Opposition View: Charlton v Plymouth Argyle

Plymouth Argyle are preparing to play Charlton at The Valley for the second time in as many months. After our chat before November’s cup game, we were once again joined by Charlton fan and CharltonLife writer Karl, who can himself be found on Twitter, for our Boxing Day Opposition View.

How have things been at Charlton since we last spoke?

Inconsistent and frustrating. We have had a couple more players pick up injuries, especially in defence, and that’s hurt us recently. Only managed to keep 1 clean sheet since we last spoke, a 2-0 win away at Ipswich. We’ve had a couple of good wins, 5-2 against Wimbledon being one, but when it comes to the sides nearer the bottom, we have really struggled and at times become too defensive.

What did you make of the fixture in the FA Cup, which saw Argyle win 1-0?

Good win for Plymouth and got yourselves into Round 3 too. For Charlton, I think it was always about minutes for some players and being focused on the league this season is really important. The team on Boxing Day will be much changed from that fixture.

What sort of tactical style do you expect to set up with on Saturday?

Bowyer will always set up with two up front in the league as much as he can. We can play football but have the ability to go direct as well, especially if Aneke is on the pitch. With the attacking players we have, we should be more threatening, I don’t think we’ve really clicked yet. Our left back Maatsen is important to our set up, he has the ability to get forward and play in multiple positions. Expect either a flat 4-4-2 or a diamond midfield.

Even though we can expect a stronger Charlton side than in the Cup, are there any weak links you’re worried about?

Defensively for sure. From being so solid keeping 6 clean sheets in a row, we’ve shipped 11 in 7 since the return of the last international break. The reason mainly is that we have arguably our best two centre backs injured. Runs in behind the centre of our defence could cause us problems.

What have you made of Argyle’s progress so far this season?

A very bright start followed by 6 straight defeats made your recent win against Milton Keynes an important one. You seem to heavily rely on the goals of Jephcott, who I previously mentioned I’ve been impressed with. That’s a potential cause for concern, especially if he was to be sold in January. However, I think you’ll have enough to be okay in the league this season.

What would you say your ambitions are for the rest of the campaign?

100% it has to be promotion. We need to finish top 6 and then anything can happen. It’s a strange league where anyone can beat anyone but if we are to be serious, we are a club that needs to be chasing one of the promotion spots.

And what are your predictions for League One in general this year?

No one will run away with it and places for the top 6 could be decided on the last day of the season. If any club goes on a run of wins, they’ll put themselves in a great position. As in anything, but more so this season, finding consistency is going to be so important.

Finally, what is your prediction for the game itself?

At home, Charlton ought to be looking at 3 points and with knowing we only have one more game this calendar year, I think Bowyer and the players will aim to end it on a high. It’s a game where Charlton have to be patient, but if we were to get an early goal, the recent losses of Plymouth could cause the players heads to drop. If Charlton go for it and not become defensive too early, a 3-1 win for Charlton would be my predictions.

Opposition View: Bristol Rovers v Plymouth Argyle

This weekend, Argyle will make another trip to Bristol Rovers in poor form. As always, we had the pleasure of being joined by GasCast for our Opposition View. You can also find them on Twitter.

First of all, how have things been at Rovers since we last spoke?

From memory the last game we had was the FA cup came at Argyle where we fluked a win with Anssi Jaakkola pulling off one of the best saves I’ve ever seen live!

Since then Rovers have hired and sacked Ben Garner, sold our best player, turned over half the squad and hired a certain Paul Tisdale. I’m sure he’s looking forward to seeing you at the Mem on Saturday! As usual never a dull moment at Rovers.

More specifically, how have the club dealt with the disruption caused by COVID?

Oddly we have weathered it pretty well. Our board were working on measures to make us more sustainable before the pandemic that have softened the blow. Also, our owner writing off the debt the club had is absolutely huge. We’ve also completed phase 1 of the training ground (this is a much bigger deal to us than to other clubs) so we should come out of the other side in decent shape. We’ll certainly have weathered it better than a lot of clubs.

On the field, what have you made of your season so far?

Up until last Saturday I would have said it was an unmitigated disaster. Garner brought in a lot of signings that on paper looked like would really improve us. Names like Ehmer, Baldwin, Oztumer, Westbrooke got fans really excited for the season.

Unfortunately the results didn’t follow and he was sacked after we lost at home to Fleetwood which left us just above the relegation zone.

Tisdale was swiftly appointed and we lost against Swindon and then drew to Wigan in our next two league games which for a new manager bounce wasn’t the best.

We then battered Darlington 6-0 in the FA cup and last week demolished Wimbledon 4-2 at Plough Lane. Hopefully that is a corner turned as against Dons we played some really positive attacking football that Garner was brought in to provide.

And what would you say your ambitions are for the rest of the campaign?

Fans expectations have been up and down, but I’d say we’d be happy with mid table at this point. If we play like we did against Swindon and Wigan we’ll be down there struggling, if we play like we did against Dons then we could be right up there.

