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November 2020

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In the 1st Round of the FA Cup, against National League side Hartlepool United, Jamille Matt got the games only goal in the 18th minute. We march onto the 2nd Round, where we’ve been drawn to play Port Vale at home on the 28th of November.

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In a meaningless fixture, a experimental selection battered MK Dons 5-1, with Marcus Barnes and Mamadou Touray, both scoring 2 goals each.

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In the draw for the Knockout Round of the Southern Section, we were paired with Northampton Town. That match will take place at Rodney Parade on the 8th of December.  

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With Joe Dunne out for the rest of the season, I signed defensive midfielder Adam May on a free transfer, after impressing while on trial at the club. The 6’0” 22 year-old is a strong, fit central midfielder, and I’m hoping he’ll be can help shore up our leaky defence. He was released last Summer from Portsmouth, after spending the season on loan playing in the National League for Cheltenham.

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We played top of the table Barnsley at the Oakwell Stadium, and came away with a point, after a creditable 2-2 draw. The match started at a blistering pace, with 3 goals scored in the opening 10 minutes. Jamille Matt put us ahead in the 3rd minute, before Brandon Barker equalised for the home side in the 8th minute. Two minutes later, Jamille Matt scored his 2nd goal in the 10th minute, to put us ahead again. Brandon Barker got his 2nd goal to equalise again, in the 28th minute, and leave it 2-2 at the halftime break. No goals were scored in the 2nd half, so the points were shared. Even though performances have improved, we’ve now gone 7 games without a win in the league.

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In the 2nd half, Paris Cowan-Hall got the only goal of this match, to consign us to our 8th consecutive game in the league without a win. This was a real disappointment, as I targeted this one as a winnable match, at home to Ebbsfleet, who are now in 20th position in the table, 6 ahead of Newport County. Normally, this run of form is sackable for any manager, but the boards expectations at the start of the season didn’t show much ambition, so we are where we are now.  

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We defended stoutly for the final 10 minutes, after Mamadou Touray was sent off, to keep out fellow strugglers Swindon town. Sharing the points was not good for either side, and we both remain adrift in the relegation zone.  We’ve not won in 9 now, but with 10 men, a point away from home is not to be sneezed at.

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Marcus Barnes scored the only goal in the 15th minute, to put us into the FA Cup 3rd round, where we'll play Peterborough at home.

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The results in November were better than October, but only slightly. We have made good progress in 2 cup competitions, but we still have that now 9 match winless streak hanging around our heads. The defeat to Ebbsfleet could be costly come the end of the season, but there's enough time to bridge the gap to safety. 

In the run up to the festive fixtures, we host bottom of the table Walsall, then Scunthorpe United. Then we play Northampton Town twice in 4 days, home and away, in both the League and the Checkatrade Trophy.

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Early December 2020

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New Walsall manager Daryl McMahon won his 1st match in charge, by beating us 1-0, 10 days after leaving his position at fellow relegation candidates, Ebbsfleet United. I never managed to beat him in the 4 matches, while he was Ebbsfleet boss, and this match was no different. A 24th minute goal by Alfie Bates was the difference between the two sides, and our miserable winless streak in the league has increased to 10 matches now!

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Another 1-0 defeat at home to a relegation rival, leaves us bottom of the table, 7 points adrift of safety, increasing our winless run in the league to 11 matches!

This was a particularly frustrating defeat, as Scunthorpes winning goal in the 75th minute, literally came out of the blue. Their left back took a free kick from just inside our half, delivering it long into the box. It somehow managed to go into the back of our net, without anybody touching it, including our goalkeeper, Marcin Bulka. If the goal wasn’t so funny looking, I would’ve cried.

A comical way to lose.

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In the 1st of 2 consecutive matches against Northampton Town, we won 1-0 in the knockout stages of the Checkatrade Trophy, thanks to a 2nd half goal by Jamille Matt. In the 3rd Round of the Southern Section, we’ve been drawn to play Chelsea U23's next month, after they beat Portsmouth 2-0.

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Three days later, Jamille Matt scored for the 2nd match in a row, against the same opposition to end our bad run of 11 matches without a win in the league. This win lifts us off the bottom, 4 points away from safety.

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4 matches where the scoreline was 1-0, beginning with two defeats, and ending with two wins against Northampton Town, which gives us renewed hope heading into the matches played over the Christmas and New Year.

On Boxing Day, we face Mansfield Town away, before facing Peterborough United twice at home in the same week, with the 2nd of those matches coming in the 3rd Round of the Cup.

After that, we’ve another home match against Exeter City on the 5th night of 2021.

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Christmas and New Year 2020/21

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The optimism we had following our wins in the 2 previous matches faded away on Boxing Day against Mansfield Town. It only took 5 minutes for Mansfield to go 1-0 ahead, Mohamed Elsa with the goal from a corner. Jacob Mellis scored a 35th minute goal, to leave us 2-0 down at the halftime break. About ten minutes from the end of the match, Joe Morrell sealed the win for the home side. A bad result for us, that sees us 2nd from bottom in the table, 7 points off safety.

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Only two days later, a late Josh Sheehan goal gave us the win in the 1st of 2 consecutive matches against Peterborough United. This was a great response after getting hammered in Mansfield 2 days earlier, and we’re back to within 4 points of climbing out the relegation zone.

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Five days after we beat them in the League, Peterborough United returned to Rodney Parade looking for revenge, but lost again in this FA Cup 3rd Round match. We needed to come from behind to win this match, as Matt Godden gave them a 1-0 lead in the 28th minute. Three minutes later, we were level when our captain Mark O’Brien volleyed a shot to the top corner.

In the 2nd half, Jamille Matt put us in front in front, with just over half an hour remaining. Peterborough United were pushing for the equaliser, when we broke on them in the 81st minute.

Substitute Padraig Amond ran on to a Tyler Forbes pass, to insure our progress to the 4th Round, where we’ve been handed a home draw against Premier League Champions Manchester City!

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Jamille Matt scored 2 goals in this match, as we won 3-2 against Exeter City. Josh Sheehan got the opening goal in the 17th minute, with a shot from distance. Jamille Matt scored the 1st of his 2 goals just before the half hour mark, to leave us comfortably 2-0 up at halftime. Jamille Matt  scored another just after the restart of the 2nd half, after being put through by Cameron Pring. Exeter didn’t collapse though, and began a fightback, when Tom Nichols scored in the 65th minute. Another goal by Nichols in the 85th minute, set up a tense finish, but we hung on to the 3 points that leaves us only 1 point away from safety.

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Three wins out of the four matches played over the Christmas and New Year period, have given me hope that we’re turning our fortunes around. There’s plenty to look forward to next month, with Manchester City coming to town to play in the 4th Round of the FA Cup, and the prospect of moving out of the relegation zone for the 1st time this season.

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January 2021

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After a disastrous 1st half, that left us 3-0 down at half-time, we made a spirited fightback in the 2nd half and got it back to 3-2. It was too late though, the damage was already done, as Wimbledon survived the 2nd half scare to win all 3 points.

