Schumacher's Cambridge Reaction
Argyle Manager Steven Schumacher was pleased with his side’s battling characteristics in their goalless draw with Cambridge United, coming away with a clean sheet and a point in tricky conditions.
With the bitter weather causing games to be called off across the country, the Pilgrims would have expected a tough encounter coming to Cambridge, meeting a side desperate to end their rough run of form with a statement result against Sky Bet League One’s leaders.
Indeed, in a game heavy on battles and effort, but low on clear chances, Argyle had to work hard to earn anything at the Abbey Stadium – and the boss sees the draw as a positive one, given the circumstances.
“It might turn out to be a good point in the end,” said Schumacher. “Obviously we wanted to come here and try and get three, but I thought it was a tough game.
“It was a battle. The pitch was really hard, really firm, obviously with the conditions. The groundsmen did brilliant, by the way, to get the game on, so fair play to them for that. It was just a bit of a slog. There wasn’t too many clear-cut chances in the game, but we’ve come out of it with a clean sheet, so that’s a bonus.”
Argyle’s first goalless draw since Easter was also the team’s ninth clean sheet of the season – hard-earned against United, and good groundwork for Schumacher’s side to try and begin another strong run of results.
“I think the clean sheet is a major positive, as it’s been a little while, and it was a tough game today,” said Schumacher. “Their forward players are their best assets in their team – all four of them are a threat, who started the game today, then they’ve got (Joe) Ironside on the bench, who’s a good player for this level.
“The lads defended really well. I thought for the first 15 or 20 minutes, it was tough – we were on the back foot a little bit. But once we settled into the game and got to grips with it, I thought we were good. We limited them to very few chances. Michael (Cooper) made a real good save late on in the second half.
“A clean sheet is really good – something for us to build on.”
The boss once again tweaked his approach to combat against the opposition’s threats, opting for four defenders who, with Matt Butcher excellently stepping in at left-back due to Brendan Galloway’s injury, coped well with Cambridge’s forward threats.
“We just felt that going for a back four here today was probably the best option, said Schumacher. “Matt Butcher did brilliant; (he) stepped in again. He was going to play in midfield, but obviously the injury we had to Brendan Galloway in the week made our mind up that Butch had to play left-back – and he done great.
“Their front four are good, and if we’ve got players who are man-for-man against them, then they all defended really well.”
Argyle did create opportunities that forced last-ditch defending from the hosts, and from half-time onwards, Schumacher looked to make changes to swing the match in Argyle’s favour, including Danny Mayor joining the fray for the second half, as Mickel Miller was replaced a precaution from his first league start of the season.
“We had to bring him off because Mickel just said he felt a little bit tight in his hamstring,” said Schumacher. “We probably might’ve done that after 60 minutes maybe anyway, because Mickel’s not played much football, but he was just saying he wasn’t sure on his hammy – just more of a precaution.
“We wanted to try and win the game. The substitutions; Niall Ennis comes on and he’s a bit different to Sam (Cosgrove). I thought their lads at the back dealt with the aerial balls we had to play quite well, so Niall gives us something different. Then Bali (Mumba) late on, trying to get him on the pitch, and Dan Scarr has to come on as he gives us a bit more height from set plays.
“We tried everything to try and win the game. They made two great blocks. I remember one from Morgan (Whittaker) in the second half; if that goes in, we win the game. Macaulay (Gillesphey) had one in the first half that I don’t know how the referee didn’t give us a corner, because it’s great defending again.”
The aforementioned Scarr made his return from injury late on in Cambridgeshire – another positive sign for Schumacher’s squad, as they look for strength in numbers on the way to the January transfer window. However, it only stands to balance out a setback, as Brendan Galloway may miss three months of action.
“It’s important, because we haven’t got a big squad,” said Schumacher on Scarr’s appearance. “Obviously again, we had an injury in midweek with Brendan, which isn’t good news, so getting Dan Scarr back is good.
“Danny Mayor looks as though he’s getting up to speed. Danny did brilliant when he came on, and had a good chance. I think if he hit the target, it probably goes in. Mickel Miller looked alright, so we’ll just get through these next few, then once January comes, hopefully we go and strengthen.
“But it’s a battling point. Not a brilliant, fantastic performance that we’ll remember for years, but it’s another point in the right direction; another good one away on the road. Not the end of the world, and we’ll move on.”