark, Gallagher, Mackie. Subs – Paterson, Fallon (not used – Noone, Sawyer, MacLean). Attendance - 21,876
A knee problem has been cited as a major factor in Paul Gallagher's indifferent recent form. Paul Sturrock also feels playing on the left-wing has hindered him. Sturrock admitted he is now considering the option of the naturally left-sided Jim Paterson for tomorrow's trip to Charlton Athletic. He said: "Jim comes back into my thoughts for the weekend because of the Gallagher scenario. Gall is a striker. In his mind he is a striker. He has done a very good job out there. At Preston he worked his tail off but to get the best out of him for us, we have to think about putting him in a position where he can be influential. He has got his head down at the moment and the things he was doing naturally, he is now thinking about. Paul has been carrying this knee for a long time now. We've had it scanned and Blackburn have had it scanned, but every time he kicks the ball in a certain way he gets a pain down his knee. It is not ideal. No player likes to play with pain and he has played with pain for the last two games. I have got to make a decision on whether we keep playing him or whether the rest would do him the world of good. He has trained but even yesterday there were a couple of passes he made that you could see him wincing on. The boy has lost a bit of confidence because of it and he is not playing to the standards he was achieving earlier in the season. He was the key player to us and probably the reason why we went on a fantastic run. He is now fighting his mind." Paul Maxwell admitted the knee problem remains something of a mystery after scans at both Argyle and Blackburn. "He has trained ok today without much pain," said Maxwell. "We can only go on how we clinically assess him and nothing has really shown up. Both parties have had him scanned but if the player feels there is something wrong, we have to keep investigating."
Gary Sawyer hopes to retain his place for Argyle's game at Charlton Athletic today. He said: "I'm struggling a bit with a cold, but I feel really good fitness-wise. I have just had to sit there and wait behind Barks because he has been doing really well, but he took a slight knock and it gave me a chance to play. Barks hasn't been injured all season, and I wouldn't wish that on him – I still don't wish it on him now. I think I did reasonably well last Saturday, but it's up to the gaffer whether I'm in the team today. It's in his hands. I can only do the best I can do." Argyle are 17th in the table but Sawyer is staying calm about the situation. He said: "I know we are on a bad run, there is no getting away from that, but there are other teams below us who are doing just as badly as we are. We need to keep them below us and then, obviously, we will be fine. But we want to kick on and try to climb up the table, rather than dropping down. We did really well last season so I think this year has been a bit hard for the fans to take, but that's football. We have lost players and we have brought new players in, and it didn't gel as well at the start as it could of." Paul Sturrock has come under fire from some fans, but Sawyer insisted the players were not taking any notice of that. He said: "To be honest, I haven't thought about it, and I don't think any of the lads will have either. Paul Sturrock is our manager and you have got to do your best for him. With what we have got here, we just need to graft and get ourselves out of it."
Mike Pejic has spoken out about the importance of Argyle assuming academy status. He said: "We have to look at ourselves. With no disrespect to others, if we want to get the players to a better level, we need to go to academy status, there is no question about it. We got punished for mistakes on Tuesday night. Normally, on a Saturday, we don't get punished for those mistakes. They get away with them. That's how clinical it is when you play at the highest level. And these boys down here need to be exposed to that. Even from five years of age, we need to build up through the primary schools. And we need to expose them into tournament play, so finances should be made available for that. Even the kids I'm taking on as apprentices next year, they are so naive. It's just like being in a backwater at times. You are teaching them things they should know when they are nine years of age. This is what we are having to fight against, and lift them up to." Pejic believes despite Argyle's tight finances, there is no reason why they cannot become an academy club within the next two to three years. Asked whether it was a realistic target, Pejic replied: "I hope so. There is no reason why we shouldn't. It's about facilities and staffing, and if we want to go forward, we need to do it the sooner the better. If it takes another two or three years, then so be it, but we have to keep focused on it. Gordon Bennett and myself have to keep driving people on – the staff and the players – and, hopefully, in the end it will come our way."
David Gray will start ball work in training on Monday, and Paul Sturrock has not totally discounted the possibility of him being involved in the game against Crystal Palace next Tuesday. Sturrock said: "It will probably be too soon for him, but I have done it in the past. I played Jason Bent in one game after he had been out a long time. Gray seems a fit laddie as well, and McNamee has come back a couple of times after being out long-term and has looked okay. Adrenalin might get him through it, but he's a Manchester United player and he will be under certain instructions."
Argyle will be seeking their first win in seven matches tomorrow, but bottom-of-the-table Charlton Athletic will also be desperate to pick up points. Paul Sturrock has insisted though, that it is not a must-win match for Argyle. He said: "I think there should be more pressure on them than us. We are 13 points clear of them at this minute in time. That's five wins they would have to find over us between now and the end of the season. I think they have got a few players coming back from injury, so they will be stronger than they have been. We have got to go there and really dig deep. I don't think tomorrow is as big a game as the next two at home. They will be a big factor in where we finish up in the league. We have got three games in a week coming up and it's vitally important we start gaining pointage. The players have got to realise we have got to be positive in our approach tomorrow. We have had two good results against Ipswich and Preston and we have got to take that kind of performance into this game, but we have got to be more clinical in front of goal. And maybe Lady Luck, who shines on you periodically, will break the clouds and give us a wee glimmer." Sturrock has promised a more attacking style of play for the forthcoming home games but tomorrow he will persevere with the 4-4-1-1 formation he has been using for away fixtures. He said: "Our away form, as far as points are concerned, is as good as many, so I'm not going to change things dramatically. But there will be changes in personnel and in our whole psyche when we play the game on Tuesday."
Marcel Seip is a doubt for the game against Charlton Athletic tomorrow. Paul Sturrock said: "Marcel has done very little in training this week. He has been resting, trying to settle down his groin. Marcel, me and Maxie will have a discussion about how sore it is, and whether it would hinder him long-term. We will not take a chance on him if it's the latter." Seip took pain-killing tablets for a spell last season to continue playing despite suffering from a hernia but that is not likely to be an option on this occasion. Sturrock added: "That's not ideal. The catch 22 is you go down that road and, eventually, he has to have an operation. Or you have the operation now and know you are going to have him back for the last 10-12 games. So we have got to weigh up what's best for the football club and for him."