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In the Checkatrade Trophy, we went out of the tournament, after Josh Grant scored from the penalty spot, to give Chelsea U23’s a narrow 1-0 win.

 

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An equaliser in the 13th minute, by Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall gave us a share of the points at Kenilworth Road. Luton Town had gone ahead in the 8th minute, through midfielder Glen Rea, but it was quickly cancelled out by Dewsbury-Hall, with a strike from just outside the box.

This result sees us drop down one position into 22nd, 2 points away from safety.

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An 88th minute winner by Josh Sheehan, drags us out of the relegation zone for the 1st time this season! Sheehan, who deservedly picked up Man of the Match, also got the opening goal of the match in the 8th minute to give us an early lead. Simon Cox equalised for Southend United on the half hour mark, to leave it 1-1 at the break.

In the 58th minute, we went ahead and conceded again, all within the space of minute. Marcus Barnes put us ahead, after the Southend goalkeeper failed to control a dodgy back pass from the under pressure centre-half Dion Conroy. Immediately after the restart, Southend United equalised through left winger Stephen McLaughlin. As the match edged near the 90th minute, Sheehan struck again, to lift us up to 20th position in the table.

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In front of a record breaking attendance at Rodney Parade, we managed to limit the reigning Premier League Champions to a single goal in this FA Cup 4th Round tie. Yannick Carrasco scored in the 30th minute of his debut, after his £30.5 million move to City from China. Unsurprisingly Manchester City dominated possession with 60% of the ball, and while we could only muster up 2 shots on goal throughout the 90 minutes, we can still be proud of this performance.

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While we went out in the 4th Round of the Cup, we also dropped back down into the relegation zone, after Walsall won their game in hand against Wigan 4-1. Their win means we’re now 2 points behind them with 16 matches left in the season.

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Padraig Amond scored the winner in the 15th minute, as we jumped back into 20th position, while Scunthorpe United slip into the relegation zone, a point behind us.

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Despite being eliminated from 2 Cup competitions this month, we’ve had a good month in the league. The 2 wins and a draw in the 4 matches in the league, have lifted us out of the relegation zone, albeit only by a single point.

Next month, we play Rotherham and Oxford at home, with away trips to Gillingham and Bradford City.

Hopefully we can maintain this upturn in form.   

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February 2021

 

Just before the winter transfer window closed at midnight on the 1st of February, there was a flurry of comings and goings on the last day...

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Two defenders were sold, while young attacking midfielder Lewis Collins, was sent on loan to Welsh Premier League side TNS.

Only a year after joining from Swindon on a free, right fullback Kyle Knoyle, joins Bradford City for an initial fee of 38k that could rise to 44k. Knoyle, who only made 7 appearances in his short time at Rodney Parade, was getting frustrated at the lack of 1st team football, so it’s a good deal all round.

Centre-half Chris Smith joins League Two Lincoln City, for £925. His contract runs out in the Summer, so it made sense to move him on. As a result of Chris Smith's departure, young centre-half Jay Foulston has been recalled, after impressing while playing on loan for National League side Tranmere Rovers.

 

Two players joined on the last day of the window, I made the decision to take George Moncur on loan from Charlton Athletic until the end of the season, while my new Director of Football Tyrone Mears, made the decision to put a bid in for left wing-back Adam Chicksen.

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We moved 4 points clear of the relegation zone, thanks to a 63rd minute spot-kick by Matt Dolan, after James Tilley handled inside his own box. This is our 3rd win in the league in a row, and we’ve now gone 4 games unbeaten in League One.  

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A goal 3 minutes into injury time, by Gillingham substitute Josh Parker, robbed us of all 3 points at the Priestfield Stadium. Marcus Barnes got us off to a great start after 3 minutes, when he volleyed home Cameron Prings pullback from the byline, at the near post. Callum Reilly equalised for Gillingham just before the half hour mark, when he nodded in a corner, to leave the scoreline 1-1 at the break.

Nine minutes after the restart of the 2nd half, Matt Dolan put us ahead again, when his free-kick found the net. And it looked like we had done enough to win it, until Josh Parker ran on to a through ball from Mark Byrne, to make it 2-2 in the 3rd minute of injury time.

The late goal conceded means we’ve dropped 2 points, and are now 3 points ahead of the relegation zone, instead of 5.

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A goal by Freddie Sears in the 9th minute, proved to be decisive, as Oxford ended our unbeaten run at Rodney Parade. This defeat sees us drop down a 1 position in the table to 20th, only 2 points ahead of Scunthorpe United, who are in the relegation zone.

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Arsenal beat Manchester City in a penalty shoot-out, to win this seasons League Cup.

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We lost a 2nd consecutive match in the league, when we faced Bradford City at the Valley Parade.  A bad 1st half display, left us 2-0 down at the break, and although Padraig Amond got one back for us in the 74th minute, Bradford City hung on to all 3 points. With only 11 matches left in the season, we’re still only 2 points ahead of Scunthorpe United, who sit in the relegation zone.

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After looking like we were going to pull away from the relegation zone earlier in the month, the two latest defeats have cast doubts on our survival hopes this season.

Looking ahead to the fixtures in March, when we play 5 matches, 3 at home and 2 away, in hope of some points to take us away from the drop zone.

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March 2021

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Everything was going well, we even went 1-0 up in the 23rd minute, through a penalty converted by Jamille Matt. Our lead didn’t last long, Sam Wright equalised for MK Dons in the 25th minute, then came the moment that changed the complexion of the match and made this match an uphill battle. Tyler Forbes got himself sent-off for a reckless challenge in the 27th minute, before Chuks Aneke scored two goal in 3 minutes just before half-time, to leave us 3-1 down at the halftime break.

Even though we played with ten men, we managed to get 1 goal back, when Peter Pawlett scored an own goal in the 83rd minute, while trying to defend a corner. We pushed for an equaliser, but it didn’t arrive, which means we’re still 2 points ahead of Scunthorpe United in the relegation zone.

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It looked as though we were about to end our winless streak, until Sammy Ameobi capitalised on a moment of hesitancy to equalise in the 90th minute. We didn’t start the match well, and were a goal down after only 4 minutes, when Lorenzo Gonzalez scored for Bolton.

In the 2nd half, we fought back well and even took the lead, with Padraig Amond bagging both goals in the 56th and 65th minute, to make the scoreline 2-1 to us. Unfortunately, they got the late equaliser that sees our winless streak increase to 5 matches now.

On a more positive note, the point we got in Bolton means we’re now 3 points above the relegation zone.

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On the day when Scunthorpe United beat Southend United 4-0, a Marcus Barnes second half equaliser at home to Wigan, keeps us out of the relegation zone by a single point. Wigan had taken the lead in the 1st half, when Jack Baldwin scored from an indirect free-kick in the 24th minute. Fortunately, we had Marcus Barnes to come off the bench in the 2nd half, and rescue the point that keeps out of the drop zone.

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Our club captain Mark O’ Brien, has been ruled out with a knee ligament injury, that could see him sidelined for most, if not all of the remaining 8 matches left in the season.

