Cast your mind back to the reverse fixture where a 1-0 defeat sent Argyle to the bottom of the league. What were your thoughts after that game?
At that stage in the season I felt for sure that we were going to be in a relegation scrap all year. I knew we were better than bottom but even the most ardent of argyle fans believed we would be battling it out for survival.
Whilst complete hope hadn’t been lost we were still awaiting the team/Adams to sort out the multiple disciplinary and injury issues we had. The football was shocking and morale was low, we hadn’t got to grips with League One life at all!
Apparently it was around this stage of the season where Brent said to Adams ‘can this squad avoid relegation?’ And Adams turned around and said ‘this squad is good enough to make the play-offs’. Adams clearly knew or saw something that we all didn’t at this point in the season.
What has happened to orchestrate such a remarkable turnaround in form since that defeat at Fratton Park?
As alluded to above, we stopped getting players sent off, Ryan Taylor, our focal point and striker (who broke his ankle 15 minutes into the first game of the season) returned from injury, who we had missed an immeasurable amount.
Added to this when Taylor returned Adams changed formation to 4-3-3 and introduce Ruben Lameiras to the side, when the week before he had played in a trial match for Oldham. This made our front three Carey, Taylor, Lameiras. Lameiras is a short, creative, tricky little player so between him and Carey we’ve been entertained no end over the last 5months.
So it was, on that Saturday we conveniently played against Oldham and Lameiras actually scored and played out of his skin. A master stroke from Adams? Or just pure luck? We’ll never know. The side has not looked back since then.
What are the expectations for the season now? How disappointed would you be to miss out on the play-offs?
We’ve had a great first season no matter what and the general view is there’s no pressure on our guys whether they get in the play-offs or not. They’re playing with a freedom that reflects this attitude too. From where we were we are just happy to be here. Having said that looking at the table and results after last weeks win against Peterborough, it looks in our favour and would be a little disappointing if we didn’t make it from here.
The table will no doubt change every week from here on and it’s the one that settles on 5th May that matters - as we saw last season!
What are the main strengths and weaknesses of this rejuvenated Plymouth side?
The fluidity and creativeness of our attack has become our real strength. Taylor is the key who holds the ball up and lays it off to Carey and Lameiras who let their feet do the talking, whether it’s taking defenders on or sliding through balls through to midfield runners. You’ll notice Taylor himself as a striker doesn’t score many but that’s not his job when you look at the record of the attacking players and midfielders around him.
Another strength is our midfield trio all have a real engine in them and have been working like a well oiled machine. Sarcevic who was key to this is out injured but Makasi, a loanee from West Ham has slotted in adequately.
Weaknesses would be our lack of pace defensively down the left hand side. Sawyer our left back is a good defender but his lack of pace has been targeted frequently by opposition sides. Usually, he has enough positional sense to make up for it though.
Aside from this, our keeper Mathews is a great shot stopper but known to feel the pressure when being closed down on the ball and looks like he may have an error in him - as you saw previously!
Who have been the key players during the Argyle revival?
Taylor and Lameiras for the reasons previously mentioned. Then there is Vyner our loanee centre back from Bristol city who has brought some stability and composure to our back four.
It would be remiss to forget the contribution of Toumani Diagouraga, who now plays for Fleetwood. He was a midfield general on a three month contract for us who left in January. When he left it almost felt like we may fall apart in the middle but we haven’t and have even kicked on.
What kind of match can we expect at Home Park on Saturday?
It’s a sellout so it’ll be a lively atmosphere and it should be a nice open game between two sides playing some great football at the moment. These games are usually tight affairs but I think there’ll be a few goals on Saturday.
This is a huge game for both sides but would you take a draw if offered to you now?
A draw wouldn’t be the worst result for us but I would not take one. We’ve won 6 on the trot at home and 11 out of 12 (losing to Wigan). For us to cement our playoff places we need to win our remaining home games (Portsmouth and Rotherham) and then see what we can do away from home. The only winners if we draw are the rest of the chasing pack.
Predict the outcome of the game.
2-1 to Argyle (Lameiras, Pitman, Carey).