FAMOUSLY, platitudes say that in a derby match situation, the proverbial formbook goes out of the window...
... and it seems, as a run-in to a Sky Bet League Two season concludes, form is once again successfully defenestrated.
Argyle’s last four games have seen wild fluctuations between expectations and reality. When Exeter City visited Home Park they were easily the mostly on-form team in the league, and Argyle brushed them aside 3-0. Three days later, Leyton Orient, desperate for points, came away from PL2 with all three.
Two away games followed – at struggling Hartlepool United and promotion-chasing Luton Town – and both yielded the same 1-1 scoreline.
How, then, to judge Notts County? They are 21st in the league, just two places and five points above the dreaded dotted line, but have lost just one in the last six, winning three.
The Magpies won their last game on the road, against Orient, but lost their previous nine away from Meadow Lane.
Argyle play them this Tuesday evening, before two more home fixtures; on Saturday, against Carlisle United, then the following Tuesday, at home to Blackpool.
“Everybody in this division is fighting for something,” said Argyle boss Derek Adams. “Down the bottom of the table, or in the middle to top. Three points is vital for everyone. There’s no easy games between now and the end of the season.
“It’s good that we are at home. It’s nice to not have to travel as much as we have done.
“We're the same in every game: we just try to do as well as we possibly can. There’s no difference for us, home or away. We’ve got a good record in both. It’s good to be on the road, picking up points.
“Notts County on Tuesday night is the next game on the rota, and we have to do as well as we did on Saturday against Luton.
“With 14 games to go, it is an important spell. We have a lot of games to play, and a lot of points to pick up. We want to take as many as we can from these games.”
Despite their lowly position, Notts County’s side is littered with familiar names, with Premier League experience. County will be hoping that recently-appointed manager Kevin Nolan can use his veteran players such as Alan Smith, Shola Ameobi and Jon Stead to steer them to safety.
Argyle’s own former Premier League player, midfielder David Fox, is a doubt for the game, after picking up an ankle knock at Luton.
“They’ve changed manager, taking in Ameobi up front and Stead is fit as well,” said Derek. “We’ll wait and see what their team is and assess their strengths and weaknesses.
“They’ve been playing with Ameobi and Stead up front in recent weeks. They’ve got good experience in their side, but from our point of view we’ll have to keep them quiet and our creative players will have to get on the goalscoring sheet.
“We’ve got a doubt with a couple. David Fox is one, who came off in a bad challenge on his ankle at half-time at Luton. It’s cut and bruised. We will assess him Tuesday morning, to see if he can play at night. It’s not great, but I don’t want to rule him out, just to see if the swelling comes down on his ankle.
“David is an experienced player. He has come in and used the ball well; he’s very calm; he keeps the ball ticking along. His influence in the team has been very good since he came in.
“We’ve seen a few robust challenges over recent weeks. We’re a very good footballing side. We went to Luton the other day and they are very direct, they go from back to front quickly. We have to deal with different aspects of the game, but we’ve shown this season that we can do that.
“We have a few knocks and bruises but we just have to assess. We’ve nothing too serious, which is good. We’ve had a long trip to Hartlepool and then away from home against Luton. We’ve dealt well with that, and the squad is starting to look strong again.
“We’re looking at roughly the same squad. No-one that wasn’t in the squad on Saturday is likely to come back in from injury.
“We’re in a very good position. We had an excellent performance away from home against Luton, and we go into the Notts County game on Tuesday night with good confidence.”