Emile Mpenza has had another injury setback, suffering a hamstring strain in training on Wednesday. Paul Sturrock has been in talks with Mpenza about his future at the club, and he said: "Emile and I are in discussions to see what's in the best interests of the football club and of him. At this juncture, I think it's important we get to a decision with Emile. With the money we are paying him, we haven't really had service from him. It has been a big drain on us financially and it has hampered my thoughts of bringing other people in. We don't know how severe the hamstring is. He walked out of training and we are having it scanned. If it's a severe one, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to appreciate that we would hope to negotiate something with him. Emile wants to be competitive for a place in the team but, again, when we get to the first hurdle he falls. It's exasperating for everybody, especially me, because I think everybody realised the potential he had when he first came here. He fulfilled it in one game against Cardiff, but that isn't enough. If the hamstring is torn, we are talking a distance before he's back playing again. Whether we like the boy or not, or whether he's a good player or not, he's hindering us at this minute in time because of his lack of availability."
David Gray, David McNamee and Jermaine Easter, plus the suspended Mat Doumbe are all unavailable for tomorrow's game and Paul Sturrock also has doubts about the availability of at least two other players. He said: "Barker came back into full training today, so, fingers crossed, he's fit and available." Craig Cathcart and Krisztian Timar are expected to return to training this morning, both having been away on international duty. "I'm hopeful Timar didn't pick up anything, because with Doumbe suspended we're well short in defence," Sturrock added. "It's not ideal, having your whole back four unavailable in training." Gray is due to resume training on Monday and Easter will soon be available after a long-term knee problem. "Easter is probably a week or two away from being ready," Sturrock said. "That will be like having a new player. You have to remember he played over 30 games for us last season." Easter's return might make it easier for Sturrock to use Paul Gallagher sparingly. He said: "Paul has been carrying this knee problem for a long time. Every time he kicks a ball, he gets a pain down his knee. No player likes to play with pain. I have to decide whether we play him, or whether a rest would do him the world of good. He has trained, but you could see him wincing a couple of times."
Argyle's youth team lost 3-0 to Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Youth Cup tie at Home Park last night. Argyle: Brooks, Leonard, Gerring, Hodgkinson, Brett, Edwards, Kinsella, Young, Grant, Mason, Head. (Subs not used - Trott, Sawyer, Rickard, Levett, Chenoweth). Mike Pejic admitted the result was a fair reflection of the game. He said: "We were playing quality opposition, and we got punished for our mistakes. Normally, on a Saturday, we get away with them. but that's how clinical it is at a higher level. These boys down here need to be exposed to that. I was really proud of the lads. We've worked extremely hard at tactics because we knew they are a very good footballing side, who play it through midfield and are very clinical in the attacking third. I thought tonight we did really well." When Argyle had lapses in concentration, however, their opponents pounced. Pejic added: "For the first goal, it was a mistake to let their lad get in behind us. Two of our lads went to sleep, and it cost us dearly. The second goal was an awful mistake. We came in half-time having worked hard, but we were two down. I told them it was another game in the second half, but again we made a stupid and rash mistake. But we kept our shape after that. We were more compact in the second half and we worked the ball quite well at times. The spirit and the work-rate was there, but unfortunately we made three crucial, silly mistakes and we got punished."
Paul Sturrock has promised a more attacking style of play in future home matches. He said: "If we are going to be high intensity and play on the front foot, we are going to have to have the engines. All of them are going to have to have the engines to do it. There have been times this season where we have given other teams too much respect at home. We are still going to lose games at home, but we want to win games at home and I do feel we have got to be up and at them. That's the way we are going to be in the next two home games and we will see what comes out of it." Sturrock thought fatigue was a factor when it came to Argyle's defeat by Derby County last Saturday. He said: "We have checked all the Pro-Zone stats, and our high intensity work on Saturday was dramatically down from any of the other games we have played at home this season. That shows we took more out ourselves in the Ipswich and Preston games than I first thought. With hindsight, I should have maybe freshened up the team a bit more than I did. The Pro-Zone stats don't lie. The high intensity players against Derby were Sawyer and Judge. It clears a picture for me. But we cannot play the way we have been playing at home. It hasn't won us enough football games. The way we are going to play, we are still going to lose games because we will be very open, but we are going to win games as well. I would rather take a share of four wins and four defeats out of my last eight games at home, than go down the road we have been going down." Argyle suffered their heaviest home defeat of the season against Derby, but Sturrock thought the supporters had stuck by the players until the final whistle. He said: "The fans were fantastic. I think they were appreciative of the results the team had come back with. Nobody imagined we would go to Ipswich and Preston, in the form we were in, and come back with two points. I'm going to work, and work, and work to try to turn around this home form."
Krisztian Timar played as a substitute for Hungary in their 1-0 defeat at Israel yesterday.
Damien McCrory played the full 90 minutes for Republic of Ireland's under-19s in a 2-1 defeat to Russia.
Paul Sturrock has insisted that he will not be making any loan signings just for the sake of it. He said: "The biggest problem we have is the Premiership don't have to give any players away. If they are, one, we can't afford their wages, and, two, they are quite happy to give me their young players. Now, I have to start thinking about how many young players I've got in this squad at this minute in time. Because, if you remember, we have young players here as well and I don't want to halt their development. That's the first thing. Secondly, in the Championship, nobody in a position like ours is going to start giving me players. A lot of them – because of the credit crunch – have cut their budgets already. So, for us to have the real standard of player you'd want, it costs you a lot of money at this minute in time. At the end of the day, the budget is the budget."
Argyle made a £1m-plus profit last year. Accounts released today for the year ending May 31, 2008, show that the club turned round a loss of more than £700,000 in the previous 12 months to a £1.1m profit. Paul Stapleton said: "The fact that we ended up in tenth place was a fine result, bearing in mind all the upheaval during the year, which included a change of manager in November and the fact that certain players left, by triggering a certain clause in their contract, or because they wanted to move nearer where their families lived, or to improve their wages." The club made £3.8m profit on transfers last year, which enabled them to finance their highest-ever wage costs. "We did that because we needed to compete in this league," said Stapleton. "Our gates are not the highest - we understand that - but we have got to do what we can, and to improve again last year was a major achievement. We have seen, this year, how difficult it is to do that year-on-year. I think everybody at the club needs praise for that happening. It was an unusual year for us in some respects in that we had a significant amount of transfer fees received - and then paid transfer monies out - and we deliberately paid extra wage-costs out from January onwards to try to maintain our challenge for the play-offs. It is a sign of the times in our division that transfer fees help to bail out the trading concern for the clubs. It's even more important now, with our current gates, and credit crisis. You have to balance the books somehow, and that's what we try to do. I know Burnley and Preston have talked about this for years. Preston were only telling me recently that they had to sell David Nugent to cover two years' losses. They were philosophical about it. They had to do it. Their gates weren't high enough. It has got tougher this year. The teams that have come into the Championship this season have got more money than the teams that went out. To have six clubs with parachute payments in the league this year is amazing. We haven't had that for years. You expect one, maybe two, to go back up each year - to have six with parachute payments of £12m, when our turnover is only £8m, puts things in perspective. We try to do our best, but, until we get full-houses every week, we have difficulty doing that. We have got to bite and scratch, to borrow a favourite phrase from the manager. Sometimes we have periods of difficulty and we have to work altogether to get through those periods. We've never got to the Premier League. We're trying to do it the right way, and it's getting harder. Deloitte Touche's report last year said that we were one of the best-run clubs, financially, but it is not easy and it is not going to get easier."
