In the Right Place
NOT since Peter Shilton’s Nearly Men of 1993-94 has an Argyle side won eight matches in a row, yet that is the subsidiary prize at stake when Hartlepool United visit Home Park this weekend.
Three Sky Bet League Two points are, of course, top of the wish-list when Pools come West for the second time in four months, but Pilgrims’ manager Derek Adams embraces the alternative challenge posed by the record books.
“You always have to look at that,” he said, “and I look at it all the time. I think it is important that you look at statistical evidence and you move forward.
“You always want to break records. We were doing that last season – breaking records or equalling records – and we look, season on season, to improve and break the records that are set here.”
After spending the first two weekends of the season rooted to the bottom of the division, Argyle have topped the division following the last two matches of their seven-game winning streak.
The Pilgrims’ rapid progress has not surprised Derek, who radically revamped the Argyle first-team squad during a summer shortened by last season’s involvement play-off final.
He said: “When we have got the players we have taken in, the quality we have got in the squad, I thought we’d do well.
“It’s vital, as the season goes on, that you have a solid spine to your team, and we have got a good number of regulars playing week in week out, and they get a good understanding.
“At the start of the season, when we were away from home, it was very difficult – we were on the road for a long period of time – but we have dealt with it very well and we will do so again.
“We have still got very good competition for places which means that the players that are in possession of the shirt just now need to be on their toes.”
The rise to the top of the table has coincided with four clean sheets in the last five matches but Argyle’s game is not all about defence.
Derek said: “I have always given them the licence to go and create and to move all over the pitch, not to play strictly in the same area, because we need overloads in certain areas of the pitch. But, when we lose the ball, it is important that they have a defensive quality to get back in and win the ball back as quickly as possible.”
Of course, leading divisions and putting together runs makes your scalp all the more prized for visiting teams, especially ones smarting from being gubbed 5-0 on their previous visit. More reason for not taking lightly a Hartlepool side whose ranks include potent former Pilgrims Lewi Alessandra and Nathan Thomas.
“They have done well away from home,” said Derek. “They are a team that play on the counterattack; they have some direct and quick players; they have got a bit of pace in their side. That’s what we will have to look out for.
“[Thomas] is direct; he’s quick; and he’s done well for them this season so we will have to be aware of him on Saturday.
“They will be looking to cause an upset and we will have to play a high intensity game.
“We’ll have to work hard and be patient and try to stop the threats from Hartlepool, and try to get at their weaknesses.”
Win, lose or draw, record-breakers or record broken, no-one at Home Park will be counting any chickens.
“It’s after 46 games that the season is finished,” said Derek. “Nothing happens in September. When it comes to April-May time, that is when you need to be at the right end of the table.”