The Opposition View: Plymouth Argyle

By Jim Bonner
Last updated : 13 October 2016

After losing the play-off final and seeing a large number of your players leave, were you fearing the worst heading into this season?

No one knew what to expect coming into the season really. With Derek Adams' fantastic recruitment record at Argyle a lot of faith was had in him and the 14 signings he made over the summer. We had a really strong pre-season and confidence was high, though fans were doing well to remember that it would still take a while to gel on the pitch in the real league games.

Despite this, we were all certainly fearing the worst after the first couple of games losing heavily at home to Luton and then to Carlisle. Suddenly something clicked and although we haven't had the 'complete performance' (Yeovil 4-1 would be the closest to this but occasional defensive lapses were still evident), we have still found ways to win games and keep clean sheets, taking 28 points from the last 30.

Do you think that Plymouth can achieve automatic promotion and avoid a collapse like last season?

Yes I do! I am far more confident this season than I actually was at any point last season (yes, including when we'd won the league by Christmas). Last season's collapse was due to having a great starting eleven but a weak and small squad and once injuries hit, it was inevitable really. This season we have a larger squad,  we're stronger physically and technically and have rotated frequently with no detrimental effect on results or performances. The current group seem to have a lot more mettle about them and I'd wager we will be up there and up for the fight throughout the course of the whole season this time. 

Sonny Bradley isn't the most popular ex-Pompey player. What do Argyle fans think of him?

Sonny has been absolutely immense for us so far this season. On our forum we recently had a poll on best summer signings and Sonny stormed it with almost 60% of the vote, the next highest was just 12%, so he's undoubtedly been a resounding success thus far and becoming a fan favourite.

I'll be the first to admit I had my doubts at first, as he seemed a bit like this year's Peter Hartley; a great defender but a typical 'League Two bruiser' with no football brain and a mistake around the corner. Despite this, he has absolutely proved me wrong - showing maturity and defensive know how far beyond what he displayed at Portsmouth by all accounts.

He's also contributed with important goals and is a real threat from Carey and Fox's quality set piece delivery and so this has added another dimension to our game.

What are the main strengths and weaknesses of this Plymouth team?

Starting with strengths as it moves nicely on from what I touched on above, this year we've been a real danger from set pieces. Both centre backs have scored 3 each so far and we've got real quality whipped delivery from both sides with Carey's left foot and Fox's right. We are a big physical side so it's important in games to have that extra edge that can win games alone in this league where often teams will come and put ten men behind the ball against clubs like Portsmouth and ourselves.

Another strength has been our defense as they've been keeping clean sheets regularly and the only time we've conceded more than one in the league was on the first day of the season. Nauris Bulvitis, another summer signing, has also been brilliant next to Bradley at the heart of the defence and the duo look a real reliable partnership.

Weakness wise, I would say our full backs, though it's not a major weakness (see defensive record). Right back we have Gary Miller who is a solid defender but could struggle against genuine pace, and at left back we have our promising youngster Ben Purrington, who has filled in well whilst Gary Sawyer is out injured and must be pushing him for a genuine first team place once he returns. Having said this, he is still young and coming up against someone in the mould of Roberts, his inexperience could be found out.

Who are the key players in your squad?

I will, of course, start with Graham Carey. He has been a class above already this season with goals and assists coming off everything he touches. You managed to keep him relatively quiet during the play-offs so it'll be interesting to see how he fares on Saturday.

Another I'd look out for is Paul Arnold Garita, though there's a high chance he may not be in the squad on Saturday due to a hamstring injury but he's rumoured to be returning anytime soon. He is a big stong centre forward on load from Bristol City and is blessed with pace and a powerful shot. Hopefully we will see more of him soon.

Finally, Yann Songo'o has stepped into our defensive midfield general role very well and breaks up a lot of opposition play in front of the two centre backs. There was a big worry when McHugh left that there would be a huge void in the side, and although he doesn't have McHugh's flair, he certainly knows how to make a tackle! 

Given what happened between the two clubs last season, does this fixture carry any extra edge from a Plymouth point of view?

I can understand why it would from your end, but I haven't got that vibe from our fans. If you'd have gone through to Wembley I'm sure we would feel the same as you though! To be brutally honest there's more of a general feeling of 'we've got Portsmouth....again'.

However, I think most need to accept the fact that we will probably still be playing each other quite frequently in the years to come, albeit in the league above (eventually). The game has been given an extra bit of edge for our fans due to the run we've been on and the fact that if we win on Saturday, we'd go eleven points clear of you. That's a big gap to recover from any stage of the season and I feel if any teams finish above you this year, they will go up.

What kind of match can we expect at Home Park on Saturday?

Similar to the play-offs I expect a tight affair with defences on top, with the second half opening up to whoever wants it more. Both teams will try and play football so it should be a great watch. 

Predict the outcome of the game.

I'm split between a 1-1 and a 2-1 to Argyle in front of a crowd of 12,167.

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