What sort of tactical style do you expect to set up with on Saturday?

Tisdale has been struggling to find his best team and system with every game having something slightly different. He’s also made tons of changes during games to try things out as he’s only had two weeks at the helm and something like 5 games. It’s been a bit mad for him.

I expect us to line up as we did against Dons. Flat back 4 with 2 holding midfielders. Then a fairly fluid front 4 diamond with Hanlon at the tip, Westbrooke at the base and Oztumer and Nichoson on either side. They will switch around a lot, but we’ll look to attack through those 4 primarily.

Mostly on the deck, mostly trying to get those front 4 in the game. Width to be provided by Leahy at left back and Ehmer at right back.

And are there any real weak links in the side you’re worried about?

Set pieces are our Achilles heel this season. I don’t have the stats, but it feels like at least once every other game we concede from a set piece.

We are vulnerable on the counter as our defenders aren’t the quickest and Ehmer is a centre back playing at right back.

What have you made of Argyle’s progress since we met in the FA Cup last year?

I went to uni in Plymouth and they are my second team so I keep an eye out for your results and progress. I’m chuffed you got promoted as a Plymouth away day is always my favourite!

I think Argyle are a championship club. They should be anyway. Now you have hospitality facilities in the Mayflower stand you should be pushing on.

Bear in mind when I was going 2007-09ish you were in the Championship and pushing to try and get up. Those were the days of Sturrock, Ebanks-Blake beating up a bouncer outside of the candy club on union street with his mrs’ handbag. You know the good times!

What are your predictions for League One in general this year?

Looks like the expected teams will be up there, Hull, Pompey, Posh, Ipswich, etc. Lincoln being up there has put the cat amongst the pigeons. I’m gunna stick my neck out a little and say Fleetwood could go under the radar this season. I like the look of them.

At the other end, the usual suspects plus us and Oxford at the moment. I think we’ll pull clear so will Oxford. Wigan are in a sorry state and might not even see out the season. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that!

I can’t see any real shocks this season. Sunderland to bottle promotion again is on the cards.

And finally, what is your prediction for the game itself?

I’m going confident for the first time this season and saying Rovers will win. You’re in a horrible run of form and I think we can take advantage. Rovers 2-1 for me.

Opposition View: Plymouth Argyle v Ipswich

After a dismal showing on Tuesday, Plymouth Argyle will be hoping for better when they take on Ipswich Town at Home Park this weekend. We had the pleasure of being joined by Ipswich fan Craig for our Opposition View. Craig also takes part in the Blue Monday Podcast, which you can also find on Twitter here.

First of all, how did you get into supporting Ipswich?

I’m just south of the border, in Essex, but my big brother’s father-in-law was a huge Ipswich fan so took me and my footstool along with him from when I was 7yrs old.  First match I recall was October 1982, John Wark scored four and we beat WBA 6-1. So my time supporting Town has dovetailed nicely with our downturn since the glory days of the late 70s/early 80s!

Are there any Ipswich players in particular we should be looking out for?

“Looking out for” in what respect?  To have a good laugh at them?! Spoilt for choice in that regard.

For pure footballing reasons, I would have said Andre Dozzell but he’s on his second suspension of the season so far, due to a red card at Sunderland and now having accumulated five bookings. He sits in front of our back four and dictates play for us.  Our slump in form has been partly mirrored by his subsequent non-availability.

Of those who will play, it’s “bare bones” time.  Our best, most exciting players are all injured.  You could look out for Alan Judge, if he’s selected, to see just how far an international footballer can fall in such a short period of time.

What have you made of your start to the season so far?

The start was fine! We were top after the first six matches of the season, scoring more than two goals a game (on average); Paul Lambert won Manager of the Month for September.

However, the wheels have fallen off since. Same happened last season (around the time Lambert was given a shiny, five-year contract).  We’ve managed to acquire ten points from the last nine league games with only six goals scored over that time (two of which were own goals from the opposition).

We are, however, still currently in 5th albeit by virtue of plenty of teams below us not having played as many games as us.

And what would you say your ambitions are for the rest of the campaign?

Our ambitions should be promotion and they need to be promotion. We have a huge number of players who are out of contract this season and who don’t want to be playing League One football.  A combination of that and the impending salary cap will see us lose the vast majority (if not all) of our better players so it is almost a make or break season.  From the bubble of social media and message boards, it looks like the bulk of Ipswich fans will be more confident about achieving promotion with a change of manager.

What sort of tactical style do you expect to set up with on Saturday?

Slow, pedestrian, turgid, possession-based football.  We’ll look to keep the ball, predominantly in our own half, and bore you to death in the hope you kick the ball into your own net for us.

And are there any real weak links in the side you’re worried about?

Apart from the manager?

We’re relatively solid at the back but have very little to offer going forwards; see previous stats re: goals scored.

