Schumacher's Cambridge Preview
Callum Wright’s last-gasp goal against Shrewsbury Town on Tuesday sparked wild celebrations on all fronts.
Players gathered in a heap, Wright at the forefront. Supporters in the away end jumped around in jubilation, and those not in attendance likely followed suit in living rooms across the world.
In front of the away dugout, the scenes were not restrained either. Steven Schumacher and his coaching staff, along with substitutes, congregated and justifiably celebrated what was a huge goal, and a vital result.
Happy memories, but for Schumacher and co., they have to be put to one side very quickly, and used in the right fashion as preparation for the next challenge ahead.
That challenge will come in the form of Cambridge United, who visit Home Park this Saturday, at the start of week in which Argyle play on their own turf three times, and could seal promotion should they win them all.
For Cambridge, the inverse is true. They too have three away games in succession, with their task being to pick up points to enable them another season in Sky Bet League One. They head to Devon in 21st, one point and one place behind the team above them, but boasting arguably the best form in the bottom half of the table.
After winning just two games in 16, following a 0-0 draw with Argyle in December, United won three of their next four, beating Port Vale, Fleetwood Town and local rivals Peterborough United, as well as drawing away at Bolton Wanderers. Most recently, Cambridge lost at home to Wycombe Wanderers, but their upturn in fortune is enough to make Schumacher wary of Mark Bonner’s side.
“We have to analyse it, but we can't keep celebrating it,” said Schumacher of the win at Shrewsbury. “We have to just move on and try and use that experience for the next game. That'll be the message because I think Cambridge will be probably a similar type of setup to Shrewsbury. I don't think it'll be a similar sort of game that we had against Exeter.
“We might have a fair amount of the ball and we might find little ways to get into their box and cause them problems. We’ll learn from that Shrewsbury experience and try to take it into the next game if we can.
“I'm quite surprised that Cambridge are down there this year with the players that they got. There’s obviously a reason, but I'm not surprised that they've put a run together now and their fighting for the lives.
“They're in with a really good shout. They've been in great form. I really rate Mark as a coach. I think he does really well with his team. He always does well against us.
“We know that we're going to be in for a really tough game. We understand that they'll come here with a game plan, like they have done a few times, of being organised and hard to break down. We know that they've got a threat when they break and counter-attack because their forward players are really good. That's why I'm surprised they haven't got as many goals as they would've liked.
“They're still in with a chance because they've been in good form, had a great win in their derby game, against Peterborough. They lost to Wycombe, which can happen, but they'll come here full of confidence, I'm sure.”
Argyle should have confidence of their own. Although the Pilgrims lost their most recent home game, against Lincoln City, their record from 20 league fixtures is 17 wins, one draw and two defeats. It is the best home record in the division, and producing an extension of that form in the coming days could put Schumacher and his team on the brink of their season’s objective, or even obtain them.
The manager is counting on the character of his team to help them through. A combination of patience, skill and determination will be needed for the season’s denouement, and the first of those qualities is something Schumacher hopes the Green Army can assist with, starting from Saturday.
“The character of the team is really good. It's shown, no matter what, they stick together. They look like a team in the last couple of games, that's been the most pleasing thing for me. We had a bad result against Lincoln on Easter Monday, and then going into a huge game with loads of pressure on it, away at Exeter, we needed everybody to stand up and be counted and play as a team.
“If you haven't got good character, then you'd fold under that pressure. They haven't, they’ve got maximum points.
“Our home form has been incredible this season. To only lose two and draw one shows how strong we've been and the fans have played a huge part in that. It’s sold out every week. The players have been putting in brilliant performances at Home Park.
“Can we go and replicate that again the next three games starting on Saturday? We know that we're going to have to play with an energy about us and pass the ball really well. I think we're going to have to be patient, so again, the fans will play a big part in that because they’ve got to understand that we might have times on the ball where we have to go side to side on the pitch and find little ways in.
“It's not a good idea just to kick long balls against Cambridge because the lads at the back head everything, you've got to find ways in to try to beat them. That takes patience and it takes bravery from the players.”