A Round-up of Argyle News
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Also included on the three most recent days, facts from Argyle's history.
Joe Mason scored his first Argyle goal in the loss at Sheffield United and Paul Mariner is predicting a bright future for the Plymothian. "Joe Mason is an incredible talent," said Mariner. "He's going to be a very good player. He is a good player to a certain degree. He has got goalscoring instincts and his first touch is fantastic. He's got pace; he's brave. He was up against Morgan today, who is a bit of a fearsome character." Fellow substitute Yala Bolasie began the fightback after they had gone 3-0 down yesterday and Mason nearly snatched a dramatic draw with a late shot that went just wide of the post. "I thought Mason, Mackie and Bolasie were quite sparkling," said Mariner . "I would guess that, if you were a neutral, you'd probably enjoy watching them play, because they're bright as buttons. They had some fantastic runs into channels and caused the back four of Sheffield United, which is a decent back four, unbelievable problems. The two lads, Mason and Bolasie, have been terrific in training so I thought 'Well, give them a go'." The fightback came after Argyle had been forced to replace injured Reda Johnson with Luke Summerfield. "Summerfield has trained his backside off," said Mariner ."He's kept his trap shut; he's never been in to see me; he's a very good pro, and he did very, very well when we were adjusting with Fletcher going back after Reda came off - plusses as far as that is concerned, but obviously pretty sad about conceding some of the goals."
Paul Mariner was philosophical about David Stockdale's error in the defeat at Sheffield United yesterday. Richard Cresswell scored after Stockdale dropped the ball to kick it out, unaware that Cresswell was behind him. Mariner said: "David has just had one of those once in a career moments hasn't he? What can you say to the kid? There's not a lot you can say because he probably feels like shooting himself. But we'd conceded three poor goals before that so I don't blame him. However, we showed plenty of bottle to come back and that's what we're going to need between now and the end. We need to go on a good run. It's as simple as that."
Argyle lost 4-3 at Sheffield United, the goals scored by Yannick Bolasie after 48 minutes, Joe Mason (56) and Jamie Mackie (85). Argyle: Stockdale, Duguid, Arnason, Johnson.R, Barker, Noone, Fletcher, Johnson.D, Clark, Mackie, Fallon. Subs - Mason, Bolasie, Summerfield (not used – Larrieu, Cooper, Wright-Phillips, Judge). Attendance - 24,886.
Kari Arnason made the biggest mistake of his career with Argyle last weekend, but Paul Mariner is still putting his faith in the defender. After scoring an own goal against Leicester City, Mariner was impressed by the way in which Arnason responded to adversity. He said: "I've told him that this week. Arnie didn't get his head down, he got his head up. He had a volley late on against Leicester which could have snatched some more points for us, so it showed the character of the lad – and of the lads around him. They rallied around him, and they geed him up. When you go a goal down to a very well organised top-six team, you could set yourself up for a tanking, but you could see the response of the players." Arnason has been one of the most consistent players this season, and last week's lapse was a rare aberration. "Paul Sturrock gave him some pointers about playing in the middle of the defence, about which side to be, and so on," Mariner added. "We've also worked with him, and he has taken it on board. Hopefully, he will just grow and grow in that position."
Argyle's preparations for the game at Sheffield United tomorrow were hit when two players were injured in training yesterday. Reda Johnson suffered a groin strain and could not complete the session and Gary Sawyer was on the receiving end of a challenge from Yannick Bolasie and had to be taken back to the dressing room. Paul Mariner hoped Johnson would be fit and said: "We took him out as soon as he felt something so, hopefully, we caught it in time. Atko is working on him." Sawyer has been on the bench for the last three games and Mariner added: "Gary took a very heavy challenge on the knee from Bolasie. It's mainly bone bruising, we hope." Meanwhile, David McNamee returned to training yesterday after a groin injury.
Paul Mariner knows that despite Sheffield United's poor results of late, Argyle will have to be at their best to pick up any points. He said: "They have added some quality with loan moves and have got very experienced players. Camara is going to be a threat going forward with his pace so we have got to be aware of certain things." Argyle were beaten 1-0 by United at Home Park on December 5th – in what proved to be Paul Sturrock's penultimate match as manager. Mariner said: "I would like to think we are a slightly different team at the present moment. Every single person is fighting for the cause and we have got impact players coming off the bench. I would like to think we are fairly well organised."
Paul Atkinson has taken over as the head of Argyle's soon-to-be-expanded physiotherapy and medical department. The club are planning on making a further appointment next month with the aim of developing the medical and physiotherapy activities at Home Park, as outlined in the club's five-year plan. Atkinson had a spell working as a physio with Argyle in 1999/2000 under Kevin Hodges. Paul Mariner said: "We are absolutely delighted Paul has joined us and he will be revamping the physiotherapy rooms and the medical side of the club. He has been here before so we knew everything about him, and he's a tremendous asset to the club. Hopefully, we are going to make another announcement around about March 15." Claire Taylor has been the matchday physio for much of this season after the departure of Paul Maxwell. Mariner said: "Claire has been working like a Trojan. She has been doing all sorts of jobs, so I think she's probably pleased there is another pair of hands. Equally, Paul is happy to get all the information that he can out of Claire as far as where we go, what we do, and so on and so forth."
Paul Mariner is relaxed about having five members of his squad away on international duty next week and insisted the call-ups would not be an inconvenience. He said: "I look at it the other way. I always want players to play for their country because it's a fantastic honour. We must have been doing something right because we are getting players involved in international football. I think Rory is a different case because he's going all the way out to California for a friendly." Argyle are powerless to prevent Fallon from making the trip but they have been haggling with New Zealand Football over his travel arrangements. Mariner had raised concerns that Fallon had been booked to fly in economy class. "We have finally got that resolved," said Mariner. "He's going to go business class, there and back, which I think is the right thing to do, to be perfectly frank. But I'm very worried about Rory for the Preston game, with him coming back next Friday." Fallon's trip to California apart, Mariner believes international players can benefit from having short spells away from their clubs. He said: "I think it's good the lads get away from the club sometimes, just to recharge their batteries. There will be a different voice on the coaching field and different players around. Some of the lads will be going away and getting sun on their backs. So I look at it as a positive thing. I think they will come back re-energised for the final push."
Chris Barker is making the most of his chance to reclaim the left-back role for Argyle. Barker, who replaced Gary Sawyer prior to the trip to Barnsley, said: "Being picked at left- back was a bit of a surprise. I played three games at centre-half and did OK, but the gaffer decided to put Reda back in, so I sat it out for a while. Now I'm back in at left-back. I played there for 11 years, so it's my main position, but I'm happy to play anywhere. I'm feel I'm getting a bit better every game. It's just the sharpness, and I feel I need six or seven games on the trot to get that." Paul Mariner has asked Barker to 'lock up' the left flank so that Craig Noone and Yannick Bolasie can take the game to the opposition. He said: "Nooney has been fantastic. He's getting a little run in the team now, and hopefully that will carry on. He scored a great goal last week, and we know what he can do for us." As for Bolasie, Barker added: "His debut at Barnsley was probably one of the best debuts I've ever seen. He was fantastic, not just running with the ball but working back as well. I remember him tackling in our area, and he can relieve the back four as well by keeping the ball." Asked to evaluate his own role at present, he replied: "In effect, I can help our younger players. I'm 30 next week, I'm getting old, and hopefully I can pass on the bits and bobs I've learned."
Alan Judge has arguably been the primary victim of Argyle's recent improvement. The consistency of Chris Clark and emergence of Craig Noone and Yala Bolasie has seen him on the bench in the last month, but Paul Mariner is convinced he still has a part to play. "The one thing that we do at this club is talk to the players and let them know where they stand," said Mariner. "Alan has been fantastic and he has been back to where he should be in the last couple of days in training. We have given him DVD's and highlights of the good, bad and indifferent. He asked me what he needs to look at specifically, so we addressed it. He is a very good pro. It is a combination of a little dip in form and Nooney came in, scored, played very well and gets man of the match. Bolasie also made a tremendous impact at Barnsley. Alan's not hung his head or come banging on my door."
Paul Mariner believes three months in charge of Argyle has not changed him. "I don't think I've changed," he said. "I'd like to think I haven't changed but you'd have to ask the players. I have more authority but I'm still an easy-going type of bloke. I really enjoy working with John carver and the players are a joy to work with. I've only raised my voice to the team once, at Reading. Other than that the players have been sensational. I have been around the game a long time and I've dealt with pressure in my own way. I just try to do the best I can and that's all I can do."
The decision to allow Yoann Folly to join Dagenham & Redbridge on loan came down to numbers, according to Paul Mariner. He said: "We have Luke Summerfield, who has come in and done very well. Luke has played on the right-hand side for us and he's obviously played in the centre, so we feel he's in front of Yoann at present. Players want to play, so it is a benefit for Yoann to go out for 28 days and, hopefully, he won't get any injuries. We can't call him back, so it's a calculated gamble. David McNamee came back to training today and Karl Duguid can play in there, and so can Judgey."
Paul Mariner has confirmed that he would be willing to allow George Donnelly to extend his loan at Stockport County. "We had a report on George on Tuesday," he said. "If they want to extend his loan, I would be open to doing that. If not, he comes back into the fold."
Yoann Folly has joined Dagenham & Redbridge on loan for a month
Argyle have denied a Football Association charge of failing to control their players, following an incident in the game against West Brom on February 6th. Argyle have sent a DVD of the incident to the FA, along with their comments and Paul Mariner said: "If you actually study it, John Carver was in the middle of it, trying to calm things down. We had a lot of players who were trying to calm it down because it was a pretty bad tackle. It was a tinderbox game. We are fighting at the wrong end of the table and they are pushing for an automatic promotion spot. So there was a lot hanging on the game. We will see what happens."
Argyle are unhappy over the travel arrangements for Rory Fallon's trip to play for New Zealand in Los Angeles next week. Paul Mariner said: "We have got a bit of an issue with New Zealand Football as far as his travel is concerned. They are trying to put him in economy. We are trying to get the best possible situation for our player. Let's just leave it at that."
Alan Judge has been named in the Republic of Ireland under-21s squad for their European Championship qualifier against Armenia on March 3rd.
Bradley Wright-Phillips has been the victim of injury and the good form of others in his first season at Argyle and the emergence of Joe Mason has seen him excluded from Argyle's striking options in recent games. "Bradley and I had a good chat," said Paul Mariner. "He missed quite a lot of training because of an unfortunate family situation. He's not played many games, so he needs to be training hard and training consistently to get him going. Everybody who has played knows that game-fitness is a totally different thing. He is obviously pushing, every single player is pushing. We have Joe Mason who has made himself aware to everybody and Kenny Cooper is also fighting his way in. Rory and Jamie have been doing sterling work for us, so, when you have five for four spots, it becomes difficult. All the players want to play but Brad and I have a good rapport, and we'll try to work out what is going to be best for all."
Paul Mariner is still looking for cover in defensive areas after injury problems for David McNamee left Karl Duguid as the only recognised right-back at Home Park. Mariner is also keen to add cover for Kari Arnason at right centre-back. "We are actively working on loan signings but nothing's really changed," he said. "We are light at right-back and in the central defensive area. Everywhere else we're sort of ok and we've had some good performances by the players, which has bolstered us in various spots."
Kari Arnason has been called-up to the Iceland team for the first time in more than two years. Arnason was not initially selected for their friendly in Cyprus on March 3rd but Argyle confirmed last night that Iceland coach Olafur Johannesson had drafted in Arnason for the game. FA of Iceland spokesman Omar Smarason said: "I can tell you that our coach, Olafur Johannesson, has been keeping an eye on Kari. For example, he went to England to see the match between Plymouth and Reading recently. He has been pleased with his progress, but has selected other players ahead of him. Iceland have been fortunate to have a good selection of central defenders and central midfielders through the years, and that is also the case now. The door is by no means closed for Kari as he is very much part of the pool of players available for selection. I am sure he will get his chance someday as he is a very good player."