Our main striker (James Norwood) is injured, our wide attackers (Gwion Edwards and Freddie Sears) are injured, our best three midfielders (Flynn Downes, Teddy Bishop and Andre Dozzell) are injured/unavailable, Kane Vincent Young was tearing it up at right-back but hasn’t been seen for over a year, so our attacking options are decimated and it’s showing.

What first comes to mind when you think of Plymouth Argyle?

Peter Shilton as manager, Cornish pasties from the back of a van in the car park and red cards for Ipswich; Fabian Wilnis (twice in two matches) and Steve Whitton, off the top of my head.

Which Argyle player, if any, would you like to sign?

We’ve endured Frank Nouble and we (briefly) had Conor Grant on loan, so know what they’re about.  Maybe Danny Mayor.  We actually showed him around Portman Road, I believe, before he chose to follow Ryan Lowe from Bury and we’re short of attacking players.

What are your predictions for League One in general this year?

It’s a poor league from what I’ve seen. Hull appear to be the best of the bunch but didn’t look anything special when we played them a couple of weeks back (although they didn’t need to be to beat us 3-0 at home). Peterborough almost lose as many as they win, Charlton lost at home midweek, Portsmouth fans seem to want Jackett out as they think they should be doing better.  No disrespect, but the fact that Accrington could cement a play-off position if they win one or two of their games in hand could tell its own tale. Sunderland might come good dependent on who they appoint.

And finally, what is your prediction for the game itself?

1-0 Argyle (Nouble via a combination of knee, shin and backside while looking to control a pass straight to feet).  Paul Lambert will then tell all and sundry that we played brilliantly despite 70% possession and zero shots on target.  Nailed on.

Opposition View: Plymouth Argyle v Rochdale

Plymouth Argyle will hope to take momentum from the FA Cup victory over Lincoln at the weekend into their League One fixture against Rochdale. We had the pleasure of being joined by Rochdale fan Aiden for our Opposition View.

First of all, how did you get into supporting Rochdale?

I think I’m part of the majority in that my taste in football team originates from a parent. It’s fortunate really that my dad, from Portsmouth originally, watched a Dale game with his mates as a one off shortly after making the trip up north and found himself there as a season ticket holder the following season.

Are there any Rochdale players in particular we should be looking out for?

Oliver Rathbone is the first name that comes to mind when I read this question, the quick box-to-box midfielder loves to turn an opposition player and drive at defenders and has done it very successfully over recent years, so much so that Dale had to reject multiple bids from newly found League One outfit Hull in the summer. He is the heartbeat of the team going forward and most successful attacks start with him.

The second player is Stephen Humphrys, a former loanee favourite who has returned permanently to the delight of everybody around the club. Fans fell in love with Humps during his loan spell a couple of seasons ago; one of his best moments was scoring a goal at Wembley against Spurs in a FA Cup Round 5 replay. He’s a big physical striker who surprisingly is better on the deck than in the air. He picked up an injury at the beginning of season meaning he’s missed most of it up to this point but returned with a bang last Tuesday scoring the equaliser against Northampton with a tricky freekick.

What have you made of your start to the season so far?

It’s a strange one, I feel the performances don’t match the results and we find ourselves seeing most of the ball and being the better of the two sides for large portions of games. But too many times this season we’ve been the better side and have conceded against the run of play, Sunderland, Bristol Rovers, Northampton to name a few.

Oh and don’t get me started on corners… we just can’t defend corners AT ALL.

And what would you say your ambitions are for the rest of the campaign?

Staying up has always been the only goal, our budget in comparison to 75% of this league is tiny, even more so now with the pandemic, and every year we’re favourites to go down. Nevertheless our performances have been better this year and with Humphrys coming back I’m confident we can hopefully avoid a dogfight this year

What sort of tactical style do you expect to set up with on Tuesday?

We play a heavy possession-based game with a lot of passing round the back and waiting for an opening, using players like Rathbone to switch the burners on at random points in play to try and throw opposition off.

And are there any real weak links in the side you’re worried about?

We lack width. We have fullbacks that are either young or not traditionally fullbacks so we don’t see them bombing up the line to help add something to our attacks and our system doesn’t have wingers. We have attacking midfielders that at times find themselves out wide but it isn’t natural. We’re a decent side with the system we use but if it hasn’t been our day or we are struggling to break sides down (usually after being down to a corner goal we’ve conceded) we can do with some extra width, and other than a young Kwadwo Baah we lack options from the bench.

What first comes to mind when you think of Plymouth Argyle?

A team that always seems to do well against us, a side we haven’t beat since 2014 I believe. Honestly not seen much of you this year, football is a lot harder to follow now with iFollow being the new normality. Look to be having a up and down season same as us with some good wins and some forgettable losses but I keep seeing Jephcott’s name and he sounds a handful.

Which Argyle player, if any, would you like to sign?

