A Round-up of Argyle News
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Also included on the three most recent days, facts from Argyle's history.
Paul Sturrock has admitted it is 'not an ideal scenario' that Romain Larrieu is the only fit goalkeeper at the club. Graham Stack and Lloyd Saxton both have hand injuries and, as a precaution, Sturrock has been sounding out other clubs about keepers should he need to sign one in an emergency. He said: "Graham Stack has got a hand injury at this minute in time, which is causing him concern. It has taken him out of training and, strangely enough, Saxo has got the same injury. It's not an ideal scenario we are in, but we have put a lot of clubs on stand-by in case there was a serious problem." Stack started the first six matches of the season but Larrieu was recalled for the win at Watford and has stayed in the side ever since. Sturrock said: "I think Romain has been very competent. He didn't have much to do the other night but he came and took crosses when needed. He took a lot of pressure off us in the second half. He caught six or seven balls in amongst people. But I just felt he wasn't punching in the right areas. I would rather he punched to the sides, than down the middle, but other than that I thought he had a very competent game." Sturrock hopes to have Yoann Folly and Jamie Mackie available for the trip to Sheffield United, and added: "There are three boys who took knocks the other night, so we will wait and see how they train today. They will be given every opportunity." Sturrock also confirmed that Mathias Doumbe and Emile Mpenza could come into contention tomorrow after being ruled out by foot and knee injuries recently. There could be a couple of changes to the side tomorrow, despite the midweek victory. Sturrock said: "I think we have got to put some freshness into the team. Two or three of them might be a bit tired. The return of MacLean the other night put a freshness to us in a certain area. There is a lot to weigh up. Do I take a chance on the ones with niggling injuries, and do I take a chance on bringing Mat Doumbe or Mpenza back?" Asked whether top scorer Paul Gallagher might need a rest, Sturrock replied: "It's something to think about."
Argyle have won three of their last five away matches and look to continue that form at Sheffield United tomorrow. Chris Barker said: "Confidence is very high. We seem to be playing better away than we are at home at the moment. We have had some great away wins and, hopefully, we can get another one tomorrow. I don't know why we have been playing better away, to be honest. I think it's just one of those situations you get in football. We had three home wins in a row before losing the other day, which was disappointing. But if you win your home games and get the odd away win you're always going to be up there in the table." Asked whether he thought Argyle were better suited to a counter attacking style in away games, Barker replied: "You could say that. With Gall just floating off the front, he can create anything at any time." Barker had his best game for Argyle at Sheffield Wednesday in midweek. He said: "Wednesday have had a good home record – I think it was their first loss this season – and they had only let in two goals before Tuesday night as well. So to go away and win there was fantastic. It was one-way traffic at the end, but we stuck in there and kept a clean sheet." The Argyle squad had a long trip home by coach after the win against Wednesday. Barker said: "I think it was half-past four in the morning when we got back, but it has got to be done. After tomorrow, we aren't travelling too far for a while, and it's even harder for the fans, to be honest. They travel up and back on the day." Barker has supported Sheffield Wednesday all his life, but has a high regard for the United squad. He said: "They are a big club and it's a hard place to go. They are a big, strong team and I'm expecting a very hard game. They have got five or six good strikers, but I'm sure Beattie will play. He's big and strong, holds the ball up very well and they play off him. But if we can get something up there we could be in the top six tomorrow night."
Rory Fallon did not start against Sheffield Wednesday on Tuesday, but his turn will come again soon, according to Paul Sturrock. "Rory has had a hard run, and I just felt it was time to give him a wee rest, but we'll need big strong boys for Saturday," Sturrock said. "He'll come back into contention then." Jim Paterson was given his first start during October on Tuesday and when asked to explain that decision, Sturrock said: "I decided to play my roundheads instead of my cavaliers. A very solid back eight was what we were looking for. We got the goal and I was hoping they would come down on top of us and we might catch them again. But that didn't happen and it was backs to the wall."
Paul Sturruck has agreed to extend Jermaine Easter's loan spell at Millwall by two months, up to and including Boxing Day. However, Argyle do still have a 24-hour recall clause built into the deal
Paul Sturrock reflected on the Argyle's travelling fortunes after the victory at Sheffield Wednesday. He said: "We went to Derby two weeks ago, played very, very well for the whole 90 minutes, had several chances to score; we came here tonight, didn't play very well, got a goal, and rolled our sleeves up and battled. What I'm trying to say is this game is swings and roundabouts. Better teams than us have come here this year and have been beaten. Wednesday had only lost two goals in all their home games this season and were undefeated until tonight. We got the lead and decided that was it - it was going to be 1-0. Against Derby, we paid the penalty for that. When the players are in that mode, there's no point in trying to change their minds. That's why I put another centre-half on. There was no point in trying to do anything to change their psyche in the last 15 minutes. They had decided it was trench warfare and, to be fair, they have managed to nick out a win. I didn't think my goalie had that much to do, save-wise, but we weren't able to clear our lines properly to enable our strikers to feed off anything and move us up the pitch. The disappointing thing was that we didn't show what we did at Crystal Palace and Watford, but you have got to give credit to Sheffield Wednesday - they are a very attack-minded team." Sturrock opted to play Steve MacLean ahead of Rory Fallon, after he impressed as a second-half substitute against Ipswich. Sturrock said: "Steve and I have, over the time he has been here, had differences of opinion of how he should play the game. Steve came to the Show last Saturday. He came on for 20 minutes and did all the things that I think how he should play. He came to the Show again tonight and did all the things I think he should do, and he reaped the benefit. I thought his performance tonight was what I signed him for. Long may it last. I feel he's not been getting in the box. He's tried to play too much and forgotten about scoring goals. He was in the box all the time tonight but he still worked his tail off when they had the ball and also tried to link us up as well as he could." With Jamie Mackie and Yoann Folly not travelling because of flu, Jim Paterson and Chris Clark playing despite it, and David McNamee just back from injury, Sturrock has plenty to toy with before Argyle return to Sheffield on Saturday to play United. He said: "We are going to have to rest the players as much as possible, and get as much massage into them as possible, and think about the personnel. They've taken a lot out of themselves again tonight. These boys played five games in 14 days, then had a wee break, and are now playing five in 14 again. It's an awful lot for the number I've used. There's definitely going to be a thought about fresh legs for Saturday." Sturrock was also pleased to have cracked the 20-point barrier but far from resting on laurels. "Now we have to get to 30," he said. "Get me to 50 and I'm going on holiday. We're a new team with new players and it takes a long time to shape a team. We can play much better than that - we've proved that with the games before."
Simon Walton returned to the Argyle side at Sheffield Wednesday last night, his first appearance for six weeks. Walton had an uncertain start, but recovered to play a significant part in the win. Paul Sturrock said: "He had a wee torrid two or three minutes, and I was nearly subbing the sub, but, to fair to the laddie, he did put his hand up when he came in. We keep forgetting this boy is 21. I believe that, from 16 to his age now, he's been in people's first-teams and maybe a lack of work has been done on him. He's come out of the team because of bits and pieces. I have great faith in him that, sooner or later, he is going to turn the corner, but he's going through a learning-curve at this minute. He's got to learn that there are certain things we want him to do and he's got to churn it, and churn it, and churn it."
Steve MacLean scored a vital goal on his return to the Argyle line-up, but showed no emotion. The former Sheffield Wednesday player said: "I decided I wasn't going to celebrate. I liked my time here, so I didn't want to rub their noses in it. It didn't stop me getting a few pelters, though." MacLean found out he was playing on the morning of the game and added: "It was a kind of a bit of a shocker, the way things have gone, but you always prepare as if you are going to play and I got the shout this morning, so I was delighted. Whether I was on the bench or not wasn't up to me - the gaffer makes the decisions. All I can do is, when I've get my chance, I've got to take it." The winning goal came when a Chris Clark corner was cleared to David McNamee outside the penalty area. "He did very well," said MacLean. "He headed it in, I took it on my chest, the goalie came out, and I tried to slip it past him. Let's hope I can get a few more. There's no glory for me - it's a team game. It wasn't a great performance, but, from back to front, I thought we were outstanding, not through good play but there was a great work-ethic. That's what happens with the gaffer's sort of teams. There's no frills at times, but they look very well organized and are a good unit, from back to front."
Paul Sturrock has refused to comment on whether Jason Puncheon's loan move to MK Dons could lead to a permanent transfer. He said: "I have got no thoughts on that at this minute in time. I believe Punch needed to go out because, obviously, we have got a couple of other wingers. Saturday came a bit too early for him to get a start but, hopefully, he will get regular games. Punch wants to play football and I didn't think, and he didn't think, the reserves was enough for him. We have got a couple of other wingers who have got to get games in the reserves as well. They were beginning to get spelled, one game here and one game there, which isn't use to anybody." In addition to Puncheon, Argyle have loaned out Jermaine Easter to Millwall and Damien McCrory to Port Vale. Sturrock admitted 'another three or four wouldn't go amiss'. He said: "The important thing for me is to streamline this squad now and get people games of football as well."
Argyle won 1-0 at Sheffield Wednesday, the goal scored by Steve MacLean after 22 minutes. Argyle: Larrieu, McNamee, Cathcart, Seip, Barker, Paterson, Summerfield, Duguid, Clark, Gallagher, MacLean. Subs – Timar, Fallon, Walton (not used – Noone, Marin). Attendance - 16,515
Steve MacLean could make his first start for Argyle since the end of August when they take on Sheffield Wednesday tonight. MacLean impressed Paul Sturrock after coming off the bench against Ipswich Town on Saturday and the manager said: "The game is against his old football club, and he showed on Saturday all the ingredients I have been pushing to achieve. He definitely comes into consideration. He and I have had two or three conversations where I have mapped out what I really want from him. It was good to see the way he played on Saturday. That's the Steve MacLean that was at Sheffield Wednesday when I was there." Should MacLean come into the side, it could involve a change of formation too. Sturrock added: "That's what we have got to come up with a thought process on. Illness will determine the selection, but, if everybody declares themselves fit, I will not be making wholesale changes."
