JAMES Bittner believes Argyle’s home draw with Morecambe could be the unlikely foundation from which to renew their Sky Bet League 2 play-off push.
The 1-1 stalemate, in which Reuben Reid’s first-half injury-time strike was cancelled out by Jack Redshaw 11 minutes after the break, left the Pilgrims winless in their last six matches, frustrating players and fans alike.
The post-Christmas blues have been exacerbated by a string of injuries, the latest of which saw 32-year-old goalkeeper Bitts replace Luke McCormick at half-time of the games against the Shrimps following his team-mate’s and injury.
However, they remain one point away from the play-off zone, with a visit to bottom side Hartlepool next on the fixture list.
“There have been a few black cats crossed in recent weeks,” said James, whose appearance was his first in the Football League. “Every team will go through a bad patch; hopefully, we are coming out of ours with a draw today; hopefully, it’s three points next Saturday and move forward.
“We are in and around the play-offs still; it’s not like we’ve dropped off massively; we’re not mid-table; hopefully our bad run is done now – it’s out of the way, we move on and try to get back in the play-offs.
“As a team, you aim to win every game. We would have liked to have won after recent weeks. Three points was needed. It is disheartening but, at the same time, we didn’t lose. In recent weeks, we have lost one or two, so we can build on that.”
Bitts’ dedication in training paid dividends when he got the call to replace Luke, who he pushes all the way on the training-ground during the week.
“To be honest, I probably do more [than him],” he said. “Obviously, Luke’s playing the games and he’s tired from the games. So I’m probably the one who goes in for the shooting and that sort of stuff.
“We work as a pair very closely; we’re very good friends off the pitch, as well. We work very closely with our goalkeeping coach Rhys Wilmot, who is a top man, as well. We train very similar throughout the whole week and then, maybe at the end of a session, when the boys want to do some finishing, I’ll go in and do all the more intensive stuff.
“Fitness wise, I am feeling good after a year out, coaching. I’m feeling sharp. I’ve not played as many games as I’d have liked, but that’s the way it is.”
His run of 32 consecutive games on the Argyle bench is something he is used to.
“I’ve had it for years,” he said. “I had six years in the Conference, playing regularly, and ten years in the Football League, as a number two or third choice.
“It’s hard, travelling around the country, waiting for your opportunity, always being ready for the game, but you are not actually used. It is the trade of a second-choice goalkeeper.
“All it takes is one bad knock, or a red card – you can be called on at any moment, so you have to be ready.”