Argyle reserves will play their remaining five home matches in the Combination this season at Tiverton Town's Ladysmead ground, to avoid further damage to the Home Park pitch.
The option of partnering Jamie Mackie and Joe Mason in attack was explored in the draw with Leicester City and the duo proved a success before an injury to Chris Clark forced Paul Mariner to push Mason out wide. "It is definitely another option and definitely something we can start a game with," said Mariner. "Jamie Mackie took on a different role, a leadership role when Joe came on. Jamie obviously knows Joe from training with him each week. Joe has got a tremendous first touch and he brings a different game that we can play. We have intelligent players. Craig Noone, Judge, Summerfield, Fletcher and Damien we have players that can bring people in. Duguid has a good eye for a pass at right-back and so does Barker. Experienced players obviously picked it up quickly and I actually thought it was quite effective. We needed to change it up and give Leicester something different to look at. Unfortunately, when Clarky went off with his tight hamstring, we whipped Joe back over to the right and he did an equally good job. It is confidence as well. The thing we've got to consider is that we're desperate for points and desperate to get wins, and with that comes pressure, so you play a percentage game. We have been working diligently with all the players to give them every bit of advice we can. It is a developmental process and they way that you make your way in the game is you either take things on board or you don't."
Today's reserve team game at Salisbury City has been cancelled because of heavy rain and Paul Mariner is struggling to keep his training schedule intact. "We're always disappointed to have games called off," he said. "Obviously I've not been here for a few years but it does seem unusual this year with the cold or the rain hitting us really hard. There is nothing we can do and the lads trained very hard again today. We're scratching around for training areas because there are a couple of issues that we have got to consider. The field is very heavy and very draining on the legs. We want to keep the players sharp as needles in between their ears and also take care of their legs as well, so we've got to go on astroturf. When you go from astroturf to grass, it is not exactly ideal for a highly-trained athlete. People around the area have been kind to us but it's not ideal."
Kari Arnason is pleased that Argyle do not have a midweek match for the next two weeks. He said: "The boys are tired, me included, and I think it's good for the team not to have a game this midweek." Arnason believes the team have taken confidence from recent results, and the trip to Sheffield United on Saturday will hold no fears for them. He said: "I think everybody can beat each other in this league. We are the best example of that, and we just have to go into every game confident we are going to win it. There are still 45 points to play for yet, so it's not over, not by a long chalk." Arnason also admitted that he, and he alone, was to blame for his own goal against Leicester. He said: "It was a bad decision by me. I thought about kicking it over the sideline, but I thought David was staying on his line and I was going to play it to him, but he wasn't there. It was my mistake and I take full responsibility for it. There was a lack of communication but, in the end, it was my decision." Argyle needed an 86th minute goal from Damien Johnson to earn an undeserved draw with Swansea but put in a much improved performance against Leicester, and could easily have beaten them. Arnason said: "There were a few chances which we should have scored from, but that's football. We were lucky against Swansea and unlucky on Saturday. I thought we had control of the game against Leicester, and they didn't create many chances. But it's the same old story with us. We keep on making individual mistakes and it was mine on Saturday." Craig Noone not only scored Argyle's equaliser against Leicester but put in a sparkling performance on the left wing. Arnason said: "Everybody wants to see Nooney on the pitch. He brings a bit of enjoyment and flair to our game, and his crosses are brilliant." There was also an impressive cameo display from Joe Mason. Arnason added: "I think everybody knows Mase has quality and if he works hard he's going to be a good player."
Damien Johnson has been in fine form since joining Argyle, forging an excellent partnership in the centre of midfield with Carl Fletcher. Paul Mariner said: "When we signed Damien Johnson we knew exactly what we were getting. Not only on the field, but off it. He's an absolute ambassador, a tremendous professional and a shining light for the young players coming through. And everybody knows what I think about the captain. He's our general. He's everything out there for us. Together, they are a superb partnership." While Johnson and Fletcher have impressed in the centre of midfield, Mariner also highlighted the spirit shown by all of his players. He said: "I think everybody can see that when the lads go out they are fighting for the badge and they want to pull this around. Every single team that we play against know they are going to be in a scrap. Bring on the next 15 games."
Argyle should soon receive a cash boost from Everton due to the Dan Gosling transfer deal. Gosling was sold for an initial fee of £1 million in January 2008 and Argyle will pick up a further £250,000 when he plays six more matches for the club. Argyle will pocket more money from the transfer should he achieve further appearance totals for Everton and would also gain financially should he play for England at senior level.
Argyle are unbeaten in three matches but Paul Mariner thinks they deserved all three points against Leicester. He said: "I thought we did enough to win the game. Leicester gave us a couple of scares, but nothing untoward. We were on the front foot most of the day. There were some sparkling performances by the players." Argyle could have opened the scoring on the half-hour, when Rory Fallon had an excellent chance. Craig Noone drove a low cross into the six-yard area and it reached Fallon, shot was blocked by Bruno Berner. Mariner thought the badly cut-up Home Park pitch played a part in that miss. "Rory had a decent chance with his left foot, but it's never easy on that surface," he said. "It looks as though it's an easy finish, but it never is." Mariner did not want to dwell on Kari Arnason's own goal. "I thought it was a foul on Nooney, just in front of me, so I turned my back on the play," he said. "I had to ask the lads on the bench what happened. I did not see the own goal." Asked whether a lack of communication between Arnason and Stockdale had been to blame, Mariner replied: "Probably." But added: "The most important thing was the response from the players. We have gone three games in a row where we have gone a goal down and we have come back to get something out of it. If you have got that sort of spirit then it really does bode well for the future. There are still a lot of games left, and the players are extremely buoyant. They have got togetherness about them." Noone's goal, a powerful header from Chris Clark's cross, earned high praise from Mariner. He said: "It was better than anything I could do! He's that type of player. Is he a left winger or is he a left midfield player? What is he? He's sort of all things to all men at the present moment. He has got pace, he goes by people and he's a bit of a crowd pleaser. He's tracking back and he's working both sides of the ball. And I think he started the move which led to his goal, and he carried on with his run. It was a tremendous ball in the box from Clarky and a great header. The 'keeper had no chance." Clark had to be substituted in the 78th minute because of a tight hamstring and was replaced by Kenny Cooper. It meant Joe Mason moved from the forward line to the right-side of midfield. Mariner said: "Clarky is another unsung hero. He puts in an incredible workrate for us." Noone's start against Leicester was only his second of the season and many supporters have been calling for him to start matches. However, he has had to work on improving his defensive capabilities. Mariner said: "We know what he can do going forward, but it's the other side of the ball as well. He has been doing that constantly in training, so therefore he has pushed himself in the starting XI. When he's dancing by defenders, he looks fantastic. Then there has got to be the end product and then he has got to get back into his slot. He produced all of that today," added the head coach.
Paul Mariner is giving away no clues about whether or not Argyle intend to sign Zimbabwe international left-back Onismor Bhasera, who has been training with the club for the past two weeks. Bhasera has been a transfer target for Portsmouth and has had trials with Queen's Park Rangers and Sheffield Wednesday. His move to Europe has been delayed, however, by a contractual dispute with his club Kaizer Chiefs. His agent, Ralph Nkomo, last week said: "We have two or three options in the Championship in England, and currently the boy is training with Plymouth. The French teams Lens and Le Havre also want to sign him, but he prefers England to France because he speaks English. The good thing is he already has a work permit there."
Craig Noone's goal against Leicester yesterday ended a bitter-sweet week. "I've had other things on my mind," he said. "My nan passed away. After the Barnsley game, I've been spending time with the family, and I'm going straight back now for the funeral on Monday." The goal was his first at Home Park and was started and finished, after Chris Clark's cross, by Noone. "I remember the ball being in the centre and playing it out wide, and just getting myself into the box," he said. "I know I can head the ball if it comes my way, and that's what I've done. I got up like a salmon. It was a great ball by Clarky. Clarky can do that." Argyle shaded the game, coming from behind for the third game in a row after Kari Arnason's 31st-minute own goal. "We wanted the win, and we pushed for it," said Noone. "Fletch had one cleared off the line; Mase has hit the crossbar, and had another chance on goal. It just wasn't our day to get the win. We were disappointed not to win but we'll take a point if the chances don't go our way, which they didn't. We said, before we went out there, 'Let's keep this unbeaten run going' and, although we were a bit disappointed, at least we've got the point in the end and are still unbeaten." Noone spent a period on loan at Exeter earlier this season and his ambition now is to keep getting a starting place and help the team to safety. "I've been waiting for a start and, now that I've had the chance, I've done well and scored a goal," he said. "I know that I had to bide my time and wait for my chance, and, when it came, I'd get in. I thought I did alright at Barnsley." With Joe Mason and Yannick Bolasie also making an impact in recent weeks, the future looks healthy. "Joe's a good young lad," said Noone. "The same with Yala - he's got it all going for him as well, and has done well when he's come off the bench."
Craig Noone will take the headlines for his headed equaliser against Leicester City, but Joe Mason's play was another highlight. Paul Mariner said: "A bright spot for me was Joe Mason coming on. He was sparkling, very bright and unlucky not to score on a couple of occasions. He had a header just wide of the post and then hit a dipping volley. The 'keeper actually made a good save from that and got his fingers on it. What we wanted to do was give them something different to worry about because Jamie Mackie runs a bit of a lone furrow up there. We just wanted him to play with Joe and have a look at them playing together because Joe is a very intelligent runner off the ball. He has got good awareness and his work-rate is everything we wanted. The players are doing absolutely everything that we ask for."
It has taken a lot of work and commitment on the training ground for Craig Noone to force his way into the Argyle first team, but Paul Mariner believes we now have a special winger on our hands. Noone capped a fine performance against Leicester yesterday with a fabulous equalizing header. "It was better than anything I can do," said Mariner. "He is that type of player, all things to all men at the present moment. He's got pace, he goes by people, he's a crowd-pleaser, and he's tracking back and working both sides of the ball. I'll have to look at the DVD but my thinking is that he started that move and carried on his run. It was a tremendous ball in the box by Chris Clark, another unsung hero we had to take off because of a tight hamstring. It was a great ball and a great run, and a great header that gave the 'keeper no chance. The performance has been coming and we've been talking to him day-in, day-out. We know what he can do going forward but it's the other side of the ball, and he's been doing that constantly in training, so, therefore he's in the starting 11. When he's dancing by defenders, he looks fantastic. Then, there has got to be the end product and he has to get back into his slot. He produced all of that today." The performance was all the more impressive, given that Noone missed the midweek draw with Swansea because of a family bereavement. "He's had some shocking news recently and missed some days in training, so I am a little shocked he kept up that level for 94 minutes," said Mariner. "It is a credit to him as a professional and a credit to the backroom staff that maintain the fitness of the players."
Argyle drew 1-1 with Leicester City at Home Park, the goal scored by Craig Noone after 39 minutes. Argyle: Stockdale, Duguid, Arnason, Johnson.R, Barker, Noone, Fletcher, Johnson.D, Clark, Mackie, Fallon. Subs - Mason, Cooper (not used – Larrieu, Bolasie, Sawyer, Judge, Summerfield). Attendance - 11,581.
Kenny Cooper has been doing his homework this week, learning all about playing in the Championship. Paul Mariner said: "He took home DVDs of our games on Wednesday, and we have also done a compilation of his work for him to look at. We think we are taking care of him a little bit. Obviously, he wants to play but this is a totally different league to what he has been used to. And we are in a position in the league which isn't ideal, so it's a pressure situation. We want to let him in gradually. I don't think he's played on a field like this before. I know he certainly hasn't in the States and I would doubt the 1860 Munich field is like ours." Cooper's first chance to start for Argyle could come against Preston North End on March 6th as Rory Fallon will be on international duty with New Zealand for the preceding week. Mariner is convinced that Cooper will make an impact for the club. He said: "Some people fit in like a glove, but for other people it takes them a little bit of time. He's in-between the two, for me."
