Stevem Schumacher

Schumacher's Wycombe Reaction

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The planning that went into Argyle’s 1-0 victory over Wycombe Wanderers began almost six months ago.

Last season, Argyle visited Adams Park on 15 April, and lost 2-0. On the way home from that game Argyle boss Steven Schumacher began to plot a way of ending a run of seven winless games against the Chairboys, who had continually got the better of Argyle via their direct, physical approach.

Part of the 2022/23 plan was to pack the Argyle side with the tallest players available, asking midfielder Matt Butcher and central defender Nigel Lonwijk to act as wing-backs for the day, and bringing in Sam Cosgrove up front.

It worked. Despite being tested, and goalkeeper Mike Cooper pulling off two fantastic first-half saves, the back line held firm to claim a clean sheet after Cosgrove had given The Pilgrims an early lead, being brought down for a penalty then stepping up to score from the spot.

“It’s a game that’s been on my mind since April,” said Schumacher. “I remember going home in a terrible mood. I drove my car home and I was horrible to whoever was with me in the car. I snapped at my missus and my kids. It was a horrible day. I’ve been playing that game over and over in my head, thinking about what we would do next time.

“We came up with a plan this week. I’m absolutely delighted for the boys because when I went in on Thursday and told them what I was thinking, they gave me some answers about what we learned from last season.

“I thought we had to go there and be as big and as physical as possible. [Wycombe] were the better team last season by being too aggressive for us. We made mistakes and got punished for it, then got frustrated trying to play our way. I decided to go with as much height, as much physical strength as possible, to try to almost play them at their own game because I think it is the only way your beat them here.

“I thought it was the hardest game of my managerial tenure. I’m absolutely delighted. It’s the best win of the season for me.”

Cosgrove playing as Argyle’s line-leader was another calculated move, designed to act as a way of getting the ball quickly from back to front, and then playing their football from there.

Making his first start in Sky Bet League One for Argyle, Cosgrove delivered everything his manager asked for. His goal was the nominal difference between the teams, but his presence a factor of equal importance.

Schumacher said: “We went a bit more direct into Sam Cosgrove – who was brilliant – and then would go from there. We produced a moment of quality, it got us a pen and we won the game.

“He was outstanding, and it gives us something to build from. When you go with those tactics, you’ve got to have someone like that in your squad. That’s what we brought him here for. He’s different to what we had.

“Wycombe want you to play out from the back; they come and high-press you, nick it off you and cause problems. Having Sam in the team allowed us to go into him and he was brilliant.

“Michael made a couple of great saves, and we got some important blocks in at times. We didn’t win every first contact – you’re not going to against these because it’s their major strength.

“We had to try and fight against that and having only two players in the team who were under six feet tall – Adam Randell and Jordan Houghton – that gave us that to do.”

Before the game, three outfield players had started all ten of Argyle’s league fixtures. That tally is down to one – Dan Scarr – after Joe Edwards and Bali Mumba sat the game out, but this speaks of the depth of squad that Schumacher has assembled.

The boss also spoke of the attitude shown by the rested Edwards and Mumba – and others – for coming together for the common good and understanding the reasons for the changes.

“I had to explain to Joe Edwards and Bali Mumba the reason behind it,” he said. “They got it. ‘Yeah Gaffer, no problem.’ They were disappointed not to be playing, especially Joe, who said we might need his experience, but I just felt Nigel’s height at the back post was going to be important, and it was.

“We won a game last week against Ipswich and it was probably our best performance of the season, but we’ve made four changes today. We pick a team to give us a chance to go and win the next game. When you’ve got players that can come in and do that, and people who come off the bench and don’t sulk about it, but come on and make a big difference, then it’s a good formula.

“I’m delighted with everyone. It’s a real good day.”

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