Paul Sturrock is determined to come through the worst period of his managerial career. He said: "This is the worst run of results I have ever had as a football manager, and it's so exasperating to be involved in it. I knew it was going to be a hard job when I got here, and it has proved me totally correct in my comments when I first started. We have just got to keep working away. The chairman is obviously disappointed and as worried as anybody else. We are in a tussle, there are no ifs, buts and maybes about it. We have put ourselves in the mire and now we have got to go and dig deep. There are a lot of teams in the mire with us, and the only way we are going to get out of it is by winning football games. After the five games at the start of the season, it was a very difficult time then. Then, all of a sudden, this team came to the show. The disappointment for me is that everybody has seen the good side of this team. But they are now seeing the bad side. This team are capable of much, much more. The problem we have at this minute is that confidence has been eroded. One or two individuals who I would like to be playing in the team are also unavailable to me as well." Sturrock did admit, however, that his transfer policy last summer had not been a success. He said: "I attempted to bring some players in who would influence the way we played. That didn't work. We then reverted to something different, where we tried to bring our strikers into the game, and that did work. Now we are going through a stage where, when we are under pressure as a team, we rely too much on hitting it up to Rory Fallon. I would like to tinker with that and try to get that changed. A ball to Rory is a decent option, if played properly. But I also believe it's a 50-50 ball, and we have tried to make the percentages higher in our favour. I think now we have got to get back to using Rory in the Mickey Evans role, and using another striker as a linkage player to get us up the football pitch. I don't feel, at this juncture, we can get from back to front early enough with the type of ball some of the defenders are playing. The defenders haven't been told a ball to Rory is the be-all and end-all of life. That's the problem. When we are struggling he does become the be-all and end-all of life, and it keeps coming back to you again. You make it much easier for other teams."
Paul Sturrock is ready to implement some new ideas in a bid to change Argyle’s recent home form. "There are some players I need to speak to," he said. "I feel there are certain things I need to convey to certain players. I have felt there have been times this season where we have given the other team too much respect. Now we're going to change it, our whole style at home. Of course we are going to lose games at home, but we are also going to draw games and win games as well. I do feel we have to be up and at them and that's the way we are going to parade ourselves in the next two games and see what comes out of it." Sturrock is pondering extra width and pace out wide and has hinted that Craig Noone could well feature when Crystal Palace visit Home Park next Tuesday. "I do feel that somebody on the wing, like the boy Noone, that type of player should be involved in home games," he said. "Whether it's him, Jamie Mackie, whoever, we are going to have to make sure that we have that type in."
Alan Judge played the full ninety minutes and captained the side as the Republic of Ireland under-21’s drew 1-1 with Germany last night
Luke Young is set to be drafted into the Argyle side for the FA Youth Cup fifth round tie against Tottenham Hotspur tonight. Young is not 16 until later this month, but Mike Pejic is confident he will give a good account of himself. Pejic said: "We have been bringing him through this last few months so he knows how we play and what we need off him." Pejic knows the size of the task facing his side tonight. He said: "We put in an excellent performance against Fulham, and while it wasn't as good against Millwall, we still got the three goals and had the belief. Against Tottenham, we are going to have to play as well as we did against Fulham, if not even better, to get a major result for us." Last season Manchester City beat Argyle 4-1 at Home Park in the Youth Cup quarter-finals and went on to lift the trophy. Like Tottenham, City had a squad packed with youth internationals, from home and abroad. Pejic said: "Manchester City had big-money signings from all around the world, and Tottenham are the same. We have got our lads from Dartmoor, Bodmin Moor, Exmoor and wherever. But that's what you come up against nowadays when you play teams from the Premier League. Tottenham build up from the back, they have some good players in possession and they work the ball very well on the floor a lot of the time. We are going to have to work really hard off the ball, for the 30 minutes we haven't got it. So the concentration levels are going to be a must, the work ethic has got to be a must and the togetherness has got to be a must. If we do that, we will have a chance." Pejic admitted that the difference between Argyle and Tottenham's youth squads was considerable. He said: "I think they have got 26 apprentices, or something like that. We are now working with 14." The winners of tonight's round tie will be at home to Arsenal in the quarter-finals.
Argyle are awaiting a verdict on whether Marcel Seip can return to training later this week. Paul Sturrock said: "We aren't sure about Marcel. We are going to make a decision on him tomorrow, after he has had a couple of days rest. He has got fibres in his groin that are stretched, and that has been giving him pain. That needs to settle down, but you saw on Saturday that we missed him."
Paul Sturrock is considering using the loan-market, which re-opened this week, to strengthen his squad. "There are key positions in which I don't have any back-up on," he said. "If that means we have to think about bringing in some more loan signings, we'll go down that road. We are very suspect at right-back. The boy McNamee was well missed against Derby, considering the performances he came up with last week at Ipswich and Preston. Mat Doumbe has to come back into being a centre-back now. I have Karl Duguid and Chris Clark who can play there, but, if I put one of them in at right-back, I then have a midfield vacancy to fill." Asked if, with hindsight, he regretted not selecting Clark at right-back and Doumbe in central defence in place of Craig Cathcart against Derby, Sturrock replied: "At the end of the day, the boy Cathcart declared himself fit. He was excellent at Preston last week, but the disappointment for me in Saturday's game was that he and Timar did not win enough of their headers. The ball was sticking up around our box."