Paul Mariner has admitted he is excited by the potential of Yannick Bolasie but admitted that for the time being he would be used as an impact player off the bench. He said: "He's like a bottle of pop when you shake it up. He's fizzing and fizzing, and sometimes there isn't much structure to his game, but that's part of being a young player. It's a bonus for us, him coming in and being so infectious with the team. But, at the present moment, he will be an impact player. When you have got a God-given talent, which is pace, it does give you a leg up on everybody. But, obviously, track stars are not footballers so you have got to temper that thought a little bit. He has got two decent feet, he's quick, he can take people on and he's very strong. He has got a tremendous engine and can get up and down the field. He has still got a lot to learn, but he wants to learn. That's the beauty about it. We made a couple of little points to him the other morning, and he's very receptive to coaching."
Argyle under-18s lost 2-1 to Swansea City at Haye Road, Elburton this morning. The goal was scored by Jared Sims. Argyle: Chenoweth, Stephens, Clifford, Kinsella, Leonard, Trott, Young, Berry, Rickard, Sims, Baker. Subs - Head, Harper-Penman (not used - Varazinskis, Copp, Barker).
Four points from the last two games has given Paul Mariner the belief that his team can pull Argyle away from relegation trouble. "Four points out of six is always good news," he said. "I expect a level of performance from the players that, for us, is the norm. I expect us to battle and, as much as you guarantee in football, I can guarantee that every game will be a battle. It is down to the players and the resilience of the players. They are winners and they don't really like being in this particular position that they're in. We've hopefully galvanised the players. They're right behind the cause - there is no two ways about that, so we're very happy with the way it's going. They don't really need motivating. They look at the league on a Wednesday or a Sunday and they don't like the position that we're in, and that's motivation in itself. The nice thing about it is the squad is really working hard. Everybody is quietly going about their business. There is nobody moaning about not being in the team. I know everybody wants to be in the team but there is an understanding from the players that it's difficult for me to change a side that's got four out of six. It really is looking at every game as it comes. You don't know what is going to happen with suspensions and injuries. It is who you have available on the day and who you're up against. Scouting reports come in and we assess the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition. We never look any further than Leicester."
Alan Judge could be restored to Argyle's starting line-up for today's game with Leicester City. Paul Mariner said: "We may see Judge on Saturday, but he wasn't fully fit on Tuesday. The physio came in and said he was a bit under the weather. That was why we picked the team we did." Mariner will have plenty of options when he selects his midfielders for the game. "We're in a nice situation," he added. "Summerfield came in on Tuesday and did well, Judge was fantastic in training on Thursday, we'll see how Noone is after the damage report on his knee, and then we've got Clark, who seems to be an unsung hero who has boundless energy." Noone was unavailable against Swansea as he returned home to Merseyside at the start of the week because of a family bereavement, and he was also suffering from an injury which aggravated the effects of a knee condition which has hindered him this season. "Craig has the problem with Osgood-Schlatter disease, and he got kicked on the knee last weekend," Mariner said. "Put together with his family situation, we let him go home on Tuesday because we thought he'd be doubtful for the game anyway." Judge and Chris Clark seem the most likely starters on the flanks today and Mariner likes to make sure that his wide midfielders do not suffer from burn-out. "The wide positions in midfield are what I call the graveyard shifts," he said. "They're up and down. They're covering the full-backs, and they're getting up and putting crosses into the attacking third. We're trying to keep those players fresh." In common with Judge, Rory Fallon is not asked to complete too many games in order to conserve his energy. "The front players and the midfielders do more mileage than the back four," Mariner said. "You can see that we're managing Rory, who is becoming a battering ram for the team. He does a fantastic job. The ball gets thrown up to him, and your body can only take so many hits." Jamie Mackie is asked to last the distance more often, as are Clark and Damien Johnson and Carl Fletcher. "It seems to me that Mackie has got three lungs, and that he can run forever," Mariner added. "I also really don't want to split up the partnership of Fletcher and Johnson because I feel they're developing a rapport and the experience they have is fantastic for the team." Like Swansea, Leicester occupy a position in the play-offs zone. "Swansea are a very nice footballing team. They have the players to do that," Mariner said. "Leicester also have some very nice technical players who get it down and play, but they also have some power players. "We're under no illusions. It will be another very difficult game, but we're not going to vary the way that we play. We're going to try to get on the front foot again."
Damien Johnson believes he is still finding his feet at Argyle, but admitted playing alongside Carl Fletcher in the centre of midfield had made it easier for him to settle into the side. He said: "I still feel like I'm finding my feet a little bit but it has been great to play alongside someone like Fletch. He's a very good player at this level and has made it a lot easier for me. I still think I have a bit to go myself, in terms of my own form, but, hopefully, that will come. I have been really impressed with the team spirit and camaraderie amongst the lads. And the gaffer and John Carver have been super. I have enjoyed the training. We feel we can give anyone a game, and we have proved that over the last four matches. We played West Brom and Swansea, who are two of the top sides in the division, and we went to Barnsley and turned them over. There is definitely belief there, and there are plenty of games left for us to get ourselves out of the situation." Johnson scored his first goal for Argyle against Swansea, from a rebound after his re-taken penalty was saved. Johnson revealed that Fletcher had called on him to take the penalty after Jamie Mackie's first attempt had been saved. "I think the usual penalty taker, Alan Judge, wasn't playing, so there was a little bit of indecision anyway," he said. "When the keeper saved Jamie's first one, Fletch just said to me 'step up and hit it yourself' so I did that. Where Jamie had hit his penalty there was a little bit of a divot, and I was afraid of slipping. So I was concentrating more on keeping my footing. I didn't want to slip and sky it, but I didn't get as much height on it as I would normally get – or like to get. But the ball ended up going in, so I was pleased enough." Johnson admitted it had been a struggle for Argyle for much of the game against Swansea. He said: "We didn't play well, we know that. There wasn't much in it in the first half. When you are down at the bottom you can get a bit anxious, and I think that happened to us when they got their goal. But the guys showed good character. We stuck at it, and I felt we put them under pressure in the last 15-20 minutes." Argyle are back in action at Home Park tomorrow when Leicester City are the visitors. Johnson said: "Leicester have done really well this season. They are well organised and are a tough team to play against. But they won't relish coming down here either. We will be looking to play like we did in the second half against Barnsley. t would be nice to get our tails in front as opposed to always trying to get ourselves back in the game."
Joe Mason has signed an extension to his current contract. The striker was given a one-year deal in the summer after two successful seasons in the youth team, and Paul Mariner said: "Joe has got a very bright future. He's been training with us for a number of weeks. He made his debut for us and every time I look at him in training, he gets better and better. He's training very hard and whatever we throw at him, he seems able to cope with it, and that's why he's with the first-team squad."
Reda Johnson is expected to recover from foot and hip injuries to retain his place in the centre of defence tomorrow. Johnson did not take part in training yesterday, but Paul Mariner was still optimistic about his chances. He said: "Reda has got a high tolerance for pain so I'm guessing he will be okay, but he didn't train yesterday." Chris Barker returned to the starting line-up at Barnsley last Saturday and Mariner revealed that his experience and communication skills were the factors behind the decision to recall him to the team. He said: "We are in a situation where we have Arnie, who is from Iceland, and Reda, who is French speaking, playing in the centre of defence. And we have got Doogie, who is a Londoner. Communication is of paramount importance between the back four and the goalkeeper, and also with Damien and Fletch in the centre of midfield. Chris has got leadership qualities and he's a great talker. He helped Yala enormously when he came on against Barnsley. And he was helping Yala against Swansea before we made the switch to three at the back. So it's a combination of his experience and talking really. It just seems to help us." Barker missed the first five months of this season because of a calf injury and Mariner added: "I think he will get a little better with the more games he plays, because he has been out for quite some time."
Paul Mariner believes Argyle are on the up, as they prepare for the visit of Leicester City tomorrow. He said: "There are a lot of games to play, and every single manager that I talk to is always fearful of the team they are playing next. It doesn't matter whether you are playing Peterborough, Plymouth or Ipswich, or Newcastle and West Brom. Everybody can beat each other. That's why it's a difficult league to predict. We like to think that we are in the ascendancy at the present moment. We have got our tails up, everybody knows their jobs, we are organised and we are more than ready for the battle." Depending on the results on Saturday, Argyle could close to within two points of 21st position. Mariner said: "All we have got to do is take care of our own business. We have got to prepare as best we possibly can for each game, both on the field and off it. Hopefully, the staff will be able to do their job, to give the players the information they need, and then it's up to us on the day. But I'm sure we will be ready for every game." Leicester are chasing a second successive promotion, having been champions of League One last season. Mariner said: "Leicester have some very good technical players who get it down and play, but they have some power players as well. We are under no illusions again. It's another very difficult game." Argyle were beaten 1-0 by Leicester at the Walkers Stadium in November, when Mariner was still working under Paul Sturrock. He said: "It was a close game, and we were just on the wrong end of it. We are not going to vary the way that we play tomorrow. We are just going to try to get off on the front foot again." The Home Park pitch cut up badly during the game against Swansea and is likely to do so again tomorrow, and Mariner admitted that meant Argyle would take a direct approach. He said: "If you don't play the conditions then it's foolish. Even if it's bone dry from now until three o'clock tomorrow it's still going to be heavy. We have got intelligent players and they know it's difficult to get it down and play in the defending third. It's a brave team that does that. But there are certain times when we can get it down. The possession stat for us against Swansea was remarkable, considering they are an in-form team. Swansea tried to get it down and they passed it well, but it's not an easy field to play total football on."
The versatility and toughness of Karl Duguid has amazed Paul Mariner. "He is a remarkable individual," said Mariner. "We switched it around against Swansea, put him in centre-midfield and he didn't miss a beat. When we got the equaliser, we switched it back to 4-4-2. He's a player that we value and he's just a fantastic professional - he's a tough kid as well."
Paul Mariner has credited the importance of research in the success of David Stockdale at Home Park and he also confirmed that Fulham will have a 24-hour recall on Stockdale during the second month of his loan spell. "We have to do our research pretty closely on players and David's doing exactly what we thought he would do," he said. "He made some vital saves on Tuesday and he comes for the ball, and kicks it a fair distance, so he's an attacking weapon, even though he's a goalie. His distribution is very good. We're pleased with him and by all accounts, he's pleased with us. It depends on Roy Hodgson and Mike Kelly. They're happy with the situation at the moment and so are we. It depends on recall. If they get injuries in the Europa League, David will go back."
Argyle yesterday confirmed that physio Paul Maxwell, who has been on 'leave' in recent months, has left the club.
Paul Mariner has insisted he doesn't have a points target for survival in the Championship. He said: "I haven't got a target – fourth bottom will do me. We're all working hard to try and get out of the position we're in and we've got a lot of hard work ahead of us. The players are doing the business on the field, so it's boding well at the moment."
Paul Mariner has made it clear that Yannick Bolasie is not going out on loan again. He said: "He's a young player with a bit to learn. He's got tremendous natural ability and myself and John Carver are working hard with him. Every young player is naive, unless they're born street wise, but the only way for them to gain experience is by playing. He is keen and enthusiastic to learn and he won't be loaned out."
Argyle's reserve-team fixture against Reading at Farnborough FC last night was postponed because of a waterlogged pitch.