Paul Sturrock has admitted that four players, who he did not name, had been suffering from sickness in the build-up to the game at Hillsborough tonight, and that this could have an influence on his team selection. "We have flu in the camp," he said yesterday, "and some people have got a stomach bug of some sort. There are four people who are in that state at the moment. We'll have to wait and see how they are. I'm worried about them being confined on planes and buses with the rest of the squad, but we'll just have to get on with it. If that's the sort of thing that is going through the camp at the minute, we'd have lifeless players on the pitch. We really need energy." Sturrock also revealed that illness was the reason for Jamie Mackie's below-par performance against Ipswich - he lasted only 55 minutes before being substituted. Sturrock said: "I took a chance on Jamie because he had been ill on Friday night and I really think his performance was affected by it. Jamie had a fitness test on Saturday morning and I went with him because he was really positive in his thoughts. But I think everybody saw it wasn't the real Jamie Mackie who has been playing lately." Mat Doumbe was unavailable against Ipswich because of a foot injury, while a knee problem kept Emile Mpenza on the sidelines. Neither player will be considered for tonight. Sturrock also made it plain after last Saturday's loss that some of his players probably needed to be taken out for reasons of fatigue. "They're all seriously under consideration," he said. "We've come off a defeat, and we all had a chat about the situation on Sunday morning, which has given me food for thought on all sorts of topics, and I'll make my decisions during the journey up there. Wednesday are very positive at home, and they put a lot of people on the back foot. It's a very difficult game to be going into."
The prospect of two away games in Sheffield this week does not hold any fears for Romain Larrieu. The Argyle squad and management staff will not be staying in South Yorkshire for the week, however. Paul Sturrock said: "Financially, it's just not feasible. You are talking about tens of thousands of pounds." Instead, the team are flying north for both matches, but the return trips will be by coach. That means they will not be back in Plymouth until around four o'clock tomorrow morning, but Larrieu is used to that. He admitted though, that getting a good result would make all the travelling easier to cope with. He said: "It's so much easier to sit on the bus coming home when you have won a game. For me, it's not anything new, but for some of the lads, maybe, it's going to be quite a shift. We went to Sheffield twice last season – not in the same week – and we got four points. We performed reasonably well in those games, especially against Sheffield United when we didn't have a manager at the time. These are two games to look forward to, so I think all the travelling will be forgotten. This is why you play football, and why this division is so much fun. You want to play at grounds like this in front of massive crowds. We are going into these games with a good chance to get something out of them, and I don't think the travelling will play a part. Hopefully, we will get a couple of days off next week." Argyle won 4-0 against Sheffield Wednesday at Home Park on October 4th and Larrieu hopes they can complete the double tonight. He added: "They haven't been beaten on their own patch this season, so it would be a good time for us to stop that run. Hopefully, we can produce the sort of performance that we know we are capable of. If we do, we won't be far away from getting something out of the game. I know that, we know that." Ipswich were the first team to score first in an Argyle match since Norwich City in mid-September. Larrieu said: "It was the first time we didn't go in front since the gaffer completely changed the team, which makes it a completely different type of game. Chasing the game with the type of form we showed on Saturday proved to be impossible. We were disappointed, because we know we're better than that. The good thing is that we have a game tomorrow when we can put things right." Argyle are in tenth place after taking just three points out of the last nine available, but Larrieu believes the team have already shown what they are capable of this term. "We've taken 16 points from eight games, which is championship form," he said. "We want to try to keep that kind of points return going. We know it's not easy, but we want to start tomorrow at a place which has been quite successful for us over the years I've been here." Argyle are three-fifths of the way through a sequence of five fixtures in 15 days, and Sturrock has suggested that one or two players may be given a rest this evening. Larrieu said: "It has been frantic. It is a crazy schedule, and you can find yourself running out of steam. But we need to get on with it. We need to try and give everything we've got until we can't do any more, and the gaffer has to use his squad to make changes. Whoever is selected for tomorrow's game will have to do a job, because we didn't enjoy Saturday's game. We won't settle for those kind of standards. We must do better. We have achieved a bit this season, and we want more. We've got a point to prove. We weren't good enough on Saturday, and we know it. It hurts, but we know we aren't going to go unbeaten at home for a whole season. We could have scored first, but we didn't, and after that the Ipswich goals were deflected or, with the first one, they went through something like seven players. Then we didn't get the breaks. We should have had a penalty, but we didn't. It hurts, but in the end we didn't deserve anything. Let's bring on the next game. The enthusiasm is still there. We want to bounce back. We got a win after we lost at Derby, but we didn't really feel like we had to bounce back performance-wise. We just wanted to get the points we felt we missed out on at Derby. This time we know we need to bounce back."
Argyle will be fined £5,000 fine by the Football Association for misconduct by their players in the 3-1 defeat by Ipswich Town on Saturday. The Pilgrims' six yellow cards means that Argyle will automatically face the disciplinary action, and if they have six players booked in another match this season, the fine would be doubled to £10,000.
David Norris has sent out a 'thank you' message to the Green Army for the reception they gave him on Saturday, his first return since he moved to Ipswich last January. Norris was greeted with cheers when he stepped off the Ipswich team coach, and it was the same before kick-off, with prolonged applause when his name was read out over the PA system. Norris admitted he had been unsure what reaction he would get on his return to Home Park. "I thought I might get a little bit of stick today", he said, "but the fans were magnificent and I thank them for that."
Argyle face the prospect of back-to-back away games in South Yorkshire this week. They play Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough tomorrow night and will return to the Steel City to take on Sheffield United on Saturday. Sturrock plans to shake up his side after the out-of-sorts display against Ipswich, but has confirmed that neither defender Mathias Doumbe nor striker Emile Mpenza will be available for tomorrow's trip.
Argyle's Youth side beat Bournemouth 4-2 on Saturday in one of the most entertaining games seen at Bolitho Park this season, the goals coming from Lewis Edwards, Josh Grant (2) and Matt Rickard. Argyle: Brooks, Leonard, Brett, Kinsella, Hodgkinson, Gerring, Edwards, McCaul, Grant, Rickard, Moseley. Subs - Troupe, Broomfield, Young (not used - Levet, Trott)
16-year-old Liam Head scored his first goal for England in the under-17's emphatic 7-0 win over Estonia in the preliminary qualifying round of the UEFA under-17 European Championships in Tenerife last Friday. Coming on as a 51st-minute substitute, Head scored a spectacular goal 12 minutes later, swivelling inside the penalty area and hitting a powerful shot into the top corner.
Paul Sturrock point-blankly refused to let referee Pat Miller's extraordinary performance overshadow a poor Pilgrims' performance in their 3-1 home defeat by Ipswich yesterday. Miller, a late replacement for original referee Steve Bratt, booked 10 players and sent off former Pilgrims midfielder David Norris in a game that was far from nasty. Argyle's six yellows means that the club will receive an automatic fine from the Football League. What's more, Miller and his linesmen made a series of dubious decisions, including awarding Argyle a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area after Rory Fallon and Gareth McAuley clashed innocuously well inside the box. Luggy said: "We will not, in any form, try to use the referee as any excuse. We were beaten by the better side on the day - we did not do the things we have been working on regularly - and there is no way I will allow anybody in this football club to use him as an excuse for our performance." Luggy did admit that he did not feel the game merited Miller's severity. "I am really disappointed with ten bookings," he said, "because I did not feel there were ten bookings in a game like that, and we are going to get fined. I would ask the ref to have a wee peek at his tape, because some of them were really in the petty class. There were some silly, silly bookings, which he could have missed out. You then had a blatant one and he waves it away. There were never that many bookings in the game and it is very disappointing." Regarding the clash between Fallon and Naylor, Luggy said: "The boys said it was a penalty. The linesman has decided he is not going to have anything to do with it, so the referee has made the decision. We can claim an awful lot of things today but I am hoping that decisions that have gone against us today will go for us on Tuesday, when we play." As for David Norris, dismissed for kicking the ball away deep into injury-time, Luggy said: ""He had two handballs in the centre of the pitch, two cheeky handballs, and he could have been sent off earlier. He is a great lad and I was really appreciative of the fans response to him. He merited that response and I wish him all the best."
Argyle lost 3-1 to Ipswich Town at Home Park, the goal scored by Craig Cathcart after 79 minutes. Argyle: Larrieu, McNamee, Cathcart, Seip, Barker, Clark, Summerfield, Duguid, Mackie, Gallagher, Fallon. Subs – Marin, Noone, MacLean (not used – Paterson, Timar). Attendance - 12,294
Karl Duguid will relish resuming his central midfield role against Ipswich Town today. Duguid reverted to full-back in the first half of the win over Preston on Tuesday when Mat Doumbe limped out. Despite his preference to figure in the 'thick of the action', Duguid will play to the best of his ability wherever Paul Sturrock wants him. "I've no problem with that," he said. "I came here knowing I could play midfield, right-back, wherever. It's an option the manager had and that's the one he chose. He had other options against Preston – but wherever I play I'll give 100 per cent. I'd not played centre midfield a great deal before but since I have been here, I've played a lot there. The manager's put me there and said he feels I'm a centre midfielder now. I've really enjoyed it in there and, hopefully, I can play a lot more in there. You seem to be involved in the action a lot more and there's more of a chance of scoring. I like to get in the box as much as possible – you're in the thick of it and that's where I want to be – playing a part in it all the time, and that's where I have been. Over the past seven matches it's gone well, so hopefully we can continue. But if I play in midfield or right-back today, I haven't got a problem with that – that's down to the manager."
Financial constraints on Paul Sturrock's playing budget have been loosened, albeit temporarily, with Jason Puncheon joining MK Dons on a month's loan. "Many a tree has been cut down with the amount of paper work we're sending out – so, yes, we're trying very hard," said Sturrock. "I'm a manager who realises that with a drop of 4,000 in the crowd for a game, and an increase in over-budget smacks of going in the wrong direction. That 4,000 is a loss and drains the revenue. I can understand the problems, but my job is now to benefit the football club by trying to get a few of these fringe players out on loan. It's been very difficult because a lot of clubs are taking kids, they're not taking seasoned pros."
