JOHN Sheridan sees Argyle’s key Easter fixtures against Burton Albion and Portsmouth as exactly the sort of occasions that his team should be fired up for...
...as they look to solidify their play-off spot.
The final throes of this season’s Sky Bet League 2 campaign for the Greens see them poised to push on and challenge for promotion, with their most immediate matters offering Sheridan’s side a chance to test themselves against the teams you always look to compare yourselves to: the team at the top, and your rivals.
First up on Good Friday, Burton Albion: the division’s most consistent side over the course of the season, picking up points at an almost metronomic standard under two different managers; first Gary Rowett, then Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, after the former left to take charge of Birmingham City.
Sheridan is relishing the prospect of carrying on from their 3-0 victory at Cheltenham Town with a match against the Brewers, with full belief that his team are capable of turning over the leaders on their day.
“We’ve got a tough game Friday and it's a really good game,” said John. “These are the games I would rather play in if I was still a player: against a team that are going well and have had a really good season.
“They’re a tough team, solid; they’ve just shown that bit of consistency more than anyone else. That’s why they are top of the league, but I know that on our day we can beat them.
“We got a good result last week and we know the importance of trying to get three points. We know we have to put in a good performance because it is against a side who are top of the league, so it’s just about getting the points at this moment in time.”
Hasselbaink’s side played out a 1-1 draw against Stevenage on Monday night at a rain-soaked Pirelli Stadium, but the boss does not believe the timing or circumstances of that game should affect Albion’s showing at Home Park.
“I don’t feel as though it’s any advantage [to us],” said John. “At this stage of the season I’m sure Burton played the game then I wouldn’t imagine they did a lot in training.
“I used to like games close together, because you’re doing less training and the games take care of themselves. It’s just a case of loosening people up after games and getting them ready for the next one, training-wise. They’re all fit now and not going to lose or gain any fitness.
“I’m sure their manager’s looked after them and done the right things, and I’m sure he’s ready for a tough game. Hopefully we’ll give them one.”
The Pilgrims will then travel across the south coast on Easter Monday to take on Dockyard Derby rivals Portsmouth – the reverse fixture of Argyle’s emphatic 3-0 win in front of the Sky cameras last year. Sheridan expects a much more resilient display from Pompey at a raucous Fratton Park, but also wants to see his team rise one of the biggest occasions of the campaign.
“Obviously the Portsmouth game will be a big game as well,” said John. “It’s a massive game for us – a big derby game. I’m sure we’ll take a big following as well.
“I’ve got that in the back of my mind but, if we get a good result against Burton, we can then go to Portsmouth in front of 15 or 20 thousand and it will be a great game to play in.
“They’ve got great supporters, and I don’t feel as though they should be where they are, but they are. It’s a tough league: just because Portsmouth get the biggest crowds and they were in the Premier League five or six years ago, you still have to earn the right. It’s a big game for everyone involved.
“We had great support again at Cheltenham. Hopefully they will know the importance of the game, come and get behind us and hopefully we will give them the result we want.
“These are two really good games for us; tough games, as well. We’ll see where we are and see if we’re up for it.”