What a week it’s been at Plymouth Argyle. A humiliation at Accrington was the straw that broke the camel’s back and Derek Adams has left the club, along with his assistant and stalwart Paul Wotton. First and foremost, I want to wish both all the best in whatever they do next and thank you for their efforts whilst at Home Park. It is important to remember the good that Adams did during his tenure, most notably the promotion from League 2. For Argyle it’s onwards and hopefully upwards as we fight for survival going in to the final day showdown.
There are several possible endings to the League 1 relegation fight. With 3 spaces to fill and 5 teams trying to survive, we’re in for a rollercoaster ride on Saturday afternoon. We should be settling for nothing less than a win although even that will not guarantee safety; if Southend beat Sunderland and Wimbledon were to draw against already relegated Bradford, we would be level on points, meaning a four goal demolition of Scunthorpe at Home Park would be the only way we could go above Wimbledon and stay safe on goals scored.
If we draw to Scunthorpe, we would need Southend to lose at home to Sunderland, as well as Walsall to drop points away at Shrewsbury.
So it’s simple. Our clearest route map to safety is to beat Scunthorpe and better Southend’s result. Like Argyle, Scunny have not won in the league since March 12th and have an equally dismal point tally of 2 since then, out of a possible 24. They too are managerless since the sacking of Stuart McCall towards the end of March and have first team coach Andy Dawson in temporary charge, whom will no doubt be doing everything he can to ensure his players come out fighting. Dawson made 227 appearances for The Iron and has taken caretaker duty on 3 separate occasions, so he more than most will be determined to get his side to safety. In their second half against Bradford, Scunthorpe showed glimpses of quality and will be boosted by the return of Matthew Lund in their midfield. The majority of their play will go through him and he will no doubt be starting when the sides meet this Saturday. The first goal will be so important on Saturday.
Similarly to Argyle, Scunthorpe have a habit of conceding in flurries. In their last 4 defeats, 2 or more goals have been conceded within 15 minutes of each other. This is the kind of thing Argyle must capitalise on to ensure the job gets done, and we remain a League 1 team.
It will be interesting to see the reaction from the Argyle camp. There was plenty of reason to believe the players stopped playing for Derek Adams and that he had ‘lost the dressing room.’ Performances and attitudes on the pitch would definitely back this speculation up, not to mention the Freddie Ladapo tweet as well as some of Adams’ comments in the media. In a twisted way, I only hope this is true, meaning a sudden resurgence from the players now Adams has gone, would culminate in a winning performance on Saturday resulting in our survival. But this would leave some serious questions that would need answering over the summer regarding the playing staff.
Looking at the positives going into Saturday, caretaker boss Kevin Nancekivell has made the right noises since taking charge. He has been in the game for a long time and holds a UEFA Pro License which is the highest qualification available in European football. He has a good relationship with the players and will have had a week to mull over his side and tactics for the game, which could be the fresh impetus needed. Nancekivell has ruled himself out of the job in the long term – he no doubt would have been considered as a cheaper option – but it would be good to see him stay on at the club regardless of who is appointed next.
With so much riding on one game, Home Park is sold out. This is no doubt the biggest game since our visit to Wembley in 2016, but for such different reasons. Staying in League 1 would determine so much going forward for the club, especially with such an important summer ahead. Relegation would no doubt reduce the size of the recruitment pool when appointing a new manager as well as the standard of players being brought in. Also, if we are to keep hold of the likes of Lameiras, Ladapo and Carey – arguably our three best assets – survival is imperative.