Ben Reeves is player I’ve admired for a while, a player who’s never seemed to get the credit he deserves and I’d be buzzing if we ever got the chance to sign him. I’d mention other players but, considering they’ve had careers at Bury, I can’t really!

What are your predictions for League One in general this year?

Can’t see the top 6 changing from what it is now, I do feel there’s a few up there that can win the league but honestly feel Hull’s squad is just leaps and bounds above most clubs at this level and that really shows the gap between League One and the Championship

The relegation battle will be as juicy as normal by the looks of things with yet again multiple teams looking over their shoulders. I believe there’s at least 6/7 teams who genuinely run the risk of relegation which you don’t usually get across most leagues

And finally, what is your prediction for the game itself?

Seeing as our record against you has been poor for years anything other than a defeat I’d take. I want to see us start fast and play with a good tempo like we did against Fleetwood and Sunderland and if we could not concede if we find ourselves on top that would be great too. And if you get a corner YOU WILL SCORE FROM IT.

Opposition View: Plymouth Argyle v Lincoln

After a pretty disappointing fortnight, Plymouth Argyle will be hoping for the cup to provide a handy distraction when they take on Lincoln on Saturday. After our fruitful conversation last time, we once again spoke to Gareth of the Stacey West Blog for our Opposition View. You can follow the Stacey West Blog on Twitter here.

First of all, how have things been at Lincoln since we last spoke?

We have had the inevitable bad run, of sorts. We picked up one point in three league matches, losing to Doncaster and Portsmouth and drawing with Accrington, but we seemingly got back on track with the win in midweek against Swindon.

Injuries have begun to pile up and threaten our small squad, but going into December in third place is a big deal for us. With Wigan, Rochdale and Shrewsbury up next, there’s no reason why we can’t get to Christmas and still be up there.

What did you make of the fixture in the league, which Lincoln won 2-0?

To a degree, fortuitous. I think, had it not been for the penalty, the game had 0-0 written all over it. I get that some think it was a soft penalty and I might be inclined to agree, but Brennan Johnson had been fouled moments early in the box and nothing was given, which was clearer cut. I think we got lucky that you have problems with COVID, as cynical as it might sound, because that certainly affected you guys too. I confess, I felt we had mugged you a bit.

And how about your win in the first round of the cup, a comprehensive 6-2 victory over Forest Green?

It looks great, doesn’t it? Yes, we played well and when you score six, then you’re going to be delighted, but Forest Green were awful. I’m no fan of Mark Cooper, but to rest players on a Saturday when your next game isn’t for a week is shocking. He left the spine of his team out, against a side top of League One when the draw was made, and then blasted the players who stepped up. League Two reserves against League One promotion contenders is only going to go one way.

We were good though, three superb goals from the six, a thunderbolt for a good 30-yards, a solo goal from Johnson which had it all, and then a team goal including two back heel flicks. One thing about us, when it’s good, it is really good.

What sort of tactical style do you expect to set up with on Saturday? And will Lincoln’s style away from home be similar to your home setup?

We approach all games the same, the only changes tend to be personnel. For instance, if we are playing a side with a 3-5-2 formation, Harry Anderson might get a run out at full back as he is a serious attacking threat when he doesn’t have a full back and a winger to contend with. I don’t want to say too much more, if being coy is good enough for Ryan Lowe, it is good enough for me!

Can we expect Lincoln to field a weakened side for a cup fixture?

In all honesty, we really can’t. We still have Jamie Soule, Callum Morton and Remy Howarth injured, Joe Walsh is a serious doubt as he’s on his way back, plus Alex Bradley and Aaron Lewis are out on loan. We have options, but none of them are really ‘weakened’. For instance, Leeds loanee Robbie Gotts and former Fulham man Tayo Edun played full back in midweek, which some consider ‘weakened’, but they started our last game.

We have one fit out-and-put striker in Tom Hopper, and if he doesn’t play there Brennan Johnson will, but Johnson is a regular starter on the flanks. I think we’ll be as strong as we were in midweek, almost certainly.

What have you made of Argyle’s progress so far this season?

I’m always impressed with Ryan Lowe’s sides and I’m not at all surprised you have made a decent start. Of all the clubs that have come up, I think Plymouth are best equipped to be a top ten side.

Realistically, how far are you hoping to get in the cup this year?

Dare I say, further than this? I think the money is more important this year than any other and dreams of a big third round tie are pointless when fans can’t get into the stadium. I just hope we go as far as we can and keep dropping pounds in the bank. If we could back Michael with another striker in January, we might just be able to finish in the top six, which would be unreal.

And finally, what is your prediction for the game itself?

I think we’ll get beat, maybe 2-0. I cannot remember the last time we won at Home Park and I suspect you feel like you owe us one for October.

Opposition View: Charlton v Plymouth Argyle

It’s a change of pace this weekend as Plymouth Argyle prepare to take on Charlton in the FA Cup. We spoke to Charlton fan and CharltonLife writer Karl, who can himself be found on Twitter, for an opposition insight.