Paul Sturrock thinks Jamie Mackie still has room for improvement in his role as a central striker. "I thought the boy Mackie had a competent game on Saturday, but he has a lot to learn about playing in that position at home," he said. "Away from home, he's a real influence. I also thought Ashley Barnes came on and did a good job."
Jamie Mackie has insisted hard work on the training ground is the key to turning around Argyle's fortunes. He said: "Everyone in the changing room is disappointed. After two good results away from home, we needed a win today and we haven't got it. There is only one thing we can do. We have got to get on the training ground and work harder on the way we are going to play." Argyle have not won in six league games, but Mackie added: "We can't let that affect us. There are big clubs in this league and if we feel sorry for ourselves, they will just steamroller you. Everyone needs to keep their chins up. If we work hard, hopefully, we will kick on again." Mackie almost opened the scoring in the 26th minute when a 35-yard shot hit the crossbar. He said: "If we had gone 1-0 up, it changes the whole game. Those sorts of things aren't going for us at the minute. And then Tealey has banged one in." Rob Hulse then struck twice early in the second half. Mackie said: "It's not the first time this season we have come out poor in the second half. We have got to stamp that out. The first few minutes of the second half cost us the game today." Mackie has played the last three games as a striker and believes that is the position he can contribute most from. He said: "I have come here as a striker and I have had to learn playing on the wing. I think it has complemented my game. The gaffer knows what he's doing and I have enjoyed my time out wide. But I have always been a striker and that's where my heart lies. That's where I feel most natural and I think I can give the team my all when I'm up front. I can concentrate on the things I'm good at and work on my weaknesses."
Paul Sturrock has conceded that he may need to rest Paul Gallagher until he fully recovers from his knee injury. He said: "I feel Gallagher has to come to the show. For the standards that he was achieving, he's nowhere near to those standards now. Gall has won us football games, don't get me wrong, but I think we're being unfair on the boy now. He's been carrying a knee injury and maybe I've been going to the well too many times. We're going to have to get to the bottom of that. His confidence has gone down the pan because he's completely different from what he was two months ago. If that means he has to come out and rest until that knee is proper, that's what we're going to do. I've selected him once or twice on pure performance but it's now gotten to that stage where I've got to get 11 boys that are at the top of their game and ready for the battle." Gallagher is not the only player currently trying to overcome injury. Sturrock added: "David Gray has not responded to the treatment we hoped for up at Manchester. It looks like he will be a week or two yet before he is back in the fray. David McNamee has had a very successful operation the other day but it will probably be four to five weeks before he's back in. We'll have to see the troops and see what the story is with all the injuries. If it means we have to take some loans in again then we will go down that road."
Craig Cathcart has earnt a first call-up into the Northern Ireland senior squad for Wednesday's World Cup qualifier against San Marino.
One consolation for Paul Sturrock after the defeat by Derby was the performance of Alan Judge. Sturrock said. "He was a livewire for the team and did all the right things. I was very impressed with him and, at the end of the day, he merited his selection." Judge almost opened the scoring in the fifth minute but his shot from a tight angle brushed the outside of the post. Sturrock said: "Judge had that chance and it goes across the goals. Rory slid in and just missed it. That seems to be the way it is at this minute in time. We can't seem to get a break in front of goal. I still thought we had a go. But the second goal was a complete and utter killer. There is nothing else you can say about it. And then the third goal comes so early after it. At least the players kept at it right until the end. I don't feel they chucked it in, in any form." There was an angry confrontation between Karl Duguid and Mat Doumbe after Rob Hulse put Derby 3-0 up in the 52nd minute. Duguid felt Doumbe had been to blame for the two goals at the start of the second half and Simon Walton tried to play peacemaker as Argyle prepared to kick off. Sturrock said: "Karl was very frustrated at the situation. I would be more worried if they had just turned around and walked back to the halfway line. At least they are showing that they still care. We have got a tussle now. We have put ourselves in a position where we have got to bite and scratch and every point will be a prisoner to us now."
Krisztian Timar says Argyle will need to ‘stand up and fight’ if they are to stay in the Championship come the end of the season. He said: "Today is very disappointing, especially after we got two very good way results against Ipswich and Preston. After those two points we wanted to win this game, especially in front of our own supporters. It's very disappointing for all of us, but we now need to stand up and fight. We need to be ready for next week. I will be away on international duty, but when I come back I will be ready."
Paul Sturrock felt the loss of Marcel Seip was a crucial factor as Argyle lost to Derby County. "We missed him," said Sturrock. "He has fibres in his groin that are stretched, which is giving him pain at this minute in time. That needs to be settle down. We are going to have Monday and Tuesday to rest and then we're going to make a conscious decision on Wednesday. We missed McNamee as well and the performances that he's given against Ipswich and Preston. For the last three or four games, we've had personnel changes all through the back four. Seip has been out for two games and Barker missed the game today. Cathcart is carrying a niggling back injury. At the end of the day, Cathcart has deemed himself fit, and he played in a game the other day and was excellent. The disappointment for me is that him and Timar did not win the headers I expected them to win on the day. That meant the ball was sticking up around our box all the time." Sturrock was forced to use Mat Doumbe at right-back in the absence of David McNamee and David Gray and Derby's last two goals came from that area of the pitch. "We finished up with a diferent type of full-back to the one we need," said Sturrock. "Duguid has done so well in midfield that I am very loathe to take him out of there, but, at the end of the day, Mat's a centre-half and I think, when we are at home, we need a bit of guile that we would have with McNamee or Gray. My disappointment was that the second goal was identical to the one we lost against Bristol City. He is a good defender, don't get me wrong. As a quality defender, I would have hoped he would have learnt from his mistake and just kicked the ball out of the pitch, instead of trying to bend it down the football park."
Paul Sturrock bemoaned his side's second-half performance after the defeat to Derby County. He said: "For 44 minutes, we were very competitive. The one that hits the bar for us, they go down to their end and it hits the bar and goes into the back of the net. Where the real disappointment is...30 seconds into the second half we changed system, we were ready for the challenge, but there's a calamity of errors and they finish with the ball in the back of the net which really kicks the wind right out of our sails. It just epitomises the problems we are having at home at the moment. It just seems that every mistake we make finishes up in the back of the net at this minute in time. When things are not going right for you in front of goal, it seems to kick you in the teeth at the other end. If you look at our away form and the points we have taken, we're very competent with the rest of the league. It's quite a good tally we've put together away from home. The problem is our home form is going to make us struggle at the bottom half of this league until we turn it. We cannot keep losing these silly goals. The second goal was a complete and utter killer. There's nothing else you can say about the game, you need to lift yourself and then the goal came so early. They had a fighting spirit, they kept at it right to the end."
