First for Success

JOHN Sheridan believes Argyle’s recent successes at Adams Park can play a key role in inspiring his team to complete a memorable turnaround against Wycombe Wanderers.

Despite staring a three-goal deficit in the face five minutes from the end of their Sky Bet League 2 play-off semi-final first leg, the Greens find themselves only a goal behind the Chairboys going into their return clash, and Sheridan knows from past experience how important the first goal will be in deciding who earns a trip to Wembley and, more importantly, a shot at promotion to League 1. 

“It’s a bit like my first year as a manager," said John. "I got Oldham in the play-offs and we played Blackpool. We got beat in the first leg 2-1, then went to Blackpool and played well. We were well on top of the game but conceded the first goal.

“We need to get a goal (on Thursday). It’s massive who gets the first goal, and it would give us a lot of belief. We go there looking for a clean sheet, because I fancy us to score - I really do. We’ve got to get them on the back foot and create chances, but we have to stay patient if they decide to sit back.”

As always, clean sheets are clearly high on John’s priority list for Thursday’s clash – an accolade the Pilgrims have achieved on their last two visits to Wycombe’s home, both resulting in victories. A sole strike from Conor Hourihane was enough for all three points at Adams Park last season, whilst a first-half double salvo from Peter Hartley and Lewis Alessandra did the trick back in February. Another 2-0 win this time round would be enough to secure an incredible victory over two legs, and Sheridan has set his sights on exactly that target.

“Wycombe are the favourites, they’re at home, but all I’m going to be telling the players is ‘how did you play last time we were there?’” said John. “That’s what I’ll keep telling them.”

“I think they know that was one of our best performances of the season. We won 2-0 there, we won there the year before and kept two clean sheets, so we go there in a positive frame of mind. I’m sure that’s in the back on the mind of Wycombe as well. 

“The two strikers who played that night [Alessandra and Reuben Reid] terrorised them, so I’m going to go there and be positive. You keep going and keep pushing each other, and that’s what we’ve got to do as a team. I’d like people to stand up for themselves and really push one or two others on.”

Sheridan confirmed that Lee Cox would be unavailable for the game through injury, but Dominic Blizzard, who was replaced by Gethin Jones in midfield on Saturday, has recovered from illness to return for selection.

The boss fully expects Wanderers – a side led by manager Gareth Ainsworth, and who narrowly missed out on automatic promotion – to be equally up for the challenge, but has faith in his players to thrive under the pressure and unpredictability of the play-offs to complete the come-from-behind win.

“He’s done an excellent job, Gareth," said John. "They’re a good team and well organised, but there’s nothing between the teams.

“The players are positive; they think we’ve got a bit of a lifeline. We’ve got the two goals and we’re right back in it. Gareth’s probably looking at the game at 3-0 and thinking they’re going back to Wycombe 3-0, and that would’ve been really difficult for us, but the tide has turned. 

“I’ve watched the play-off games and some of them are unbelievable – you don’t know what’s going to happen. We can achieve something: we can come from behind for the first time this season. I’ve seen so many teams who have got an advantage going into the second leg and they have come unstuck. 

“Let’s hope it’s our turn on Thursday night.”