Steven Schumacher

Schumacher's Crystal Palace Preview

Sync Fixtures

Argyle manager Steven Schumacher sees Tuesday night’s game against Crystal Palace Under-21s as a threefold opportunity.

The fixture, the last of the Papa Johns trophy group stage, provides Schumacher with a chance to further three separate objectives. The first is to allow some players who have not been playing with regularity to get some game time, the second for some younger players to further their football education, and the third to continue the club’s current winning run going.

Argyle’s first team are top of Sky Bet League One, having won eight and drawn one of their last nine games. The club’s Under-18 side are also in great form, having won five and drawn one from their opening six league fixtures.

Thus far in the Trophy, Argyle have gained five points from two games, and go into the fixture against Crystal Palace knowing a draw after 90 minutes will be enough to send the Pilgrims through to the knockout stage for the first time since the competition format was amended.

Even a defeat could be enough, should Bristol Rovers lose to Swindon Town, but keeping the Greens’ winning mentality is a big part of the manager’s preparation for the game.

“Momentum is a big thing in football,” he said. “We want to keep the positivity going for as long as possible. Tuesday night gives us an opportunity to do that.

“It’s important we get some experience in the team, then around that we’ll have some energy and some youthful excitement with the young lads who will play and will be desperate to impress again.

“It won’t be an easy game. Crystal Palace have been ok when I have watched them, played some good stuff. They need to come here and win.

“It’s a good stage for [our young players] to learn and get some more experience. They’re doing great for the Under-18s, which is good, but a step up in this competition if different for them, playing with the first-team players. Also, the pressure is different, it is good to know if they can handle it and perform in that environment.

“The way I see it, you have to try to win every game that you play. That’s the attitude I want to go with. I know that sometimes we need to rest players in the early rounds, and we feel it is important that the lads who need minutes get games and young players get experience, and still take the competition seriously.

“We need a point, so we’re going to have to play well to get that point. If we can get through the group stage that will be a first for the club, and will bring in some extra cash, and keeps the momentum building.

“If we get through, it is another game for people who might need minutes and another opportunity for young lads. It’s good for everyone to try to go through.”

Set to feature from the outset is Conor Grant, who will start a first-team game for the first time since April following a groin injury. Grant has come on as a substitute four times in recent weeks, his appearances gradually coming earlier and earlier in fixtures. The Palace game is the next logical step in his recovery.

“He’s looking sharper in every training session and things are looking more natural to him,” said Schumacher. “When you have had a long time out, the first few weeks you are trying to find your feet, get your touch going, trying to stay with runners. That can be hard, but it looks as though he is back.

“I was pleased he got 30 minutes at MK Dons. He’ll start on Tuesday night, because that is the next hurdle for him now. He’s got to play over an hour, if he can. That ticks another box for him, then when we need him to play 90 minutes, he is ready.”

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