Paul Sturrock said unless Mat Doumbe is unable to prove his fitness, it will be same again for his team at home to Ipswich Town tomorrow. "We'll give Mat every opportunity to prove his fitness," he said. "McNamee is a consideration: obviously he's come back into the plans. Now we'll just have to see whether it's too early or not. But I won't be straying far again but I might tinker with positioning due to Ipswich's style." Sturrock played down the chances of Emile Mpenza making an appearance at Home Park. "We'll wait and see how he is today – he's had an injection in the back of his knee," he said. "He's not been able to do anything – he's going to have to show me some zip and zest today if he's going to change my mind." Sturrock ruled out any influence that Norris' familiarity with the club might have on the game and suggested discussing any input from former players was a waste of time. He said: "Ebanks is at Wolves and we had Shelly last week and now Chuck. It happens. But what's important is that we're positive with our approach and better than we were on Tuesday night if we want to come away with three points. You cannot turn in that kind of performance and expect to win football matches. But if we show the same attitude and work-rate we'll be handful for anybody."
The return to fitness of Gary Sawyer has added more pressure on Chris Barker's position at left-back. Jim Paterson has been pushing hard for a starting place all season and it is a competition Paul Sturrock welcomes. For now though, Barker remains first choice. "He has come through that test," said Sturrock "His fitness levels at the start of the season were not up to the standards he can achieve. There are still bits and pieces to his game, and I talked to him today about things I want him to work on. He has definitely responded to the criticism I put upon him. Gary Sawyer is now up and running, although he is a bit tender from a stud on the shin. A couple of reserve games for him will put another edge to the left-back position."
Jamie Mackie is hopeful of retaining his starting place and helping Argyle extend their winning home run against Ipswich Town tomorrow. Mackie has put in several eye-catching displays lately and has also drawn favourable comparisons with David Norris. "It's obviously very nice to be compared with 'Chuck', whom I admire a lot as a player," said Mackie. "Our paths only crossed for a short period, but I saw enough to know how good he is. I've been enjoying my football and in the new role the manager has given me. I came to Plymouth as a striker, but I'm happy to play wherever the manager thinks I'll do best. Hopefully, I've been repaying his faith in me. The most important thing is for the team to keep winning – especially at home. That's why it was so important for us to come back to our place and get another win. That's three wins at home in a row and, hopefully, we're on our way to setting a benchmark of making Home Park a fortress again. We played well at Derby and probably deserved at least a draw. Although we weren't able to play the free-flowing football the fans would like, beating Preston was very important. We'd beaten Sheffield Wednesday 4-0 in our previous home game before the international break and I think everybody will agree we played some really good football. But if it's 1-0 for us on Saturday against Ipswich then great, but the important thing is that we keep winning football matches. I'm just happy to play my part anywhere the manager wants me to."
Argyle have begun contract negotiations with some members of the squad, hoping to avoid seeing players leave on free transfers. Paul Sturrock also insisted that the decision to renew the contract of any players in his current squad will come down to footballing reasons. He said: "Tony Capaldi and Paul Connolly are the two from the last two seasons who have run out of contract. It will be a decision that I will make and it will be a football decision, whatever happens, rather than a financial one. We are now entering negotiations with anybody going out of contract. We are slowly chipping away at it, so we can tie people up before the end of the season. It is still very early days on all of them."
An extended run in the team has seen a new and improved Luke Summerfield emerge this season. Paul Sturrock is delighted with his progress, and after the game against Preston said: "Luke was excellent in the first half. The boy has responded. There are things he has to iron out in his game and things that he needs to add to his game. He has definitely come to the show in the last seven games. Half the boo boys who were on his back have changed their opinion and he has to just keep ticking over and he will win the rest of them back because he has influenced a lot of games this season." One area Sturrock is determined to improve is Summerfield's shooting, which tends to be a bit hurried. He said: "It is something we are going to have to work on because he has got a terrific shot but he gets very excited when he gets in that area. He is so keen to add that string to his bow that he rushes things." Summerfield has also been working hard on improving his upper body strength. Sturrock added: "He has got the same problem as his Dad but he is trying very hard with the weights and doing the right things, as all of them are. I have been very pleased with the approach of all of them. There are some who are disgruntled but you wouldn't have a football team if there weren't a few disgruntled players, for all sorts reasons. Their attitude in training has been excellent. They realize that they have to be at the top of their game when they get an opportunity."
Jason Puncheon today joined MK Dons on a one month loan. His availability is restricted to League One games only, to ensure he is not cup-tied
Mat Kouo-Doumbe has been given the all-clear after injuring his right foot on Tuesday night. There were fears that he had broken a bone but x-rays have revealed nothing worse than severe bruising. Paul Maxwell said: "I have spoken to the specialist, Patrick Loxdale, who has seen the x-rays, and he is happy that Mat is okay. Nothing is broken, although there is a lot of bruising. It's something that we are going to have to take day by day, and keep an eye on it as the swelling goes down. At this moment, I would think that he will probably be too sore for Saturday, but we've got 72 hours before then, so we'll have to see."
Jamie Mackie is sure that tiredness will not keep him or any other Argyle player off the field, despite the current heavy schedule. He said: "I wouldn't ever want to come out of a game because I'm a bit leg-weary. Once you get going, you're all right. Maybe it's a case of using the substitutes a little bit earlier than we have been, if players are tired, but you're never going to sit it out because you're feeling a little bit leggy. That's part and parcel of the game. When you're on a run, you want to play every game. I'm not giving my shirt up easily. I want to stay in the team. I want to try and play 30 games on the spin, not seven, but I know there are good players waiting to come in. I'm working really hard with the manager and the coaching staff to learn my position. It's a new position for me, everyone knows that, and I'm getting my head down. I like running at people, I'm working on my delivery every day, and I'm trying as hard as I can to learn my defensive responsibilities. I get a few rockets after games, which is quite right because sometimes I switch off. I'm used to playing up front and having that extra bit of time for a breather, but I've got to switch on and help the full-back a bit more. I'm bringing that into my game, and I think I'm getting better and better each game." Mackie was in the Argyle side which drew 2-2 at Preston in April, after going two goals ahead, and Tuesday's victory was pay-back time. "Last year they robbed us at the end," he said. "I remember that, and the three points was what mattered tonight. It might not have been pretty, but we got the result." Mackie praised Argyle's central defenders and goalkeeper after the game. He said: "Our two centre-halves were absolutely brilliant for us, and Romain did well for us again. He did his job well." Mackie started the game on the right side of midfield, but was switched to the left for the second half. Paul Sturrock was impressed with what he saw. "I was very pleased with Jamie's contribution in the second half, coming off the left," he said. "I thought he was a livewire." Mackie added: "The gaffer tells me that, when I play on the right, I've got to get down the line and get crosses in. When I play on the left, I've got to cut inside and get shots off. The gaffer gives me licence to express myself out there, which I love."
Steve MacLean scored twice in a 2-0 behind closed doors friendly win at Cardiff City yesterday
Paul Sturrock admitted his side stuttered to victory over Preston North End last night. He said: "As far as the performance is concerned, we are a bit disappointed with the way we played today but we have to give credit to Preston. I thought they played very well. They showed good attitude and work-rate through the 90 minutes. I am still very, very pleased with the result over the piece. That final pass didn't quite get there. We stopped, started and stuttered." The positive side to the game was a sound defensive display. Sturrock said: "Defensively, as a unit, we were pretty solid. I can't think of Romain having too many things to worry about, apart from the last minute. There is still that whiff of apprehension in the stadium. One or two passes go astray and there is a murmuring around the ground, which filters down to the players sometimes. We have to try and stamp that out. We have had three clean sheets in a row here and that is the pleasing thing. The back four were immense and we nicked it with a set-piece, which is quite pleasing as well. We have had three clean sheets in a row, so we shouldn't beat ourselves up too much. We started very well. We were buzzing for the first 15 minutes but we then whimpered to the end as far as getting a rhythm and a flow to our game. We did that on Saturday as well. We went back 15 yards, which meant Preston pushed up 15 yards." Rory Fallon was the match-winner but Sturrock felt he was not firing on all cylinders. On the other hand, Jamie Mackie was a handful for the Preston defence, particularly in the second half. "Rory had one of his poorer games this evening but that was due to the lack of decent balls up to him and the lack of support," said Sturrock. "He did not win the high percentage of headers that he has won in the past but he took his goal, and I will never argue with his work-rate and his will to win. Gallagher was in the same boat as well. When we did play it up to our front players, we didn't support them very well. People are now latching onto Gallagher and I was very tempted to switch him out to the left. We did put in a lot of crosses and I was very pleased with Jamie Mackie's contribution in the second half, coming in from the left - he was a livewire. He is doing a lot of work during games." It was the sixth game in succession that Sturrock has named the same team but he conceded that fatigue may force his hand when Ipswich visit on Saturday. He said: "I decided before the game that I wouldn't change the team. They have done well enough to merit another opportunity and I was proved right. I have now got to make a decision whether the next game is a bridge too far. I will watch pro-zone and I'll watch the game a couple of times and slowly make my mind. I can assure you that we will get rested for a few days. We have got a difficult game on Saturday against a team with quality players who can hurt us. We have to keep working and working and working, and hopefully get over the next pointage barrier of 20 points, and a win would take us there."
Mat Doumbe will require an x-ray after limping out of the win over Preston. Paul Sturrock said: "Doumbe is going to need an x-ray. It has swollen up. It could have been a stud on the foot and a wee crack but, hopefully not. We would miss him. It is an alien position to him but he has grabbed it with both hands and Duguid has been an influence in the centre of midfield. I have to decide whether I bring Duguid back or if McNamee has done enough, or whether a lefty in the right-back position would be appropriate - lots of things to weigh up. Duguid has now committed himself to being a centre-midfield. He did ok at right-back but I think he has made his mind up that he is a centre-midfielder." Doumbe's departure forced Sturrock to introduce Jim Paterson as an emergency midfielder, where he performed admirably. "Jim Paterson did a sterling job when he went in there as well," said Sturrock. "Summers did very well and Jim Paterson went in there in an alien position and did very well." Emile Mpenza was a surprise absentee from the squad, he is suffering from a slight knee problem. Sturrock added: "Mpenza has had a wee problem for a couple of weeks. The back of his knee has been getting sore, so we had a little chat and decided to give him an injection to clear it up."
