NO matter what division you are in, if you are in the lead, then you are going to be judged.
Whether it is Manchester City (supposedly in a ‘crisis’, but top of the Premier League) or Championship pacesetters Newcastle United (“Well, they should be winning it, shouldn’t they?”) or Plymouth Argyle, top of the pile in Sky Bet League Two.
The latest question being asked of Derek Adams and his team seems to be the question of whether or not they are feeling the pressure of being top. This is not a situation unqiue to Argyle, says Derek – we are not the only ones to have pressure put upon them.
“There’s a lot of pressure on a lot of teams in this league, for a variety of reasons,” he said. “It could be fan pressure, it could be budget pressure, it could be that they have come down from the league above. There are different factors. Every team in the league is under pressure one way or another.”
You could well include Colchester on that list. The U’s were relegated from League One last season, and have had a mixed start to life in League Two. They are currently 15th in the division, with 17 points. With four more points, they could be fifth. Four fewer, and they would stretching to keep their heads above the dreaded dotted line that delineates the league’s bottom two.
Managed by John McGreal, who took over the helm in April 2016, Colchester started the season strongly, but have not won in their last seven games. They have won just once – at Wycombe, at the end of August – away from home this season.
“They’re a passing side,” said Derek. “They like to get the ball down and play in midfield. They can also go direct into (Denny) Johnstone or (Chris) Porter. It will be interesting to see how they play on Saturday, what their game plan is away from home, and how they try to cause us trouble.
“They came down from League One last year. They’ve changed their manager, and with that, it changes how they are going to go about things tactically this season. They have a blend of youth and experience, and took in a number of players over the pre-season.
“I think it will be a tight affair. From our point of view, we have to go out and find the spaces in the Colchester defence. They have done well at home and not so well away from home. They will probably come in and try to soak up the pressure. It is a game we feel we are capable of winning.”
There are two schools of thought about a side down on their luck playing the team that is top of the league. On one hand, they may decided to keep things tight; pack the midfield and defence, play for 0-0, try to nick a goal.
The alternative – a choice Derek flagged up before Saturday’s visit to Newport County – is that it can be considered a ‘free game’. In other words, the attitude is: ‘We’ll probably lose at the leaders, so let’s go down swinging. If we lose, it is to be expected. If we get anything, it’s a bonus.’
Either way, Argyle have a target on their back. However, Derek says this is not a new problem.
“We’ve always been a target,” he said. “Last year we did very well, reaching the play-off final. Everyone wants to come and beat Plymouth Argyle. I think that has been a factor before I was here, and since I’ve been here too. Some clubs see it as a free day – Newport thought it was last week – and have a go at you.
“We’ve found this season that teams come out and try and play against us, then we can find the space. Others come and sit in, and try to play on the counter attack.
“It can be other teams [that decide my strategy], or it can the way I can see the game is going to pan out before it starts. We’ve obviously watched Colchester, and know their strengths and weaknesses. We’ve got to be on top of that and try to exploit them, even before the game starts.”
Argyle meet Colchester United at home this Saturday - tickets are cheaper in advance. Call our Ticket Office on 01752 907700, or book now at eticketing.co.uk/pafc