Number Crunching

FOR their last 18 games, Argyle’s 17 and 16 have lined up shoulder to shoulder at the heart of the Pilgrims’ defence.

Not any more. While Curtis Nelson (17) is all but nailed on to start Saturday’s Sky Bet League 2 match at Dagenham & Redbridge, the number of Neal Trotman (16) is up.

Neal’s participation in every Argyle match-day squad bar one since he arrived at Home Park (he was rested for the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tie at Cheltenham) ended with his early sending-off in the previous 4-0 home defeat by York.

“He’s suspended, so I have got to look at who is going to fill his position,” said manager John Sheridan.  “There are one or two players who could play there – Dom [Dominic Blizzard], Wottsy [Paul Wotton], Maxi [Max Blanchard] – so whoever I pick will go in there with Nelse and push towards getting a result.

“It’s part and parcel of football. [Neal]’s good in the air in both boxes, but if he’s suspended, he’s not going to do me any good on Saturday. Whoever I play there will hopefully help us to get what we’re after, which is three points.”

That Dominic, who filled in superbly for Neal against York after dropping back from his normal midfield role, figures on a list of possible replacements might surprise many, but not John, who took counsel from Dom’s former manager at Yeovil before recruiting him in the summer.

He said: “I know he can play there – I remember Gary Johnson telling me, when I was after signing him, he can play centre-half. He’s got the size and he’s got the football brain to do that. I thought he did alright [against York] and it’s not something I would be scared of doing.”

John had sympathy – although only a little – for Neal, whose 10th-minute tackle on Ryan Bowman after the York striker had latched on to a quick free-kick  led to his dismissal and the double-jeopardy penalty from which Yorkshire took the lead.

“Those are the rules and it was sending-off, but I think he was making a genuine attempt to stop the lad scoring a goal,” said John. “It was his fault he got himself sent off because he didn’t switch on. It was his own doing, so hopefully he’ll learn to be switched on.

“My players will always give me effort but the good players do the little things really well and that’s why they are playing in a higher division. The little things are very important when you are a footballer because they make you look good.

“Unfortunately, at times, when you are in the Second Division – and I am not being disrespectful – you switch off, you don’t do the things that are simple, and you look vulnerable.

“But, if they had everything I wanted them to have they wouldn’t be playing at Plymouth, would they?”