A decent performance but a frustrating result last week against AFC Wimbledon changes little about our season. The play-offs are a mirage for us right now, laying somewhere in the distance, never in reach, which drawing at home to bottom of the division will not bring any closer.
Having failed to win our past two games, another failure to put away a relegation contender in this upcoming game against Plymouth Argyle would officially make this a poor run of form. Although we’re some distance short of being in need of a win, it would be more than welcome to take three points from this game.
It’s hard to see Mark Robins deviating too vastly from last week’s starting XI. Jordy Hiwula and Conor Chaplin were relatively poor by their recent standards against AFC Wimbledon but they are currently in vogue ahead of Jonson Clarke-Harris, who has become our default first substitution over the past month.
Bright Enobakhare showed flashes of ability against AFC Wimbledon but was perhaps guilty of trying to do too much to impress in what appeared to be an uncomfortable left-wing berth for him. There is a case for Robins to move the Wolves loanee into a more central position and while shifting Jordy Hiwula onto the left side so that Enobakhare can be more of an influence, but if there’s going to be any changes involving the front four, the security that Jordan Shipley offers in an away game is likely to be favoured.
It’s unclear what the situation is at left-back after the 18 year-old Sam McCallum started last week ahead of Junior Brown and Brandon Mason, neither of whom were even in the matchday squad. It was a difficult 90 minutes for the youngster, suggesting that he’s not quite ready even if he does look a decent prospect. Without knowing whether the two more senior left-backs are in contention for this game, it would be a concern were McCallum to be handed another start.
Last Time We Met
Having failed to win our opening two games, picking up all three points against Plymouth back in August was an important first step towards adapting to League One football. In truth, it was a low quality affair between two sides that looked set to struggle at the wrong end of the division. It took a rash challenge in the penalty area from Plymouth’s Graham Carey to hand Amadou Bakayoko the chance to score his first goal for the club, which he just about did, leading to a nervy second half as we attempted to hold onto the win.
Manager – Derek Adams
The spiky-natured Scot is enduring his toughest period at Argyle, having led them to a play-off final, out of League Two and then to the fringes of the top six in League One in successive years, few were expecting a side under his charge to be struggling so desperately at the wrong end of the division.
The biggest problem Adams has faced this season has been a failure to adequately replace key defensive performers from last season in the powerful Sonny Bradley, the cultured Zak Vyner, along with Remi Matthews in goal – two of the three are playing in the Championship, the other, Bradley is a key player at promotion-chasing Luton Town. Argyle have suffered some big defeats this season, while the couple of runs of form that have suggested they could get out of danger have been permeated by some car crash defensive performances.
Who To Look Out For?
With their star player over recent years, Graham Carey, not quite playing at his peak this season, it has been striker Freddie Ladapo and former Sky Blue Ruben Lameiras that Plymouth have had to turn to for inspiration.
Lameiras has been in and out of the side this season, however he has shown in recent weeks that his creativity and eye for goal make Plymouth a much more fluent and dangerous attacking unit. As we saw at the Ricoh Arena back in August, Lameiras’ positional understanding as an attacking midfielder can really open up gaps between defence and midfield which Liam Kelly will have to work hard to prevent causing us problems.
Freddie Ladapo is a big striker in the mould of a lower-league Romelu Lukaku, in that he prefers running in behind rather than playing with his back to goal in the manner his physique would suggest he should do. While his 12 league goals have been more than welcome in a struggling side, there is a sense that Argyle could be a better team with someone less prolific up top but more adept at holding the ball up and bringing others into play – although with two playmakers in the side, a goalscoring centre-forward should have less involvement in the build-up play.
While Carey himself hasn’t been at his best this season, the creative midfielder’s ability on the ball and set-piece delivery remains a key threat that Plymouth Argyle have in their favour. Their most creative player, with six assists, Carey would still walk into most other League One sides.
Areas To Exploit
As mentioned above, the defence has been a huge area of concern for Plymouth this season. Most of Derek Adams’ defensive signings haven’t proven up to the standard required for League One football, with centre-backs that are slow and poor in the air, quick full-backs that lack any sense of positional discipline, and goalkeepers prone to glaring errors – with current number one Kyle Letheren caught out last week against Southend via a hopeful effort from the opposing half. Along with an inconsistency in selection, Argyle lack confidence and stability in addition to quality as a defensive unit, something we should be looking to pick holes in.