Excitement to Burn

EVEN as a former Burnley player, Derek Adams is looking forward to taking his Pilgrims to Blackburn Rovers’ Ewood Park for their Sky Bet League 2 encounter with Carlisle United.

Derek has been involved in football his entire life but has never yet played a league game at neutral venue, a unique situation for him – though not the Pilgrims – brought about by the damage to Carlisle’s Brunton Park stadium in the recent floods.

“They are probably very thankful that they have got a game going on,” said Derek, whose Argyle side have maintained their lead of the division over Christmas while Carlisle have missed two fixtures. 

“There have been a lot of troubles in Carlisle, with the flooding. Blackburn Rovers is a very good venue; they’ll be delighted that they are able to go there. We’re happy that it’s there, as well, because we’ve got a game going on. 

“It’s unfortunate, what’s happened in the Carlisle area, and the football club can’t do anything about having to move their games. I think it’s very good of the other clubs who have allowed them to play at their venues. It allows the football calendar to continue; that’s what it’s about.

“They haven’t played there before in a home fixture and it’s a 30,000 stadium with maybe 4,000 people in it, but it’s very good surroundings; it will be a good pitch; and both teams will enjoy playing there.

“To go to this type of venue will be encouragement to both sets of players but grass is grass and dimensions of football pitches rarely change too much. There’s a goal at one side and a goal at the other side; you have got to keep the ball out of one end and score at the other end.”

Saturday’s game will be the third this season between the two sides: the Pilgrims won August’s home league encounter 4-1 in a match that was a lot closer than the scoreline suggests, but the Cumbrians had revenge in November when they knocked Argyle out of the FA Cup, 2-0, becoming the only team this season to keep a clean sheet at Home Park.

The home-away side are well in the play-off mix and one of four teams that Argyle play in the first month of 2016 that will have at least half an eye on promotion.

“They have picked up some decent wins and have been able to put a wee bit of momentum together,” said Derek. “They are a good side; they’re experienced; they have got a number of loan players in there, as well; and they have done well this season.

“They have got a team that are sturdy opposition; they are hard to play against – that has shown in the two games we have played against them.”

As well as chasing promotion dreams, Saturday’s combatants have commonality in their geography.

Derek said: “Both teams have to travel great distances every second week and both teams probably respect each other for that, knowing how difficult it is.”

Not that the Argyle manager is moaning about travelling on New Year’s Day.

“Everybody would like to play the longer runs in the better months but going up there on January 1, when the roads are quiet, rather than going at the start of the season, when the roads are really busy...we’ve had trips to London that have taken seven hours and it will be shorter going to Blackburn this weekend. 

“We’ve got no complaints – it’s a game we are looking forward to.”