First of all, how did you get into supporting Charlton?

I’ve been a Charlton supporter all my life, it’s my local club and I grew up on the days of Premier League football. Charlton has been through previous generations and it’s important to my family.

Are there any Charlton players we should be looking out for on Saturday?

We’re likely to make a number of changes to the players we have been using in the league. Marcus Maddison is yet to make his first start but should at the weekend. He has had an ankle injury and didn’t have a pre-season, so it’s been a slow start to the season for him.

What went wrong last season to see Charlton relegated from the Championship?

After a dream start, we had an injury crisis that we’ve never seen before. At one stage we had around 14 players out. We then lost the integral Conor Gallagher and Jonathan Leko, had a mess of a takeover and transfer embargo, all followed by players refusing to play in the restart. To go down on the last day was heartbreaking, but to have left it until that point with everything that happened, was also a huge achievement.

Comparatively, your start to this season has looked particularly strong. What have you made of it?

We’ve signed a whole new team and since the latest takeover, everyone at the club is happy and can concentrate on the football. The new team has gelled very quickly and showing great character. We’ve won 6 in a row and went over 9 hours without conceding. It’s looking very promising, but it’s important to remember it’s only a start.

And what would you say your ambitions are for the rest of the campaign?

Top 6 is a very realistic ambition. The quality we’ve brought in means we now have two players for each position, many who should be playing a level above. If they really click as a team, we’ll be capable of going on a run that means automatic promotion is a possibility, but top 6 has to be the main aim right now.

What sort of tactical style do you expect to set up with on Saturday?

Bowyer has regularly played a mixture of formations this season. He likes two up front as much as he can, but we’ve also seen 4-3-3 used too. We’re a side who can dominate possession, but usually find that we’re a better team when organised and hit opponents on the counter, as well as being strong at set-pieces. Having the best goals against in the league shows that I think.

Do you think we’ll see a slightly weakened Charlton team for a cup game?

100%. Bowyer has already said that Saturday-Tuesday takes its toll and is very hard to do. We have players on international duty next week so most will get a rest, but the league is very much top priority this season. Some first team players will be involved, but the rest made up of players from the academy.

And are there any real weak links in your cup side that you’re worried about?

Depending on who’s playing, a lack of genuine pace could be a weak link. We’re a strong side but could come unstuck a little when faced against quick players. I can’t fault the quality of the squad though, it’s very balanced this season.

What first comes to mind when you think of Plymouth Argyle?

Home Park, tough place to go. Long trip down south. Play in green. Good club.

Which Argyle player, if any, would you like to sign?

Luke Jephcott looks a prospect. 5 goals in the league so far for a newly promoted side at the age of 20 is impressive.

And finally, what is your prediction for the game itself?

Charlton will put out a much-weakened side, concentrating on the league. With fixture pile up from internationals causing postponements, I wouldn’t be disappointed if we were to be knocked out. With some certain players needing minutes, it’s a tough one to call. Plymouth are in good form themselves, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Plymouth actually nicked the win by a single goal. Tight game, but 2-1 to Plymouth.

Opposition View: Plymouth Argyle v Swindon

After a weekend off, Plymouth Argyle are back in action on Tuesday night as Swindon make the trip down to Home Park. Ahead of kick off, we once again caught up with Rich from the Loathed Stranger podcast for our Opposition View.

First of all, what have you made to your start to the season?

In a word? Draining.

In more than one word? We lost a few important players over the prolonged pre-season and then arguably our most creative and influential midfielder Michael Doughty to the sustainable footwear industry. No matter how often I describe Doughty’s departure it still doesn’t seem right! A huge loss for Swindon.

Obviously everybody mentions the departure of Eoin Doyle but no Town fans begrudged the departure and I’d have been stunned if he managed to maintain the form he enjoyed throughout his season at Swindon.

Although players like Lloyd Isgrove, Kaiyne Woolery, Keshi Anderson and even Luke McCormick weren’t exactly indispensable first eleven players by the end, they were still important squad players who would have had worth (if fit) in League One.

Town opened the campaign reasonably well with 2 wins and a loss but then went on self-destruct with some really concerning defensive displays which led to four league losses in a row.

We had games against our old pals Oxford and Accrington called off due to positive COVID tests before a pleasantly surprising 3 points against Hull which included some of the great play we’ve been used to throughout Wellens’ tenure.

The reality is that the postponements did come at a very good time for Swindon who have endured the aforementioned loss of form and injury problems (which fuelled the fury and conspiracy theories from Oxford United).

The last month has also been played out with the bookies listing Richie Wellens as the favourite for the Salford City job. I remain hopeful that the market has been flooded by Town fans trying to jinx it by putting money on his departure!

Are there any Swindon players in particular we should be looking out for?

Depends on how they’re feeling! It feels like a bit of a new class at Town with players like Jack Payne and Jonny Smith doing a decent job thus far. We’ve not enjoyed great success with our attackers and probably need Brett Pitman to step up sooner rather than later.