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Portsmouth continued their push for promotion, with 22 year old left winger, Levi Lumeka, scoring 2 goals in the 1st half, to give his side a comfortable halftime lead. Once again we fought back well in the second-half, and managed to pull 1 goal back, when Marcus Barnes scored from close range in the 86th minute, after Mamadou Touray’s shot rebounded back off the post.

This result sees Portsmouth in 2nd position in the table, while at the opposite end, we’ve now gone 7 games without a win again. With only 7 matches remaining in the season, we’re still 1 point above Scunthorpe United, who sit just inside the dreaded drop zone.

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Despite playing most of the match with 10 men, after Josh Sheehan got himself sent off after 3 minutes, we somehow managed to fightback and earn a draw, by scoring 2 late goals deep into injury time.

In the 1st half, Burton used the extra man to their advantage, with goals by Ben Fox and young Lukas Nmecha giving Burton Albion a comfortable 2-0 lead.

In the 2nd half, the scoreline remained 2-0 to the visitors, until Cameron Pring started an amazing finish to the match, when he pulled a goal back to gives us a glimmer of home.

That hope seemed to be squashed in the 3rd minute of Injury time, when Burton’s Lucas Akins scored from the penalty spot. Somehow that wasn’t the end, and even though there was only supposed to be 4 minutes of injury time, Mamadou Touray had the time to score, after being put through on goal by Cameron Pring. I thought it was no more than a consolation goal, but incredibly the referee continued playing for a little while longer, which enabled Cameron Pring to score his 2nd goal of the match in the 6th minute of Injury time!!!! An incredible end to the match, earns us a point that sees us 2 points above the drop zone, with only 6 matches remaining.

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Liverpool U23’s were the eventual winners of the 2020/21 Checkatrade Trophy, beating Oxford United in the final.

 

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March wasn’t a great month for us, with 3 draws and 2 defeats in our 5 matches this month. Thankfully Scunthorpe United can’t find a win for love nor money either, so we’re still 2 points above them.

 

My next update is about the Easter weekend, where we’ll travel up to Doncaster on Good Friday, before the visit of top of the table Barnsley to Rodney Parade, on Easter Monday.

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Easter 2021

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In this Good Friday fixture, away to Doncaster Rovers, we ended our run of 8 matches without a win. A penalty kick, taken in the 16th minute by Jamille Matt gave us a 1-0 lead. Doncaster drew level, against the run of play, in 1st half stoppage time, when Joe Rafferty scored.

In the 2nd half, we took the lead once more, when Tommie Hoban deflected the ball past his own ‘keeper in the 51st minute. Marcus Barnes wrapped it up in the 82nd minute, with a header, as we collected our 38 points of the season. The win should have increased the gap between us and the relegation zone, but unfortunately it didn’t, as Scunthorpe United surprisingly beat MK Dons 1-0.

That means there’s still only 2 points between both clubs, with 5 matches remaining.

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Top of the table Barnsley arrived at Rodney Parade, looking to possibly seal the League One title if they won and Portsmouth slipped up. On the other hand, we had other ideas and took the lead in the ninth minute, when Jamille Matt dispossessed the Barnsley goalkeeper trying to play it out from the back, and was left with a simple finish into the back of the net. It stayed at 1-0 to us for the duration of the 1st half, but Barnsley equalised 5 minutes after the restart of the 2nd half. Brandon Barker bending his free-kick around our wall, and in at the near post. Both sides had chances to win it after that, but it remained 1 apiece at full time, a result that sees us 3 points ahead of the relegation zone going into the final 4 games of the season.

 

Good results over Easter, when we collected 4 points from a possible 6, sets up a career defining last 4 matches of the season.

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Incredibly, all of our 4 next opponents are in the bottom 6 battling for survival!

The next match is away at bottom side Ebbsfleet United, who now know anything less than a win against will see them relegated. Our next match after that is a week later, when we face 2nd from bottom Swindon Town, in our last home game of the season.

After that match, we’ve a trip away to take on Walsall, to try and beat Daryl McMahon for the 1st time in my career. And then finally, on the last day of the season, we face Scunthorpe United in Glanford Park, in what could be a relegation playoff final.

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End of 2020/21 Season

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Ebbsfleet scored a late equaliser in the 3rd minute of injury time, but it wasn’t enough to save them from relegation, as they needed to win. We took the lead after 11 minutes, when Jamille Matt nodded in a corner.

In the 2nd half, Ebbsfleet equalised two minutes after the restart, when Billy Waters nodded in a cross at the near post. Ten minutes from the 90th minute, I thought we had gotten the winner,  when Mitch Hancox struck a half-volley to score his 1st goal for Newport. Ebbsfleet piled on the pressure late on, in a desperate attempt to save their season, and eventually it told when their centre-half scored from a rebounded shot in injury time. It was too late for them though, and it didn’t prevent them from being relegated. Swindon Town were also relegated today, when they lost 3-1 to Barnsley. And instead of going 6 points clear of Scunthorpe United, with 3 matches left, we’re only 4 ahead of them, thanks to Ebbsfleets late equaliser.

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In our final home match of the season, we moved closer to confirming our League One survival, after a narrow win over recently relegated Swindon at Rodney Parade. Fraser Franks gave us the lead after 11 minutes, when he nodded in a corner. Four minutes later, we were 2 ahead, when Marcus Barnes cut in on to his favoured left foot, and rifled a low shot into the bottom corner. Just when I thought we were about to take a comfortable 2-0 lead in at the break, Glen McAuley pulled on back for Swindon in the 42nd minute.

The danger that Swindon would score was always there in the 2nd half, but it wasn’t until Matt Dolan put us 3-1 up from a spot-kick in the 87th minute, that I began to relax, but not for long. Only a minute later, McAuley struck for the 2nd time in the match, setting up a fraught climax.

Fortunately we hung onto the win, to remain 4 clear of the relegation zone, after Scunthorpe surprisingly beat Barnsley 2-1 at home.

Hopefully we can seal our safety in the next match in Walsall, before facing Scunthorpe.

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We didn’t get the win we wanted but it didn’t matter, as Swindon done us a massive favour by beating Scunthorpe, which means we are finally safe from relegation!

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After securing League One football for the club next season, and with my contract due to run out in June 2021, the board were keen to enter negotiations for a new contract, but I refused.

I feel it’s time to open a new chapter in the Graham Taylor career emulation, even if it means dropping a division and returning to manage in League Two. With an eye on the job situation at Plymouth Argyle, where Slavisa Jokanovic is close to the sack, I won’t be entering any new contract with Newport County.

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In what could possibly be my last game in charge of Newport County, Mamadou Touray struck his 7th goal of the season in injury time, to give us a 2-1 win on the last day of the season.

It means we finish the season in 20th position, with 46 points from the 46 matches.

At the top of the table, Barnsley won the title with 100 points, while Bradford City snuck into 2nd place ahead of Portsmouth, who had to settle for the playoffs along with Wimbledon, Bolton, and Peterborough.

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Despite beating Coventry 1-0 on the last day of the season, Plymouth missed out on the League Two play-offs, which means Slavisa Jokanovic got the sack. I’ve applied for the job, believing I can fire them up the divisions, ala Graham Taylor’s Watford.

