Plymouth Argyle and manager Derek Adams secured their second consecutive league victory on Saturday with a 1-0 win at Accrington Stanley. Sitting first in the League Two table, the Pilgrims are now preparing for an important portion of their fixture list in the coming weeks.
Argyle will play five matches over the next 20 days. With Carlisle United and Doncaster Rovers only two points back, positive results will be key to remaining at the top of the standings.
The 2016-17 campaign began with difficulties, losing their first two league matches and elimination from the EFL Cup at the hands of Reading. However, Argyle quickly reversed their fortunes and displayed excellent form over an impressive period of time.
A 14-match unbeaten run (12-2-0) helped Argyle climb the table. The streak ended in frustrating fashion, with three league losses to close out November. But recent results indicate that they are ready for a challenging few weeks of their season.
The Pilgrims travel to Newport County on Wednesday evening, a second round FA Cup replay after a 0-0 draw at Home Park last month.
Two home league matches follow against Wycombe Wanderers (Monday – 26/12) and Crawley Town (Saturday – 31/12). Travels to Barnet (Monday – 2/1) and Yeovil Town (Saturday – 7/1) complete an exhausting time in the calendar.
We highlight three areas that will greatly assist Plymouth Argyle in remaining on top of League Two.
When faced with fixture congestion, a successful club must be able to effectively rotate their squad and see players respond positively. Argyle displayed this ability on Saturday, with second-half substitute Craig Tanner scoring the match-winner in the 76th minute.
Derek Adams will need to recognise fatigue and keep a close watch for any of his players that may need rest. An organised and disciplined midfield makes this task easier on those who have not participated as often.
Graham Carey has been outstanding, starting every league match this season and leading the team in goals (9). His leadership and positioning will help guide those who have not played as many minutes.
The FA Cup fixture against Newport should see Adams utilise different line-ups and formations.
Maintaining a proactive tactical approach
One of the issues that contributed to Argyle’s three losses last month was sitting back on the opposition too often, especially after missing scoring opportunities. Grimsby Town ended Argyle’s unbeaten run thanks to this approach.
Adams will want to see his side keep the pressure on the opposing defence and keep moving into the attack.
Tanner, Jordan Slew and Jimmy Spencer have all displayed the ability to score goals and can be used in different formations.
Adams will be able to change and modify his attack along with various options for squad rotation. This will be important for visits to Barnet and Yeovil Town when Argyle reach January.
Focus on each individual match
With so many matches in a short period of time, Argyle need to maintain focus and motivation towards each encounter.
It is common for clubs to look ahead at the fixture list. The match at Barnet will certainly be targeted for the Pilgrims, after the Bees won at Argyle in November.
Derek Adams will play a major role in this regard, both on the training ground and on the pitch. The club must take what each match brings them and work towards strong results.
Carlisle United and Doncaster Rovers are putting pressure on Plymouth Argyle in the League Two standings. But with an important few weeks ahead and earning maximum points on their travels, Argyle can extend their lead at the top of the table.