Arsenal loanee Matthew Smith has probably been our stand-out player but he’s not a flair player. Does his job effectively.

How did promotion last season feel in the circumstances? And were you able to properly celebrate winning League Two?

It certainly didn’t feel like proper title winning season but at the same time it didn’t really feel fraudulent either. I’d have been happy with automatic promotion regardless of the method.

As you can probably imagine, by the time of the trophy presentation came the celebrations and general mood felt a little flat which was not the fault of the club who really tried to give fans the opportunity to celebrate.

On the pitch, we saw Joel Grant swap Argyle for Swindon over the transfer window. How has he been getting on?

Joel Grant was one of those players who has impressed against us over the years especially last season where he was a nuisance for Plymouth at the County Ground (both times). He’s been on the fringes this season as he catches up with his fitness but he made his full debut last weekend and scored the winner so more of that please.

What sort of tactical style do you expect to set up with on Tuesday?

Town tend to set-up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Ryan Lowe will be fully clued up on what Swindon are all about.

And are there any real weak links on the side you’re worried about?

The new goalkeeper Matej Kovar hasn’t won many of the fans over just yet but the biggest issue has been the defensive line with Zeki Fryers injured. Sadly our more senior players have let us down at times. A young rookie Town got on a free from Reading, Akin Odimayo, is getting more confident with each game he plays.

What have you made of Argyle’s progress from afar since our meeting on New Year’s Day?

Not at all surprising. I am pretty certain Swindon, Crewe and Plymouth would have all gone up over 46 games, but I couldn’t tell you in what order!

The big difference between Plymouth and Swindon, in my opinion, is that Plymouth only lost one key player in Antoni Sarcevic while, Alex Palmer aside, the loanees complemented the squad. Swindon on the other hand have lost Eoin Doyle and Michael Doughty while many of the loanees (especially Jerry Yates and Steven Benda) were absolutely integral by the time the season suspension kicked in. I might be wrong but we’ve had way too much squad turnover for a team that got promoted.

What are your predictions for League One in general this year?

I think the way it’s shaping up at the top half of League One is about right. No massive surprises in the top 10.

I think my prediction picks for promotion at the start of the season were Peterborough, Portsmouth and, erm, Oxford. I had Plymouth in the pack of teams who could easily snatch a Play-Off place or otherwise end up in the comforting embrace of mid-table.

And finally, what is your prediction for the game itself?

I will be very happy with 1-1.

Opposition View: Plymouth Argyle v Doncaster

After a couple of frustrating away days last week, Plymouth Argyle will be looking forward to the familiar surroundings of Home Park for their clash with Doncaster Rovers. Ahead of the game, we spoke to Doncaster fan site Into The Empty Net, who can also be found on Twitter, for our Opposition View.

First of all, how did you get into supporting Doncaster?

It’s a family thing! I asked my dad if I could go to the opening game of the 1999/2000 season because he had given me a copy of Shoot! magazine and it got me interested in football, although I was only six years old at the time. It’s been a big part of my life ever since, and my Grandad actually was the first person to video tape matches at our old Belle Vue ground back in the 1950s.

Are there any Doncaster players in particular we should be looking out for?

Is it cheating to say all of them? We’ve been a good team this season with threat and goals spread across the team. Keep your eyes on Josh Sims if you can; the winger signed on loan from Southampton on Deadline Day and has been an instant hit, with three assists and a goal in just three games. Our captain Ben Whiteman has continued his progress in midfield and is probably the best passer of a ball in League One at this stage – we’ve done well to keep hold of him for this season in all honesty.

What are your thoughts on Darren Moore as he enters his second full season as manager at Doncaster?

Darren is universally loved by Rovers fans and for good reason. He is an honest, stand-up individual and he has proven himself a solid tactician and motivator as a manager in his year-plus at the club. He likes to preach a philosophy of setting up his team to combat opponents even if it means leaving out players in form, and to be honest it has largely worked despite doubts from some corners. He is building a young, hungry and talented team and we are all happily along for the ride at the moment.

And what have you made of your start to this season so far?

I can have no real complaints. We comfortably won away at Charlton, beat Portsmouth on their own ground 10 days ago and annihilated Ipswich at home last Tuesday night. These are statement results and prove we have the talent to compete with anyone in this league. Finding the right combination in some areas of the team will take some time, and most of the squad are under 25 so mistakes will happen, but we have to be pleased with how Rovers have started the season and despite a couple of hiccups, the mood is positive right now.

What sort of tactical style do you expect to set up with on Tuesday?

We’ll set up with a 4-2-3-1 formation barring a big surprise. Darren Moore likes his team to play the ball on the floor wherever possible, get it out wide and try to exploit gaps in and around the defensive zone of the opponents. If Jon Taylor overcomes an injury he suffered on Saturday against Crewe, the pace on show from him and Josh Sims will be a big focus and something Plymouth will have to find a way to combat, whilst we will play the ball out from the back and look to build attacks through Ben Whiteman and the full backs too.

