TWO side meet in Sky Bet League One this weekend that have the same number of points from two games – yet markedly different form guides.
Argyle and Southend United may both be on three points, courtesy of a home win and an away defeat, but the manner in which each side has accumulated those points are at odds.
The Pilgrims have played well twice, against two good sides. A solid performance at Peterborough was let down by the conceding of two preventable goals, and foiled by an outstanding goalkeeping performance. A week later, at Home Park, the Greens played very well against a good Charlton side to emerge with a 2-0 win.
The Shrimpers began in fine style, defeating divisional favourites Blackburn Rovers 2-1 on the opening day, with manager Phil Brown calling it the best first-half performance in his time at the club. That is a tenure, by the way, that has lasted nearly four-and-a-half years, making Brown the 10th longest serving manager in the country.
Seven days later, Brown’s tune had changed. Southend lost 5-0 at Rotherham, shipping four goals int he first half. Brown labelled the performance as ‘embarrassing’.
For Derek Adams, knowing which Southend side are likely to turn up at Roots Hall on Saturday is hardly an easy thing to foresee.
“It’s very difficult to know,” said Derek. “They got an excellent result against Blackburn, beating a team that have just come down from the Championship shows you that they are a good side at home. To do that in the first game of the season shows you the strength they have. Away from home, at Rotherham, that could be a freak result.
“They are a very good side, with talented players throughout their team.”
Indeed, familiar names abound. Former England Under-21 man Michael Kightly has Premier League experience with Wolverhampton, Stoke and Burnley; Defenders Anton Ferdinand and Michael Turner may have 65 years between them, but they too have hundreds of games in the top flight under their belt; club stalwarts Michael Timlin and former Pilgrim Ryan Leonard may well line up in midfield together, behind Ireland international Simon Cox. If Southend are on what the horse racing world refers to as ‘a going day’, they have plenty of potential to hurt Argyle.
“They are a team that have done well in League One, and have strengthened year on year,” said Adams.
“They look like a club that is happy in League One, and ready to push on and try to get in the play-off positions.
“They have a lot of good, experienced players in their side such as Simon Cox, who plays up front. They’ve signed (Rob) Kiernan from Rangers; they’ve got (Anton) Ferdinand at the back; Nile Ranger who has just come back in and signed for them. They’ve got very good experience throughout the team.
“We want to continue the very good performance we had against Peterborough – on that day we had more shots on goal than any other team in the division – and that’s good for an opening game of the season.”
The Pilgrims will line up in Essex without the versatile Oscar Threlkeld. What was thought to be a dead leg has turned out to be a slightly more seirous leg injury, meaning Oscar will miss a further month’s action.
“Oscar Threlkeld, we have just found out, has got a hairline fracture of the fibula,” said Derek. “He will be out for between three and four weeks, which is a huge disappointment to me. He’ll miss five or six games. With Ryan Taylor being out of three months, it is difficult to take at the start of the season. There is not much we can do about it.
“We’re hopeful that it is straightforward; he has to go for another x-ray to see what the situation is.”