Ahead of the Game - Bouncing Back

AFTER goals from Bury’s Daniel Nardiello and Danny Rose ended Argyle’s run of four consecutive wins and inflicted a rare defeat on us at Home Park...

...attention now turns to a crucial double bill of fixtures with an away trip to Stevenage, on Tuesday, followed by a return to the Theatre of Greens to take on Northampton Town, on Saturday.

Argyle will be looking to bounce back and regain their place among the play-off spots when they travel to the Lamex Stadium for the first time in their history to take on Graham Westley’s Stevenage. 

The Pilgrims have only ever locked horns with Boro once in their history, in a 1-1 draw that was full of drama and suspense; Connor Calcutt’s 54th-minute looping header giving the Hertfordshire side the lead before Deane Smalley converted a 98th-minute penalty at the death to send the Green Army into wild celebrations and secure a vital point, at Home Park. 

Both sides have been in a decent run of form as of late with Argyle winning four out of their last five and Boro unbeaten in their last four, which makes for a feisty affair between two sides in the play-off hunt. 

Westley’s side come into this one off the back of an impressive 2-2 away draw with high-flying Wycombe Wanderers. Stevenage led the tie 2-1 as the first half came to a close with Tom Pett and former Pilgrim Dean Parrett answering Fred Onyedinma’s 10th-minute opener, but in the second half Onyedinma netted his second to restore parity. 

As the game came to a close, Stevenage’s were reduced to ten men with Chris Beardsley being given his marching orders for a second bookable offence, which stacked the odds in Wycombe’s favour, but it was Boro who had the best chance to go on and win the game with Parrett failing to convert his penalty kick as the points were shared. 

Argyle and Boro are now separated by just one place and three points in Sky Bet League 2. 

The same process of mounting further pressure on the teams fighting for those precious promotion places can be applied to Chris Wilder’s Northampton. 

Going into this week, they sit just two points behind Stevenage in 10th with a result against Portsmouth, on Tuesday, putting them in a position to mount a charge for the top seven when they make the trip to Home Park. 

The Cobblers’ Play-Off Final heartache in the 2012-13 season seemed to have had a significant impact on the side in the campaign that followed with the club coming close to bowing out of the Football League altogether after finishing 21st – just three points above the drop zone. 

But despite a slow start to this season they seem to have rediscovered the form that saw them make the Wembley final, with Wilder’s side losing just once so far in 2015. 

Northampton's latest win came away from home against promotion-chasing Shrewsbury Town which saw first-half goals from Chris Hackett and Joel Byrom secure the three points in a nervy affair that saw the Shrews’ pull one back late on through Micky Demetriou; as Northampton held on to win 2-1. 

However, Argyle can take confidence from the fact that they have beaten the Cobblers on the last three occasions with their latest win coming at Sixfields, in a 3-2 victory that saw Peter Hartley, Andy Kellett and Lewi Alessandra grab the goals to seal the points. 

This is a team Lewi loves to play against - the fleet-footed forward has scored in all three of the games in which he has played for Argyle against Northampton. 

Wins for the Pilgrims this week could see us rise to as high as 4th, which would go a long way to cementing a play-off spot with just 11 games to go once these fixtures are played. 

Follow Liam on Twitter @liamspence94