Paul Mariner was thrilled with the character shown by his side during the draw with Swansea City last night. He said: "We are obviously delighted with a point. Swansea are a quality team and Paulo has got some beautiful technicians out there. They spray the ball around very well, and they did their homework on us because they weren't defending a high line, so we couldn't get in behind them. But to go a goal down, and then show that fighting spirit, is spectacular for us. My hat goes off to the lads again for being so resilient, after being on the road at the weekend and coming back from a goal down at Barnsley. We then travelled back and had to gear up for such a tough game. I'm thrilled with the players." Argyle seemed destined for a ninth home league defeat of the season until they were awarded a penalty in the closing stages. Yannick Bolasie took a corner which was handled by Andrea Orlandi and Jamie Mackie took the penalty, which was saved by Dorus de Vries. However, the assistant referee flagged that de Vries had strayed off his line, and the kick had to be retaken. This time, Damien Johnson took it, and his shot was again saved by de Vries, but the ball rebounded to Johnson and he scored his first goal for the club. "It was a pressure situation late on, and we hadn't had too many quality looks at the Swansea net," said Mariner. "I had no qualms about Jamie stepping up to take the penalty. He's a centre-forward and our leading goalscorer. It was a great save by the goalie, but the assistant referee saw he moved early. Then the lads sorted it out on the field. Damien stepped up, with a lot of pressure on him, and, again, it was super save. But experience told Damien to follow it in, and he did so. To be perfectly frank, the volley on the six-yard box, so high up, wasn't the easiest finish in the world. Obviously, I was thrilled when it went in, and then six minutes of injury time is always fun isn't it?" Swansea's goal was very similar to Reading's first when they beat Argyle 2-1 last Tuesday. On both occasions, the defence was sliced apart by a runner from a deep position. Mariner said: "We actually had the ball on the halfway line and gave it away. It was a fantastic weighted pass through to the runner, who wasn't offside. He took it very well but, from our viewpoint, a ball going through the heart of your defence is very poor. We will have a look at the DVD and assess what happened there. But the key point for us is what happened to the team. They were shellshocked for five minutes and they responded with a grandstand finish. I think both coaches probably had their heart in the mouth late on."
David Stockdale is set to remain at Home Park and will complete a one-month extension to his loan deal later this week. Paul Mariner said: "He is returning for another month. We're trying to get it for longer but we're happy with what Roy Hodgson and his staff have asked." Mariner highlighted three key contributions from his young 'keeper last night. "He made three saves," he said. "Two early on in the first-half with his feet and the one with his hand late on was a great save. My viewpoint is that he's improved the team. He helps the unit and he helps the back four, so we're delighted that he's joined us."
Argyle drew 1-1 with Swansea City at Home Park, the goal scored by Damien Johnson after 87 minutes. Argyle: Stockdale, Duguid, Arnason, Johnson.R, Barker, Summerfield, Fletcher, Johnson.D, Clark, Mackie, Fallon. Subs - Cooper, Bolasie, Mason (not used – Larrieu, Sawyer, Judge, Wright-Phillips). Attendance - 9,185.
Paul Mariner is one of the many admirers of Swansea City for their passing style of football and knows they will provide tough opposition this evening. He said: "They are a lovely football team to watch. This is a league where certain teams play certain ways and Paulo has got his team playing really nice stuff. They build from the back and they are not afraid to get it down and stroke it around in midfield. They have got some very good technical players and you can see why they are just below the automatic promotion slots. You must include Swansea as one of the quality passing teams in the league, along with Newcastle, West Brom and Nottingham Forest. It's a brave way of going about it, but he has the right players to do that because players always dictate your patterns, and they are very pleasing on the eye. Casting my mind back to the previous game between us, they really passed it well on their field." Despite Swansea's fluent football and league position, they are the joint lowest scorers in the Championship with Argyle, and Mariner expects a close game. "Generally, the first goal dictates a game," he said. "I expect a tight game tonight. I will be shocked if Swansea go away from their way of playing and we are going to play the same way we always do."
Argyle are close to reaching an agreement on extending the loan spell of David Stockdale. Paul Mariner said: "We are trying to extend David's loan and it's looking extremely positive. I will probably have more information after the game tonight. He has fitted into the squad very well. He's an amiable lad and he works very hard at his game. I think he has proven to everyone that he's very commanding in the box. He's a young goalkeeper so he has still got things to learn. He's by no means the finished article and David understands that. We have a fantastic rapport with Roy Hodgson and Mike Kelly. Roy has let David out to us, and Mike Kelly, who is his mentor, speaks very highly of him. So we are thankful to them for letting us have him so, all in all, we are very happy." Meanwhile, Mariner has praised the performances of Carl Fletcher in recent matches. He said: "He's a winner and he's somebody you want as your captain. He's leading from the front. He's getting in the box, he's scoring goals and he's breaking attacks up. He's everything you could wish for in a captain and I don't want to change him in any way. I just want him to keep doing what he does." In addition to scoring twice, Fletcher has also picked up yellow cards in Argyle's last two games, taking his tally for the season to nine. That leaves him only one more booking away from a two-match suspension. Mariner said: "He plays in the engine room and that's where the bullets are flying, in central midfield. A couple of mistimed tackles and you are in the book." Yet, Fletcher received a yellow card for dissent against Barnsley, and was cautioned after the final whistle when Argyle were beaten by Reading last Tuesday. Mariner said: "Fletch is the captain, and if the referee going to listen to somebody he has got to listen to the captain. Now, I know there is a way of going about it, but in the heat of battle it's never the easiest of things to control, and he really cares about what he's doing. He wants to try to get the lads a fair crack of the whip."
David McNamee will not be rushed back from his groin injury. He did some light jogging yesterday, but Paul Mariner was not sure when he would be available again. Mariner said: "It's not the easiest injury to overcome. Groins can be funny things. When you have got to turn and go full bore, maybe on a slippy surface, your foot goes away and you can re-injure yourself. We can't rush him."
Yannick Bolasie will have to wait for a chance to make his first start for Argyle. Paul Mariner will resist the temptation to include Bolasie in his starting line-up tonight and he could again be used coming off the bench. Mariner said: "We spoke to him yesterday morning and we backed up everything that has been said in the newspapers about his performance against Barnsley, and all the quotes from various people. It was absolutely true, but we had a frank conversation with him and he understands exactly where he is at the moment. He agrees with us, and we are looking forward to a very bright future for that young man." For the time being, at least, Bolasie will be used as an impact substitute, although Mariner added: "You can never predict what's going to happen in football." Bolasie was with Barnet for the first five months of this season before returning to Home Park at the start of January, determined to fight for a first team call-up. Mariner said: "His learning curve has been remarkable since he has come back. He has an appetite for the game, he plays with a smile on his face and he has got a thirst for knowledge. He's studying the likes of Giggs and Bellamy – the best players in his position. So he cares about what he's doing, which from a coaching standpoint is a wonderful thing to hear from a young player. But he's 20, and he has only played 35 minutes in the Championship. It was a sparkling 35 minutes, but 35 minutes doesn't make a player. So we will keep working with him. Some people will say you only get experience by playing, but there is a time and a place. We have got a very difficult game against Swansea, and you have got to be considerate when you are using young players. You don't want to rush them but, then again, you don't want to leave them hanging around so they get stale. It looked as though it was a good time to bring him on against Barnsley and I think it was the right decision." Carl Fletcher and Rory Fallon were both impressed by Bolasie on his debut. Fletcher said: "Yala did well when he came on. He changed the game for us a little bit. "We see he can do that in training every day, so it was good for him to bring it out onto the pitch. He gave us another dimension." Fallon said: "I know he has got that in his locker. I'm always telling him all he needs to do is kick it and run because no-one is going to touch him in this league. It's that simple, and he has started to get that now. You have got to keep your game simple, and then once you get your confidence then you can do extra things. He did us the world of good on Saturday because we needed that outlet. When I'm going up for the ball I need someone there, and he was running down the corner, so it was a nice little rest for me. He did really well and, hopefully, he can keep that up."
Rory Fallon praised the support of the Argyle fans who made the long trip to Barnsley. He said: "I'm thankful for the fans who made such a long journey. They have been brilliant this season and they need to keep getting behind us and giving us the confidence that we can stay up. Them being behind us means the world to us."
Bradley Wright-Phillips will return to Argyle's squad tonight. He did not travel to Barnsley, after missing some training last week because of a family bereavement. Paul Mariner said: "Unfortunately, Brad had a death in his family, so he's missed quite a lot of training. We had a chat last Friday and I thought it was best he worked hard on Friday, took Saturday off and he came in and worked very hard on Sunday. He's in the squad tonight."
The Argyle youth team drew 2-2 at Hereford United on Saturday, the goals both scored by Liam Head. Argyle: Varazinskis, Sawyer, Stephens, Trott, Clifford, Young, Kinsella, Copp, Baker, Sims, Head. Subs – Hart, Harper-Penman, Coombes (not used – Chenoweth).
Damien Johnson has been called up by Northern Ireland to play Albania on March 3rd. Meanwhile, Joe Mason and Sean Kinsella have been called up by the Republic of Ireland under-19's for a training camp in Buckinghamshire
Rory Fallon left Barnsley six years ago but was still delighted to get a goal on Saturday. "I was so thankful to get that goal," he said. "I knew the goalkeeper was off his line, I'd been watching him, and I was thinking I might have a go if something pops up. I just hit it, and thank God it went in. I'd say it was in the top three goals in my career, and I believe it was destiny. I used to get a lot of hammer from the fans here, and I thought about that. There were fans who did like me, but for a young kid I got some stick, undeservedly, because I was just a kid plying my trade. I'm just so thankful I got that goal, just to show that I'm still here." Luke Steele, the Barnsley goalkeeper, had denied him earlier in the game by somehow stopping a header. "Chris Clark put in a great cross," Fallon said. "I was off celebrating that header. I couldn't believe he saved it, it was such a brilliant save. I could have had a hat-trick today. I've been thinking I have to make my own chances recently, and I did. I've got to keep doing that, because it's heart-breaking when you don't get chances." Fallon's goal made sure that Barnsley were a beaten side. He said: "Once we got that third goal, it just killed them and broke their spirit. It was a tough first half, because the referee was not on our side, but we got into the changing room and we knew we had to roll our sleeves up, keep going, keep working and keep playing hard. It came. Fletcher's goal was brilliant, and Mackie got one on the line by diverting my header. I don't care who scores, I just want to win and I just want to stay up. As long as we work hard and play like that, we'll be all right for the season. I really believe that."
Carl Fletcher hailed his team-mates' character after leading Argyle to victory at Barnsley. "We're pleased," he said. "It's nice get a bit of something back for all the hard work we have been putting in over recent weeks. It's nice to get a good result, get a few goals and, more importantly, get three points." Barnsley scored in the 45th minute, and Fletcher said: "Any time is not a good time to concede a goal, and just before half-time is disappointing, but I think we realised that there wasn't a lot in it, the teams were quite even. It shows the character of the team, and the squad that we have in the dressing-room, to come out and, with the performance in the second half, it was a justly deserved victory. With the pressure and the way we played in the second half, once we got one goal, we were always confident we could get another." Rory Fallon's goal was a measured, dipping strike from 40 yards, and Fletcher said: "It was a fantastic goal. I saw it as soon as he hit it and said to him 'That's going in'. Rory worked hard for the team. He won a lot of headers and held the ball up well. It's a good reward for him." Fletcher also paid tribute to Damien Johnson. "He's a proven quality player," he said. "It's nice for him to slot straight in. You saw today and on Tuesday at Reading that he worked his socks off. That's what we need to do between now and the end of the season. If he does it, and everyone else does it, it's nice when you get the rewards on a Saturday afternoon. Everyone in that changing-room is together, and results like this only make us stronger."
Yala Bolasie made a memorable Championship debut for Argyle yesterday. "The introduction of Bolasie was a breath of fresh air," said Paul Mariner. "I think even the Barnsley fans would probably say they liked to see what he was doing. He brought a lot to the table for us. He's a young player who has got a lot of assets, going forward. The one thing you have got to do in this division is get goal-side of the ball, and that's one of the things he really needs to work hard on. He was fortunate that he was on the left-hand side of midfield, so that he had Barker at the back of him, and he had John Carver and myself helping him out. He's obviously listened and I felt he did very well." Carl Fletcher said: "Lala did well when he came on. He changed the game a little bit for us. We see him doing that in training every day, so it was good for him to bring it out on to the pitch. In training, we know how difficult he can be - even when he loses the ball, he looks like he's still got it - and he gave us another dimension. Nooney came in and worked hard for the team, so we have got strength in depth in this squad, and, to get results in this league, it's not going to be on the 11 on the pitch, it's going to be the whole squad." Mariner added: "Barnsley are a good team. If I'm being impartial, I actually liked watching them play in the first half. They have some lovely players who get the ball down and stroke it around, and some power players, so it's not an easy game to play in. I thought Noone acquitted himself very, very well."