Argyle lost 3-0 to Derby County at Home Park. Argyle: Larrieu, Doumbe, Cathcart, Timar, Sawyer, Judge, Walton, Duguid, Gallagher, Mackie, Fallon. Subs – Clark, Barnes (not used – Noone, Summerfield, MacLean). Attendance - 10,893
Karl Duguid insists confidence is running high in the Argyle camp ahead of today's game with Derby County. "Any side who goes to places like Ipswich and Preston and then gets two results like we've done, you have to give them a bit of credit," he said. "For sure, we're going to take a lot of confidence from those games. We're now back at home this weekend, so we've got to build on that and get a good result because we've got to warrant those two results away from home. We have got to keep doing what we've been doing. We know what we are all about at the end of the day. Players have got to realise what they are good at and what part they are playing in the team. I think the lads have done that over these last two games and now we've got to do it again against Derby where, hopefully, we will get the three points." Argyle’s last home win came on Boxing Day, a run of form which has disgruntled some sections of the support in recent weeks. "It's like any team, fans want to see their team win at home, it's only natural," Duguid said. "Sometimes it's more difficult when you play at home because teams come here and change the way they play. I am sure when we go away from home, we are a different team because we set out differently. People wonder why you do it, but that's just football. Teams playing at home have to go out and be more open, they have to push to score a goal, it's just the way it is. Like I said, fans want to see goals at home and they want to see you perform." Scoring has also been a problem but despite the lack of goals, Duguid insists the team have not been overly concerned in that area. He added: "Even the games when we haven't scored goals, we've either hit the post, the bar, or the goalkeeper has pulled off a save. We've just been a bit unlucky, I suppose. We've been creating chances and that's the important thing. It's when you stop creating that you have to worry. We always knew a goal would come and it came on Tuesday night. Maybe we could have got another on the night, but at the same time Romain had a great game as well. They had chances, especially towards the end, so a draw was probably a fair result in the end. I know in the last 15 minutes at Preston we were penned back, but you expect that away from home. It was the same at Ipswich for periods of the game. In the end, we dealt with it and defensively we were very good. I think if we keep our defensive form up, then I'm sure we will win more games than we lose between now and the end of the season."
Rory Fallon is likely to continue playing in a slightly deeper role behind Jamie Mackie when Argyle face Derby County today. Paul Sturrock said: "We have found that having our pace right up top is a better bet than having height up top. Rory has done an unbelievable job for as well, which nobody really appreciates. He has tied people up in the midfield, which has meant we could give more protection to our back four. At the same time, he has won his fair share of headers, especially around the box. There have been a lot of diagonal crosses played into him and he has headed things down. Now we have just got to keep working away and try and get on the end of those."
Graham Stack could leave Argyle on loan within the next couple of weeks, according to Paul Sturrock. He said: "It's not ideal, and I would be very hopeful there might be something in the pipeline over the next week or so."
Paul Sturrock believes Argyle's recent failures at home has led to both his players and the supporters becoming a little apprehensive. "We have to build on the last two performances," he said. "It's not like we have been out of sorts here as far as performances are concerned – we have just lost football games. Generally, a football fan will say it's terrible when you lose at home, but if you digest the performances we've had at home, we have created a lot of chances in most of the games, but the problem is we haven't taken them. That has been the monkey around our shoulders. As games have unfolded, everybody in the stadium has become apprehensive and we have paid dear for it late on in games. If you look at certain games – Blackpool at home, we should have walked away with that one. Birmingham at home, we should have done much better than it finished up. All we have to do is hope and pray we get that early goal and kick on from there. Sometimes we hold on to one nothings, both home and away, because we are that type of team. In the end we finish up bringing teams down on top of us and it creates an apprehension all the time." Sturrock is confident his team can produce a winning display against Derby County today despite the opposition brimming with confidence after beating Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup in midweek. "I think they have enough players in their squad to freshen things up if they need to," Sturrock said. "I am sure there will be a freshness in their team. At the same time, they will be very buoyant as it's amazing what adrenalin can do when you've won that kind of game and know you're playing Manchester United next week." Two men likely to play for the visitors today are Paul Connolly and Gary Teale. Sturrock said: "They tell me Gary Teale has been excellent on the left for them and that the boy Commons was scintillating the other night, as was Green. It was a very competent performance by all accounts, so we have a difficult game on our hands." As for the return of Connolly, Sturrock expects him to get a warm reception from the fans. He added: "I was very surprised by some of the criticisms and comments about him when I came back here. It seems certain fans hadn't really taken to him. For me, he was always one of the first names on my team-sheet and I am sure the fans will give him a good welcome. They have been very good to the others who have come back, so I don't expect it will be any different for him."
Romain Larrieu made a rare mistake in the defeat by Bristol City on January 27th, but bounced back with two outstanding performances at Ipswich Town and Preston North End. Larrieu believes the draw at Preston was his best game for Argyle. He said: "In terms of how many opportunities I had to show what I could do, I would say it was my best game. But sometimes it's easy to keep your concentration when you are called upon every other five minutes. It's not always easy when you wait 87 minutes to actually do something for your team. That's why it's such a difficult position. People rate you on what they see, and sometimes they don't see you do anything for 87 minutes. But if you make that save, for me that's the sign of a good goalie. I felt I wasn't going to concede a goal in the second half, to be honest. Obviously, I was relieved at the end when the referee whistled, but I fancied carrying on for a bit because I was feeling good." Larrieu thought his best save came from Preston’s Ross Wallace in the 87th minute, when he backpedaled frantically and flicked a dipping shot over the crossbar. He said: "It was a difficult one because when you backpedal you can very easily lose your bearings, like where the goal is and where the crossbar is. It was hard because he hit it on the turn, which gives him an advantage on you because you need to react after he has shot. There were quite a few different types of saves in that game – and I enjoyed them all." Argyle are 16th in the table going into the home game against Derby County tomorrow and have picked up only four points from their last five matches at Home Park. Larrieu said: "Our home form has been a problem all season, but it's never too late to do well, and if we can turn it around now we could see ourselves climbing up the table. I don't think Derby were expecting to be where they are now, so we need to play on that. If we could win tomorrow it would be such a massive result. We just need to rest and recover from two really hard games and look forward to another challenge because it's not going to be easy."
