ARGYLE have been walking wounded towards the finish line of the Sky Bet League One season, with manager Derek Adams seeing injuries as a key factor in their seemingly dwindling play-off ambitions.
Adams arrived at Glanford Park for a major match against Scunthorpe United almost unable to pick a full squad, enlisting the help of multiple academy talents and having no choice but to start players who were struggling for match fitness. With the likes of Ryan Taylor, Jamie Ness and Ryan Edwards sidelined, the ailments continued to pile up, with both Oscar Threlkeld and Antoni Sarcevic coming off at half time.
That made the job competing against a very strong Scunthorpe side even trickier, and goals from Hakeeb Adelakun and Ivan Toney ensured the hosts secured a play-off spot, whilst the Pilgrims must hope for an unlikely pair of results on the final day of the season to finish in the top six.
“We ran out of players tonight,” said Derek, “and eventually, it tolled. We didn’t perform to the standards we could perform. We’ve had a lot of games to play; we’ve had a lot of travelling to do.
“I think if we had a fully fit squad, then we’d have had a better opportunity to finish in the play-offs. Injuries and suspensions have caused us a lot of problems, illness as well, and we just have to deal with it.
“We’ll see how we are before Saturday. We are struggling. There’s many of them who aren’t fully fit. We’re finding it difficult now to get fully-fit players on the pitch. It’s getting to that point in the season now.”
The lack of options at the disposal of Adams at this stage has at least allowed some squad players a chance to shine, including striker Alex Fletcher, who gave the Greens more of an attacking threat as he came on at the beginning of the second half.
“I thought he did well,” said Derek. “I thought he led the line very well tonight. He won flick-ons, took the ball in, ball retention was a lot better, and I thought that he performed well.” When asked if Alex had earned himself a chance to start against Gillingham, Adams said: “He probably has, yes.”
Still, whilst injuries may well have scuppered Argyle’s hopes of extending their league season beyond 46 games, a bit of perspective tells us that what the Pilgrims have managed to achieve in their first season back in the third tier is truly remarkable. As Derek pointed out, to have something so positive to play for in May, however unlikely, is a superb position for a newly-promoted team to be in, and he will be doing all he can to add another memorable chapter to this unforgettable season.
“I said at the end (of the game) that, at the start of the season, my remit was to keep us in the league,” said Adams. “We’ve done that, and we’ve gone ahead of all the promoted teams last season, and we go to the last game of the season, still with an opportunity of getting in the play-offs.
“The strongest team will go out on Saturday to win the game. We want to win by as many goals as we possibly can, to give us that possibility of still getting in the play-offs. I can’t give up if it’s mathematically possible. We’re three points behind Charlton. The goal difference is six, I believe, and you never know.”