And are there any real weak links in the side you’re worried about?

If you had asked me this two weeks ago I would have said yes, central midfield, but we addressed the issue on Deadline Day with the loan signing of Wales international Matt Smith from Manchester City. Before his arrival, Whiteman was being asked to do a lot defensively because he was paired in the midfield two with more attack-minded players, like Madger Gomes. Smith’s arrival however has addressed this and our midfield players are now better able to share the load, so to speak.

What first comes to mind when you think of Plymouth Argyle?

Sadly, memories of our battles in League Two a few seasons ago stick, so undesirable faces like Derek Adams and Luke McCormick loom large. I’m not sure many in the Rovers camp have forgiven McCormick for his antics in those two games, particularly goading young forward Liam Mandeville after he missed a penalty, which resulted in James Coppinger getting sent off for throttling the goalkeeper.

Beyond that, I did appreciate the Paul Sturrock-led Argyle side of the 2000s that reached the Championship. David Norris, David Friio and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake among them made for a really good team and one that I’m sure is well thought of by your fans!

Which Argyle player, if any, would you like to sign?

From what I’ve seen of him, I like how Luke Jephcott plays. As a young forward with an eye for goal, he is the sort of player we like to try and develop and I think he would fit in well with our squad and set-up. That said, I highly doubt we’d make a move to sign him as we tend to look at young Premier League players for the bulk of our recruitment these days.

What are your predictions for League One in general this year?

I think it’s wide open, any one of about a dozen teams could get promoted and Plymouth are one of the teams who could make a run at the Play-Offs if everything falls right. There are a number of big sides in League One but they all have flaws from where I’m sitting, especially Sunderland and Portsmouth. Hull have made a good start but whether they can sustain that remains to be seen in my opinion, whilst Ipswich and Peterborough have already shown they are fallible.

The big thing is going to be whether or not the season gets finished thanks to Covid! We all live in hope.

And finally, what is your prediction for the game itself?

I think it will be a tight contest and one which both sides will fancy their chances in. A score draw is my prediction, we are solid at the back but can get exposed in games whilst we should always carve out enough chances to get a goal or two.

Opposition View: Wigan v Plymouth Argyle

After a defeat in midweek, Plymouth Argyle will look to get the positivity flowing again when they face Wigan this weekend. Ahead of the game, we spoke to Will Jones of Wigan Athletic USA for our Opposition View.

First of all, how did you get into supporting Wigan?

This is not a simple answer as I am not from Wigan but basically through the video game FIFA funnily enough. After that I decided to visit the UK and went to watch Wigan and thoroughly enjoyed it. I have been back over a few times to see them and have friends in Wigan now.

Are there any Wigan players in particular we should be looking out for?

Our best players are probably Kal Naismith and Lee Evans. Assuming they are playing in their preferred positions which is not a given at the moment for us unfortunately.

We were all shocked by events off the pitch at Wigan this summer. How are things looking at the moment in that regard?

Things are looking better thankfully. There is an ownership group in the process of approval with the EFL so fingers crossed, but the administrators are confident there will not be an issue getting approval. Hopefully, we will know more in the next week or two and we can start to rebuild the club.

And what have you made of your start to the season on the pitch?

It has not been great, but I don’t think realistically anyone was expecting it to be. We have a decent starting 11 but they have never played together, and one or two injuries can throw our entire squad into disarray due to a total lack of depth.

What have your first impressions been of ex-Argyle manager John Sheridan?

He talks sense and to me seems like he will do ok. It is so hard to judge him with everything going on and I think he deserves the benefit of the doubt given that he came in when he did. When he agreed to take over we didn’t have owners lined up and were playing a starting 11 with 3 or 4 young kids in it that had never played professionally.

What sort of tactical style do you expect to set up with on Saturday?

We’ll probably play the same 4-5-1 that we have with two holding midfielders. Depending on who plays in the number 10 role, they will act as more of a true midfielder or second striker.

And are there any real weak links in the side you’re worried about?

The real worry at the moment is the defence. They haven’t played together, and we just have so little depth there that it has caused us a lot of issues. Luckily our left back Pearce should be back for Saturday which will allow others to play in their preferred positions.

What first comes to mind when you think of Plymouth Argyle?

The first thing that comes to my mind is an image of a nice-looking green kit and Cornwall. I know Argyle is a well-supported club and is a place I would absolutely love to see a game as I would like to visit Cornwall.

Which Argyle player, if any, would you like to sign?

I know you have Joe Edwards who is a player who has been around for a while that I rate. Just the sort of experience we need at the minute.

What are your predictions for League One in general this year?

I think we will be ok from a Wigan perspective particularly if the new owners use the January window like I expect they will. The couple months may be a struggle but ultimately, I think we will finish lower mid table. We have some good players but just too little depth and too many holes in the squad to compete for much more than that.