A young Argyle side lost 2-1 at Barnstaple Town in the St Lukes Cup last night, the goal scored by Sean Kinsella. Argyle: Chenoweth, White, Brett, Kinsella, Gerring, Evans, Bolasie, McCaul, Barnes, Mason, Smith. (Subs not used - Grant, Edwards, Levet, Troupe,Trott)
Argyle beat Preston North End 1-0 at Home Park, the goal scored by Rory Fallon after 18 minutes. Argyle: Larrieu, Doumbe, Cathcart, Seip, Barker, Mackie, Summerfield, Duguid, Clark, Gallagher, Fallon. Subs – Paterson (not used – Noone, Marin, Maclean, Timar). Attendance - 9,824
Paul Sturrock will keep the team for tonight's match with Preston North End under wraps until the last possible moment. He said: "I have got to make a decision about whether I give this team another opportunity or whether I make some changes in personnel. For the first time this season on Saturday, there was an air in the camp that we could beat anyone. Then we lose and we're in a situation where we're playing mind games with ourselves. We've got to kick on, blow the cobwebs out and keep our standards and results going." Sturrock said there had been the 'usual' questions over whether he had introduced the substitutes too late in the Derby game. He said: "We didn't lose out in any way by putting three subs on. They came on at an important time and nearly turned the game for us with three or four chances. The usual question of did we put them on early enough would have flared up but that is an easy decision for people to make in hindsight." He added that the players had now got over Saturday's defeat and said: "Being very disappointed to come away from Derby with a defeat augurs well. Everybody came away from the game saying we merited more from the game. Even their manager made comment of that. There were times we could go to places like that and capitulate. At the start of the season we could have easily taken four or five. This lot are a bit more determined and steely. The players were absolutely gutted. They can hardly wait to get back out onto the pitch."
Argyle struggled against Derby County on Saturday because the teams play a similar style of football, according to Paul Sturrock. He said: "They didn't do a job on us – both teams play identical types of football. Space was squeezed and there was no room for Gallagher. It was always going to be about chances taken – we created more than they did, but it's about taking them. They were a mirror-image of us – I don't think there are many teams play the same way as we play, or the same way Derby play. A lot of them play a softer game than us." There are signs that defences are learning to read the Fallon-Gallagher attack but Sturrock thinks Gallagher will adapt and added: "It is up to us and Paul to respect that and do something about it. If there is a lack of space, Paul has to change his game. He has to win more second-balls, so that he adds a string to his bow. He has to understand that he is going to be man-marked and people are going to squeeze him for space. It is up to him to be appreciative of that and I think he definitely has the ability to adapt."
Paul Sturrock has a full squad of players to choose from ahead of tonights game with Preston North End. "We have a clean bill of health again," he said. "David McNamee needs more time. You can't come back from a lay-off like he has had and expect to be flying in the team. Gary Sawyer has got a wee stud mark in his shin but he should be ok for training. Dan Smith came off in training with something niggling him." While the first-team takes on Preston, the younger players in Sturrock's squad will be competing in the Devon Bowl at Barnstaple. He added: "Some of the younger players will play in the Devon Bowl on Tuesday night because they have got to keep ticking over. It is far better to have them playing a game, than watching a game."
Nicolas Marin has insisted he is content to wait for his chance to make a mark on the Argyle first team. Speaking through interpreter, Romain Larrieu, Marin said that in France the game was based around short passes and was slower. But Larrieu said: "That's why he was so surprised by the intensity of the game here, with everybody going for it every minute." Marin, through Larrieu, said: "Obviously, you are going to be frustrated if you don't start games, but the results are dictating that. But I'm just going to keep working hard and wait for my chance to come." When asked if he thought he was close to being handed a starting role, Marin smiled and said: "You'll have to ask the manager." Larrieu said: "He wants to show everyone more of what they have seen in glimpses so far. He's exciting when he gets the ball and he wants to take people on and get his crosses in. He's got pace and I hope he will be able to able to show how quick he is. He knows he's got to be patient, but he also knows there's another 35 games left, although we have played 11. He is content with the situation because he knows there's enough time to show what he's all about." Marin, who has brought his family to Plymouth, admitted he 'probably wasn't in the best shape' at the start of the season and 'the gaffer needed someone to go straight in'. But Larrieu said: "It doesn't change anything about how he feels about Plymouth. Players from France can come here and have a great time, but they have got to be hungry. He doesn't want this just to be a football experience – if the opportunity came for him to stay in England, he would."
Paul Sturrock has admitted he faces some tough decisions when it comes to team selection for Argyle's game against Preston tomorrow. He said: "There are difficult decisions to be made for Tuesday. I told everybody if we kept winning the strip was theirs, but we have lost. So now I have got to decide whether I give this team another opportunity, or I freshen things up." Paul Gallagher was nursing a sore Achilles after the game against Derby but expects to be fit tomorrow. He said: "Claude Davis went down the back of my Achilles, but I will be all right for Tuesday. I want to play every game. It's just a kick."
Argyle's youth team won 3-1 at Cheltenham Town on Saturday, the goals scored by Sean Kinsella and Joe Mason (2). Argyle: Brooks, Leonard, Trott, Kinsella, Gerring, Brett, Edwards, McCaul, Rickard, Mason, Grant. Subs – Clifford, Young, Coombes (not used - Levet, Troupe)
Paul Gallagher added to his goal tally on Saturday, but still finished on the losing side for the first time in five weeks. "We knew it was going to be a tough game, because we'd both been on good runs and no one wants to lose," he said. "We got off to a great start, but then we conceded a goal at the worst possible time, a minute before half-time. Then they scored again, and we were chasing the game. If we could have hung on at 1-1, or if we'd have nicked something near the end, we'd have been happy. I think we were good enough for a point, and I didn't think they had many chances." His fifth goal of the season was a spectacular effort, a dipping shot from long range. He said: "Rory has got up well, as he always does, and he's won his header. I just gambled off him and I had a good touch. It sat up nicely and I hit it, and luckily enough it's gone into the top corner. It was a good finish but, in the end, it was a disappointing result. We had at least four or five chances to nick a point near the end. I don't think Romain had that much to do, and they were two sloppy goals that we gave away – the second one, especially." Fallon also felt that the outcome was harsh. He said: "I think we definitely deserved a draw. It was a harsh second goal to give away – it came off Karl Duguid – and once they got 2-1 up they just hung on to it. We had some good chances near the end, but it wasn't meant to be. I thought we did well to fight back, but we let ourselves down in those dodgy 15 minutes. We should have kept the ball."
Paul Sturrock was not too disheartened after the defeat at Derby. "There are lots of positives to take out of the game," he said, "more positives, than negatives. You learn more about yourselves in defeat and we're getting there. We're honest and hard-working, and can put people under pressure. That's only our second defeat away from home, which is reasonable form. After five games, I didn't believe in these players. I don't think they believed in themselves; after 11 games, I'm a great believer in them, now. After five games, we were wondering where the next point was coming - that is the kind of confidence that was in the team; there's a confidence there now, and I think we can push on from here. It's a terrible thing to say, but if there is a way to lose, we went down the right road of it today. I don't think we deserved to lose the game, but we didn't deserve to win it. I think that, if we'd nipped a goal in the last couple of minutes, a draw would have been a fair result. Our goalkeeper didn't have that much to do as far as saves to make, even though Derby had a lot of the ball, being the home team. We were disappointed we went to sleep for five minutes before half-time and ten minutes after. We didn't do the things that we'd been attempting to do. We went to sleep on ourselves. We didn't push ourselves out of the box and get up the pitch. We go home wounded, but not dead." Sturrock believes that there remains plenty of potential in the team which may be realized if they can ensure safety sooner, rather than later. He said: "If we get to that magical pointage of 50 early, who knows what we can achieve? The recent run shows what hard work and endeavour can do with a bit of organisation and shape." Sturrock brought on Emile Mpenza for the last 15 minutes after toying with his options. "Who do you take off?" he added. "Gallagher might smash another one in, and Rory's been our target-man all season, and you are changing styles. It's a difficult one. Gallagher can play wide left but you lose his influence on the pitch. We changed to 4-2-4. We'd rather lose 3-1 or 4-1, than finish up 2-1 without attempting to chase the game, because a loss is a loss." Argyle have a chance to bounce back when they host Preston at Home Park on Tuesday. "The important game for us now is Tuesday," said Sturrock. "We've got to get back on the rails as quickly as possible, because losing is as habit-forming as winning. There are difficult decisions to be made now. I told everybody that, if we kept winning, the shirt was theirs: we've lost, so now I've got to decide whether I give this team another opportunity or I freshen things up. It's all the roundheads that are playing at the moment; the cavaliers cannot get in the team. We'll wait and see how it develops."
Rory Fallon targeted back-to-back home wins after the defeat at Derby. "We've got a whole new confidence," he said. "We're going away from our home games, thinking we can beat people. We thought we could win today. That's our mentality - 'we can beat anyone'. We're gutted. We wanted something out of it, but it was not meant to be. We've got two home games now and we've got to get six points. I think we deserved a draw today, but that's football sometimes. It was a tough second goal for us - it's deflected off Duggie. Once you get 2-1 up, you just hang on to it, like we have been doing, and that's what they did. We had some good chances near the end, probably our best chances of the game. I thought we'd do well and fight back, but there was a dodgy 15 minutes that we let ourselves down. Near the end we were playing like we usually have been playing, putting some great balls in. Duggie had a chance; I had a header; Marcel did, and then Nic Marin. On another day, those would have gone in - it was just one of those things." Fallon enjoyed a tough battle with Claude Davis and Lewin Nyatanga but did have one grievance. "I wasn't too happy with the ref," he said. "There was a clear stomp on my leg. If that was me, I'm getting sent off there. It's not good when someone does that. Besides that, everything else was 50-50."
