Field of Greens
AS a Scot, Derek Adams will be familiar with the custom of bringing a wee something back with you after your travels.
What the Argyle manager aims to present to the Green Army at Home Park this weekend, after a week of solid coach-trips, is the form and firepower that enabled his Pilgrims to win 2-1 at Notts County in midweek.
County’s neighbours Mansfield Town come to the Theatre of Greens unbeaten in their three Sky Bet League Two matches so far and having journeyed about one-third of the distance that Argyle travelled last week alone.
Significantly maybe, not one team in the division has started with three straight wins – and only Exeter City have begun the campaign with a trio of defeats.
“It’s a very good start for Mansfield,” said Derek. “If you look at this league – if you look at the results on a game by game basis – it’s been quite extraordinary, but is has been an excellent start for them.
“It’s very difficult to predict results and, at this moment in time, it looks as if it’s going to be a very tight league again. You will have to put a run of wins together to pull yourself away.”
Argyle’s victory at Meadow Lane suggested that the new season’s intake of 14 players is blending nicely, with each other and with those that remained from the ultimately agonising previous campaign.
Derek said: “Winning a game always gives people a lift and, from our point of view, to go away from home to Notts County – a difficult venue – and win the match was very pleasing.
“It is never easy, going away to these types of teams. We played really well. We went ahead and were probably unfortunate not to go further ahead. In the second half, we had to defend well because the home team were always going to put pressure on you.
“You always want a free week from Saturday to Saturday at the start of the season to try to bed things in. We haven’t had a lot of time in the training fields, but we have had enough time to work on certain aspects of our game.
“We have had a good week. The travelling has been difficult, but we now have a home game on Saturday.”
On the subject of travelling difficulties, Mansfield will need to defy history if they are to keep their unbeaten run going. Of the 104 teams to have played at Home Park, the Stags have the 101st-best record – which is another way of saying third-worst – and the only two teams that have fared worse at the Theatre of Greens are both defunct, Aberdare Athletic and Leyton.
They have won just once in 17 visits, nearly 38 years ago, and managed three draws. Their first visit, in 1959, ended up with an 8-3 thrashing that remains the highest number of aggregate goals witnessed by a Home Park crowd in a single match. Topically, given Shane Duffy’s performance for Blackburn Rovers this week, Mansfield centre-half Terry Swinscoe contributed two of the goals in one of only 14 appearances for the Stags.
“I think it is important that you win your home games,” said Derek. “We have shown that we have gone away from home and done well. Coming here in front of your own fans, you want them to go home happy."
Pilgrims centre-back Karleigh Osborne is a definite miss for Saturday, with David Fox, who missed Tuesday’s win, and Graham Carey and Jimmy Spencer, who were substituted at Meadow Lane, awaiting final verdicts.
“Karleigh is still training with the physio and working on his rehab,” said Derek, on Thursday. “He’s into running now, so we are hopeful that he will be back on the training field with the rest of the squad very soon. David Fox was out running this morning so he will be assessed for Saturday’s game.
“Graham and Jimmy aren’t too bad; they aren’t serious injuries. They’ve got knocks that they picked up on Tuesday night. I think both of them will be okay.
“We have a small squad and every player that’s in the squad is fit; those who aren’t are not fit. We only had 18 players to travel to Notts County.”