Pilgrims Pounce, or Shrimps to Strike Back?

BEWARE the wounded animal, they say. But is it Argyle or Southend who were scarred the most on the season’s opening day?

Argyle lost at Walsall, having lead via Ryan Edwards, but succumbed 2-1. Southend, on their own patch, apparently dominated against Doncaster, but suddenly found themselves 3-0 down. Two goals were scored in a fightback, but they lost by the odd goal in five.

That defeat, by the same margin but in scoring one goal more than Argyle, places Southend slightly higher in the embryonic Sky Bet League One table. 

There were three places and five point between the sides at the end of the season last year, with Argyle not only finishing the higher in the table, but taking four points from the Blues. The Pilgrims were point at Roots Hall in the first of half of their third game of 2017-18, before stirring in the second period and equalising via Ryan Edwards, following an unlucky Sonny Bradley own-goal early in the game.

By the time Southend came to Home Park, on Good Friday, Argyle were flying. Two goals each from Ruben Lameiras and Graham Carey – the latter even missed a penalty – saw Derek Adams’ men to a comfortable victory. 

Surely things will not be so simple this time. Derek expects Southend not to be too different in terms of approach but notes that they carry a threat that Argyle cannot take lightly. 

“They are similar to last season,” said Derek. “They have changed their personnel around a bit, but not too much. They can be direct, and get the ball forward quickly, but they have technically very good players in their team that can go and pass the ball as well. 

“They started 4-4-2 and changed at half-time to 4-3-3; that was to play against Doncaster. They are a good unit, with vastly experienced players in their squad.” 

Admittedly with a hefty break of late, but you have to go back 203 days to find an Argyle defeat at Home Park, to eventual League One champions Wugan Athletic. The Pilgrims won 12 of their last 14 games at home last season, blotting their copybook only with said Wigan defeat, and a 0-0 draw with Portsmouth.

Adams confirmed he was working from the same group of players as last weekend, with Antoni Sarcevic still missing though injury, but recovering sufficiently that Derek believes he could be in full training by next week. 

Meanwhile, some eyes were caught by Derek’s announcement of Gary Sawyer being his captain for the season, but the left-back not making the starting 11 for the season’s opening game, with vice-captain David Fox wearing the armband at Walsall. 

As Adams explained, the role of skipper at a football club encompasses so much more than meets the eye. 

“I’ve made Gary Sawyer captain, and my captain is not on the field, he is off the field,” said Derek. “There are a lot of things that go on for seven days a week at a football club. The 90 minutes is the really the manager, assistant and first-team coach, along with the team. The captain’s role is not as important. It is more important during the week.”