Steven Schumacher

Schumacher's Cheltenham Preview

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It is not terribly long since Argyle and Cheltenham Town last met. The two sides met on Boxing Day, when the visiting Pilgrims won 1-0, and just 26 days later, the rematch is on, at Home Park.

Although less than a month has elapsed, a few things have changed. Cheltenham won their next league match, but have lost three since. Forward Dan Nlundulu was recalled from his loan, and sent out to Bolton Wanderers, being replaced, ostensibly, by Will Godwin, joining on a permanent deal from Stoke City.

Argyle have signed five players since the teams met, all of whom could be in contention to make their Home Park debuts, if selected.

What has not changed is Argyle’s position, on top of Sky Bet League One, and their imperious home record. The Greens have won 12 out of 13 home fixtures, losing the other to Port Vale.

“The level of performance we have put in at Home Park this season has been outstanding,” said manager Steven Schumacher. “We’ve fallen below our standard once, against Port Vale. Apart from that we have played really well, with good energy. We’ve been exciting to watch at home. We’ve had some really tough games, where we have had to dig in and come from behind, but to have 12 wins out of 13 is an outstanding record. It’s one we are proud of and will do our very best to keep going on Saturday.

“The new players are going to experience a Home Park atmosphere when it is full, hopefully bouncing and lively, and I’m sure they will enjoy it. They are working with us and getting to know us a bit better, and we’re getting to know them. It’s been good having a clear week, getting to train with the new players. Hopefully they perform well and enjoy the experience.”

Last weekend, when Argyle travelled to promotion rivals Ipswich Town, 21 players travelled to the game, with three being left out of the match-day squad.

This weekend, captain Joe Edwards is available from suspension, so Schumacher will once again have to disappoint some of his players, but his decision is the cliched ‘nice problem to have’. It is certainly preferable for the manager compared to have a threadbare squad.

“It was a nice problem to have at Ipswich, leaving three players out of the squad,” he said. “It wasn’t an easy call, it wasn’t an easy conversation with any of them, but the players are understanding that is going to be difficult for me at times, and I am going to have to make tough decisions. I have promised them it will always come from the right place and there will be evidence behind why I am doing something.

“We wouldn’t have brought in the five players in January if we didn’t think they added something to the squad. The players who have been here all season have been working incredibly well, so the new players understand they are not guaranteed to come in and start.

“It’s a good place to be. It’s a better conundrum to have than having no players available.”

Schumacher has had a chance to watch back the Boxing Day win, and feels that perhaps Argyle’s performance was not as strong as he felt at the time.

Bringing into focus all of the above, though – Argyle’s home form, the changes to both sides, and the nature of the squad – Schumacher is focused solely on the best way to best the Robins this time round, in front of another sold-out Home Park crowd.

“After the game, I felt it was a great win and we did well, but I watched the game back yesterday and I feel like we could have played better,” he said.

“We haven’t got the same squad, so we won’t have just the same team that played against them last time. All games are different. I always pick a team based on what we think is best to win that game on it’s own.

“Cheltenham is always a difficult place to go. The pitch is so small, and we didn’t pass the ball well enough. We didn’t use the space available on the pitch properly. That has come into my thinking this week. We’re at home, on our pitch, which is a bigger and better surface than at Cheltenham, so we’ll try to stamp our authority on the game as much as we can.”

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