ARGYLE’S chief scout, Greg Strong, was at Home Park this week.
While his multi-faceted role includes scoping out the Pilgrims’ future opponents, there is probably little he could have told Derek Adams about Newport County that the Argyle manager has not already experienced himself.
Saturday’s Emirates FA Cup second-round tie is the fifth time Derek will have faced the Exiles in his 17 months in charge of the Pilgrims’ progress and the third time this season the cross-border rivals have squared up.
In August, the Pilgrims won a home Checkatrade Trophy group match 4-1, thanks to goals from Craig Tanner, Jordan Slew, Jake Jervis and Nauris Bulvitis; five weeks ago, Argyle racked up at Rodney Parade and won a Sky Bet League Two encounter 3-1, with Graham Carey’s two penalties preceding another goal by Slew after Jon Parkin – who joined York City this week – had briefly leveled matter.
For the first of those two games, former Pilgrim Warren Feeney was in charge of the County set. By the time the league game rolled around, Feeno had been replaced by Graham Westley. Newport were bottom and Argyle top after that game, and little has changed positionally since, even though the Welsh side embarked upon a seven-game unbeaten run immediately after losing to the Pilgrims.
“We were obviously on a long unbeaten run ourselves, of 14 games,” said Derek. “Both teams are now coming off runs they would like to turn around; they are coming off a two-game losing streak and we are coming off a three-game losing streak.
“We’ve played them in the league and the Checkatrade Trophy already this season so both teams are acquainted with each other.
“They have had a wee bit of change in formation; a change of manager from the Checkatrade Trophy to the league game; and now, from the league game to the FA Cup, they have changed certain personnel within the squad, as well. Obviously Jon Parkin has moved on to York.
“It’s a wee bit different from the last game we played them. Graham has gone in there and he has done really well to start with.”
With Argyle having won both EFL games between the two sides last season and drawn at Home Park in 2014-15, you have to go back six matches, to Boxing Day 2014, for the last time the Pilgrims were beaten by Newport. Indeed, that was the only time in eight games between the sides since the Exiles returned from their EFL exile in 2013 that Argyle have lost.
The last FA Cup match between the two sides took place at the Exiles’ previous home of Somerton Park with the third-round replay ending in a 1-0 win for Argyle in a cup run that ended in semi-final defeat by Watford at Villa Park.
While Derek is welcoming the break from EFL action, he does not want to go down the route taken by the Boys of 1984.
“We would like to try to progress through to the next round at the first attempt,” he said, “and we be going all out to do that on Saturday.
“We did really well against Mansfield in the first round, to go away from home and win 2-1; now we come into this game looking to progress to the next round.
“It gives us a break from league action; it’s a home tie; and it’s a good one because the FA Cup is a competition we would like to progress in.
“We want to have a run in it. That would be beneficial for us over many different permutations for us, if we get through to the next round.”