Paul Sturrock knows Argyle will have a fight on their hands against Derby County at tomorrow, but it is not only the opposition that he is concerned about. He said: “If we could nip the three points tomorrow, it would be the icing on the cake after our two draws this week. But we are fighting a lot of things at this minute. We are fighting an apprehensive crowd – quite rightly an apprehensive crowd – due to the lack of results at home. We are fighting the minds of the players, and we are fighting an opposition. It’s hard enough fighting an opposition, so we have got to try to settle ourselves down, be very positive in our approach and get in the right areas of the pitch.” Argyle have not won at home in five attempts since beating Southampton on Boxing Day, a game which saw Craig Noone make his first start for. Sturrock is now pondering whether to give Noone another taste of the action, and said: “We have got to be on the front foot. I have tried and tried to find the winning formula at home. Our last win at home was against Southampton, when the boy Noone played, so that’s a consideration. I’m mulling over in my mind whether I give him his opportunity or not.” Argyle played 24 hours earlier than Derby in midweek, but Sturrock does not believe that will be any advantage because the squad did not return to Plymouth from Preston until 5am on Wednesday due to David McNamee being taken to hospital after fracturing his cheekbone. Sturrock said: “I think six hours on the bus cancels out any advantage from playing on Tuesday, compared to Wednesday. In the end, my players got to their beds at 5.30 in the morning. They had Wednesday off, and we did very little with them yesterday. We can’t go over the top with them at this minute in time.” Although Derby have struggled in the league, they have reached the semi-finals of the League Cup, as well as the fifth round of the FA Cup, and beat Argyle 2-1 in October. Sturrock added: “They are an expensively-assembled team – in transfer money and wage-wise. They have got excellent players, and they have got good back-up as well. I thought we did very well up there. That was one of the games I didn’t feel we merited losing on the day. If we can put in the same sort of performance tomorrow, I think we will get something out of the game.”
David McNamee could have to wait until the start of April before being ready to comeback from his fractured cheekbone. He is due to have an operation today. Paul Sturrock hopes David Gray could be available for the trip to Charlton Athletic next Saturday though. He said: "David should be getting the cast off his ankle in the next couple of days. Then he will be back down under our supervision. Hopefully, he will be ready for the game against Charlton." Sturrock does not know yet whether Marcel Seip will be available against Derby County tomorrow. He said: "We aren't sure with Marcel yet. We think he has tweaked his groin a wee bit, and whether the rest will have done him the world of good, I don't know." Paul Gallagher and Chris Barker are also doubtful for the game.
David McNamee is expected to have an operation on his fractured cheekbone this week, and it will not be known how long he will be out of action until the surgery has been carried out. Paul Maxwell confirmed the injury was a serious one and said: "David was X-rayed at hospital and they were happy for him to travel back. He's all right in himself. He's quite a tough lad anyway, and he was keen to get back down here. He's in quite a lot of pain so we have given him some tablets to help with that." With David Gray also sidelined at the moment Mat Doumbe will probably play at right-back against Derby County on Saturday. However, Doumbe will be suspended for the trip to Charlton Athletic on February 14th and Chris Clark may have to fill in at full-back. Marcel Seip missed the game at Preston after suffering a recurrence of a hernia problem and Chris Barker limped off in the closing stages of the draw with a calf injury.
Jamie Mackie staked a strong claim to continue playing in attack for Argyle for the foreseeable future, with a man-of-the-match performance against Preston on Tuesday. Paul Sturrock said: "His incredible run in the second half epitomised Jamie Mackie. He could have finished up winning the game for us. He has shown he's a willing runner and he has got a great engine. He's a handful, and the last two pairs of centre-backs he has played against will swear by that. He definitely puts himself about." With Mackie leading the attack for the last two matches, Rory Fallon has played behind him in a deeper position and Sturrock believes that tactic has paid off. "Rory has found a wee niche in there," said Sturrock. "He drops in and gives us that depth just off the front." Mackie's goal against Preston was the first in an away league game since the victory over Coventry City on November 15th. Sturrock said: "It has been like a monkey on our shoulders. We have hit the bar, we have had things cleared off the line and we have had things disallowed. It was just nice to get one and, hopefully, we will kick on from that now. We had a lot of half chances against Preston. Things dropped in the box and people were just on the wrong side. Walton got one blocked in the first half and there was a fantastic save from Gallagher's free-kick. So we are definitely starting to get back to doing what we were doing before. We are getting in and around the box of the opposition and creating chances so, hopefully, we will score more now."
Paul Sturrock is encouraged by successive draws at Ipswich Town and Preston North End and now wants his side to start fulfilling their potential at home. "I am hoping the confidence gained out of these two performances will take us nicely into Saturday for what will be a very difficult game against Derby," he said. "I'm very pleased with the performance, but again we haven't won. We have now got to go and do our business at home. If I would criticise Plymouth Argyle this year, I would say we haven't quite fulfilled our potential at home. We have got to start doing that now to make sure we put points on the board. We know if we start putting wins together at home we are going to start climbing the table again."
Romain Larrieu gave an outstanding performance as Argyle drew at Preston North End last night. Paul Sturrock was fulsome in his praise for Larrieu, and described an acrobatic stop from Ross Wallace in the 87th minute as ‘probably the best I have seen for a long time’. He added: "He has been in that form all season, since he came back into the team again. Romain has been a catalyst for everything good about Plymouth Argyle. He has been unfortunate with all the health problems he has had. And the other problem for him was that we had another very competitive goalkeeper in Luke McCormick. But we have stuck by Romain and he has repaid us tenfold. In the last two games he has shown that enthusiasm and athleticism I knew he had. He's 32 now and just maturing as a goalkeeper. I think he will play for many a year yet." Argyle remained 16th in the table, but they are now five points clear of the relegation positions. Sturrock said: "Preston are the third-rated home team in the league, as far as wins are concerned. So coming here and getting anything was a huge bonus. My players have worked very hard over these two games and they looked very leggy in the last 15 minutes due to a very strenuous performance on Saturday. But they held on, and, to be fair, I was very pleased with them in the first half. We got ourselves in the right areas and had a lot of half chances. We have been well organised in the last two games and the players have responded to the call."
