The Opposition View: Plymouth Argyle

Last updated : 10 May 2016 By Jim Bonner

What's your overall assessment of the season and how disappointed are you to have missed out on automatic promotion?

If you'd said to probably 95% of Argyle fans (including myself) that we'd finish above Portsmouth then we'd have all snapped your hands off and been delighted with the season as the general assumption was if anyone finished higher than you they'd be going up in the automatics.

However, as the season panned out it has been really disappointing. So much potential and promise after such a great start until just before Christmas where we were running away with the league. 

Reflecting back on the season though, overall we would have probably taken another shot at the playoffs as the majority of the core of the squad remains the same as last season and hasn't had Derek Adams's full renovation yet. I'd say we have achieved expectations but not exceeded them though, as we were exceeding expectations for so long it leaves a slightly bitter taste in the mouth.

What were the main reasons for Plymouth failing to hold on to a top three position in League Two?

We had a period of six or seven weeks before Christmas where the entire spine of our team was ripped out through injury (McCormick, Hartley, McHugh, Boateng, Carey and Reid) all at once (arguably six of our seven best players too). After that we've never really got firing again and teams have learnt how to play against our 4-2-3-1 that was so successful before said period.

Then, our in form striker Brunt did his ACL away at Barnet and we weren't quite the same attacking force until we signed Jamille Matt on loan, who's stepped up to the plate very well. Carey is back now to the way he was playing and that's looking very promising - he won't play in League Two next year.

McCormick has been, quite frankly, useless since his injury and doesn't look like he can cope with the high ball and players around him. Reid was getting better but now he's injured. Again. McHugh just oozes class but again has fitness problems.

This, added to the fact that we were quite fortunate with quite a lot of results before Christmas and that luck eventually running out have contributed to our slide down the table.

What were your thoughts on Plymouth's recent win at Fratton Park and do you think the league results between the two clubs will have any baring on how the play-offs are contested?

The recent result at Fratton was typical Argyle. Expect nothing after some woeful performances and then somehow out of nowhere come away with something and then giving the Green Army that false hope we know all too well.

I was unable to attend the game as at a wedding in Cardiff but by all accounts it was a typical smash-and-grab counter-attacking Argyle away win as we have done all season (we are much better away than home.) Pompey controlled the play I hear but didn't create a whole lot of clear cut opportunities and then we took advantage when you switched off in the last five.

I don't think the league ties will have any baring on the play-offs at all to be honest, it's two legs of football between two good teams at this level and I really couldn't call it as I think no one knows which Argyle (or Portsmouth for that matter) are going to turn up. The first leg at Fratton will be different to the league game I think with both teams not wanting to give much away and a generally nervy affair, as both teams will fancy their chances at Home Park.

Will Argyle's previous experience in the play-offs be an advanatge and what can Pompey fans expect from these games?

If playing in the play-offs last year and learning from such diabolical performances doesn't give us an advantage than the players who have featured in both need a rocket up their behinds. It's such a different feel than a league match.

Playing under the lights on a different night than usual gives the atmosphere that bit of an extra edge to it and naturally with everyone in the ground knowing what's at stake emotions run a bit higher. Hopefully the experience of last year will help our players control that and rise to the occasion..

Who have been Plymouth's top performers this season that could have a major impact on the outcome of this tie?

Our top performers have been Graham Carey and Carl McHugh, without doubt. Carey has a fantastic set piece delivery and long range shot and is generally that creative attack minded midfielder playmaker that every side needs but rarely has as they are rare to come by and when they do, they get snapped up often.

When he's on song, Argyle are on song. A really big fear that if we don't go up he will be elsewhere next season because he deserves to play higher than League Two.

McHugh is a classy defensive midfielder with an eye for a pass and loves a tackle. A real master at breaking up play and key to our back three, four or five behind him. Other players to watch are Jamille Matt who signed on loan from Fleetwood towards the end of the season and has been scoring regularly. He's our big target man but also has pace and a bullet of a shot.

Finally, when he plays (often off the bench for impact), Greg Wylde is absolutely rapid and a proper old fashioned winger who likes to beat his man. Has been very influential in away games all season due to previously mentioned counter-attacks and his ability to run the length of the pitch in about ten seconds.

What kind of match can we expect on Thursday and would you take a draw in the first leg if it was offered to you now?

As stated, I think Thursday will be a tight, nervy affair with neither side wanting to give much away. You've already beaten us at Home Park this season so will fancy your chances coming down here in the second leg, whereas we also will want to make amends for some poor performances at home this season by playing up for the big occasion and putting in that home performance we know we can and have shown on a couple of occasions this season.

After last season's play-off nightmare being 3-0 down at half-time in the first leg against Wycombe I'd certainly take a draw now at Fratton Park to leave us in the tie at Home Park for what is sure to be a cracking night.

Predict the outcome of the game.

1-1 with Pompey having most of the play and grabbing a second half equaliser after we snatch a first half goal from seemingly nowhere.