And finally, what is your prediction for the game itself?

We have not been great the last two games without being easy to beat. Luckily, we have a player or two coming back into the squad which like I said will allow players to come back into their preferred positions. Argyle have made a decent start to the season so I will go with a score draw. 1-1.

Opposition View: Lincoln v Plymouth Argyle

Plymouth Argyle are preparing for their trip to Lincoln, with both sides looking to build on a strong start to the campaign. Ahead of the encounter, we spoke to Lincoln fan Gareth of the Stacey West Blog, who can also be found on Twitter, for an opposition perspective.

First of all, how did you get into supporting Lincoln?

I was born into it! My grandad was an Imps fan and he used to go and watch in the days of Bill Anderson, the manager that saw us stay in the old Second Division for a decade. Then my Dad started going, and I remember dropping him off in town when I was a kid to go and watch games. He took me to my first game in 1986, and that was that. I’ve been a fan ever since and even served as the matchday mascot for 16 years.

Are there any Lincoln players in particular we should be looking out for?

Dare I say, all of them? We’ve proven ourselves to be a really efficient and cohesive unit this season so far, and although a few stand out, there is danger across our XI and the bench. If I had to pick a couple, Jorge Grant would be top. He’s an artist with a football, a player who makes passing and ball retention look easy. Lewis Montsma is writing headlines, he’s a 21-year-old Dutch defender we signed from Dordrecht this summer. He’s a threat from set pieces and has six goals already this season.

Brennan Johnson is a third. He’s on loan from Forest and in his two starts he’s looked incredible. As an outside bet, I would keep an eye of Theo Archibald too. He hasn’t played much but, if injuries keep one or two out on Tuesday, he might play and I think he’s going to be the season’s surprise package.

What have you made of your start to the season so far?

It’s been excellent, four wins and a draw from six matches. It’s been beyond our wildest dreams really, especially as we have had Blackpool, Oxford, Fleetwood and Charlton thus far. All four should really be in the mix at the top of the table and we have ten points from those four games.

And what would you say your ambitions are for the rest of the campaign?

I said around 12th would be a good finish at the start of the season, but I am hopeful we might improve on that. We have an exciting young squad who don’t know when they’re beat, coming back from behind twice to win at Blackpool. I’m not heaping pressure on them though; Michael Appleton believes another year in the group and we could be contenders and I’ll go with that.

What sort of tactical style do you expect to set up with on Tuesday?

It could be any number of combinations, but probably 4-3-3 with overlapping full backs and a tight heart to the midfield. The three will be one defensive midfielder sitting deep, likely Liam Bridcutt, with Grant and James Jones ahead. Expect lots of tight passing moves, neat triangles and fluid movement too.

And are there any real weak links in the side you’re worried about?

It would be remiss to call anyone a weak link in a side that is third in the table, I think. Some believe our lack of out-and-out left back could be an issue; Max Melbourne has been injured and 17-year-old Sean Roughan has deputised, as has Tayo Edun. The former is a centre back by trade, but has been awesome when he’s played, whilst the latter is a central midfielder.

However, both have been more than competent. Some might think our striker, Tom Hopper, doesn’t get enough goals, but if we’re scoring from all areas of the field then his work around the box is paying dividends in some ways.

What first comes to mind when you think of Plymouth Argyle?

Long journeys and almost inevitable defeats. I remember the 0-0 in the FA Cup as it was my final game as mascot and I did a lap of honour at half time; even your fans applauded which I thought was very touching. Thank you for that; if anyone was there, those things do not go unnoticed.

I have relations in Exeter and my uncle and cousin are both huge fans, the latter going home and away, so I’m not allowed to say too much more positive I’m afraid. Mind you, given the animosity between us and them (see play-offs 2017/18), I suspect you would be most Imps’ fans favourite Devon team and for the applause back in November 2013, you’re mine too. Just don’t tell my uncle Keith, eh?

Which Argyle player, if any, would you like to sign?

I would have said Alex Palmer, but, well, you know. I quite like Ryan Hardie, I think he would do well in our side, but it would be remiss of me to say anyone other than Danny Mayor. He’s always impressed me and I think he’d fit our style well.

What are your predictions for League One in general this year?

Kenny Jackett to get sacked before Christmas is the big one. After that, I expect Ipswich to falter at some point, with Peterborough and Hull right up there with Sunderland, Charlton and maybe Doncaster Rovers. At the bottom, it’s going to be a long season for Northampton and Burton, and I suspect Rochdale might get tugged in there too.

And finally, what is your prediction for the game itself?

With respect, I see this as a ‘should win’ game. If you want to be top ten you have to win your home matches, draw away games and roll with whatever defeats come along. We lost our last home tie but your style suits ours more. Ryan Lowe’s football is lovely and I expect goals, but you’ll come to beat us, not to make us beat you. That works in our favour, so an open game finishes 3-2 to City.