Principal Boys

PANTOMIME season is still a little way off but the Theatre of Greens’ stage is this weekend set to witness two characters that seem sure to have the Home Park audience cheering and jeering.

Derek Adams and Darren Ferguson, boyhood chums in Scotland who have grown up to become successful managers in England, face each other across the technical zones when the former’s Pilgrims entertain the latter’s Doncaster Rovers in Saturday’s Sky Bet League One matinee show. 

Friends they may well be but do not expect that to impinge on playing their respective roles after the curtain rises. 

“It’s always nice to see Darren again,” said Derek. “There’s a lot of respect but, when the whistle goes, then it’s time to get to business. That’s no different to any game in this division. 

“That’s the nature of football management. It’s a pantomime at times and we’re just the two ugly sisters.” 

It is not only the two principals who know each other well. Last season’s League Two title race saw Argyle dominate the division for most of the first half of the season and Rovers most of the second half before the outsider of three, Portsmouth, came up on the rails to overtake both. 

Familiarity has bred respect, rather than contempt as all three sides work hard to establish themselves at the next level. Nothing would please Derek more than to hear supporters tell him, at curtain-down on Saturday, that the Pilgrims’ five-match winless run is “Behind you!” 

“Doncaster, like ourselves and Portsmouth, did very well to get promoted out of the league,” said Derek. “They put on an excellent run and the two games that we played against each other were exciting matches – two very good footballing teams. 

“Gaining points in this division for both clubs has been difficult at this stage but I think that both have shown that they compete in this division and we both need to get a run of wins together to pull ourselves up the league.”

Argyle have a had a week free from first-team commitments, while Doncaster bowed out of the Carabao Cup in a tight encounter at Premier League Arsenal. 

“It’s a great experience for them, going to the Emirates,” said Derek. “We had that last year, going to Anfield. By all accounts, they put in a very good performance against Arsenal and they will take a great deal of confidence from the game.” 

Fergie Jr. would welcome that. After a good start to the season which included a 3-1 away win at Blackburn, Doncaster, although having enjoyed a cup run, have suffered similarly to the Pilgrims in the league and are winless in six, having lost their last three away matches at Wimbledon, Northampton and Rochdale. 

Their away form mirrors Argyle’s home run, which has, of course been affected by a rash of red cards since they won their 20178-18 Home Park opener. 

“It would be nice to get a win at home,” said Derek. “The last win was the Charlton game and we played very well that day. Against the likes of Scunthorpe and MK Dons, we played really well, as well, and didn’t get out of the game what we felt we deserved. 

“We’ll continue to work hard to get the wins we need.” 

Oh yes they will.