Paul Mariner refused to take the credit for his team's come-from-behind victory over Barnsley, when asked if some managerial words at half-time brought about the change. "I didn't say anything to them," he said. "It's the players that did it. I've been banging the drum for quite some time, telling everybody that we have a tremendous team-spirit. If you have tremendous team-spirit, you have a chance. We gave away a very poor goal at a very poor time of the game, which you think might have knocked the stuffing out of us, but it didn't. It galvanised us. I think we gave Barnsley one or two problems in the second half. We played with intellect. We got the ball down, rather than panicking a little bit; we stroked it around; we retained position at vital times; we put the ball in the channels with the right type of pace so that Jamie and Rory could do something with it." The momentum swung Argyle's way with Carl Fletcher's equaliser in the 64th minute, and Mariner was full of admiration for the way his captain took his chance. "Carl Fletcher is a quality player, a quality individual," he said. "He was slightly off-balance, leaning back, half-volley, left peg, and he took a little bit off it - because he timed it so well, it went into the back of the net with some pace. It was an assured, experienced finish, and it gave us some impetus." Mariner also had praise for Karl Duguid, who overcame injury and illness to turn in a big performance. "Karl Duguid shouldn't have played today," he said. "Not only was he coming back from an ankle for which most players would still be on the treatment table, but he has also got flu'. There was nothing that would have kept him out of the game. He's in a bit of a state at the moment, so we'll have to look after him tonight and tomorrow. That sort of epitomises what sort of people we're working with." Mariner will be keen to have Duguid fit and raring to go on Tuesday, when Swansea visit Home Park - and no-one is taking that game lightly. "The players brought us down to earth immediately," he said. "They said 'We're going to enjoy this, but we're going to work tomorrow. We've got massive games on Tuesday and Saturday. That's good to hear. I am a realist - I know we can get smacked in the teeth on Tuesday - but this is a very good performance and hopefully this will give the players to drive forward and accumulate enough points to stay in this division."
Argyle won 3-1 at Barnsley, the goals scored by Carl Fletcher after 64 minutes, Jamie Mackie (74) and Rory Fallon (83). Argyle: Stockdale, Duguid, Arnason, Johnson.R, Barker, Noone, Fletcher, Johnson.D, Clark, Mackie, Fallon. Subs - Bolasie (not used – Larrieu, Sawyer, Cooper, Mason, Judge, Summerfield). Attendance - 11,661.
Kenny Cooper could make his first Argyle start in today's game at Barnsley. When asked for his initial reaction to life in the Championship, he replied: "I expected to find a high standard, and I have. Every day, I see a lot of quality in our own team, and in the other teams we've played. I've enjoyed myself so far, except for the results we've had." Cooper was then asked if he felt he needed to adjust his style of play and responded: "When you go to a new team or a new league, you always have to adjust. I'm excited to be here and I'll do my best to make sure that I contribute to the team." Cooper's season was interrupted by a knee injury last November but he has made a full recovery and he has not felt any after-effects in the past week. "My knee feels great," he said. "I had a lot of time to rehabilitate back home in the States with some really good doctors. I feel really good about my knee and about my fitness, and I'm really looking forward to the next match." Cooper hopes that Argyle will enjoy better luck at Barnsley today than they did at Reading on Tuesday. "You can see in the last two games that the lads battled right to the end, and that was great to see," he said. "Hopefully, that's something that we can continue to do. There's a great team spirit and a great work ethic within this club, and I believe that will continue and that we'll get a better result this weekend. Hopefully, I can make a positive contribution to the team."
Keith Todd is refusing to accept that Argyle are destined for relegation. He said: "I have always thought that when things go against you there are two types of people. Those that just shrug their shoulders and lay down and die, and those that fight. I'm a fighter, I know Paul Mariner is a fighter and the team are fighters. There are some great characters in the squad, with Fletch leading them on the pitch. What will be will be. The one thing for certain is that we are going to see the team doing everything in their power to pull ourselves out of where we are now. I can assure every fan that the board, Paul Mariner and the team feel the pain of defeat, like they do. We are all bitterly disappointed to be where we are in the league at this minute in time. Having said that, we are where we are and we have got to deal with it." Argyle put up a brave fight before losing 1-0 to West Brom last Saturday and Todd said: "If you look at the team's performance against West Brom, they played very well. Privately, Roberto Di Matteo said that was one of their toughest games they have had all season, but we came out of it with a 1-0 defeat. I truly believe the players have more than enough ability to stay in this league. What we need to do is take our chances when they come along, and the fans need to get behind the team like they did against Reading. I had a couple of friends at the game who hadn't seen Argyle play before, and they thought the fans' support was incredible. It's all very well being armchair critics, but let's get behind the team and let them know we are there with them and want them to succeed." Three players were added to the squad during the transfer window and Todd said: "Damien Johnson joining the club was a great endorsement of what Paul Mariner and John Carver are doing. It's the same with David Stockdale and Kenny Cooper. There is a lot more to come from these players in the weeks ahead." Although the transfer window has closed, clubs can still make 'emergency loan' signings, and Mariner is exploring all his options in that regard. Todd said: "What the board have done with Paul from the beginning is supported whatever he has wanted to do. If Paul suggests something we will absolutely take a serious look at it. But I actually believe you can't buy yourself out of this. The skill is there within this squad. We just need to take our chances, and for the bounce of the ball to be a bit more in our favour. But that will come." The financial implications of relegation would be considerable for Argyle. Todd said: "Any business needs to look at all eventualities, but our number one, number two and number three focus is staying in this league. But we aren't going to gamble foolishly. We are going to do rational things to build this club back up. The results haven't been what any of us would have hoped for – and that includes Paul Sturrock, Paul Mariner, John Carver and the players. We recognise that, but we need to hold our nerve and keep our commitment. This team will do better with the fans on their side. Let's turn adversity into success over the next few months."
Paul Mariner has come out fighting as Argyle face the prospect of relegation and he remains convinced they can turn around their results and stay up. He said: "Just to repeat myself again, the lads are in incredible spirits. They know they are real close, and we know they are real close. Headlines like, 'We Are Doomed' are the furthest thing from the truth. We have got 18 games to go, and that's 54 points. When you have got a group of players who are really rallying behind the badge, like we have, then John Carver and I couldn't wish for anything else. We will keep doing what we are doing. The training sessions we put on are absolutely fantastic and the players love them." Argyle have won only one of their five Championship matches in 2010 and four have ended in one-goal defeats. Mariner said: "If anybody thinks we haven't been in games, they are watching different games to me. West Brom had their toughest game of the season against us. We didn't play particularly well in the first half on Tuesday but we certainly turned it around in the second half. I looked at the DVD and we got some poor calls in the attacking third and I think Reading got some relatively easy calls." Mariner insisted that criticism, from the supporters or the media, would not be a distraction for him or the players. He said: "People can write what they want to write. They are perfectly entitled to their opinion. I'm entitled to my opinion, and the players are entitled to theirs. The simple fact of the matter is this. We, again, had a very bright session yesterday, and there is a very positive vibe around the team." Argyle take on Barnsley tomorrow and that will be followed by back-to-back home games against Swansea City and Leicester City. Mariner said: "We have got 18 games to go and every single one of them is a cup final. Tough games come around and tough people will rise to the occasion. We have got people who can do that. So whether it's Barnsley, Swansea, Leicester – whoever is coming up – it's going to be a very difficult game. But it's also going to be a tough game for them." Argyle have kept only three clean sheets this season as defensive lapses have haunted them. Mariner added: "Tactically, we are just forgetting our assignments at crucial moments of a game, and it's costing us dearly. Obviously, John and I are working on it. We have a very positive attitude in the group. If you put a run together in this league, all of a sudden, people will talk about different things. We have got no qualms about where we are. We know we are in somewhat of a desperate situation. But, there is a lot of football to be played, and people go on good and bad runs. You don't know what's going to happen in this league." Barnsley are renowned for being a good passing side, as they showed when they were leading Argyle 4-1 at Home Park in November before the game was abandoned. Mariner said: "They are everything you expect from a Championship side. They are very well organised and they have got some quality in certain areas. They do what they do very well, and they are a difficult team to beat. On their day, they can give somebody a good smacking. Let's hope it isn't us tomorrow."
Paul Mariner has been hugely encouraged by the way Damien Johnson has started his Argyle career. He said: "I think Damien has settled in seamlessly. You can see he has been around the football pitch for a long time." Kenny Cooper has not made such an immediate impact and Mariner said: "Football in Germany and in the US is different to here, but he's adjusting. We are working with him all the time, just to let him know the harsh realities of Championship football." Cooper could however make his first start for Argyle in the game at Barnsley tomorrow, as Rory Fallon has been suffering discomfort from both of his groins. "We have got to be careful with Rory" said Mariner. "He's not quite right at the present moment." Argyle have substantially reduced the size of their squad by loaning out seven players and Mariner has spelled out to those who are still at Home Park that they could all have parts to play in the club's fight for survival. "I'm not going to say we are going to use a rotational system here," he said. "But there are occasions where we do have to rest players because of the amount of games, field conditions and form. All these things have to be taken into consideration. We reiterated again yesterday morning that we are a squad with 20-odd players and we are going to fight to the death, and we are going to get the club out of this." Meanwhile, Mariner revealed there would be no new loan signings before the trip to Barnsley. He said: "The player we wanted to bring in will not be coming now, so that's unfortunate for us."
Karl Duguid has admitted he is 'touch and go' for Argyle's game at Barnsley tomorrow. He said: "We will just see how it goes. I did a little bit in training yesterday and we are going to monitor it. It's touch and go really. To be honest, I'm not a player who has missed a lot of matches over my career anyway. But it's especially frustrating when you are in the situation that we are in. You want to play your part in getting us out of it." Duguid suffered his sprained ankle against West Brom when he fell heavily after slipping on the divoted Home Park pitch. He said: "I was running back towards goal and the ball was going down the right side. One of their lads was going to cross the ball in and Judgey said to me to keep an eye on the left winger. As I turned around, my ankle went over in the mud and all my full body weight went down on it. I heard a pop as I did it. I don't know what that was, but it was very sore and I couldn't move my foot. It was just one of those things and you have got to get on with it." Argyle then lost to Reading when the home side were awarded a penalty deep into stoppage time. Duguid said: "I wasn't at the game, but apparently the penalty was very dubious. It goes against you at times and, hopefully, it will even itself out. They say it does, so, hopefully, it will. We have got a massive game against Barnsley and we will approach it in the same way we have every other game since the gaffer has been here. I don't think he has been disappointed yet in the application of the lads. Long may that continue, but we know we have got to start winning games." Should Duguid not be passed fit to play against Barnsley, Chris Clark would be the leading candidate to slot in at right-back. But Mariner has not ruled a call-up for Ryan Leonard, who has been training with the first team squad recently. "He has impressed us greatly," said Mariner. "There's a huge upside to that kid. "Ideally, you want to bring a young player along slowly, but needs must sometimes. I'm not saying he's going to start tomorrow. We might change the system and go to a three. We don't know yet, but he is certainly in our thoughts."
Paul Mariner is still hoping to keep Rory Fallon in England next month, even though he has been named in New Zealand's squad for a friendly against Mexico on March 3rd. Mariner said: "There's no way Rory can travel to Los Angeles, play, travel back and even dream of starting for us on the Saturday." Mariner has been in contact with Ricki Herbert, New Zealand's coach. He added: "Ricki knows how important it is to us, and we're still talking. I appreciate his situation, and he appreciates mine." A final decision on whether or not Fallon plays is unlikely to be made until late this month. The situation has gained a lot of media attention in New Zealand, and Fallon has taken some flak for perceived disloyalty. That has dismayed Fallon, and he said: "I love playing for the All Whites. I've never been in a team like that, where everyone is fully behind each other. It's a breath of fresh air. For people to say I'm not 100 per cent All White is disappointing. Of course I am, and it's not down to me. It's between New Zealand Football and Plymouth Argyle. I'll go where I'm told. If New Zealand desperately want me in Los Angeles, I'll be there, but there will be two or three international games during the pre-World Cup camp in Europe, so Mexico isn't the last game. I don't see what the big deal is."
