A Numbers Game
ARGYLE’S 17th game of 2017 will be against Morecambe at Home Park this Saturday.
March 18 is the 77th day of 2017, meaning Argyle will have played a game, on average, every 4.5 days in the year to date. The last seven of those games will have come in 22 days.
However, the numbers game that Pilgrims boss Derek Adams is playing is one that involves getting Argyle to finish with sufficient points to get over the important dotted line that isolates the top three in Sky Bet League Two.
He has also been able to call upon a squad deeper in number – and, arguably, quality – this season, when injuries threatened to take their toll on his men.
“It has been a very intense period of time,” said Derek, “with a lot of games and a lot of travelling. We’re coming to the end of it, and we’ll go back to playing Saturday football.
“I think every team in this league finds it difficult – League One is exactly the same – because of the amount of games you have to cram in. Add to that the Checkatrade Trophy; we’ve had FA Cup replays; we’ve had a lot of games this season. It looks like we have important games coming thick and fast.
“We’ve been able to take in players that have enhanced the squad, and when we have had injuries we’ve been able to replace them as well. That’s very positive. Coming to the last nine games of the season we are getting to a stage where we could have 23 players to call on.
“Last season we weren’t able to do that. We’ve been able to add players within the budget that has allowed us to replace like for like.
“You need players that know how to deal with the pressure. We have many of those in the squad.
“The other night, Ryan Taylor and Gary Sawyer were out injured, and we were able to put in Jimmy Spencer and Gary Miller, who had played a good number of games this season, had been out injured but acquitted themselves really well.
“We’re in a fantastic position. With nine games to go, we know what we’ve got to do to get ourselves automatically promoted. We’ve got to win football matches. We’ve got nine games; we have to pick up enough points in those nine games to get us over the line.”
“We’ve got a lot of hard work still to do. We know how many wins we need form these games to get automatically promoted, but we’ve got to go and do it, starting with Morecambe this Saturday.”
Morecambe are one of only four teams to have beaten Argyle away from Home Park this season, achieving this with a 2-1 victory at the Globe Arena in November.
However, the Shrimps’ form on the road, like Argyle’s, is stronger than their home record. Jim Bentley’s side have won seven and drawn six away from home. In 2017, they have drawn with Argyle’s closest three promotion rivals, all by 1-1 scorelines.
“They have gone to Carlisle, Doncaster and Portsmouth this season and drawn three games,” said Derek. “That tells you how well they have done away from home. We know how well we can play at home as well, and we will do that this Saturday.
“[Argyle’s defeat at Morecambe] was a strange game. We started very well, then they scored and had the upper hand in the match. We had Jordan Slew sent off for a second booking, and it was a difficult afternoon after that.”
Argyle were without Ryan Taylor and Gary Sawyer at Wycombe, because of injury, but both were training on Thursday. Indeed, David Ijaha and Ryan Brunt were the only two absentees.
Sawyer was close to being involved at Adams Park, but caution was taken on rushing him back to action. He, along with Taylor, and others returning from injury lay-offs such as Connor Smith and Arnold Garita, will be assessed on an ongoing basis.
“Gary was really struggling with his Achilles injury,” said Derek. “He wasn’t running properly. At this stage of the season everyone wants to try to play games. We just had to think of the team on that night.
“We’ll try to see this morning if they are able to train, and see how they are looking. We’ll see how they are – I’m not ruling them out or in, I just need to see what they are like.
“[Connor] is progressing well. He is back in full training and looking good. He is getting over the ankle injury and starting to run a lot better now.
“It’s going to be difficult [for them to get straight into the squad]. I wouldn’t say definitely not, but I wouldn’t have thought so. They have to jump ahead of the ones who are already there.”