The Thursday Preview: Plymouth V Macclesfield (Fans Reunited 1)
TTU regulars will know that Plymouth Argyle receive more than their fair share of coverage on these pages; although we try to split our attention 72 ways it can be difficult to abstain from repeat postings when there’s so much to be said.
The goalposts in this long-running saga have moved daily, so we’ve largely played the admiring onlooker of late as others, such as twohundredpercent, have, to paraphrase Rio, taken up the mantelpiece. Just last week, though, we jumped back on the bandwagon, a Red Stripe-fuelled mini-post nodding with hope to a new dawn at Home Park.
Of course, the groundsmen have been in to shift the sticks once again since then, Peter Reid’s unsavoury departure heaping further steaming stuff on to the pile of ignominy within which the spirit of this club somewhere lies. Even so, progress has been made with the proposed takeover by the Fans’ Trust-approved Akkeron Group and the Pilgrims’ upcoming home match against Macclesfield, ringfenced as the first of two Fans Reunited days, promises to be a positive experience whatever the result.
A recently established website provides the details but, in brief, this day has come about as a result of a post on Brighton messageboard North Stand Chat. Harking back to 1997 when the Seagulls and the Goldstone were falling to pieces, this gesture salutes the now-folklorish suggestion from Argyle supporter Richard Vaughan for supporters of all hues to show a union of support by descending down to Sussex for Brighton’s game against Division 3 relegation rivals Hartlepool. It’s often tempting to reduce history to snippety sentences before moving on to the next story, but this really was a game-changer; a galvanised Albion went on to win 5-0, a result which did an awful lot to help safeguard Albion’s league status that season.
14 years on and the two clubs find themselves in very different positions. Yet half a dozen games at the AMEX hasn’t wiped Albion fans’ recognition of the landmarks that helped take them to Falmer. A couple of coaches have been chartered to take fans westwards from Sussex on Saturday morning for the first of two Fans Reunited days, and “Go Green for Argyle” initiatives have been encouraged for Albion’s two Sky-televised games against Liverpool and Leeds this week in an attempt to generate further publicity.
Plymouth is a long old drive from, well, just about anywhere so the ‘thousands’ that travelled to Brighton back in 1997 will be difficult to replicate in Devon on Saturday. Yet the willingless of at least a throng of supporters to do something means that there will be increased coverage of the game, and therefore Argyle’s plight and the efforts being made to rescue the club, from both the local and national media. Mark Clemmit for one is set to pitch up with his mike.
As to the game itself, Argyle do of course find themselves on the lousiest run imaginable and, based on previous performances, it’s difficult to predict an upturn in fortune until the club manages to scrape together some kind of stability. (A perhaps unlikely) Caretaker Manager Carl Fletcher sits this one out through suspension, so Connor Hourihane and the ever-crestfallen Simon Walton are likely starters in central midfield.
Elsewhere, the team practically picks itself although it’ll be interesting to see who Fletcher lines up in attack. With Warren Feeney spending more time with his back to, rather than in front of, the goal to date, attacking hopes seem to rest on the shoulders of wingers Will Atkinson and Luke Daley. 16 year-old Matt Lecointe has shown flashes, while supporters had high hopes for Blackburn loanee and son of Kevin, Tom Hitchcock, but it would be unfair on both strikers to expect much more than a decent game here and there at such an early stage in their careers.
Macclesfield will arrive in Devon on a relative high after taking 4 points from their last two home games, which included a 3-1 win against Northampton. That was the third occasion that Macc netted three or more goals in a single game this season so, unlike their hosts, the Silkmen are safe in the knowledge that they know where the net is. That stat is all the more impressive considering that manager Gary Simpson has lost Tyrone Barnett, Emile Sinclair and Hamza Bencherif, goalscorers all, since last term.
It’s been a tough 18 months for the club, but the signs of resilience from a developing squad bode well. On Saturday, Ben Tomlinson should be the one to watch, the ex-Worksop Town marksman having already netted five from as many starts. Linking up with former Argyle striker George Donnelly, Tomlinson leads a side that are beginning to craft a less direct style; backed up by a promising group of youngsters across the starting XI, this one could really go either way depending on how both teams react to the crowd. But I’ll go with form this time and predict a Macc win. Everything’s crossed that this game proves to be some kind of turning point for Argyle, though.