 

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At the Newport County End of Season Awards, Josh Sheehan won the Supporters Player of the Year, for the 3rd season in a row. Marcus Barnes won Goal of the Season, for his left-footed strike against Swindon Town, earlier this month, while Adam May was rightly voted as signing of the season. Mamadou Touray picked up Young Player of the Season for 2020/21.

This season was tough going at times, but I think it can be looked back on and viewed as a success, considering the start we made.

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Plymouth Argyle offered me an interview, and I thought it went quite well, let’s see if they offer it. Newport County have made a last ditch attempt to keep me, but it’s not going to happen.

A new job, a new venture, a new challenge, a new chapter awaits.

 

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Plymouth Argyle

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On the morning of the 21st of May 2021, I got in my car outside Rodney Parade and drove for 2 hours and 15 minutes, down the M5 motorway until I reached Home Park, Plymouth, where I signed a 1 year deal to be Manager of Plymouth Argyle FC. As part of the deal, the two clubs have agreed a 12K compensation package to be paid to Newport County. Three members of my coaching staff have followed me out the doors of Rodney Parade, and will join me in my new venture at Home Park. They are my Assistant Manager, Justin Skinner, my Head of Youth Development, Richard Meek, along with my Fitness Coach, Mark Armitage.   

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“The Pilgrims” Home Park is a 17,904 all-seater stadium, that has the nickname of “The Theatre of Greens”. Originally built in 1903, 17 years after the club was founded, it was rebuilt in 2002, so it’s in good condition. The season of 2020/21 saw average attendances of 7,964, the 2nd highest attendances in League Two, and I’m hoping we can turn this place into a fortress in the seasons to come.  

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The most southerly and westerly League Club in England, have won the 3rd tier of English football twice, while they’ve only won the 4th tier of English football on one occasion, back in 2002. Plymouth Argyle spent 6 seasons playing Championship football, after winning the League One title in 2003/04. Two back to back relegations in 2010 and 2011, saw them sink into League Two, where they played for 6 seasons, before gaining promotion back to League One in 2017. In their 1st season back in League One, they finished 7th, just missing out on the playoffs. The next season they finished a disappointing 18th in League One, and then they were relegated once again into the 4th tier in the 2019/20 season. In the season just finished, they were a disappointing 12th place in League Two, which resulted in Slavisa Jokanovic being fired after only 112 days in charge.

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The population of Plymouth is 263,100, making it the largest city in England, never to have hosted top flight football. Hopefully I can change that, and I have set myself the challenge of bringing Plymouth Argyle F.C into the Premier League by the start of the 2026/27 season, the same timespan that Graham Taylor did at Watford, 5 seasons.

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Playing Staff

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According to my Number 2, Justin Skinner, the 3 best players at Plymouth Argyle currently are:

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Graham Taylor loved a big number 9, and so do I. That means Jamie Proctor will play a crucial role as my Target Man for next season. The 29 year-old Proctor, joined Plymouth Argyle from Rotherham United last summer, for a fee worth 225k, and is the current club captain. Our vice-captain, Sam Lavelle, is another player who was marked out by Skinner as one of the best players upon my arrival. Lavelle is a physically strong 24 year-old centre-half, who joined from Morecambe last summer, for a fee of 105k.

The third highly rated player at the club is 19 year-old midfielder Tommy Doyle, who finished the season as the clubs joint top scorer in the league with 8 goals, alongside Jamie Proctor, during his season long loan from Manchester City. I’m not sure, if we’ll be able to acquire him on loan for next season, hopefully we will.

Looking at the stats from the season just gone by, it tells us we had the 6th best defence in the league, while at the other end, we only scored 52 goals in 46 matches. The fact that both our joint topscorers only scored 8 goals apiece, highlights the need for investment at the top end of the pitch in the Summer transfer window.

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After assessing the squads contracts situation, I’ve offered new 1 year deals to 2 midfielders, Jimmy Ryan and Joel Grant. Although both players are pushing on in age, I feel their experience can be of benefit next season.

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Seven players will leave Plymouth Argyle at the end of June, some by choice, some not.

Ashley Smith-Brown, a full-back who can play on either side of the defence, has been unhappy at the club ever since Plymouth got relegated from League One last year. Having spent last season playing in League Two, he’s determined to leave the club when his contract expires in June 2021.

Mauro Vilhete has already agreed a deal to join Leixoes, a club in the Portugals 3rd tier, at the end of June. The right winger joined last Summer from Barnet on a free, but only 3 starts for the club all season.

The other 5 players leaving the club n June include Ryan Williams. As the club is overstocked in attacking midfielders, I’ve decided against renewing his deal after only making 1 start all season.

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When I sold Keanu Marsh-Brown from Newport County to Southend United for 90k, back in June 2020, I didn’t think I‘d be managing him again. It turns out he had been sold to Plymouth Argyle on the last day of the 2021 winter transfer, back in February. For this reason, I’ve placed him on the transfer list, whilst offering him to other clubs. It might be a struggle trying to sell him however, as he a year left on his contract, and he’s digging his heels in, wanting to remain.

 

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One of the attractions of the move to Plymouth Argyle, was that they’ve got better rated training facilities than Newport County, despite competing in a division below.

In the initial budgets, we’ve nearly 800k in the transfer budget, and an extra 27 and a half thousand per week for wages, while I set aside 236k for the scouting budget. This was the kind of budget I could only dream of, when I was back in Rodney Parade.

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Great work keeping Newport up, and Plymouth is a great club to move onto next as they have a better base, facilities wise, to build on!

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The 2020/21 Season

European Competitions

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In the 2021 Champions League Final, a 36 year old Cristiano Ronaldo proved he has still got it, when he scored twice in extra-time, to seal a 3-0 victory for Juventus against AS Monaco.

 

In the Europa League Final, A.C Milan won their 1st European trophy since 2007, when they beat RB Leipzig 2-0 in Parc des Princes, Paris.

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English Football

At the top of the Premier League, Manchester City retained their title, finishing 11 points ahead of 2nd place Liverpool. Manchester United and Chelsea qualified for next season's Champions League, while Tottenham and Everton will play in next season's Europa League.

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At the other end, Newcastle United, Derby County and West Brom, were all relegated from the Premier League to next seasons Championship. Norwich City, Leicester City and Watford, will play in next season's Premier League, after gaining promotion from the Championship.

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At the bottom end of the Championship table, the 3 clubs to go down into League One were Fleetwood, Charlton Athletic, and Sheffield Wednesday. They’ll be replaced in next seasons Championship by Barnsley, Bradford City, and Portsmouth, after they won promotion from League One.

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My new Plymouth Argyle side will face Southend United, Ebbsfleet, Scunthorpe United, and Swindon Town, in next season’s League Two, after their relegation from League One.

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Rochdale, Colchester United, Bury, and Salford, will play their football in League One next  season, after gaining promotion from the 2020/21 League Two.

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At the other end of League Two table, Port Vale and Crawley Town were relegated from the Football League this season.