Paul Sturrock fears David McNamee faces a long-term absence. McNamee was stretchered off in the first half of last nights game with a suspected fractured cheekbone. Sturrock said: "David looks to have a suspected fractured cheekbone. I feel so sorry for the boy because he was playing very well, and over the last three years he has picked up every injury you could think of. He's sitting in the changing room, shaking his head in disbelief. And I'm the same. He's an exceptional talent but has had a real disappointing three years. He has done very well in the games he has played for us this season. I was hoping now for him to kick on, but it looks as if he's going to be out long-term."
Jamie Mackie's determination was rewarded with the opening goal in Argyle's draw at Preston last night. Paul Sturrock said: "His run in the second half epitomised Jamie Mackie. He went on an incredible run and could have ended up winning the game for us. Just shows you that maybe we have missed that and maybe we have to go out and find another one of that type because when you are away from home you definitely need something else. He is showing he is a willing runner, he's got a great engine and he's a handful. His last two performances will testify to that. Rory has also found a wee niche in the team, he gives us that depth just off the front."
Argyle today released the following statement: The contract of first-year professional Shane White has been terminated. The club will be making no further comment on the subject of the statement.
Argyle drew 1-1 at Preston North End, the goal scored by Jamie Mackie after 13 minutes. Argyle: Larrieu, McNamee, Cathcart, Timar, Barker, Clark, Walton, Duguid, Gallagher, Mackie, Fallon. Subs – Doumbe, Noone, Summerfield (not used – Judge, MacLean). Attendance - 10,660
Argyle are facing a couple of late fitness tests ahead of the game with Preston North End. Paul Sturrock said: "We have got a couple of niggling knocks, which will go right up to kick-off time because of the games coming so close together. We have 18 travelling and if they don't pass their tests, then I have had to be very thoughtful with the players that have travelled, so they can cover the positions we would have to fill in."
Paul Sturrock has challenged Emile Mpenza to force his way into the first team. The transfer window closed yesterday with Mpenza still at Home Park, and Sturrock said: "If we could get Emile back to the way he played against Cardiff, he would be very difficult to leave out of the team. The problem is that in the next game he got injured and was out for six weeks. We just haven't been able to get him back to that standard, but we are going to have to now, and he has got to appreciate he's here until the end of the season and be competitive for selection. But he's not going to be handed it. He's going to have to work hard and make my mind up for me." Had Mpenza moved on, Argyle could have used the money they saved in paying his wages to add another loanee. Sturrock added: "I think there were a couple of things in the pipeline for him, but they didn't come to fruition. Emile and I have now got to have another conversation when I get back down the road on Thursday morning. I wanted it settled in my mind, and settled in his mind, what the story was either way. Now we know. That was the important thing. Emile has got to get himself finely tuned and competitive for selection in this team."
Paul Sturrock has warned Simon Walton he still has a lot to prove, despite his performance in the draw at Ipswich Town. He said: "If he gets to 10 games in the team, then I just might give him a wee pat on the back. Until that time, he has still got a lot to prove. I would like to see him put a consistent run of games together before I'm going to be giving him the accolades that maybe some people gave him on Saturday. Hopefully, Simon will be appreciative he has done absolutely nothing yet. He came in and did a very competent job on Saturday. He needs to go and do a competent job again."
Alan Judge has revealed he had no hesitation about signing for Argyle. He said: "I know they have been watching me for a while. I got a call after training on Thursday, and I got changed and flew down to Plymouth straight away, so there was no messing about. I'm just hoping for a few chances now. Maybe I will get a start tonight, but I will be happy enough to come off the bench again and, hopefully, bring something to the game." Judge did not have much time to get to know the squad before the game against Ipswich, but soon felt at home. He said: "The boys have been brilliant. I haven't been left out in the cold. They have been so welcoming." Judge last week signed a contract extension with Blackburn which will take him through to the summer of 2011. He said: "I have finally tied down my new contract, so that will keep me there for another two years. But I'm concentrating now on helping Plymouth get out of the position they are in. Hopefully, we can get a few wins and move up the table again." Judge admitted it had been frustrating being on the fringes of the senior squad at Blackburn. He said: "I keep travelling with them every week and then I get annoyed for not getting on the bench. But as a young lad I have got to expect that, so I asked the manager if I could go out on loan. Hopefully I can get a few games under Paul Sturrock." Judge believes his loan spell at Argyle will be invaluable to his development as a footballer. He said: "I just want to get a few games under my belt. If I can get 10 or 12 I would be very happy. I just want to push myself on and get some experience. You never know, I could come back down next season if Blackburn don't think I'm ready for the Premier League. I would be more than happy to do that. We will just have to wait and see how it goes. Blackburn have been using me as a centre midfielder, but I'm very happy to play anywhere as long as I'm on that pitch. If Paul Sturrock asks me to play right-back, I will run up and down that line for him."
Craig Cathcart has been included in the squad for the visit to Preston tonight, after missing the game against Ipswich due to a back injury. Paul Sturrock said: "We have got a couple of niggling knocks which we will leave right up until kick-off time, but Cathcart has deemed himself fit."
Paul Sturrock is confident that Alan Judge will adapt to the pace of the Championship very quickly. He said: "He got a shock with the pace of the game but it is very difficult to go on as a substitute at times and get to the pace that the game is being played at. He is realising now that he has got to be up to the pace. He could start a game and be ok."
Argyle have played more than nine hours of league football since scoring a goal in an away game and will be desperate to end that run tonight. Paul Sturrock said: "I was pleased with the work-rate and attitude on Saturday, but disappointed we didn't score. We hit the bar at Nottingham Forest, and had a few things which could have finished up in the back of the net. Then, on Saturday, we hit the bar again and had a 'goal' disallowed. All we really need is to get this monkey off our back. The important thing is to get that elusive first goal." Argyle avoided a fifth consecutive away defeat by drawing at Ipswich and now try to build on that against Preston. Sturrock said: "I'm pleased we are off 33 points because that was sticking in my throat. Now we have got to kick on. When we looked at these two games a lot of people were all doom and gloom. Now we have got an opportunity to go and get four points from these two games. We just want to start distancing ourselves away from third bottom because we have fallen back in line and are catchable now. I just want it to get it up to the sevens, eights and nines again, which would mean people would have to win three or four games to chip away at us. The only way we can do that is by winning football games. Preston's home form is second to none this season. They were difficult opposition down here and I don't envisage it being any different tonight. They have got players who can hurt you. They are a good solid team and their strikers have been playing very well lately."
