Derek Sees Daggers Before Him
THERE are no good opponents at this time of the season.
Top of the league? Well, they are a good side, aren’t they?
A bit further down? They will be at it - they have a chance of the play-offs.
Mid-table obscurity? The pressure is off, they will play with freedom.
Bottom six? Fighting for the lives and capable of an upset.
And then there is Dagenham & Redbridge, a team with just 28 points this season, 14 points adrift of those above the relegation zone, and already doomed to a National League existence next season.
They are 49 points behind Argyle, with a goal difference that is 60 inferior to the Pilgrims. Their only win in 2016 against a team not in the current bottom six was against Exeter on January 2. And they travel to Home Park this weekend.
Bookmakers – league sponsors Sky Bet price Argyle at 1/3 to win on Saturday – pundits and fans may expect Argyle to face the football equivalent of parking a mini in an empty car park, but Derek Adams will be not looking at things in such a casual manner.
Dagenham have only won two home games all season – but had Ryan Brunt’s 90th minute thunderbolt not flown home when Argyle visited the Daggers in November, then the Pilgrims would have been a major scalp for the east Londoners.
“They have got a lot to play for,” said Derek. “They have contracts to play for; a new manager who will be assessing his squad for next season.
“They did give us a tough time at Dagenham the last time. They gave us a difficult afternoon on that day and we did well to get away with a point.
“They are all tough games at this stage of the season. You only have to look at the results from the other night to see there is no easy game.
“People are looking to do something - either get into the play-off places, stave off relegation or impress a new manager – and they are all things we will come up against. But all the other teams are exactly the same.
“Everybody likes to predict football scores. You look in this league and there are not a lot of millionaires from getting the odds right on a weekly basis. That tells you how difficult it is to predict and how competitive it is.”
Sky Bet League 2 is set for the closest, most highly-contested promotion run-in in a long time. Behind runaway champions Northampton sit Accrington, a point ahead of Oxford and Argyle, with Bristol Rovers another point in arrears. Any combination of two from the four could be promoted, in what resembles a three-game mini-league.
At 4pm on Saturday, this scenario looked unlikely. Results for Accrington and Oxford looked likely, while Argyle were toiling at Fratton Park. However, a Morecambe equaliser at Accrington, Oxford slipping up against and Luton and a late Argyle brace at Portsmouth caused a major shake-up.
Add in an Argyle win on Tuesday at Leyton Orient while Bristol Rovers and Oxford were only managing to draw, and the hard work of a week on the road was bearing fruit. No other promotion rival managed six points from two games on Saturday and Tuesday – perhaps Argyle’s purple patch is coming at the perfect time.
“We have got bit of momentum now,” said Derek. “From my point of view, the performances are very good. We’ve been really unfortunate – against Wimbledon and Exeter, and you can put Accrington into that as well – we could be on a much better points total.
“To go away from home to Portsmouth and to Leyton Orient, it shows you the character and strong mentality that is in the squad -we’ll need that for the last three games.”
Reuben Reid and Carl McHugh were casualties during that game, being replaced by Jake Jervis and Jordon Forster respective during the match. Reid and McHugh may not be on hand as Argyle face the Daggers, but Adams is confident in the abilities of his squad.
“It looks like Reuben and Carl McHugh will be out for Saturday’s game,” said Derek. “They are going for scans to find out the full extent of the damage.
“We’ve shown throughout the season that we have a squad that is very tight, but within that tightness we have very good quality. We’ve made some good acquisitions in the summer and during the season, and combined with the players that were here last season, they’ve got a spirit. They know what happened last year, in the play-offs, and they felt it.
“It’s up us now to push on.”