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In the 20/21 season, Leyton Orient won the National League title, while Sutton United were also promoted to the Football League via the playoffs. At the bottom end of the table, Dartford, Eastleigh, Welling United, and Barrow were relegated.

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In the National League North, Stockport County and AFC Telford won promotion to the National League, while Stalybridge, Leamington, and Alfreton were were relegated. In the National League South, Oxford City and Dulwich Hamlet won promotion, while Eastbourne Boro, Basingstoke, and Tonbridge were relegated

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In the 2021 F.A Cup, Manchester City went on to complete a double, after they beat Tottenham Hotspurs 4-2 in the final.

My next update will focus on my 1st summer as Plymouth Argyle boss, and a look ahead to the 2021/22 season.

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Summer 2021

Transfers In

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Manchester City have agreed to loan us Tommy Doyle for another season. The 19 year-old central midfielder, who was joint top scorer for the club last season, is an excellent free-kick taker, and hopefully he’ll be a major asset during the upcoming season.

 

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The right-sided winger Jordan Cox, who also spent last season at the club whilst on loan from Aston Villa, joins us on a free transfer. The 22 year-old is a welcome addition to the squad, as he had 4 goals and 4 assists to his name in 36 starts last season.

 

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The player who scored the very 1st goal in my very 1st match as manager, reunites with me in Plymouth.

Cameron Pring joins on a free, after his contract with Bristol City ran out this summer, and I’m almost certain that the attacking full-back/wing-back will be a big hit in Devon.

 

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The 23 year-old ‘keeper Andrew Fisher joins us on a free transfer, after impressing whilst on loan. Fisher, who was released by Blackburn Rovers this summer, will provide good backup for our No.1 ‘keeper Mike Cooper.

 

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The 6’4” Target Man, Joe Quigley joins Plymouth Argyle from Bromley this summer, for a transfer fee of 60k. He scored 45 goals for Bromley, in the 3 seasons playing for them in the National League, and he’ll provide cover for Jamie Proctor this season.

 

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Another ‘keeper signed for the club this summer after impressing during his trial. The 18 year-old James Beard joins, after he was released by Liverpool at the end of the 2020/21 season. He won the Checkatrade Trophy with Liverpool U-23s, and has lots of potential. After we signed him, I decided to loan him out to Grimsby Town until the end of the season, as he’s mightn’t get much 1st team action as 3rd choice keeper.

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We played in 9 pre-season friendlies and done well, winning 5, drawing 2, before losing the last 2 matches.

We are ranked as one of the favourites for promotion from League Two this season.

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The club's board expect us to at least reach the play-offs this season, so a good start is imperative.

In the draw for the 1st Round of the League Cup, we’ve been drawn to play League One Gillingham at Home Park. Although the board doesn’t place too much importance on the League Cup, I’m hopeful of going on a good run.  

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The season kicks off on the 31st of July, with a trip away to Stonebridge Road, to take on the recently relegated, Ebbsfleet United. My 1st competitive game at Home Park takes place on the 4th of August, when we face Stevenage. That’s followed up with a trip to Southend, before that League Cup tie against Gillingham, on the 10th. We’ll have Blackpool and Barnet at home, before a trip to The Racecourse Ground to face Wrexham. Oldham at home completes the fixtures for August on the 28th.

Hopefully, we can get off to a good start and build momentum for the rest of the season.

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Posted (edited)

Start of the 2021/22 Season

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My 1st competitive match as Manager of Plymouth Argyle F.C, didn’t get off to a good start, as Ebbsfleet United gained revenge on me for relegating them from League 1 last season. We made a slow start to this match and were 2 down within the 1st half hour. Jordan Cox pulled a goal back for us 15 minutes from the full-time whistle, but Ebbsfleet United hung on to all 3 points. I hope it’s just a blip.

 

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In the Checkatrade Trophy, we’ve been drawn in Group F, alongside Colchester United, Swindon Town, and Brighton U23’s.

Our 1st match in the group is against Swindon Town, on the 31st of August.

 

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Jamie Proctor scored twice in the opening 15 minutes, to give us a comfortable victory in my 1st competitive match at Home Park. The 1st goal was from the penalty spot in the 10th minute, and then 3 minutes later he scored again, after being put through by a Tommy Doyle pass over the top.

My 1st win as manager of Plymouth Argyle sees us on the board with 3 points.

 

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Three days later, we increased our points total to 6, when we had our 1st away win of the season, against Southend United at Roots Hall. Canadian International, Cameron Sangster gave us the lead in the 18th minute, when he rifled in a shot from just outside the box with his left peg. Southend’s Cypriot left full-back, Harry Kyprianou, nodded past his own ‘keeper in the 26th minute, to put us 2 up at half-time.

Ten minutes after the restart, Mason Bloomfield put us 3-0 up, when he nodded in Cameron Prings cross from the left. Southend’s left winger, Stephen McLaughlin, got one back for the home side in the 66th minute, when he clinically finished a swift counter attack. The game was up for Southend United by that stage, and we seen the game out comfortably.

 

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We went out of the League Cup at the first hurdle, after Gillingham knocked us out on penalties. We went ahead after 6 minutes, when Proctor poked home a cross from the left by Cameron Pring. We held onto the lead until the 80th minute, when Regan Charles-Cook equalised for Gillingham, after the ball pinged around our box after a corner. That goal was enough to force it into a penalty shoot-out, which got off to a bad start, when Proctor crashed our 1st penalty off the bar. Gillingham didn’t miss any of their penalties, which meant all the pressure was on the young Jordan Cox, when he took our 5th penalty. Their goalie saved it and won the tie for Gillingham. Although I wanted us to go further in this competition, we played well against a League One side, and were unlucky to exit on penalties.

 

 

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The following Saturday, we’re back at Home Park to play Blackpool. Mason Bloomfield opened the scoring after 23 minutes, when he bulleted in a header from a Zak Mills cross. Jamie Proctor came off with a torn hamstring in the 37th, and was replaced by Summer signing Joe Quigley. Three minutes later, Quigley scored his 1st goal for Plymouth Argyle, when his header from a corner went in off the underside of the bar, to give us a comfortable 2-0 lead at half-time.

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Fifteen minutes from the full-time whistle, we were awarded a penalty, when Alex Whitmore was obstructed trying to attack an indirect free-kick. Bloomfield stepped up and converted for his 2nd goal of the match, sealing our third win of the season in the process.

 

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A Tommy Doyle goal from the penalty spot in the 23rd minute, was the difference between the two sides at Home Park. This is our fourth consecutive victory in the league, and we’ve now got 12 points from the first 5 matches of the season.

 

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Wrexham inflicted our 2nd defeat of the season, by coming back from a goal down to win 2-1. For the 2nd consecutive match, Tommy Doyle gave us the lead after 13 minutes, when he was played in by Mason Bloomfield. Just when it looked like we were heading in at half-time with a 1-0 lead, Wrexham equalised through Calum Dyson, to leave it 1-1 at the break.

In the 2nd half, the 18 year-old striker, Kieran Wynne hit what proved to be the winner after 64 minutes.