Jamie Mackie's display as the main striker in the draw at Ipswich has added a new dimension to Argyle's attacking options. Paul Sturrock said: "Jamie gave us that freshness we have been missing. I bought Jamie, moulded him as a winger because he needed that extra string to his bow. We needed that kind of urgency from a forward and it has proved to me that is an area we could strengthen again with a different type of striker. If defences know they are not going to be stretched, they can tighten up and make it hard for our centre-forwards. Our centre-forwards are good footballers but not the quickest. Jamie gave us that option on Saturday. We could play it down the channels and he made a lot of bad balls good balls by winning throw-ins, free-kicks and having shots at goal. He is a livewire and he is keen."
Alan Judge made his debut for Argyle as an 81st-minute substitute against Ipswich Town. He said: "I was looking from the side and I was thinking 'there's a good pace to the game' but when I came on I couldn't believe how quick it was. It was just great to get involved in it. I was very happy." Argyle thought they had taken the lead in the 89th minute through Jamie Mackie but his celebrations were cut short by an offside flag. Judge, who had been involved in the build-up, crossing to Rory Fallon, said: "I thought we could have nicked it at the end. From where I was, it looked like he was onside. But sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn't. I ran with it down the line and I couldn't get a half-a-yard around the left-back. So I just decided to pull it back and Rory had a header. Then Jamie was supposedly offside, but I don't think so." Ipswich had a couple of late chances but Romain Larrieu kicked away a goalbound header from Alex Bruce and then made a superb stop from Kevin Lisbie. Judge said: "Romain made two fantastic saves right at the end. Obviously, if it wasn't for him we would have lost 2-0, but I thought it could have gone either way. We had our chances as well. Each team couldn't take their chances. This isn't an easy place to get a win, so to get a draw is brilliant. Everybody was bouncing around in the changing room. At least we have started something now and, hopefully, we can continue it against Preston on Tuesday." Paul Sturrock said of Judge’s first appearance: "I thought he worked very hard and he put himself about. He seems to have a really good knowledge of the game. I'm pleased with him, and he can play several positions as well."
Craig Cathcart will not be fit for Argyle's game at Preston North End tomorrow. Paul Sturrock said: "Craig is still struggling with his back. There was no chance he was going to be available today and I don't think he will make Tuesday either. It gives Krisztian an opportunity, and I wouldn't change it now anyway because I thought he was solid."
Simon Walton is back in the Argyle side – and wants to stay there. Walton impressed on his return to the first team in the draw at Ipswich Town, and he said: "It's a double bonus for me. It was obviously nice to play, and to get a point at a very hard place was good. It was hard fought, but I think we deserved it in the end for the way we battled and kept going. That's what we have got to do from now until the end of the season." Walton was one of four changes to the Argyle side, and added: "We found out the team on Friday. The game on Tuesday didn't go too well, so we had an idea there would be a few changes. But, with what has gone on, I didn't know whether I would be playing or not. I was glad to find out I was playing, and it's just a case of keeping the shirt now. Hopefully, I have done that for the game at Preston on Tuesday." Walton still sees his future at the club. He said: "I was given a chance before and messed up. But I was lucky to be given a chance again, and it's just a case of keeping the shirt now and making sure I don't do anything silly." Walton picked out Jamie Mackie for praise after his performance against Ipswich. He said: "I thought Jamie was probably man-of-the-match for me. He caused their back four nightmares, and he's too honest as well. He could have gone down after a couple of challenges on him. But he's a hard-working, honest lad. Both he and Rory did really well." Mackie was denied a goal in the 89th minute, when he was flagged offside. Walton said: "It was strange, because from where we were stood, I think the ball came off McAuley, the Ipswich defender. The rules state you can't be offside if it's played forward by an opponent. But it's one of those that when you are down there they don't necessarily go for you. I dare say if it had been at the other end it would have been a goal. But we will take the point, especially as this is one of the hardest places to come to in the league." The most encouraging thing for Walton was the spirit the team showed in the closing stages as they came under intense pressure. He said: "We were hanging on to say the least at the end, but we've got a lot of positives to take away. The back four and Romain Larrieu in goal were brilliant. The lads have held together and we're going to need that togetherness for the rest of the season." Asked about his future at Argyle, Walton replied: "You are asking the wrong man. I have told the gaffer I want to be here and it's up to him now. I can only fight my corner on the pitch."
Argyle’s youth team won 1-0 at Swansea City on Saturday, the goal scored by Liam Head. Argyle: Brooks, Leonard, Trott, Kinsella, Gerring, Brett, Edwards, McCaul, Head, Rickard, Grant. Subs - Young (not used - Moseley, Sawyer, Troupe, Broomfield).
Paul Sturrock hopes Argyle can kick-start their season after grinding out a point at Ipswich. “I’m very proud of my team,” he said. “We worked hard and we’ve been in a lot of tussles lately when we’ve come out the wrong side. This time, at a very difficult place, the players can leave with their heads held high. We tried to come here and not sit back but it’s difficult – you get pinned back. For the first 20 minutes it was like the Alamo. But we weathered the storm and not many teams come here and get anything. At the start of the season we were scoring the first goal but, since then, we’ve often conceded first and then heads have gone down. This shows you that these players are prepared to scrap for their lives and, in terms of work-rate and attitude, you can see they’re going to fight until the end. If we’d lost it would have taken all our confidence away. As it is, everyone’s buoyant and now we’re looking forward to a big game at Preston on Tuesday. I’m hoping the players get a buzz and that this result kick-starts our season. It’s up to them to kick on from here and help us restructure and rebuild.”
Paul Sturrock will not be rushed into making signings just to beat the closure of the transfer-window. He said: "The last two or three windows have been shockers for us: we've lost players left, right and centre and have had two weeks to do something about it. That has meant you rush in, and, sometimes, you make mistakes. We can't make any more mistakes. We have got to make sure that the people that come in now fit the bill. There's no point in rushing out and all of a sudden finding out you've picked the wrong person."
Simon Walton won praise from Paul Sturrock for his display in the draw at Ipswich, but he still has to convince Sturrock he is a reformed character. "I thought Walton, coming in, did an excellent job," the manager said. "He was signed to be that type of player and he's now showing he can be that kind of player. He's been working very hard in training. I need that kind of person in centre midfield and he fitted the bill today. One thing I don't want to do is take him off the transfer-list too early because, all of a sudden, you might see the old Walton instead of the new one. He will have to keep doing that. One swallow does not make a summer. He played very well against Birmingham and QPR, but let himself down at Barnsley. He's got a lot still to prove to me."
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