A Clean Pair

IN light of Drew Talbot’s sudden and untimely departure from Home Park...

...it is worth remembering that, amidst all the season’s comings and goings, there has been one formidable constant for Plymouth Argyle.

The clean sheet in Saturday’s 0-0 Sky Bet League 2 draw at Oxford was the Pilgrims’ 18th of 2014-15, giving them the best defensive record in England.

That formidable statistic goes on the line again at Dagenham & Redbridge on Tuesday night, sans Talbot, who was recalled from his loan spell to parent club Chesterfield while en route to London with Argyle on Monday.

Pilgrims’ captain Curtis Nelson knows that keeping such tight lines puts pressure on opposition forwards to make the most of the scant opportunities which fall their way – Oxford’s Patrick Hoban’s gaffe in front of goal in the opening minutes on Saturday was the only chance the home side had in the entire game.

Curtis said: “That’s what we like to think and what we try to keep to – if they don’t get the chances, they don’t score the goals.

“It’s always a positive to have things like that associated with the team and something we’ll obviously look to build on, and helps our push for promotion.

“It’s a team thing. Keeping clean sheets is a good habit to have, because if they don’t score and you do, you’ve won the game. Every team goes out to keep a clean sheet.”

The Pilgrims go to the snappily-named London Borough of Barking & Dagenham Stadium – a venue where they have never lost a league game – occupying seventh place in League 2 which is, as every Pilgrim knows, the fourth and final play-off qualifying spot.

With just nine league games remaining to consolidate (or improve on) that position, a few nerves would arguably be permissible. However Curtis said: “We are going to go into the game with a lot of confidence after a good away draw and a clean sheet on Saturday, and a win previously. We have just got to keep the momentum going and keep the wins coming.

“We have got to pick up points and win games. It doesn’t matter how we do it, we have just got to do it; it’s all about points now.”

Dagenham & Redbridge’s home record is the third worst in the division – surely a glorious chance for the Pilgrims to progress?

“Every game is an opportunity,” said Curtis. “I don’t think it matters what the record is, you have got to turn up to the game and aim for three points.

“There are [play-off] places up for grabs – it’s just about us going and taking them now. I don’t see why we won’t make the play-offs. We’ve definitely got the quality in the side and we’ve shown we can play good football and win games.”