This ends our recent run of 4 straight wins in the league, leaving us in 4th place after the opening 6 matches.

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In the week after the defeat in Wrexham, we received the bad news that our No.1 ‘keeper, Mike Cooper, will be out for the next 4-5 weeks, after getting injured in training. It means I’ll have no other choice, than to hand a debut to Summer signing Andrew Fisher.


 

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A week after losing in Wrexham, we got back to winning ways by beating Oldham 3-1 at Home Park. We were forced into an early substitution, when Tommy Doyle twisted his ankle and was forced off after 13 minutes. Joe Quigley put us 1 up, after 23 minutes, when he was set up by his strike partner Mason Bloomfield.

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Bloomfield doubled our lead from the penalty spot, 4 minutes after the restart of the 2nd half. Substitute Alex Babos, gave Oldham hope of a fightback, when he scored in the 73rd minute, to make it 2-1. Those hopes were squashed 7 minutes later, when veteran central midfielder, Jimmy Ryan smashed in a free-kick, to seal the win.

Our fourth win in Home Park this season, maintains our 100% record at home, moving us up to 2nd in the table, a point behind early leaders Lincoln City.

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In the 1st match of our Checkatrade Trophy Group, we recovered well from going a goal down, and coasted to a 5-1 victory in the end. The home side went 1-0 up after 12 minutes, when Tyrese Campbell nodded in a Tyler Reid cross from the right. Ilias Chair, the makeshift striker, equalised on the half-hour mark. Five minutes before half-time, Joe Quigley put us 2-1 ahead going in at the break.

Quigley scored his second goal, 5 minutes after the restart of the 2nd half, to put us 3-1 up.He then had a chance to complete his hat-trick from the penalty spot on the hour mark but missed it. Joel Grant scored after 79 minutes to make it 4-1, and Quigley finally completed his hat-trick in the 89th minute, after being put through on goal by Ilias Chair.This win sees us top the group, after the 1st round of matches, ahead of Colchester United, courtesy of goal difference.

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Overall, we’ve made a strong start to the season, with 5 wins out of 7 in the League, and an unlucky exit in the League Cup.

Next month, we kick-off the first of six fixtures in the League, by taking on Forest Green at The New Lawn. The following Saturday, we travel north to face Accrington Stanley, before a midweek fixture at Home Park against Morecambe. Three days after that, we travel to Huish Park to take on Yeovil Town. Our 2nd home game in September happens a week later, when we face Scunthorpe in Home Park. Then the fixtures for the month are completed, when we travel to East London to take on Leyton Orient on a Tuesday night.

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Edited by mylescattle

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Posted (edited)

September 2021

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September started with good news for the club, when I was awarded Manager of the Month for our performances in August, while young Man City loanee Tommy Doyle, won Young Player of the Month for League Two.

 

After taking a look at Anthony Grant in most of the pre-season games, I decided he wasn’t going to play a part in our push for promotion. He joins Torquay until the end of the season, after they agreed to pay 70% of his wages.

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We got off to a bad start in this match, and were 2-0 down after just 9 minutes. Centre-half Farrend Rawson, got the opener after just 4 minutes, when he nodded in Yan Dhandas free-kick delivery. Only five minutes later, Forest Green added a second, when central midfielder Max Sanders, fired a 20 yard shot to back of our net. Seven minutes before the halftime break, Joe Quigley got one back, when he turned in Mason Bloomfields pullback from the byline at the near post.

Our task of mounting a comeback got even harder, when only 5 minutes after the restart of the 2nd half, Max Sanders hit an unstoppable volley to make it 3-1 to Forest Green. Farrend Rawson also got his 2nd goal of this match, when he nodded in a corner in the 80th minute, to seal all 3 points for the home side.

Our 3rd defeat away from home this season, sees us drop down to 5th place in the table.

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Only 2 days after losing heavily to Forest Green, I received the bad news that our Captain Sam Lavelle, will miss the next 5-6 weeks with a calf strain. This means that we’re currently without our 3 best players, Lavelle, Doyle, and Proctor, plus our No. 1 ‘keeper Mike Cooper.

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Despite our current injury crisis, we still managed to eek out our 2nd win away win of the season, when we faced Accrington Stanley at Wham Stadium. An own goal by young Accrington Centre-half, Pascal Kpohomouh, after 9 minutes, proved to be the decisive moment in this match. Mason Bloomfield had a chance from the penalty spot in the 12th minute to put us 2-0 up, after he was fouled in the box, but saw his shot saved. Thankfully we held onto the slender 1-0 lead until the final whistle, to record our 6th win.
 

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After being 1-0 down at halftime, 2 second half goals by Mason Bloomfield, saw us maintain our 100% record at Home Park. Morecambe took an early lead after only 8 minutes, when their 18 year-old winger, Keelan Vinten, cut inside from the right and took a shot, that deflected off one of our defenders, and flew past Mike Cooper and into the top corner of the net.

It didn’t take long for us to respond after the break. Seven minutes after the restart of the 2nd half we equalised, when Bloomfield got his 1st goal of the match, by poking home a cross from right wing-back Zak Mills. A further 4 minutes after that goal, we scored again to go 2-1 ahead, in an almost identical manner. Zak Mills again the provider, for Bloomfield to this time nod in at the far post.  

Two back to back wins, and our 7th win of the season, sees us up to 3rd in the table, 2 points behind leaders Lincoln City.

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For the 1st time this season, we fail to score a single goal in a match, as Yeovil Town give us a 3-0 hiding at Huish Park. A 2nd half brace from an 18 year-old left winger, Tommy Kelly, set Yeovil Town on their way to a comfortable victory. His 1st goal arrived after 56 minutes, when the youngster, who’s on loan from Portsmouth, hit a 30 yard shot into the top corner. He added his second goal after 69 minutes, when he got in and nodded one in at the far post. In the 87th minute, it was another 18 year-old, Scott Jeggo, who sealed the victory by heading a cross from the right into the net.

Another bad performance away from home, means we drop out of the top 3 again, and into 4th place.

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Mason Bloomfield walked off the pitch at Home Park with the match ball at full-time, after scoring a hat-trick, that maintains our 100% home record this season. Scunthorpe United went ahead after 21 minutes, when their Central Defender Charlie Good, connected with a free-kick delivery from out wide. Bloomfield got his 1st goal after 41 minutes, when he headed in Jimmy Ryan's ball over the top of the defence, to see it 1 apiece at the break. About 15 minutes from full-time, he got his 2nd goal with his left foot, after being put through 1-on-1 with their keeper by Joe Quigley. After 88 minutes, he completed his hat-trick with his right foot, after collecting a long punt upfield by our ‘keeper Mike Cooper. A perfect hat-trick from the Jamaican International, who is our top scorer in the league with 9 goals. This win puts us back in the automatic promotion places in 3rd place, a point behind leaders Lincoln City.  

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Last year's National League Champions, Leyton Orient, have made a good start to life back in the Football League, and were in 7th place before this 2-0 win at Brisbane Road. Vernon Parkes scored the 2 goals in this match, in either half, as we suffer our 3rd away defeat this month. As a result, we drop to 7th place in the table, while the O’s rise to 5th.

