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Match Previews


18 September 2012

A look ahead to tonight's game

Bristol Rovers early season visit to Plymouth Argyle is already looking like a key match in Rovers’ season. The failure to record a victory in the first five games has become a cause of major concern, coupled with ther growing injury list.

Manager Mark McGhee commented, "I still believe we've got enough in the group, with those who are fit, to go and get a result. But they have to stand up now and show the courage after a disappointing period. 

"They have to be visible in the game and be prepared to be on the ball. We need a bit more sporting courage and take it on as a group." 

Argyle, themselves have not got off to the best of starts. On Saturday they went down to a 3-1 home loss to Port Vale.

Speaking after the game Pilgrims Boss, Carl Fletcher confessed, "We're a little bit shell-shocked, I've come out of the game feeling 'how've we lost that?'. In the first half we controlled the game and played some real nice stuff.

"We almost got sucker-punched a little bit and from a game that we were controlling and winning we've come out with a defeat," he said.

"It was disappointing that when we lost the goal in the second half we changed our way. We need to do the right things, whether we're winning or losing, it's hard to put your finger on it, but losing goals makes a difference."

Like Rovers, Argyle were founder members of the Third Division in 1920-21 season. They finished one spot below Rovers at the end of that season in 11th place.

The first ever League meeting between the clubs took place on 23rd April 1921 when goals by Ellis Crompton and Billy Palmer secured a 2-0 victory in front of a 14,000 Eastville crowd. The return match saw Plymouth win 2-1 a week later. 

There has been a total of 44 games in Devon between the teams with the Pilgrims winning 22, 13 draws and the Pirates plundering 9 victories. 

Rovers drew in Devon last season having lost on the previous two trips to Home Park, but prior to that had had a spell where they were unbeaten in nine games, including 3 consecutive victories, all by a single goal.

One of those draws was a memorable 3-3 result on 5 February 1994, when Skinner, Archer and Sterling were on the scoresheet to keep a 13,318 crowd entertained.

Back in 1982 Rovers visited Home Park twice, on 2 January they went down to a 4-0 defeat, but on 28 September, goals by Randall (2), Kelly and David Williams ensured the result was reversed, to give Rovers their best ever result on the ground. 

Argyle certainly found the Rovers defence to their liking in the 1959/60 and 1960/61 seasons, beating Rovers 5-3 and 5-0 (Rovers worst result in Plymouth)

Much like Mark McGhee, Argyle manager Carl Fletcher is facing a lengthening injury list at Home Park. As many as six of his regular squad could be unavailable for the game tonight.

Experienced midfielder Paul Wotton is the latest casualty, after he was substituted in the second half of the 3-1 home defeat to Port Vale on Saturday because of a groin injury.

Wotton, 35, had been struggling with a sore back even before that game. Also on the injury list are Nick Chadwick and Rhys Griffiths (calf), Paris Cowan-Hall (hamstring), Rene Gilmartin (knee) and Jamie Lowry (ankle).

Fletcher commented, "I wouldn't say it's worrying. It's annoying more than anything. You want your full squad to pick from for every game you play, but that's not the way it is.

"Wottsy has played with a bad back for the last couple of weeks, and it was just one of those things on Saturday. He tweaked his groin a little bit after the ball hit him on his leg.

"You would like to have all your options open to you, and with injuries that gets less and less. But there are opportunities for other people to come in and do well, and make it hard for the people who are out injured to get in the team when they are fit again.

"Apart from Jamie Lowry, the injuries aren't really long-term. They are little niggles here and there."

It is of interest that Fletcher believes the pitch at Home Park, has been a factor behind Argyle’s fitness problems. It echoes the thoughts of several Rovers Managers regarding the surface at the Mem.

"It might just take a little bit of time for that to soften up. Hopefully, once winter comes and we get more rain that might help out. Playing on a hard pitch isn't ideal. It puts joints and things through lots of impact, and out of position where they wouldn't usually be."

Fletcher added: "We are trying to do everything we can to get the injured players back as soon as possible."

It is exatrly one year since Fletcher took on the job as Manager of Argyle after Peter Reid was sacked. He has enjoyed the experience. "Early on, you learn you can't keep everyone happy. Everyone else seems to know best.

"I think you have to be very focused on what you want to achieve and how you want to do it, and stick to your beliefs. You see managers all over the country talk about it, and I never really took much notice of it until I was in the job.

"I remember someone saying to me 'no one will understand the job I'm doing unless they have been a manager themselves' and I totally agree. Like anyone, you are going to make right decisions and you are going to make wrong ones."

 "The year has gone really quickly. You work all week and then the game comes and it's such a quick turnaround. After the final whistle, you literally have five or ten minutes and then you are already thinking about the next game.

"It all moulds into one, really, and if you ask me to put dates on certain things I wouldn't be able to. I would have to go game by game.

"It has been hard work, and I have not had many good nights' sleep, but when you get good results and good performances it makes it all worthwhile," 

Looking ahead to tonight’s game he commented, "I thought they would be up there this season. When we played them here last season (in a 1-1 draw in March) they were a really good side, and we did well to get a point that night. We've just got to make sure we're right and fully prepared, and start the game as well as we did on Saturday."

Mark McGhee will be hoping that his team can break their duck and get on with the business of climbing the table.

Written by Gerry Prewett.

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