Argyle lost 2-1 at Derby County, the goal scored by Paul Gallagher after 8 minutes. Argyle: Larrieu, Doumbe, Cathcart, Seip, Barker, Clark, Summerfield, Duguid, Mackie, Gallagher, Fallon. Subs – Paterson, Marin, Mpenza (not used – Folly, Timar). Attendance - 28,495
Paul Sturrock is continuing his attempts to reduce the club's wage bill by sending more of his squad out on loan. He said: "We have sent all sorts of memos out to people, to try to find if anybody is interested in taking any of our players on loan. We have had no comeback yet, which has disappointed me because our younger ones definitely need competition. And some of our older ones need competitive games to put an edge to them, rather than playing in the reserves." Sturrock admitted that should certain players go out on loan, Argyle may still have to pay part of their wages while they are away. "For some, we will have to do something along those lines, but for others, no," he added. Damien McCrory made his debut for Port Vale as a late substitute in their win at Shrewsbury Town last Saturday. Sturrock said: "I'm pleased for him. I do feel he could be a Chris Clark-type player for us, rather than a Puncheon or a Marin."
Romain Larrieu will be relishing the opportunity to help Argyle extend their unbeaten run and also end their Pride Park hoodoo at Derby County this afternoon. "The lads are all focused on getting a result today – it's a very important match for us," he said Larrieu. "I'm relishing the chance to play at Pride Park again and having trained hard with the lads in the last two weeks, I know they will be, too. It's a great stadium and there is always a big crowd there – it's very exciting playing in front of 30,000 people. And if the Green Army can give us as much support as they have in the past, it should be a great atmosphere again. It's true, we have not won at Derby in any of our three matches there, but they were all close games, Argyle losing by one goal. I played in two of those games, and it's not a nice feeling. Yes, we are unbeaten in five games, which is very nice, but it's the games ahead that we're focusing on. Derby, too, have been getting good results, so one of us is going to be disappointed today. Hopefully, it will not be Argyle, but either way it should be a very interesting game. I would take a point from there which would keep the run going and give us a good platform going into next week's home games." Also adding spice to today's clash is that it will be Paul Connolly's first game against the club since he left Home Park. Connolly is now Derby's captain and Larrieu is both pleased for and proud of his progress. "He has done very well, hasn't he?" said Larrieu. "Paul felt it was time to move on – he has ambitions to play in the Premier League and I think he has the ability to do so, too. I will be very pleased to see him again, he's a good lad. I wish him well, just not today though."
Liam Head has been called up into the England squad for the European Under-17 Championship qualifiers against Armenia, Estonia and Spain later this month
Joe Mason has been included in the Republic of Ireland under-18 squad for the Limoges International Tournament in France later this month, where Ireland will take on Denmark, Serbia and France
Paul Sturrock has tipped Paul Connolly for future success – but hopes he ends up on the losing side at Pride Park tomorrow. Sturrock, who gave Connolly his debut for Argyle in 2001, said: "He was a fantastic servant, and I hope he has a great career – apart from tomorrow! Anything that laddie receives in football, whether it's finance or honours and everything else, he totally merits and deserves because he's a model professional." Connolly will be up against Chris Clark tomorrow, and Sturrock added: "The boy Clark has played against some decent full-backs in the last four or five games and done very, very well. It should be a real good tussle between them. Derby are one of the form sides in the league and I think they had a 30,000 crowd for the last home game, so it's a very difficult place to go. I'm hopeful we can handle the early surge we are going to get from them, and then we can kick on. I'm expecting Derby to come out all guns blazing. They are on a roll and will be confident. There will be balls in our box and bodies flying everywhere." Craig Noone will be included in a squad of 18 or 19 players after his performance for the reserves on Tuesday. Sturrock said: "A lot more deserve to be going on this trip than will go, for the simple reason that everybody has performed to a very good standard in the last two reserve games. I might take 19 because there are two players who have performed very well in the reserves and merit coming into the squad." Meanwhile, Paul Maxwell has reported a clean bill of health ahead of the game. David McNamee and Gary Sawyer have both returned to full training, although neither will feature at Pride Park. "Everybody is training at the moment," said Sturrock. "Maxi has done a fantastic job. Sawyer is back training. He actually started full training yesterday and he will hopefully be ready for the next reserve game. McNamee also came through training. I am very pleased that we have clean bill of health. I think there will be a couple more games for McNamee and in an emergency, I'd have to think about him, but he is not travelling this weekend."
Simon Walton has admitted he has not lived up to expectations at Argyle. He said: "I couldn't have wished for a worse start, to be honest. I came here with big expectations – from other people and myself – and, obviously, I haven't lived up to that, or anywhere close. I have been told what to do, or what not to do, so I know what it will take to get back in the team. It's going to be hard, but I have got a few months to put it right." Paul Sturrock shook up his side after the defeat by Norwich, and that sparked the recent revival. Walton said: "You can't argue with four wins and a draw. It has made it a little bit easier for me because we have been winning. I have just had to get on with it because there is nothing I could have done. At the time, the gaffer had to do something to turn things around, and it has worked. I haven't sulked – I'm sure he would say that if you asked him. I had my little chat with him the day after the game against Watford and I have got on with it. I have worked so hard to try to get back in the team, but after four wins and a draw there is not much you can do. It has made it a little bit easier to take in a way, but, at the same time, it's not a period I have enjoyed." Walton is prepared to do whatever it takes to win over Sturrock. "He has told me in no uncertain terms what he wants from me," he said. "It's more clear to me now. I know what I have got to do, like I said, and I'm trying to go the right way about it. You have got to be able to adapt to different ways as a footballer, and maybe I haven't adapted as I should have to the style of play here. Like I keep saying, I'm doing my best and I want to play here. I have never ever said I don't want to play here. It's just I have maybe got to change the way I play to suit the team, and not suit Simon Walton." Even though he has not been playing, Walton has been pleased to see the team make such good progress. He said: "For Plymouth to be fifth in the league now is better for me than to be sat bottom, where we were when I was playing. Obviously, now the challenge is for me to get into the side and for us to stay up there. I'm not a player or a person who settles for second best. I wouldn't take being in the bottom three and playing. I want to play for a team at the top of the league. I want to play in the Premier League, so the higher up the team the better it is. But, at the end of the day, I need to be playing and I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure I do." Walton has played two games for the reserves over the past fortnight, and added: "I feel like I have done well in training and maybe done that bit extra to make sure that when I do get back in, I stay in. It's just getting that chance, and I would like to think that chance will come pretty soon. I have worked hard, I haven't sulked and I have got on with it. But if the team keeps winning, and the lads keep doing what they are doing, there isn't much you can say."
Paul Sturrock has been on a reminding mission after the international break. "I am disappointed to have had the break," he said. "I would have taken a game every day, given what happened. We have rested and got over that spell where we had an awful lot of games during a short period of time. We are now going into a heavy schedule again and I always worry that people forget. It is about reminding them what our success has been all about because you don't want people to fall off the pace. You should see how training deteriorates when they know they haven't got a game on the Saturday. It is very difficult to get it right when there is no game on the Saturday. It is very difficult to ensure they are up and running and I am hoping that we don't get a kickback. I am very hopeful that I will fill their heads with all the things for them to remember as we approach kick-off time."
Mat Doumbe insists Argyle are in the frame of mind to hit the ground running at Derby County on Saturday. Doumbe is confident neither he nor his team-mates have lost their sharpness as a result of the international break, and he said: "Like me, the lads are all really looking forward to the game and keen to start where we left off before the break. OK, we haven't been playing competitively, and when you're winning you want to keep playing. But I can tell all the fans that everybody has looked sharp in training. We're all fit and nobody has been pulling any punches in training. The lads have all been keen to keep themselves focused on the matches coming up against Derby on Saturday and then two at home on Tuesday and then next Saturday. Going to Derby is going to be a big match for us, of course, but we're not going there short of confidence, that's for certain. They are also on a good run, so it's going to be a tough game and in front of a big crowd. It's going to be a really good test for us." Doumbe further insisted he had no problem playing at right-back, rather than his preferred centre-back role. "I don't mind playing at right-back – I like playing there and it also gives the gaffer more defensive options," he added. "Playing at full-back is not a problem for me – it never has been, to be fair. I'm just happy to be involved and playing, keeping my place and helping the team." Doumbe is also relishing the chance to meet up with one of his former team-mates, Derby skipper Paul Connolly. "It will be good to catch up with Shelley again, but only after the match," he said. "I liked him a lot at Argyle and am really delighted that he's doing so well. But, like I say, I'll say 'hi' and spend time with him after the game – not before."
Paul Sturrock enjoyed the reserve team win at Exeter City on Tuesday. "I thought it was a good standard game played in the right spirit, there were lots of tackles and sometimes, reserve games are a bit below the standard and you don't always get something out of it," he said. "But the players showed an appetite for the game and I think they appreciate they are going to have to keep performing to a decent standard to give themselves an opportunity of being in and around the first team. Craig was not himself in the first 20 minutes, but he grew into the game. He has that exceptional talent and he was signed because of that, it is just a case of trying to hone it. I thought Bolasie had an excellent game as well, it is just his final ball letting him down at the minute. Big Ashley Barnes is showing a great appetite and Emile is slowly getting better. When you haven't played a game since February, it takes a while and he needs games. But he is starting to come to grips with it and it will take a wee bit longer to really bed himself in."
Argyle reserves beat Exeter City 2-1 at St James' Park last night, both goals scored by Craig Noone. French trialist Sebastien Piocelle played in the centre of midfield but it seems very unlikely Paul Sturrock will pursue any interest in him. Sturrock said: "He was very competent but no better than what we have. He passed the ball excellently and was a typical French player. He reminded me of Nalis a wee bit. But the boy Walton is here and, at the end of the day, he's a very similar type of player to him." Argyle: Stack, McNamee, White, Timar, Paterson, Bolasie, Piocelle, Walton, Noone, Barnes, Mpenza. Subs – Brett, Smith (not used - Saxton, Mason, Kinsella)
Paul Gallagher has admitted he does not see his future being at Blackburn next season and expects to be playing somewhere else. "Sometimes you have to take a step backwards to move forward and that is what I hope I have done by moving into the Championship," he said. "For quite a while now I have thought it might be time for me to leave Blackburn permanently. It's disappointing, but that is football. I have to go where I can play regular football and, being honest, I can't see that happening at Rovers. At the moment all I can concentrate on is playing for Plymouth. I don't even know what Blackburn are thinking. But I have to admit I don't really expect to still be a Blackburn player come next season." Gallagher admitted his lack of first team opportunities at Blackburn had led to him dropping out of contention for the Scotland squad. He said: "What has happened at Blackburn has cost me my chances with Scotland. How can the manager pick me if I am not playing for my club? But I still have hopes of getting back involved with Scotland in the future." Gallagher has hinted he would be open to the idea of a permanent move to Argyle. He said: "I'm not giving up on playing in the Premier League. I believe that is where I should be playing, but at the moment I just need to be playing football. I'm really enjoying myself at Plymouth. Paul Sturrock is a very good manager and has been great for me. Perhaps there will be the chance to stay at Plymouth. I'm leaving all my options open."
Argyle face a resurgent Derby County side on Saturday, who were also enjoying a superb run of form prior to the international break. Paul Sturrock said: "They have not lost in their last seven games, so they will be difficult opposition. There are no easy games in this league and we have just to churn and churn and churn. We have got five games in 14 days, which is a lot to ask of any football team. Derby are in the same boat as us. They would not have wanted no game on the Saturday, so, hopefully, we will be up to speed. They have some excellent players, individuals who can win football games and their crowd is right behind them now."
Paul Sturrock believes he has the ideal solution to Scotland's striking crisis. He said: "The system Scotland played the other day was ideal for Paul Gallagher. He has got the attributes to definitely play in a 4-3-3 or a 4-5-1. He is a talented footballer and he has been around the B internationals before, but I don't know how he did in that. He would not let them down. Chris Iwelumo is playing in the team from our league. I am sure they know about him and if he keeps playing like he is, he will get his chance. The Championship is as competitive as the Premier League in Scotland, so it would not be a culture shock for him."
Brian McCaul played for Northern Ireland's under-19 team in their 2-1 win over Albania on Monday and their 3-1 defeat to England last week
David McNamee will make his comeback from injury when Argyle reserves play Exeter City at St James' Park tonight. Paul Sturrock said: "I'm very pleased he's back but the way he trained yesterday morning it looks as though he will need a game or two before he can get sorted out. The proof will be in the pudding tonight, but we will give him as long as he can handle." There will be six changes from the reserve side which drew 3-3 at Reading last week. Coming into the team are Graham Stack, McNamee, Yala Bolasie, Craig Noone, Ashley Barnes and a foreign trialist. The trialist will play the centre of midfield alongside Simon Walton. Sturrock was pleased with the performance against Reading and wants more of the same tonight. He said: "The style we have adopted in the first team should be mirror-imaged by your reserves."
Paul Sturrock has not closed the door on out-of-favour striker Steve MacLean. He said: "At this minute in time, I'm trying to get everybody singing from the same hymn sheet. The important thing is to focus on Saturday, and everybody attempting to get one of the slots in the 16. Me and Steve know what the story is. We have had two chats now about his situation and the door has been left open for him." Three of Sturrock's summer signings, Graham Stack, Jason Puncheon and Simon Walton, have also found themselves out of the team recently, and Sturrock said: "At this moment in time I really don't want to discuss the ins and outs at this football club. The important thing at this minute is to focus on next Saturday and everybody attempting to get one of the slots in the 16. There are always reports in papers at the end of the day I will be telling everybody when things like that come about. What I am saying at this moment in time is that I am trying to get everyone on the same hymn sheet. I had individual conversations with everybody before they went away, the ones that have not been in the team lately. Some I have told they can go out on loan. They have all been told there is still an opportunity here for anyone that grabs it. Last time I was desperate for the international break to come around, this time I was not. People forget things very quickly in football so we will have to remind them over the next few days what they have achieved and how they have been achieving it and obviously, at the same time, making sure the players' fitness levels are attuned for the next game. We have got five games coming up in the space of 15 days, which is a lot to ask from any football team. A small group handled the last five but I am very hopeful that there will be some others coming to the show because suspensions, injuries or lack of form, will definitely kick in sooner or later. That's why I am emphasising to the others when the chance comes they are going to have to be up to the show. They are going to have to be up to full speed very quickly. It could happen this Friday – and if it does they are going to have to grab it."
Paul Sturrock has denied any interest in signing Crystal Palace midfielder Carl Fletcher. He said: "A way back before we signed Walton he was one of the contenders but that's passed us by now. We had a look at him but as I have said we have taken Simon and he is a very similar type player."
Argyle under-18's beat Torquay United 2-1 in the Youth Alliance League Cup yesterday, the goals scored by Joe Mason and Liam Head. Argyle: Brooks, Leonard, Trott, Kinsella, Brett, Gerring, Edwards, Moseley, Head, Mason, Grant. Subs - Bennett, Rickard, Young (not used - Troupe, Levet)
Paul Sturrock believes his demand that all his players, including his high-profile captures, adhere to his instructions is paying dividends. Sturrock was very pleased with the attitude of his players after watching the reserves in a 3-3 draw at Reading yesterday and said: "I was very pleased with the players at Reading – they put in a real shift particularly in the second half. Not one player and I mean not one of them, let themselves down and that is very pleasing. They have listened and learnt to what we've been asking of them and that can only be good for the club. The match was great entertainment and played at high tempo, which is what I'd been calling for. Not only that, but they were sticking to the gameplan that I'd set out for them and as everyone now knows that's why I'd made the changes when I did." Argyle are unbeaten in five matches and are now fifth in the table as opposed to bottom place when Sturrock decided to make chages to his team. "I think the problem before was that not all the players were doing what we'd asked of them before the game," he added. "That obviously couldn't go on in the fashion it was. Some players didn't have the tactical awareness nor the high tempo game that I was asking for. They all needed to be singing from the same hymn sheet – mine. But now I'm seeing that happen for us in the first team and again in the reserves yesterday. The players have worked hard and it's paying off for them and for the club. What I want is these players to be able to come into the first team when the opportunity arises and be able to fit in seamlessly." Although a late equaliser denied his team victory yesterday, Sturrock enjoyed the game. "It was a great match and I thought Mpenza gained in confidence after his goal," he said. "They shaded the first half but we played a lot better in the second."
Damien McCrory has been given the backing of Paul Sturrock after joining Port Vale on loan. Sturrock said: "I think a loan is appropriate and, hopefully, will prove beneficial to him at this stage of his career. We've tried him in a few positions other than out wide, for example, in centre midfield and at left-back to try and aid his development." McCrory is relishing the challenge, and said: "It is a great opportunity for me to play first-team football and I hope I can help the team do well while I am here. I should have been going back home to Ireland tomorrow, as we have a free weekend. But now I'm going to have to cancel the flights. I played in the Argyle first-team in pre-season and in the reserves and have done well. So, this is an opportunity to step up and I am really looking forward to it."
Argyle reserves drew 3-3 at Reading this afternoon, the goals scored by Yoann Folly (2) and Emile Mpenza. Argyle: Saxton, White, Timar, Gerring, Paterson, Marin, Folly, Walton, Puncheon, Mpenza, MacLean. Subs - Smith (not used - Chenoweth, Kinsella, Barnes, Brett)
Chris Clark has insisted the squad at Argyle are united in their desire for success this season. "We have got a good dressing room and everyone is right behind us, whoever is playing," he said. "It's a long season and you need to have a strong squad who are going to support each other, and that's what we have got. Obviously, the team have been doing well recently and the manager has stuck with the same side. But I think players need to be ready to come in if anything happens." Argyle's next game is not until October 18th due to the international break and as a result, Paul Sturrock will give his squad four days off, starting tomorrow. Clark said: "With the amount of work we have put in over the past month, I think we deserve a few days off. Derby are going well, and it's always difficult coming back after not having a game for two weeks, but we want to keep our run going. We want to go there and get a good performance again." A key component in Argyle's unbeaten run has been Paul Gallagher, who has scored four goals in seven games and Clark has been very impressed with his contribution so far. He said: "He has got a good touch, he's very clever and he's aware of things around about him. It just gives us another option and him and Rory have been working tremendously hard." Clark was involved in Argyle's best goal last Saturday against Sheffield Wednesday. His pass gave Jamie Mackie the chance to cross to Paul Gallagher to put the side two up. "Rory did well to win the long ball from Romain, and I was pleased to get on the end of it," Clark said. "I just slid in Jamie and he played a great ball across, and Gally was clever coming across the front and getting in. It was a well-worked goal, and the first-half performance was really strong." Clark did not finish the match, limping off in the closing stages. "It was just a dead leg," he said. "I was just chasing my own bad touch, to be honest." Clark will be fit and ready for Argyle's next challenge, a game at Derby County on Saturday week. "They're going well now," he added, "and it's always difficult coming back after not having a game for two weeks. But we want to keep our run going, and we'll make sure we go there and give a good performance."