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September wasn’t a disastrous month, but it wasn’t brilliant either. We still have our impeccable record at Home Park intact, however our record in the away matches needs addressing.

 

October starts with 3 fixtures in Home Park. The first is the visit of Cambridge United, who sit in 11th position in the table. The following Tuesday night, the Brighton U23s visit, to take us on in our 2nd Checkatrade Trophy Group match.  The last of the three consecutive home matches takes place on the following Saturday, when Sutton United play us in the league. A week after that, we face the 1st of 2 tough away matches, when we travel to take on top of the table, Crewe. The following Tuesday night, we’re on the road again, when we face Lincoln City at Sincil Bank. We play at home in the last fixture of the month, when Wycombe Wanderers visit us on the 23rd of October. It means 4 of the 6 matches next month are at home, and I’ll be hopeful of continuing our record in Home Park.

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Edited by mylescattle

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October 2021
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Mason Bloomfield scored twice in this match, as we beat Cambridge United 3-0 at Home Park, to bring us back up to 4th in the table. Bloomfield scored his 10th goal of the season from the penalty spot after 28 minutes, when Joe Quigley was pushed inside the box, to see us 1 up at halftime. 
Bloomfield added his 2nd, his 11th for the season, when he volleyed in a cross from the right by Zak Mills, ten minutes into the 2nd half. Joe Quigley scored our 3rd goal of the match on the hour mark, to seal another comfortable 3 points at Home Park. 
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A 2-0 victory over Brighton U23’s in matchday 2 of Checkatrade Trophy Group, has seen us qualified for the next round with a game to spare. Tommy Doyle gave us an the lead from the penalty spot after 8 minutes. In the 2nd half, Josh Taylor doubled our lead after 64 minutes, with a shot from outside the box, that went in with the help of the post. In the groups other match, Colchester United beat Swindon Town on penalties, making our final group match against Colchester United, a dead rubber. 
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On the 8th of October 2021, I agreed a deal to sell the veteran 34 year-old midfielder, Sam Foley, to National League North side, Boston United.

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A late winner by Joe Quigley after 86 minutes, maintained our 100% record at Home Park, whilst pushing us up 2 places in the table to 2nd place, a point behind leaders Crewe Alexandra, who we play next. 

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Zak Mills got himself sent-off in 56th minute, only minutes after setting up Mason Bloomfields equaliser, and that changed the complexion of this match, allowing Crewe to go on to win 3-1. Losing this top of the table clash means we drop back down to 4th position in the table, 4 points away from Crewe.  
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In the draw for the 1st Round of the F.A Cup, we were drawn to play League One side Luton Town at Kenilworth Road. The match will take place on the 6th of November, and it’ll be a tough test for us. 


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In my 20th match in charge of Plymouth Argyle, we continued our bad form away from home, by losing 2-1 to Lincoln City at Sincil Bank. Will Miller gave Lincoln the early lead after 7 minutes, before Tommy Doyle equalised for us, with a shot from the edge of the box, to leave it 1 apiece at half-time.
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Only 5 minutes after the break, Lincoln City struck what would prove to be a winner, when right-sided midfielder Jordan Clark, volleyed in a cross from the left at the far post. For 2nd consecutive match, we were reduced to 10 men, when Ryan Sweeney picked up a second yellow in injury time, as we pushed to try get an equaliser. This result sees us drop down to 6th position in the table, 7 points behind leaders Crewe Alexandra.  
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Despite testing the Wycombe ‘keeper on 10 occasions, we failed to make the breakthrough in this match, dropping points at Home Park for the 1st time this season. We are now 9 points behind table toppers Crewe, as we drop 1 place in the table to 7th. 
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Like last month, October proved to be a mixed bag of results. It started well, winning the first 3 fixtures, but then it turned sour with 2 back to back defeats away from home, followed by a scoreless draw in Home Park. We qualified for the 2nd round of the Checkatrade Trophy with a game to spare, and still sit in the play-off places, if only just. 

Novembers fixtures kicks-off with a 1st Round F.A Cup tie against Luton Town at Kenilworth Road, followed by a meaningless final group game in the Checkatrade Trophy. Four days after that, Shrewsbury Town visit Home Park. The months fixtures are completed with 2 matches away from home, when we visit Swindon Town on the 20th of November, and Coventry City on the 23rd. So that means we’ve 4 away matches and only 1 match at Home Park in November. Hopefully we can get a grip and start improving our away performances soon. 
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November 2021

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We limped out of the F.A Cup at the 1st Round stage, after losing 2-0 to Luton Town in Kenilworth Road. Luton went 1 up after 34 minutes, when their centre-half nodded in from a corner. With about a quarter of an hour to go in the match, they virtually sealed the win, when their right wing-back Justin James, stormed into the box at the far post and finished to make it 2-0. It was a disappointing performance where we only managed 1 shot on target all match. It means I have failed the pre-season target of at least reaching the 2nd Round  set by our board.  

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In a meaningless final group match because both teams were already through, we had a 0-0 bore draw against Colchester United. In the penalty shoot-out, Colchester won but we still top the group on goal difference. Afterwards, the draw was made for the 2nd Round, where we were paired with Watford U23's. That match will take place in Home Park next month on the 7th of December. 
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Having not won our last 5 matches, it was important to put a halt to that against Shrewsbury Town at Home Park. We were 3-0 up by the half hour mark in this match. Jamie Proctor volleyed in a shot after a mix up between the Shrewsbury ‘keeper and one of his centre-halfs after 8 minutes. Jordan Cox doubled our lead after 24 minutes with a 23 yard strike, and 4 minutes after that, a Cameron Pring free-kick went through the Shrewsbury wall, and in at the near post to make it 3-0. Shrewsbury centre-half Nathan Wood pulled 1 back for the visitors after 36 minutes, when he rebounded in a shot from a free-kick that came back off the post. 
In the 2nd half, a 67th minute goal by Elliot List set up the possibility of a Shrewsbury Town comeback, but we held on to the win that moves us up 1 place in the table to 6th. 
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We won our 1st away match since beating Accrington Stanley on the 11th of September, by beating Swindon Town 3-0. Mason Bloomfield scored the 1st goal after 3 minutes, when he nodded a Jordan Cox cross, back where it came from, and in at the far post. Bloomfield won a penalty kick just before half-time, which young Man City loanee Tommy Doyle dispatched to the net, to put us 2-0 up. 
Any hopes of Swindon Town mounting a 2nd half comeback, were put to bed 5 minutes after the restart, when Jamie Proctor scored our third goal. A 2nd consecutive victory for us puts us in 5th place in the table after 20 matches, and 4 points behind leaders Crewe. 
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The following Tuesday night in the Ricoh Arena against Coventry City, we failed to make it 3 consecutive wins on the trot, after a bad display in the 1st half left us 2 down at the break. Young Jack Burroughs put Coventry ahead after 35 minutes, when he nodded in a cross by young 22 year-old left winger Luke Thomas. Just on the stroke of half-time, Coventrys centre-half Gabriel Osho headed in from a corner, to leave us 2 goals down at the break. 
In the 2nd half, Sam Lavelle gave us a glimmer of hope, when he got his 1st goal for the club after 79 minutes, but Coventry City held onto the 1 goal lead until the full-time whistle. As a result of this defeat, we drop 1 place to 6th in the table, 3 points behind the 3rd automatic promotion spot.
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We received further bad news, when Joe Quigley picked up an injury in training, that’ll rule him out for between 3-4 weeks. 
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Another mixed bag of results this month, including the disappointing exit in the F.A Cup 1st Round, means I’m starting to consider additions in the upcoming January transfer window, to try solve our inconsistent form. 