Paul Mariner believes the options he has on the bench could be pivotal to Argyle's success. Craig Noone, Kenny Cooper and Joe Mason helped change the course of Tuesday night's late defeat at Reading and Mariner feels that all three have stated a case to start at Barnsley. "I thought all the lads that came on stated a case," he said. "Joe did very well when he came on - he looked lively. Kenny is adjusting to the league and Craig came on and he was dynamic. As a staff, that's exactly what you're looking for. Whether it's good enough to unseat the incumbents, we'll have to wait and see. There are all sorts of factors to consider. We haven't won a game for quite some time, so, as a staff, you look at what can we do to help because of battle fatigue and tiredness, can we find a top-of-the-ground type of player that can turn it. Therefore, we go to the bench for either Noone or Judge or Summerfield. The key to the whole thing is that when those players get in that they know their assignments, they know their job and what is required. Fortunately, we've had some good impact players. The players left out are obviously disappointed but they will fight for their place."
Argyle have announced that the club have been charged by the FA with failing to control their players. The charge relates to an incident towards the end of the home game against West Brom last Saturday, following the sending-off of Jerome Thomas for a challenge on David McNamee. Argyle have until February 24th to answer the charge and said they would be making no further comment at this juncture.
Paul Mariner was in defiant mood after Argyle's defeat at Reading last night. He said: "What are we going to do? Throw the towel in and say, 'Well, that's it' with 18 games to go. There is an incredible amount of football to be played. You just don't know what's going to happen in this league. It's very difficult to predict. There is no white flag being waved in that dressing room, that's a certainty." Reading are 22nd in the table, one position above Argyle, but there is now a gap of eight points between the two sides and Mariner admitted the defeat was a 'very difficult pill to swallow'. He said: "We didn't play particularly well in the first half and I thought Reading were very bright." Mariner thought Argyle had been off the pace in the first half, following the defeat by West Brom on Saturday, and added: "We had a very tough game against West Bromwich. Everybody in football knows about the state of our field at the present moment. It's very draining on the legs. We were careful with what we did before the game tonight, but we came out very flat. That's not like us, so we just felt we had to try to improve things a little bit and bring some freshness to it – and it worked to a certain degree." Chris Clark was booked by the referee for the challenge which led to the winning penalty. Mariner said: "If the roles had been reversed, and Mackie was going in at the other end, I'm not sure whether we would have got that. But the referee had a very good view of it, and we have gone down fighting." Carl Fletcher put Argyle on level terms with his second goal of the season, after Kenny Cooper had a shot blocked. Mariner said: "We had a couple of bites at it, so you think it's not going to go in. There's a reason why Carl Fletcher is captain of this team. You can see his fighting qualities. He took it on himself to drive into the box and the keeper didn't have any chance. I honestly thought we could have gone on to win it actually. It was nip and tuck, and both teams were scratching around for an opportunity." Argyle went into the match without Karl Duguid and his replacement David McNamee suffered a groin injury and had to be substituted immediately after the equaliser. McNamee did the damage when trying to make a clearance, and Clark had to move from midfield to cover. Mariner said: "When you have the type of squad we have, you can't lose your first line people. It's very difficult. David tried to whip a ball down the line and as he did that his groin tweaked. Hopefully, he has caught it early so he's not going to be too long but, obviously, we have selection problems for Saturday." Argyle are away to Barnsley this weekend and Mariner admitted he would be trying to sign a right-back on an 'emergency loan' before then. He said: "The doctor was very hopeful about Duguid today. He has got a chance of playing on Saturday. But the injury to McNamee does leave us light in that area."
Chris Clark believes Reading substitute Hal Robson-Kanu conned referee Oliver Langford for the crucial penalty in Argyle's defeat at Reading last night. "I had to come across and cover," he said. "I think he already realised I was coming across and he was on his way down. I had my hands up and I think I got my body in front of him. He just fell and referee's fallen for it. He was already on his way down and he's conned the ref, who fell for it. There is no reason for me to make a challenge when I know how late it is in a game like that, especially with Arnie still so close. We looked comfortable enough, so it was heartbreaking to give it away so late. We're not coming away with any heavy defeats. Nobody's looking better than us. We proved it against West Brom, who are top of the league, and we proved it again tonight. I'm not saying we deserve to win every game but we don't deserve to be losing with the amount of work we put into every game. We looked a lot better in the second-half. We had to give it a go and we deserved to get back in the game."
Argyle lost 2-1 at Reading, the goal scored by Carl Fletcher after 68 minutes. Argyle: Stockdale, McNamee, Arnason, Johnson.R, Sawyer, Judge, Fletcher, Johnson.D, Clark, Mackie, Fallon. Subs - Cooper, Mason, Noone (not used – Larrieu, Wright-Phillips, Summerfield, Barker). Attendance - 15,484
David McNamee will start at right-back in tonight's trip to Reading, an opportunity Paul Mariner believes he has to grasp. "He's got great recovery speed," said Mariner. "He's a hard-tackling defender and no-nonsense, which is ideal. He is also good in the air, so he's got all the attributes. When the door knocks and the players want to know why they're not in, you have open dialogue with them. When they get their chance, they get their chance. The greatest saying in football is: when the ball comes out, then we really see who can play."
Ashley Barnes has joined Torquay United on loan until the end of the season. Paul Mariner said: "He needs to get in the battle-zone. It might be best for his career. He's got a lot of attributes that you want. He is mobile and aggressive, but, like all young players, he needs to work on his awareness and his first touch - you could say that about every player walking. He is at a stage where it is probably a good idea for him to go out and hopefully be a star down there. He's played in our first team and scored this season, so he's coming along."
Paul Mariner has admitted Argyle must play 'error-free football' to stand any chance of escaping relegation. He knows that unless his side start cutting out the mistakes they are making there is only one likely outcome but continues to applaud the application shown by the players, despite all the setbacks they have encountered. "The willingness to work hard for each other is there for all to see," said Mariner. "We know we need to make our own luck, but we just need something to go our way. One thing everybody in this league is assured of is they are going to get a game when they play us. We gave West Brom everything they could handle on Saturday. We have just got to keep doing that. We have got to play error-free football these days. The errors we are making in games, we are getting knocked out with." Argyle are the lowest scorers in the Championship with 23 goals in their 27 games but Mariner believes there is reason for optimism that they will soon start to improve their goal return. He said: "I suppose everybody has seen the difference in the set pieces. The movement is very good and we are causing teams a lot of problems. When you are a striker, or any player really, and you haven't scored for a while you tend to get a bit nervous in front of goal and you snatch at things a little bit. All we have got to do is just try to be cool, calm and collected in there, which is easier said than done. There is nobody who wants to score more than Jamie, Rory and all the lads, but teams defend very well in this league. I see now why this is a very popular league with the fans. It's all action, and there is always something going on."
Chris Barker has been hailed as an example of a fantastic attitude by Paul Mariner. "He has got a fantastic attitude," he said. "He knows exactly the score and he knows what we're thinking. He's not happy that he's not playing but he's happy to have all the facts, which, as a player, is all you're interested in. Mariner also confirmed that he is looking for competition and cover for Kari Arnason in the right centre-back position. "We have got no cover on the right-hand side for Arnie, so we're working on that," he said.
Kenny Cooper is being eased into Championship football, a deliberate policy from Paul Mariner to allow him time to adjust to the pace of the game in England. "We didn't want to throw him in at the deep end because this is not an easy league," said Mariner. "Looking at it from television, you think it's not bad but, when you're down at pitch-level, it's different. There are robust challenges, and we saw quite a few of them on Saturday. Obviously for dirty tackles, you've got to send them off but I have no issue with robust play. It's part of the game and I see it going out of the game, which is unfortunate. He's going to be alright for us."
Paul Mariner believes Argyle's Championship fate is in their own hands. "We really feel it is all about us," he said. "If we keep bringing the sort of performances that we've been bringing, I sincerely believe that we're going to be ok. The players are aware of the tough run-in with a game every four days or so. We've stressed how important rest is, eating habits and hydration - all the usual stuff. The good thing is that everybody knows their jobs and everybody knows what is needed. We don't hide or sugar-coat anything - there is no reason to with this group." Mariner's thoughts have now turned to the game at Reading and he feels there is an opportunity to prepare his players. He also stressed the importance of the whole squad in our survival fight. "You can talk to them individually, talk to them as a unit," he said. "You can show them some ProZone stuff. Every single player has been wonderful. We've explained to the players who are not starting how important they are to the group because we're certainly not going to get out of this situation with 11 players. You're going to get injuries, suspensions, players that lose a bit of form or confidence, so you need a squad. At some point you're going to be needed. It is very important that the other ten players are completely focused on what is going on with game-prep and match-days."
David McNamee will play at right-back for Argyle in the game at Reading tomorrow. It was confirmed that the tackle on him by Jerome Thomas on Saturday did not do any serious damage, and Paul Mariner said this morning that he will be in the starting XI. Karl Duguid will not travel to Reading after spraining an ankle, but his absence from the squad should not be prolonged. Mariner revealed that the club's medical staff felt that the injury did not warrant an X-ray.
Paul Mariner remains convinced Argyle can escape relegation and took a lot of encouragement out of the battling display against West Brom. He said: "The one intangible in football is team spirit. Every single successful club has got a fantastic team spirit. We have got a fantastic team spirit, but we are just on the wrong end of some results at the present moment. I'm sure it's going to change. The players are totally committed to the cause. I really couldn't wish for a better group. They are everything a coach or manager would want. If we continue to show the same fight, I'm convinced we are going to be okay." Argyle will play Reading at the Madejski Stadium tomorrow in a match they cannot afford to lose. Mariner said: "We have got players in that dressing room who can't wait for Tuesday night. I had to lock them down so they are not in tomorrow. They wanted to come in, but I don't want them in. They are going to rest up with their families. I think that's the best policy. I'm proud of what they are doing, even though we got done." Mariner was disappointed with the way his side conceded the goal on Saturday, but did not seek to apportion blame to any individuals. He said: "If you look at the particular play that cost us the game, it's something we know not to do. There is always something that hurts us. At the present moment, we make one error and we get punished for it." Mariner would not elaborate on what the mistake had been. "I'm not going into it, but we know what the error was and we paid the price," he said. Argyle had appeals for a penalty waved away by the referee in the 37th minute after a challenge on Jamie Mackie. Mariner said: "I had a decent view of it and I thought Jamie got taken down, but the referee decided not. That's fair enough. That's part of the game." A penalty was awarded to West Brom in the closing stages of the game, however. David McNamee conceded the spot kick after miscontrolling the ball but David Stockdale made a save. Mariner said: "There was no doubt about the penalty. David McNamee took an extra touch and paid the price, but it was a super save. "Overall, how can I be disappointed with that performance? I can't."
Paul Mariner wants to sign a right-back before Argyle's game at Reading tomorrow, following a freak ankle injury to Karl Duguid on Saturday. Duguid was replaced by David McNamee, but he was also hurt late on. It is thought Mariner could try to David Gray for a third loan stint. He said: "I have someone in mind, but I'm not willing to divulge who it is." Duguid suffered a badly sprained ankle in stoppage time at the end of the first half. Mariner said: "He has been playing fantastic for us. He's a very solid player. He just rolled his ankle, unfortunately, in a big pile of mud. We actually got the signal he had broken it, but it looks as though he hasn't done that. We will be monitoring him very closely." McNamee was on the receiving end of a lunging tackle from Jerome Thomas, which saw him sent-off by the referee and Mariner thought he had no option. "It wasn't the best tackle in the world, was it?" he said. "McNamee is going to be sore, but I think he's okay because he was caught high up on the shin. There was no doubt about the red card, for me."
Ashley Barnes could be set to sign on loan for Torquay United, Paul Mariner confirmed this morning. "I've got to speak to Ashley," he said. "There is a possibility. Ashley's fully in the loop and we'll put the ball in his court. If he wants to go, he can go. If he doesn't, that's fine. There was another team but, because of the staff's selfish reasons, it's Torquay close at hand. He can come in one day a week, so we can monitor him really well. We also know Paul Buckle very well. From our viewpoint, it is better for a young player to be under our close attention. He needs to get in the battle-zone. It might be best for his career. He's got a lot of attributes that you want. He is mobile and aggressive, but, like all young players, he needs to work on his awareness and his first touch - you could say that about every player walking.He is at a stage where it is probably a good idea for him to go out and hopefully be a star down there. He's played in our first-team and scored this season, so he's coming along."
David Stockdale could have been a hero for Argyle on Saturday, but his penalty save was in vain. "The way the team played, we deserved better," he said. "It's a team game, and all the lads are deflated. When you play like that against people who are meant to be Premier League opposition and you come away with nothing, it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. We have to keep plucking away. We've got a great bunch of players, and some great quality. You don't play a team like West Brom and dominate, like we did in the first half, and not be a good team. We didn't look like a relegation side. We plugged away, and I thought we deserved a point a least." When Stockdale was asked for his view of the West Brom goal, he replied: "When the cross came in, Reda got a flick, Gary Sawyer came across and there was a bit of pin-ball. As it dropped, it was behind a few players and I was un-sighted. It was a good strike into the bottom corner. On any other day, we would have blocked it and got it away. Those are the things that go against you when you're in a relegation battle." One of the few moments when things did go Argyle's way was in the 84th minute, when Stockdale saved the penalty. "We spoke about his penalties at length before the game," he added. "He has only missed one this season, and that was when he hit it to that side. Every other one he has taken has gone to the other side. I thought he might fancy a change and, luckily enough for us, he did." Argyle's attention is now on tomorrow's game at Reading. Stockdale said: "The lads are downhearted after today's result, but we're not broken. We're in it until the end."
Krisztian Timar has returned to Hungary as part of his recuperation from a serious hamstring injury. "He is back in Hungary for two weeks and it's the only time we could do it for him," said Paul Mariner. "We wanted him to spend time with his family. He's wearing a sort of brace, which is not very comfortable, so we wanted to make him as comfortable as possible. He's around his family, which is important."
Paul Mariner felt there was plenty of positives despite the loss to West Brom yesterday. He said: "When you are in our position you find that something – and it might only be one thing – goes against you. We know that we should have done something when they scored and we didn't do it. They scored and they won the match but I saw plenty out there to be positive about." Mariner paid tribute to Damien Johnson and Kenny Cooper on their debuts. He said: "Damien did well on his debut and playing out there for 90 minutes with the pitch like that is like playing one and a half games it's so sapping. The reason behind Kenny not starting is Rory's been doing exceptionally well. Rory's put in a lot of hours for us and been a battering ram. Kenny's played in the States and in Munich, but the Championship is a unique league. I wanted him to have a look at it close-up to see what he was getting into."
Paul Mariner believes Reda Johnson has a couple of minor problems. "He's actually been playing with a lot of pain, because he's awaiting a dental appointment," said Mariner, who added: "He's a young lad who has played only 20-odd games and there is a massive upside to that boy - if he could speak Lancashire, that would help, because my French and his Lancashire doesn't match up at the present moment."
Argyle lost 1-0 to West Bromwich Albion at Home Park. Argyle: Stockdale, Duguid, Arnason, Johnson.R, Sawyer, Judge, Fletcher, Johnson.D, Clark, Mackie, Fallon. Subs - McNamee, Cooper, Noone (not used – Larrieu, Wright-Phillips, Summerfield, Barker). Attendance - 12,053
Alan Judge is undaunted by Argyle's hectic upcoming schedule of matches. He said: "It's exciting. I know players will be tired, but there is nothing better than playing in games. It's going to be a key part of the season for us. If we win the majority of these six games coming up, it will give us every chance of staying up." Judge has welcomed the signing of Kenny Cooper and Damien Johnson and said: "Coops has played for the USA so, hopefully, he will get us a few goals and Jonty will stiffen us up in the midfield. It's always better to have competition for places, instead of players getting complacent. You don't want that to happen. Sometimes people need to be pushed." Judge believes the poor condition of the Home Park pitch could be a factor in the outcome of the game against West Brom. He said: "I don't think West Brom will enjoy playing on this pitch, I will be honest with you. I don't think many teams will, but we have got used to the way to play on it. Hopefully, they won't be able to get their passing going on a pitch like that. I think it will be to our advantage because we have played on it more than anybody else." West Brom have a record of one defeat in 14 away matches but Judge added: "I think their back four and midfield are quite strong. They will put tackles in. But, like I say, with the way the pitch is, hopefully they won't be able to get the ball down. And we are not afraid to get stuck in when we have to."
Chris Clark has appeared in every team which has been selected since Paul Mariner took over as head coach of Argyle, a record which he is proud of. He said: "It's been a huge boost for me, and I've really been enjoying my football. I'll try hard not to let anyone down. We've brought in some quality players, and that has naturally given the whole squad a boost. It's more competition for the team, and that keeps everyone on their toes. The gaffer has emphasised the importance of the whole squad, and we've added strength to it." Clark is optimistic that Argyle can climb out of the bottom three. "We've been moving in the right direction for the last month, and training has been fantastic," he added. "The way everybody has gone about it has been really enjoyable. There's a confidence being shown in games which has come from training during the week." Today, Argyle are up against a West Brom side in one of the two automatic promotion positions. "There will be nothing different from us," Clark said. "We'll make ourselves difficult to beat, and we'll have to be tactically aware."
Argyle look set to lose out to New Zealand in the tug-of-war over Rory Fallon. Fallon would have to leave for the friendly in Mexico in Los Angeles on March 1st and would return to this country the day before Argyle's home game against Preston, so it is unlikely Paul Mariner would opt to start him in that match. Mariner said: "I'm assuming they will be flying first-class, which does help a little bit. But a 12 or 13-hour flight from LA back to London and then getting down to Plymouth, with the eight-hour time difference, makes it a tough ask for Rory to play the following day. So you can see where I'm coming from in that regard. Ricki knows I don't want him to go, but I understand he wants to get his best players together, so we are chatting."
Alan Gow hopes to make a permanent switch to Hibernian in the summer after joining them on loan last week. "Once I spoke with John Hughes and Brian Rice I told Plymouth I only wanted to come to Hibs," said Gow. "I would love to stay here, but I will just wait and see what happens after the loan deal finishes."
Kenny Cooper and Damien Johnson are expected to make their debuts for Argyle against West Brom tomorrow and Paul Mariner has been thrilled with the way they have already fitted in at Home Park. Mariner stopped short of saying that Cooper and Johnson would start against West Brom but said: "Let's just say I'm guessing that both will feature in the game." Mariner believes the capture of Cooper and Johnson has boosted the rest of the squad. He said: "It really has, you could see it in training yesterday. I think it was the best session I have seen since I have been here. The players looked razor-sharp and were totally concentrated on what was asked of them." Cooper is 6ft 3in tall, but Mariner insisted there was much more to his game than being a target man. He said: "People like to pigeon-hole players, and you look at Kenny and think he's either a centre-half or a centre-forward hold-up man, but he's actually neither of those. He can hold the ball up but he's very mobile, and what we are expecting him to do is to work the channels, like Jamie does. That's why we have been tracking Kenny for quite some time." Mariner also revealed that Johnson's agent, Steve Scott, had gone to considerable lengths to ensure he completed his move before the transfer deadline passed. He said: "I really take my hat off to Steve Scott because, without him, this would never have gone through. He chartered a plane to fly Damien down, at his own expense. He firmly believes in the player and, obviously, we did, and he wanted to get the deal done for us. Sometimes, agents get the rough end of the stick, but this gentleman has been absolutely fantastic. I can't speak highly enough of him." Argyle's last home game was watched by an attendance of 7,996, their lowest league gate since October 2003 and Mariner hopes the double signing of Cooper and Johnson will encourage some supporters to return to Home Park. He said: "West Brom beat Newcastle in the FA Cup the other week, and are going great guns in the league, so it's a massive task for us. I just hope the crowd come and have a look at the players we have brought in, and get behind their team. We know we have got to get them going with what we do on the field, but if we can get a few in tomorrow it would be great. The one thing that fans want to see is effort. If they see players fighting for that green shirt there is a lot of forgiveness in them. Hopefully, that's going to be the norm for a Plymouth Argyle team – that you are going to get a lot of effort."
Paul Mariner wants to add at least one more new recruit to his squad when the 'emergency loan' signing window opens on Tuesday and he admitted a new centre-back is a priority for him. He said: "The window is opening up again, so we are going to try to do something as far as that's concerned. There will possibly be some ins and possibly some outs. We have spoken to the lads and they understand the nature of the beast, so to speak. Football is all about healthy competition for places." Mariner has been pleased with the way all three players signed in the January transfer window have fitted in at Home Park. "There is the old saying – you only get one opportunity to make a first impression," he said. "I think the first impression of the new lads has been very positive. Because we aren't Chelsea, or Manchester United, or Arsenal, we haven't got a huge squad. So, from our viewpoint, we have got to look at players who are multi-functional. You have got to take your hat off to Karl Duguid, for example. He has played at right-back recently and it looks as though he has played there all his life. John Carver told me yesterday he actually saw Karl play up front for Colchester once. When we bring people in, we have got to be very careful that they can fill certain roles." Mariner denied he had been forced into letting players leave for financial reasons and revealed he had told Alan Gow and Jim Paterson they did not figure in his first team plans, while Steve MacLean has been out of favour for some time. He said: "I spoke to Jim and Alan, and I had a brief chat with Steve MacLean. Basically, it was in their court. They are pros and they want to play. We completely understand that. With the players that have come in, I explained to them they might not see too much action." MacLean, Paterson and Gow are all under contract to Argyle until 2011 and Mariner was reluctant to comment on what the future held for them. He said: "It sort of depends because we have got a lot of young talent coming through. Bolasie is back, Summers has come back and Craig Noone is coming into our thoughts more and more. Kinsella, Joe Mason and Leonard are also training with the first team squad regularly. So we are assessing the situation all the time. We will monitor what's going on up in Scotland with the loan players. If they do brilliantly well then we have got to revisit it, so it's a state of flux, as it always is with players. We have got players who are coming up to being out-of-contract that we need to address. So there are a lot of management issues to look after," added Mariner.
Argyle face five matches in the next 15 days which could shape the destiny of their season and have a near fully-fit squad. The one exception is Yoann Folly, who continues to be ruled out by an ankle injury. Paul Mariner said: "It's good going into this tough stretch that we have got everyone fit, apart from Folly. We are going to be travelling a lot and you are playing in the back-end of winter, when all the fields are as heavy as they are going to be. So we have probably got to manage the players carefully." With that mind, the squad did not have to report for training on Monday, in addition to their usual day off on Wednesday. Mariner said: "The players had a couple of days off, so they could see their families and recharge their batteries. But we had a very tough session on Tuesday, and another one yesterday, when we worked on some tactical stuff." West Brom have an impressive away record, winning seven and drawing six of their 14 away fixtures this season. Mariner said: "Technically, they are very good on the ball. Bednar is very, very dangerous up front and Dorrans is having a fantastic season. You can't really say they play 4-5-1. They play a form of 4-3-3. They break really fast and there is a lot of movement in their team, so we have got to be careful of that. But the way we are feeling in the camp at the present moment is we aren't going to change our system for them. We have to make certain adjustments when we haven't got the ball, but we want to try to impose our game on them as well." Mariner does not believe West Brom will be adversely affected by having had a game at Blackpool on Wednesday so close to their visit to Plymouth. He said: "They have got players in their squad who can rotate in, so it's going to be a tough game for us. Newcastle, West Brom and Forest are the cream of the crop this season – it's there for all to see."