Damien McCrory has joined Port Vale in a one-month loan deal
Paul Sturrock admitted he came close to picking Nicolas Marin or Emile Mpenza for the visit of Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday. He said: "I thought long and hard about giving one of the other two a game today. But none of them in the team have let us down so far with their performances. I think it would have been rather harsh to leave anyone out, and it would maybe have been a negative to a positive situation." Marin and Mpenza came on for Chris Clark and Paul Gallagher respectively late in the game and Sturrock revealed he did not make his substitutions earlier in the game because of the weather conditions. He said: "It was difficult to say 'on you go' because of the wind. If we had been 3-0 up on a nice sunny day I would have chucked Mpenza on for half-an-hour. But the problem was you could quite easily lose two or three goals with shots from distance with the wind that there was. I didn't want to have that hanging over our heads, so I played very solid." Mpenza was sent on in the second minute of stoppage time, and the referee blew the final whistle almost immediately. Sturrock added: "It was a bit embarrassing and I apologised to him after the game. I thought there was five or six minutes still to go and he could get a wee run out. He's looking at me as though I'm an alien at the minute, and that's obviously because he's not playing. But, being a professional footballer, I think he's appreciative a manager isn't going to change a winning team."
Jamie Mackie has gone from being a non-League footballer with Exeter City, to a key member of an Argyle team in the top six of the Championship, in under a year. He has also played a big part in Argyle moving from the bottom of the division the play-off places in the last three weeks. "It's been a massive turnaround," Mackie said, "for the team and for me. I wasn't in the squad three weeks ago. I was watching from the stands, but I didn't sulk about it. I kept my head up and stayed positive. For the club, the gaffer, and all the staff, it's brilliant. We've done really well." With Mackie in form on the right flank, Nicolas Marin is stuck on the bench and Jason Puncheon is being kept out of the squad. Mackie is making sure of that, with his work-rate and his goals. "I love scoring goals," he added. "My striker's instincts mean that I'm going to follow everything in, whereas maybe some wingers won't do that. I like to gamble, and I'm delighted when that pays off. I'll take ten or 11 goals this season, without a doubt. There are always goals to be scored – you just have to be alert." Argyle's first goal against Sheffield Wednesday at the weekend went down as an own goal but Mackie took some of the credit. He said: "I could have hooked it in myself, but I gambled on the 'keeper dropping it. I did well, maybe, to set up the chance. I controlled it, and one of their lads made a good tackle just as I was about to spin and hit it, but he kicked it against his own player and it went in. We're getting that little bit of luck that we need at the minute." Paul Gallagher's goal on Saturday epitomised the style of play being developed by Paul Sturrock. Mackie said: "We're working the ball out wide nicely, and we keep crossing the ball. Rory and Gally keep getting in there. Long may it continue. The third goal did it for us. If we'd got that third goal when we were 2-0 up at Bristol City last week and playing so well, maybe they would not have come back. We learned from that, and I was delighted for the defenders to get a clean-sheet. We played really good football in the first half, and the second half wasn't all about setting the world alight. It was about being solid and not conceding a goal. It was a different game in the second half, and we did well." Argyle now have a fortnight off due to the international break, but will be hard at work on the training ground. "We're not going to have a jolly-up for the next two weeks," Mackie added. "We're probably going to work even harder. That's what we should do, because we've got a massive game when we come back."
Steve MacLean is set to feature for a strong Argyle reserve side at Reading tomorrow afternoon. Sturrock said: "We will be working very hard on the shape of the team in training today so it's along the lines of what we have been playing in the Championship. That means when they get their opportunity again they won't misunderstand how I want the game to be played."
Krisztian Timar has not been included in Hungary's squad for their two World Cup qualifiers next week. He was one of four players who did not make the final cut when Ronald Koeman chose his final squad
Dan Smith has returned to Argyle at the end of his one-month loan to Morecambe and Paul Sturrock admitted he was 'a wee bit disappointed' Smith had only played twice for Morecambe's first team. He said: "I will be having a chat with the laddie and I'm hopeful we can get some more playing time for him elsewhere."
David McNamee returned to training yesterday after recovering from a torn calf muscle. Paul Sturrock said: "He did some ball-work and we will see what reaction he gets from that." There was also good news from Sturrock on Gary Sawyer, who had an operation on a hamstring injury last month. "Gary is very close to returning to training," he added.
Paul Sturrock celebrated his 100th win as manager of Argyle after the defeat of Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday. Following the game Sturrock said: "Let's hope there is another 100 in me." Argyle convincingly beat Wednesday and Sturrock thought his players were worthy of all the accolades on Saturday. He said: "I think the players deserve a lot of praise today. They have shown a discipline, a work ethic and a fantastic attitude. It just shows what you can achieve when those ingredients are in your team. The players are gutted they don't have a game next Saturday, and I'm gutted as well. We don't want to stop the momentum going, but they are also a bit leg weary as well. I have only had one personnel change over the last five games so it shows the players have responded properly." Argyle were bottom of the table on September 13th, after a home defeat by Norwich City, but since then have picked up 13 points out of a possible 15. Sturrock said: "Norwich was a dark, dark day. I think there was a lot of soul-searching that weekend. A decision was made on what kind of team we were going to put out in the next gam, which came very quickly. I pre-warned the players who were selected they would keep their jerseys with victories and results, and they have responded properly." Sturrock thought the combination of the rain and wind contributed to the uneventful opening to the game. He said: "People were just finding their feet because they were sliding all over the place. There was a lot of rainfall in a short period of time and people were miscontrolling everything. There was a wee bit of luck about our first goal, but I think you make that kind of luck. When you are prepared to run that extra yard and put pressure on people on the ball, then that's what can happen."
Paul Gallagher has been fighting to convince people he is a genuine centre-forward for much of his career and is loving life playing in the hole behind the main striker for Argyle. "This is the position I have wanted to play in all my career," he said. "Managers have not been sure what my best position is but, as you can see, I am scoring goals. I have played out on the wing but I would rather be in there. I have also got a job to do on their deepest midfielder to stop him getting the ball, and when we break I can drop into that position where defenders don't want to go. If I can help defensively and attacking, I will play there all season." Despite yesterdays result, Gallagher and his team-mates know they came out on top against strong opponents. He said: "It was a tough game. Every time you play Sheffield Wednesday you know it is going to be tough, especially with the weather today. We played well and took our chances when they came along. Football is a funny game. As soon as you win a game, confidence is up and the belief comes back. The more you win, the more your confidence grows. We have got a big squad. There are people like Steve MacLean, Simon Walton, Jason Puncheon and Graham Stack not even making the bench, and they are quality players. The manager can't change a team that keeps winning and in the last five games, we have won four and drawn one. There is always competition for places. We know it is a very tough division and we have got to fifth in the table by working hard and taking our chances when they came along. We won't get carried away. You can go on a bad run and be back down there." The only possible downside to Gallagher's form is the possibility of alerting Blackburn on what they are missing. Gallagher though, is only concerned with his future at Argyle. He said: "I am delighted. I am 24 and I just want to be playing first-team football. Paul Sturrock has given me the chance to do that here. I want to be involved in the play as much as I can. If I am not scoring goals, I want to be creating them and winning football games. I haven't spoken to Blackburn since I arrived. I am at Plymouth Argyle and there is nothing I can do to affect Blackburn. They will probably keep an eye on things but they have got their own things going on. All I can do is score goals for Plymouth." Gallagher's goal yesterday came after a Mark Beevers own goal had given Argyle an early lead. "We are riding on that bit of luck you need in football," he said. "Any goal that comes along, we will take it but the next two were great goals. Mackie has done very well down the right and pulled it back, and I was delighted to just touch it in. The next one has Rory Fallon doing a fantastic overhead kick - I have never seen him do it in training. The 'keeper saved it and Mackie was there. I thought Mackie had a great game today. We all played well but he was really good, and the team is flying with confidence. People think Rory is just a big target man but he has got great feet."
Mathias Doumbe has been one of the quiet heroes in Argyle's recent run of 13 points from a possible 15 and Paul Sturrock is delighted with the way he is adapted, with just one criticism. "If we can get Mat Doumbe to take a throw-in, we might be even more offensive," he said. "He initiates attacks for the opposition from our own throw-ins. To be fair, he has done fantastic. He has gone into a difficult position and done very well. He hasn't let us down in any way. His use of the ball has been reasonable and, apart from Tuesday night, there has not been much coming in from his side. He gives us a bit more height and pace in the defence."
Argyle recorded their fourth win in five games and moved up to fifth in the table yesterday but less than 11,000 people were there to see the game. Paul Sturrock believes the time has come for us to accept who we are. He said: "If you looked at the weather today, it was difficult for anybody to come charging from their homes in the pouring rain and I can understand the situation. You also have to remember that the average gate of Plymouth Argyle from about 1972 onwards has been around 13,000. This is nothing new to Plymouth Argyle - that is what we are. That is our hardened support and I am very grateful. If we ever made the Premiership, it might be a different story but this is where we are now. This is us and we have got to get on with it."
Argyle beat Sheffield Wednesday 4-0 at Home Park, the goals coming from an own goal after 15 minutes, Paul Gallagher (25), Jamie Mackie (30) and Marcel Seip (90). Argyle: Larrieu, Doumbe, Cathcart, Seip, Barker, Clark, Summerfield, Duguid, Mackie, Gallagher, Fallon. Subs – Paterson, Marin, Mpenza (not used – Folly, Timar). Attendance - 10,795
Paul Sturrock has admitted that David McNamee is 'responding slowly' to treatment for a torn calf muscle. He said: "It has been a slow grind for him. They get so far and then they have to slow down again. It's one of those ones." Gary Sawyer is also recovering from an operation on a hamstring injury
Paul Sturrock is insisting that today's game between his current and former clubs is just another match. "Sheffield Wednesday are a fantastic football club, with a fantastic fanbase," he said. "I enjoyed every minute as manager there, and they gave me the best day in football, the 2005 play-off final win, I've ever had. It was a special day. I'm looking forward to seeing the players and staff I know, but the important thing is to make sure they go away with no points." Sturrock knows that it is about time Argyle got the better of his former employers, and added: "They like this stadium. Their results have proved that in the past – they've won their last two games here. They're going very, very well. They're coming off a two-game winning streak. They look a very strong team, with a lot of honest players. They've got excitement up front, with a bit of pace, and it doesn't surprise me to see them doing well."
Dan Smith's one-month loan deal with Morecambe will not be extended after it expires next week. Morecambe manager Sammy McIlroy said: "Dan is a young lad who has definitely got something. He was a good lad to have around and trained really well, but he probably needs to bulk himself up a bit to make himself an even better player."