Our 1st match in December happens in Home Park on the 4th, when 3rd placed Notts County visit. The following Tuesday night after that, we play Watford U23’s in the Checkatrade Trophy. And a busy week is completed on the 11th of December, when travel way up North to take on Carlisle United in Brunton Park. Hopefully, we can give ourselves a morale boost heading into the Christmas and New Year fixtures. 
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December 2021

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A late winner in the 88th minute by our left wing-back Cameron Pring, handed us our 40th point of the season so far. Notts County were very cagey and tried to catch us on the break throughout this match, but we piled on the pressure late on and it eventually told, when Prings shot hit the back of the net. 
It could be a crucial moment come the end of this season, and it moves to within a point of the 3rd automatic promotion place. 
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Watford U23’s dumped us out of the Checkatrade Trophy on a 4-1 scoreline. Young 20 year-old forward, Ryan Cassidy, struck twice for the visitors in the 1st half, to see them 2 up at the halftime break. Jamie Proctor pulled a goal back around the hour mark, but by stage we were already 3-0 down. Their centre-half Federico Fernandez scored to make it 4-1. It was the 1st time I’ve been beaten in Home Park since I took charge of Plymouth Argyle. 

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Jamie Proctors late equaliser in the 81st minute, salvaged a point from our long distance away trip to Carlisle. The home team went in front in 1st half stoppage time, when Daniel Butterworth met a cross from right full-back Teddy Howe. We had an early goal by Cameron Sangster disallowed after 8 minutes, when he was adjudged to be offside. In the 2nd half, we pushed for an equaliser, and the pressure told when Proctor headed in a cross from the left by substitute Ryan Sweeney.
Having played 23 matches in the league this season, it means we’ve now reached the halfway point in the season and still sit in the playoff places in 5th place.     
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I received an early Christmas present, when the board agreed to extend my contract until June 2023.
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Despite the heavy defeat to Watford U23’s in the Checkatrade Trophy, we picked up 4 points from both league matches with the aid of late goals, so I’m reasonably happy as we go into the hectic Christmas and New Year schedule. 

Our next match is at home to the struggling Ebbsfleet United, who aren’t coping very well with life back down in League Two. We’ve an 8 day break until the Boxing Day fixture, when we face Stevenage away, before another away trip 2 days later, when we travel up to Blackpool. On New Year's day, we start 2022 by hosting Wrexham, who are currently 2nd in the table. A week later, Southend United visit Home Park hoping to edge themselves away from the relegation zone. 
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Christmas and New Years 2021/2022

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Just before Christmas, our veteran 36 year old defender John White announced his decision to retire at the end of the season. And although it says on the screenshot that he’s been struggling to break into the 1st team of late, he’s made 24 starts so far this season in all competitions, so I don’t know what that’s all about. 

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Our Captain Sam Lavelle was ruled out before this match, due to an illness but we still managed to win 4-2 in the end, with our stand in Captain Jamie Proctor scoring twice. We took the lead after 11 minutes, when our left wing-back Cameron Pring scored his 3rd goal of the season. 
In the 2nd half, Ebbsfleet equalised ten minutes after the restart, when Billy Waters scored a rebound, after Mike Cooper saved his initial shot. Cameron Pring turned provider after 65 minutes, when his deep cross was volleyed to the net at the far post by Jamie Proctor. Ten minutes later, Proctor looked to have killed off any hope for Ebbsfleet, when he made it 3-1. When Tom Scully  flicked on a free-kick at the near post, that went in at the far corner, Ebbsfleet were back to within a goal of us, with only 13 minutes left. In the 89th minute, Mason Bloomfield made the 3 points certain, when he poked in a cross from the right by substitute Calum Johnson. We made hard work of this win, but we got there in the end.
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We travelled away to face Stevenage in the traditional Boxing Day fixture, and ended up coming away with a point after a 1-1 draw. Jordan Cox put us ahead after 9 minutes, but our lead didn’t last long, as the 17 year-old striker Mike Deacey equalised only 2 minutes later. 
A point away from home keeps us in 5th place in the table, with 25 matches played. 
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We picked up another point on the road, 2 days later, when we played bottom of the table, Blackpool in Bloomfield Road. This one goes down as 2 points dropped however, as we had the better of them but couldn’t manage to get the breakthrough that would’ve given us all 3 points. 
We’re still 5th in the table, 4 points away from 3rd placed Leyton Orient, and 10 points away from leaders Crewe, as we head into year 2022.  
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On the 1st day of the January transfer window, 2 players officially left Plymouth Argyle. 
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 Josh Taylor joins struggling Ebbsfleet for 12.48k, after he became unhappy with the number of starts he got in the 1st half of this season. Ilias Chair also leaves the club, after he joined Moroccan side Raja Casablanca for an initial fee of 125,000. I didn’t really want to sell him but he forced my hand, by demanding I accept a bid by Raja Casablanca. 

 

 

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Wrexham visited Home Park for the traditional New Year's Day fixture, and walked away with a point. For the 2nd match in a row, we have a 0-0 draw, and I’m starting to think we need to invest in another striker. We picked up 6 yellow cards in this match, and the club were fined 1k for ill-discipline afterwards. 
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After playing in 27 league matches, we remain in 5th place, 3 points away from the automatic promotion places, so we’re still in the hunt. 
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A penalty kick after half an hour, scored by Man City loanee Tommy Doyle, was the difference between the 2 teams at Home Park. Southend United didn’t threaten much and only had 1 shot on target during the entire 90 minutes. Twenty minutes from the end of the match, any hope of Southend United making a comeback seemed distant, when their centre-half Kyle Howkins picked up his 2nd yellow of the game, for a foul on Mason Bloomfield. It wasn’t a great performance by us but we got the 3 points regardless. 
We’re still in 5th place in the table with a points tally of 50, a single point behind Leyton Orient, who are 3rd in the table. 
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Two wins and three draws over Christmas and New Year, means we’ve not been beaten in League Two in 7 matches. 
Our next 3 matches start with 2 consecutive away games against 7th placed Barnet, and 8th placed Oldham, followed up by a match at Home Park against 10th placed Forest Green. We’ll be hoping to stretch our unbeaten run in the league to 10 matches, whilst getting some business done before the transfer window shuts at the end of January.  
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January 2022

 

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My 1st signing in January is the 25 year-old forward, