JM takes his U’s charges to Home Park Plymouth this weekend for an intriguing clash of two potential promotion rivals.
The Pilgrims are of course on a high after a comfortable 3-0 away victory at Gresty Road Crewe, where almost 1700 of the Green Army made the trip from Devon.
I suppose you could argue that Plymouth Argyle is also Bury in disguise because apart from the capture of ex Bury manager Ryan Lowe they have further raided the Gigg Lane club and now include Aimson, Mayor, McFadzean and Telford in their ranks, all of whom played for the Shakers last season.
Before Argyle supporters automatically claim the League Two Championship trophy though, they should consider that against Crewe their team only had 37% possession, but of their 13 shots, 9 were on target and three of course resulted in goals. Perhaps something for the U’s to muse on.
The Pilgrim’s goal that gave me the most chagrin was that of U’s summer target Joel Grant; who despite receiving a lot of press speculation that he was unhappy at Home Park and wanting to move back to London and was linked to Colchester, miraculously in a Road to Damascus moment changed his mind and committed himself to the Devon club for another two seasons. And McFadzean, who netted a brace on Saturday, didn’t score last season in 49 appearances for the Lancashire club.
Now I’ve been looking back at some recent games that I have attended between Plymouth and Colchester. The last at Home Park was in October 2016 and we lost 2-1 to an unlucky deflected winner in the 87th minute. The game was evenly poised at 1-1 when the Referee was poleaxed by a Plymouth player. After a delay whilst the official was stretchered off the game restarted. There should have been a drop ball but the new Referee allowed Plymouth to take a throw in about 20 yards farther up the pitch (almost on the half way line) and the ball came to Luke Prosser who played a weak back pass to big Sam who struck his clearance against the Plymouth player and it sailed into the net for an undeserved winner. Macca Bonne was brought on in the 92nd minute for his customary super sub appearance.
I also went to the return game at the Weston Homes where we fought out a 0-0 draw against already promoted Argyle.
Boarders will probably best remember the time we locked horns with Neil Warnock in 1996 when in the Semi-Final of the Play Offs we defeated Plymouth 1-0 at Layer Road in the first leg with a Mark Kinsella winner only to lose 3-1 at Home Park where another late winner in the 85th minute gave Argyle a 3-2 aggregate win.
Before moving on a word about our opening game against Port Vale. Yes, a disappointing 1-1 home draw but we did draw at Notts County 0-0 last season. Players are still finding their feet so to speak, and we conceded a very early penalty, on another day we could have lost 1-0, but the team came back into contention and Norris finished smartly in the box just on half time. Second half we had the lion’s share of possession and chances, but it wasn’t to be. That point could be vital later in the season especially as Port Vale could be the surprise package this season under new ownership, new management and with a host of new faces. The main thing is to avoid defeat and build momentum.
Back to Plymouth. Home Park is going through a redevelopment phase and the new stand should be ready for Swindon Town to enjoy on New Year’s Day in front of 18,000 expectant members of the Green Army in the “Theatre of Greens”, sounds like a Greengrocers!
Ok so our record at Home Park is not brilliant but I think we will win on Saturday and that this is actually a great time to play the Devon club. Following their away win the fans will be anticipating a comfortable win against the Essex Club. An element of complacency will creep in and there will be a feeling that they only have to turn up to claim the win.
Colchester must remember that they can secure an away win at Home Park and that the pressure is firmly on Lowe and his charges. Large crowds as we have seen many times before quickly quieten and that library style atmosphere then pervades, which affects the home side.
Make no mistake it will be a difficult game, but this is a great time to play the Pilgrims. Always remember that no titles are won in August, but you can be cut adrift with some early poor results and then must play catch up. In order to achieve at least 75 points for a coveted play-off spot, results must be garnered regularly, and consistency is the key word.
Now JM has not been helped by a pre-season injury to Ryan Jackson which although the scan showed no irregularity, when he returned to training there was clearly an ongoing problem. Paris Cowan-Hall has also contracted an achilles problem and so he will be out for some weeks. There are also doubts about Harry Pell’s fitness, which is a big issue because his inability to play for four months last season ultimately cost us a top seven spot.
That said I think that JM knows his preferred match day squad particularly after the injury news and last weekend’s game against Port Vale. This week we cannot start slowly and waste the first 20 minutes of the game because if so, we could be 2-0 down at Home Park. The team must hit the ground running and start strongly and effectively. In short take the game to Plymouth from the get-go.
That means no 4,5,1 and ultra-defensive tactics which we have deployed in the past. JM wants to go 4,4,2, or 4,3,3 and attack from the start. It doesn’t matter who you play in League Two, every team can defeat everyone else on their day.
Therefore, I hope that JM lines his team up something like this 4,3,3:
Vincent-Young Eastman Prosser Bramall
Gambin Lapslie Stevenson
Brown Norris Nouble
Ross Sowunmi Kensdale Pell Senior Chilvers Hasanally
Clearly if passed fit Pell must play in which case Stevenson drops to the bench. I am concerned about Courtney Senior though. He has skill, good dribbling ability and pace but equally he can drift in and out of games and particularly away from home soon become anonymous. Much was and is expected from Jevani Brown and I look to him to improve on a lack lustre performance last weekend.
If Chuck Norris is back to his best, then I expect him to perform well on Saturday and it should be a classic with the Super U’s edging it 3-2 to send the faithful home happy. As for the Greens, well they will quickly boil away to nothing if we approach the game in the right manner. In Norris we have a striker who has the ability and skill to score the much vaunted 20+ goals for the U’s this season but he needs the right kind of support from the midfield and his colleague Big Frank Nouble.
I strongly urge JM not to play five at the back with a lone striker who quickly becomes isolated. Attack must be the mantra and whilst you can respect the Argyle team there is no need to fear them. Momentum and initiative are key, and Colchester must take the game to their opponents.
The weather in Devon on Saturday is set to be 20 degrees Celsius with light rain (precipitation 80%) breezy with sunny intervals. The pitch will therefore not require sprinklers!
Safe journey to the travelling faithful making the 290-mile journey. I will be staying in North Cornwall and will drive over at lunchtime on Saturday.