Paul Sturrock has chosen the same starting line-up for the last three matches and been rewarded with excellent results. But he thought Argyle showed signs of fatigue against Bristol City and so must decide whether to stick with the same players tomorrow. He said: "It's a catch 22. I have got to make a decision whether to go with this lot again, or I decide that fresh legs are needed. I think people would appreciate our home form has not been scintillating all season. We got a win last time but it's determining whether we need that sharpness and zest. I could say to them, 'On you go', as this is our last match before the international break, but we have got to win the football game. There are two ways of looking at – the manager takes the easy option, picks the same team and there is no pressure, or he takes a bit of pressure on himself and changes it. That's the decision I have got to make." Sheffield Wednesday have won 2-1 on each of their last two visits to Home Park, and Sturrock added: "They are a team who like this stadium. Their results have proved that in the past. They have won the last two games here and they are going very well at the moment. Last Saturday they went to Charlton, which is a difficult place to go to, and won 2-1. They have got a very strong team, a lot of honest players, and they have got some pace up front. With the fanbase they have at home, it doesn't surprise me the results they have been getting. I signed Wade Small for them and we brought the wee boy McAllister through the ranks. I think he scored here a couple of years ago. There are five or six players I was involved with who are still at the club." They also include Peter Gilbert, about whom Wednesday made an official complaint to the Football League in August about an alleged illegal approach by Argyle. But there have been no repercussions for the club since then. Sturrock said: "I haven't heard anything since then. Nothing seems to have bitten us in the bum so far." Meanwhile, Sturrock insisted there was still a need to trim his squad so the wage bill could be reduced. He said: "It has got to be done, but not to the detriment of us losing football games. If somebody comes in for a player who I feel is important to the squad he will not be going. At this juncture, we have had no contact from anybody about any of our players. I might send out a reminder and see if I get anybody contact me because I would really like some of the younger ones to go out on loan very quickly."
Chris Barker is proud to have been born and bred in Sheffield and is equally proud of his support for Sheffield Wednesday. He is determined though, that Argyle come out on top when the sides meet tomorrow. He said: "There is only one team in Sheffield – Wednesday. They were a top 10 Premier League team in the early 1990s, and I had a season ticket for 10 years. My brother Richie was a trainee there when he was a younger lad as well. I went to Barnsley from Alfreton Town when I was 19 so I stopped going to see them then. My favourite players were David Hirst, Benito Carbone and Paolo di Canio. I was there the day di Canio pushed over referee Paul Alcock. They had some great players then and they were good days for the club really." Sheffield Wednesday are fifth in the Championship after two successive victories, and Barker added: "I only know bits and bobs about them, to be honest, but obviously they are doing fantastic. I think they are doing better than the fans were probably expecting. They are on fire at the moment, but so are we." Argyle are unbeaten in their last four games and Barker said: "As long as you win your home games you have got a chance of doing anything. We lost a couple at home before we beat Forest, but if we can win again tomorrow we will probably be eighth or ninth." Barker started Argyle's first five games this season but was then dropped for the game at Watford. He came on as a substitute for the closing stages of that win and has stayed in the side ever since. He said: "I have done better over the last couple of games, I think. I seem to be getting there. When we had the bad results, I was probably playing below average as well, but I have improved. I feel fitter and stronger now I'm playing every week again. You don't want to be in the reserves because they only play every three weeks, or something like that. This is what you get paid for – you want to be in the first team and play in games like we did the other night. I'm in the team at the moment and I want to keep my shirt. It should be a good game tomorrow because both teams are doing very well, but if we carry on playing like we have been I'm sure we will get the result."
Craig Cathcart had a rough start to his Argyle career in the Carling Cup defeat at Luton Town but since being recalled to the team for the win at Watford a fortnight ago he has formed a solid partnership with Marcel Seip. Paul Sturrock said: "He has done ok. He has put a partnership together, which was vitally important at the time. He and Marcel have done very well together and I am quite happy. He is developing in the right direction. He is a Manchester United player, so you know he has a modicum of skill and ability on the ball. I am honing his development now on the strength factor and the aerial threat in this league, and he has adapted very well. He is 19-years-old and he has not let us down in any way. The good thing about people from Manchester United is that you tell them something once and you don't have to tell them again, which is why they are at Manchester United. I talked to him after the Luton game about upper body strength, the battle, power and pace of the league, and he has never looked back."
Paul Sturrock has admitted that Rory Fallon was taken off against Bristol City for his own protection. Sturrock said: "Rory had been a real handful all night, but I had to get him off. He was getting excitable. One or two had run their race, and I probably should have made changes a lot earlier." Emile Mpenza took over as the target man, while Krisztian Timar replaced Luke Summerfield at the same time. Sturrock had briefly considered using Timar in attack and added: "I had Timar going up front for a wee while." Yoann Folly was Mackie's replacement, while Nicolas Marin and Jim Paterson were the unused substitutes. "We have a bench now that I'm comfortable with," Sturrock said, "and some of them might get their opportunity come Saturday."
Bournemouth will not be turning Damien McCrory's trial into a loan move. McCrory played for Bournemouth reserves in Tuesday's 3-1 defeat to Yeovil Town and manager Jimmy Quinn said: "You're looking to see if someone would get into your first-team squad, and I don't think he's any better than what we've got."
Paul Sturrock had mixed emotions after Argyle's draw against Bristol City last night. "We got battered in the second half," he said. "Take nothing away from Bristol City, they were exceptional. They were very positive in their approach and really dictated where we were going to defend. We didn't clear our lines properly, and we didn't get up that 15 yards when we did clear it, which meant we dragged them down on top of us. And when we got around their goal, we weren't as clinical as we were in the first half and not enough people got themselves in the box." Jamie Mackie and Rory Fallon had put Argyle 2-0 up, and Sturrock added: "I was very pleased with the first half. It was exceptional stuff. Maybe at 2-0 up I should have put fresh legs on at half-time, but it's very difficult to change it in those circumstances." Argyle are now unbeaten in their last four away games and Sturrock insisted there were a lot of positives to take out of the draw. He said: "Every one of the players is gutted, but they shouldn't be because this is a difficult place to come. I have emphasised to them that they shouldn't take this as a defeat. We were 2-0 up, but many a team have lost 3-2 and that would have been a killer, but we have dragged a point out of it. Earlier in the season we would have capitulated completely in that kind of cauldron. But they have shown a bit of character and a bit of guts. They have stuck their head in, they have blocked things around the box and they have tried to clear their lines and stop crosses. I couldn't ask for any more, but I will go home and criticise myself for not freshening it up a wee bit quicker." Sturrock thought Argyle played better in the first half against City than they did in their wins at Watford and Crystal Palace. He said: "There was a flow to us. Rory caused a bit of mayhem and Gallagher got himself on the ball. Clark and Mackie got down the sides and we broke things out early with Summerfield and Duguid. The back four gave us 10 yards up the pitch to enable us to support the front, so all the things we have been working on came to fruition. But when Bristol put on another big boy in the second half it caused us a lot of concern. It took us back 10 yards and that didn't enable us to go and support the front players. I have had a word with Romain because I think there were two or three crosses he could have come for, to allieviate some of the pressure. But, in the end, we will take the draw and get down the road. It shows you there is a bit of gumption about these boys. They want to play for each other, and they are prepared to run and bite and scratch, and that's all we can really ask. But there is a modicum of ability to this lot as well. You saw that in the first half."
Jamie Mackie was looking forward, rather than back, after Argyle surrendered a two-goal lead at Bristol City. "It's great form," he said. "We'll crack on. We've got a great team-spirit going and we're on a great run. It was a good point tonight. Ten points from four games - another result at home is massive form going into the international break, and we'll crack on. I don't know if a lot of teams will pick up many points here. Maybe, before the game, you would have said that draw was a good result. We played really good football in the first half. It's probably the best we've played. They were always going to throw the kitchen sink at us, we knew that. Gary Johnson's teams at home are always going to be tough. Like the gaffer said, we shouldn't get our heads down - we've got seven points in the last three away games. We're still on a run. We don't want to think that was a defeat and take that into Saturday. At the end of the day, a point away at Bristol City is a good result." Mackie's goal was a welcome boost, as he has been mainly plying his trade in an unfamiliar role out on the wing. He said: "I was a little bit unlucky not to score on Saturday and I'm adapting my style to play out in that position. I got caught out for their first goal, which I'm disappointed about, but I'll look at it with the gaffer. I'm always learning out there. We'll all look at the goals and put things right. I was really pleased that I played. I thought I did really well. I had a bit of bad touch to begin with. Marcel reads everything he's a great defender, and he slipped it into me. They backed off and I never need a second invitation to shoot so I smashed it. I think it had a bit on it and the keeper parried it in." Mackie was also delighted to be involved in Argyle's second goal, supplying a cross for Chris Clark to nod back into Rory Fallon. Mackie said: "The second goal was a great goal, probably the best we've scored this season. It was a great header back from Clarky - he's been on fire recently, and so has Rory. He likes scoring here. I thought we put our foot on the ball and passed it. To get a team like Bristol City to hit the ball long we must have been doing something right."
Rory Fallon scored a sensational volley to give Argyle a 2-0 lead last night, but was also withdrawn early after a number of disagreements with the referee. "I just went for it," he said. "I thank God for giving me the strength to connect. I just felt something say 'Go for it' and it came off. You can't call that one a fluke. I've scored them many a time. I'm just thankful that we got the point. I am happy we got a draw, but we are disappointed we didn't get a win. That shows how far we've come - we're expecting to win away from home. I just thank God for giving me strength today because I felt a bit tired, but I got through it. I would have liked to have stayed on but I think the referee wanted to send me off. We played well, got at them, and they didn't know what hit them. We have got to keep it up." Argyle now face Sheffield Wednesday at the weekend, knowing a win will send them into the international break happy. Fallon added: "We want another home win, another three points, and that's what we'll focus on now."
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