Goals from Aiden O’Brien, Lee Gregory and Steve Morison ensured Millwall’s safe passage into Round Two of the FA Cup this past Saturday, despite National League North leaders, AFC Fylde, putting up a good fight. This Tuesday, its cup action once more for the Lions, as Plymouth Argyle play host to a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Southern Section Quarter-Final tie. Argyle fan, Matt Whelan, provides ‘The View From The Opposition’…
Name: Matt Whelan
First Plymouth game: This is a subject of some debate between me and my Dad. It was the winter of the 1987/88 season – so I was 4 or 5 – and whilst several things about my first trip to Home Park stand apart in my memory from all the subsequent ones, the actual football is not one of them! Until a few years ago, I thought we played Wolves, but looking at the historic fixtures, they wasn’t even in our league that season. Whoever we played, I do remember we lost!
Greatest moment following Plymouth: I think pretty much every Argyle fan over the age of 30 will give the same answer here, without too much hesitation: the ’96 Play-Off Final. We beat Darlington 1-0 to get back to the Second Division. There were plenty of better games in the 102 points winning 2001/02 season and also in our more recent seasons in the Championship, but for a one-off ‘greatest moment’ feeling, you can’t beat winning at Wembley!
You’re flying high at the top of League 2 at the moment – was the aim in August to win promotion? If not, I imagine it is now?: I honestly didn’t know what to expect over the summer – I had no idea who Derek Adams was when he joined the club, let alone what team we’d start the season with. I was optimistic we’d make the play-offs again, but thought Portsmouth and Luton Town would wrap up the top two and we probably would be the ‘best of the rest’.
Looking at it now, we’re seven points clear of the play-offs after 16 games – I’m obviously much more optimistic! We’ve played some good football this season and even when we haven’t, we’ve looked quite solid defensively, so I certainly think we’ve got a real chance of automatic promotion. Its early days yet, but if we’re in this strong a position in January and don’t lose anyone during the transfer window, I’ll certainly be disappointed with anything less.
With this being an Area Quarter-Final match, is now the time to take the JPT seriously? Given your FA Cup defeat at the weekend, I imagine you’ll be going out to win this one…: Traditionally, we’re not a good ‘cup team’. Probably as a result of our generally poor cup history, I think of the cup competitions as little more than money-spinners. As a result, I’m not too upset we went out of the FA cup (the old ‘concentrate on the league’ cliché), although it is slightly concerning that it was more or less our strongest team that lost. To use another cliché, ‘losing can be a habit’, so we’ll definitely want to put in a good performance on Tuesday night and we’ll definitely be taking it seriously. That said, when you look at the quality of the teams in the Northern half of the competition, I don’t think I’ll be moaning about a lost chance at silverware on the way home should we lose!
Who are Plymouth’s ‘ones to watch’ on Tuesday night?: I’m not sure if Ruben Reid will play, as he’s been out injured, but as our central striker, he tends to get the headlines if he does. Actually, though, I think the three behind him are the ones to keep your eyes on; (Jake) Jervis is our top scorer and (Graham) Carey and (Craig) Tanner have both been a real handful and scored great goals this season. If Hiram Boateng plays (he went off injured against Morecambe and missed the FA Cup game), he adds a real touch of quality to our midfield – he is probably my player of the season so far.
Likewise, are there any Millwall players that you will be wary of?: I can’t say I know that much about you guys, being in a different league, but (Aiden) O’Brien seems to be the danger man. Hopefully Adams, Brewster and Wotton will have done more research than me! Of course, the ‘Green Army’ will be keeping a close eye on former Pilgrims, Jimmy Abdou and Paris Cowan-Hall, if they play.
How do you see the game going?: Argyle will probably play our preferred 4-2-3-1, although we might be a bit more reserved and revert to 4-4-2, given the calibre of the opposition. I don’t think we’ll give Millwall too much respect, though, and will try and take the game to you. If we do that, I’m pretty confident both teams will score – I think this has the potential to be a really exciting game.
If I listen to my head and not my heart, I don’t think I can really predict an Argyle win, so I’ll go…
Score Prediction: Plymouth Argyle 2-3 Millwall. And looking at the teams left in the Southern Section, Millwall to go all the way to Wembley after beating us!
Matt’s Team Prediction: McCormick; Mellor, Nelson (c), Hartley, Sawyer; McHugh, Boateng; Tanner, Carey, Jervis; Brunt.
It’s Plymouth Argyle v Millwall for a place in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Southern Section Semi-Finals this Tuesday, November 10th. Kick-off at Home Park is at 7:45pm.