Paul Mariner is in discussions with New Zealand manager Ricki Herbert over the availability of Rory Fallon next month. Herbert wants Fallon to play in the friendly against Mexico in Los Angeles on March 3rd and Mariner is concerned about the effect the travelling will have on Rory, with Argyle scheduled to play Preston on March 6th. "It's a friendly match and I've spoken to Ricki - we know each other from way back when," said Mariner. "He completely understands our situation and I understand his situation. He's preparing a team for the World Cup and he wants all his best players to go. We're trying to work something out. It will get resolved quickly. Ricki knows that I don't want him to go but I understand he wants to get his best players together, so we're chatting."
Damien Johnson admitted the persuasive powers of Paul Mariner encouraged him to trade the Premier League for the wrong end of the Championship with Argyle. "He has been great – I had a really enjoyable evening with him on Sunday," said Johnson. "He and John Carver, whom I know from the past, told me all about the club and the plans they have. I just sense that there could be something good going on down here. I came down here not really sure, but to be honest it couldn't have gone any better. Everyone's been very welcoming – it's been a very nice couple of days. It was a tough decision to leave Birmingham – I'd been there a long time and really enjoyed it. Sometimes, though, you need to move on and now is definitely that time. This is a fresh challenge for me. I'm here to play games." Johnson said he had not been put off by Argyle's present plight, nor was he overly-persuaded by the board's five-year plan. He said: "It's OK having a long-term plan but it's a priority that Argyle retains its Championship status. And that's all I'm focusing on, really. That and helping the team getting a couple of places higher up the league. It is a tough league as I know from experience. It's hard to win any games in this league – even if you're at the top – as the bottom teams can beat the top teams. Any team is capable of going on a run and I'm hoping that I can help Argyle to do just that. As, like I said, it's important that Argyle stay in this division and I'm confident they can do that. I wouldn't have come here otherwise. I'm going to be here for two-and-a-half years and I want to be playing Championship football next season without a doubt. And so it's important that the guys on the pitch climb the table and hopefully we can do that." When asked if he knew any of his new team-mates, he replied: "I played with David McNamee at Blackburn when we were younger. And I've also come across Carl Fletcher. So, I know there's a lot of quality down here, with the likes of Jamie Mackie. They're a good squad of players and I'm looking forward to meeting and working with the guys. And I'm looking forward to the game on Saturday." Johnson, despite his wealth of experience, has not played at Home Park before. "No, I haven't played here before and didn't come down with the Birmingham team," he said. "But I know the guys didn't relish coming down as it's always been a tough place to come to. And I just hope West Brom find it uncomfortable on Saturday."
Kenny Cooper is hoping to make the same impact at Argyle as his former Manchester United team-mate Sylvan Ebanks-Blake. "Sylvan, obviously, has had a lot of success since the time I was with him at United," he said. "He is a great player and since I've gone he's had tremendous success. He's a talent, for sure, and I think we may have played a couple of games together at United. Hopefully, I can have similar success that he had here. There's a lot of talent that comes out of United and Sylvan has obviously shown that. It was a pleasure to have spent some time with him at United and I'm happy to see him doing so well." Cooper is hoping the move will bring out the best in him with the US bound for this year's World Cup. And when asked if he is confident of getting back into the squad next summer he said: "My focus now is on Plymouth. I just want to give them my best here, work hard every day and, hopefully, translate success with the club into opportunities with the national team. The Championship is an incredible environment to play football in and also the support of the fans in England is incredible, too. And I think the players on the field reflect the passion of the fans. I'm excited to be back in that environment, to be sure." Cooper has no regrets at switching from Dallas to Munich last summer. "I've no regrets going to 1860 – it's a great club with some fantastic people," he said. "I feel I got off to a great start but when I returned from my national team, I didn't play a ton leading up to my injury. And I feel, at the moment, there's a better opportunity for me here to get back on the football field than there is at 1860." Cooper said he had been pleasantly surprised by his first impressions of Plymouth, but admitted it had been a wrench to leave the city of Munich behind. "I got in last Saturday and I've had a bit of time to check out the city and I think it's lovely, really nice," he said. "It was difficult to leave Munich as it is nice as well, but I've been really surprised about Plymouth which is beautiful, maybe in a different way. I'm really enjoying my time here so far and I'm really excited to be here." Cooper said his father had experienced the delights of the West Country in the past. "My father's English, he's from Blackpool, and he's certainly aware of the area," said Cooper. "I remember him talking about his experiences of coming down here on vacation."
The winding up order issued against Argyle by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs was officially dropped in the High Court this morning. A hearing was held in the High Court in London and the winding up order was dismissed, and no details of the debt were given in court. Last month it was revealed how Argyle had been issued with the winding up order over unpaid debt. The football club then settled the debt, which is understood to have been connected to the recent transfer embargo imposed by the Football League. Reports suggest that the transfer embargo, lifted at the start of January, was imposed because the club had outstanding debts relating to transfer fees and that the bills were outstanding because there had been a delay in receiving a £1million loan from directors Yasuaki Kagami and George Synan.
Kenny Cooper has a lot at stake over the next three months. Cooper wants to play his part in the club avoiding relegation, which could well lead to a permanent transfer to Home Park. He also wants to make sure of his inclusion in the USA squad for the World Cup. He said: "I'm trying not to look too far into the future. I'm trying to take it a day at a time. The last two days have been a great experience for me. I didn't know too much about the area and I have been pleasantly surprised. It's beautiful. It has been refreshing to meet so many wonderful people, and I think the club is destined for success based on the character of the people I have met." Cooper was officially unveiled by Argyle at a media call yesterday, along with Damien Johnson. Cooper said: "There are loads of games left to play and, hopefully, Damien and myself can come in and help the team out." Cooper is excited about the prospect of working with Paul Mariner and John Carver. He said: "When I knew Paul and John were interested in me I was flattered. I'm obviously familiar with both of them from my time in the MLS. Through my experiences with the national team, I have had the opportunity to meet some of Paul's players, and they are a great reflection of himself. They are all class acts and good hard workers." Cooper will hope to make his debut in the game against West Brom on Saturday. "I think this is a good fit for me," he said. "It's nice to feel wanted and it's to nice come somewhere where you feel the coaches are familiar with you. I'm excited to be here." Cooper has played 10 times for the United States and is desperate to be in their World Cup squad. "I have had some time with the national team in the last couple of years, and it has left me hungry to have more of those experiences," he said. "Obviously, with the World Cup around the corner, that's a big goal of mine. I feel there is a great opportunity for me to play here and do well. Hopefully, that will translate into an opportunity with the national team in the World Cup this summer." Cooper suffered a medial knee ligament injury in November, has just completed the rehabilitation in Dallas, and is confident he is now fully fit. He said: "1860 Munich were kind enough to let me go home a little early, before the Christmas break. I saw my doctor at home, and I ended up staying later and rehabilitating there with people who I trust. On all counts, they have given me a lot of confidence, and I also did a lot of aggressive training when I was there. All the signs are good that I'm ready to go."
Argyle's youth team won 3-2 at Torquay United on Saturday, the goals scored by Jared Sims (2) and Sean Kinsella. Mike Pejic was happy with the performance, although he felt his side made life hard for themselves. "I felt we played well, particularly in the first half when we dominated," he said. "It was a different game after half-time and we let Torquay take the lead twice, which was sloppy on our part. Our players showed character, particularly the schoolboy players, on a difficult playing surface. At 2-1 down we changed our shape, took a chance playing with two at the back pushing others further upfield, looking for the equalising goal. And it worked – we scored two good goals." Argyle: Chenoweth, Stephens, Richards, Kinsella, Trott, Leonard, Rickard, Young, Head, Sims, Baker. Subs – Clifford, Harper-Penman, Coombes (not used - Varazinskis, Sawyer).
Steve MacLean and Jim Paterson have both joined Aberdeen on loan until the end of the season, whilst Alan Gow has moved to Hibernian in a similar deal
Argyle have signed midfielder Damien Johnson from Birmingham City on a two-and-a-half year deal, for an undisclosed fee. "I was made aware of Plymouth's interest over the weekend," said Johnson. "I had a chat with the manager at Birmingham and he was ok with me coming down, and having a chat with Paul Mariner. We had a nice meeting last night and he made me feel very welcome. The people have been great with me today and I've had a nice couple of days down here, and I'm glad to get things sorted before Saturday. I've come down here and I want to give it 100%, and do well. I've been frustrated at Birmingham this season and, like any player, I want to play. I'm hopefully going to get the opportunity to play down here and I look forward to the opportunity to do well for Plymouth. It's a big challenge and the Championship is a tough league. It's a hard league and there is not much in it between the teams. Any team is capable of going on a run and, hopefully, Plymouth can go on a run and get themselves just a couple of places higher up the table. The most important thing is to do well for Plymouth and that is my focus. I want to settle down here and help Plymouth climb up the table. I'm looking forward to meeting the lads and I hope I can help."
Paul Mariner is delighted with the signings of Damien Johnson and Kenny Cooper. "This is a fantastic day for this club," he said. "We have just acquired two of the important components of the machine that is going to stay in this division. For John Carver and me, this is a fantastic day and a fantastic day for the club. Johnson has leadership qualities and he is a Premier League player. He can play in numerous positions and he's been the captain of Birmingham City. He is an international player and a player of high quality. We can't wait to start working with him and for Saturday to come. We have been strategic in our outlook on the people we wanted to get in. If you look at the board in my office, the two names at the top of our list are now sitting alongside me. We all know the window opens again for England on Monday and something else may happen then. We are very happy to have healthy competition for places." Mariner also spoke of the attributes Cooper will bring to Home Park. "He's a very, very powerful forward who gives us many options," he said. "He can play wide, he can play through the middle, and he's a highly motivated character who wants to try and get in the World Cup squad with the USA. He's a going to be a great addition to the club." Mariner also confirmed that Argyle have an option to make the Cooper move permanent in the summer.
Argyle yesterday completed the signing of Kenny Cooper on loan from 1860 Munich until the end of the season. Paul Mariner said: "He's a very, very powerful forward who gives us many options. He can play wide, he can play through the middle, and he's a highly motivated character who wants to try and get in the World Cup squad with the USA. He's a going to be a great addition to the club. We obviously know Kenny from our days in the MLS and we worked with him in the All Star team, when we played West Ham United. His set-pieces are quite fantastic and he can take penalties - he does it all. He's an extremely good player and we hope he'll be a successful player for us and, in turn, earn himself a place with his country at the World Cup. Kenny's got a lot of experience and his agent is extremely knowledgeable about the USA and Europe and he's got a great mentor in his father, Kenny Cooper Senior, who had a very good career. I'm delighted to have him and I look forward to working with him." Cooper admitted he was excited about the move. He said: "I think this is a good opportunity for me. Paul Mariner and John Carver are familiar with me. They have been in the MLS and I'm familiar with them. It feels like a good situation to me. I'm hungry to play. Obviously, I have a goal to make the World Cup squad. But I think it may have taken some time for me to get back on the field for 1860. Even if it was not a World Cup year, I think this is what I would want to do because I want to play. I love playing and I don't want to sit on the bench. I may have a better opportunity for that in Plymouth."
Damien McCrory has left Argyle and joined Dagenham and Redbridge
It is believed Paul Mariner watched Manchester United reserves beat Bolton Wanderers in Altrincham last Thursday. Former Argyle loanee David Gray scored the only goal of the game but Mariner was thought to have been watching United centre-backs Ritchie De Laet and Oliver Gill.
Dagenham and Redbridge are reported to be interested in signing Damien McCrory and Alan Gow has been linked with a loan move to Hearts.
Paul Mariner has sympathised with Krisztian Timar over the injury which will rule him out for the rest of the season. He said: "The hamstring has detached from the bone. It's horrible for him, but he's being positive. We have told him, we will get him the best treatment and the best people we can. We didn't think it was that severe when we first spoke to Oldham, but it's a terrible injury."
Jim Paterson is getting closer to a return to action following a hamstring injury. Paul Mariner said: "Patto isn't ready yet, although he's coming along very well."
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