Pilgrims in the Sun

ARGYLE enter the final fortnight of pre-season preparations with Saturday morning’s friendly against AFC Wimbledon in La Manga, Spain.

Manager Ryan Lowe is gradually building understanding within his squad on the style of play he wants to adopt for the Pilgrims and tomorrow’s game will be the next step forward in terms of fitness and building for the league curtain-raiser at Crewe Alexandra.

Strikers Dom Telford and Ryan Taylor will sit out the Wimbledon game, but the game at local side Buckland Athletic next week could be their chance to gain match-fitness after niggling injuries.

“We don’t want to lose any football match and I’m sure AFC Wimbledon will say the same but it’s not about results; it’s about getting minutes into the lads with our system and style of play,” said the gaffer.

“We’re building for Crewe Alexandra [on the opening day] and it’s the same for Wimbledon. It’s going to be a test for us but we’re hoping it will be a test for them as well.

“We’re not far off from them all being at the same amount of minutes, apart from a few young lads, who will get some more time on Wednesday [at Buckland].

“We’re gradually looking at our strongest team and looking toward Crewe Alexandra. The only players unavailable tomorrow will be Dom Telford and Ryan Taylor; the rest are all available and will get minutes. Ryan and Dom will join in Sunday’s session and then we’ll look to get them minutes [next week].”

The game with Wimbledon represents the climax to what has been an extremely useful, if sweaty, pre-season tour in the blazing sunshine of southern Spain.

While fitness has been a key objective in the tour, Ryan and his coaching staff have been working on adapting the players to an attacking formation that proved so successful for the boss at Bury last season.

“It’s going very well, we’ve put a lot of work into the lads, a lot of patterns of play and shape work,” said Ryan. “We’ve done a lot of fitness and it’s very hot.

“It’s been a great few days and we’re looking forward to a game now. The players are asking each other questions, which is good, and they’re asking the staff questions. They know what we’re about now and what we expect to get in the team.

“A lot of them haven’t played our formation before, so they know they’ve got to learn. The good thing is the lads who were with us before know that the style is very attacking, so you have to be comfortable that, if you give the ball away at the top end, the defenders and midfielders have to work hard to get back.

“They’re taking it on board and learning all the time. We’re happy with the way things are going and we know it’s a long road to get to where you want to be. We’ve had nearly four weeks with them and they’re really gelling together, on and off the pitch.

“You can see a big difference already and we’ve watched training back, so you can see they’re taking it on board. The camaraderie has been brilliant and they’re with each other all the time.”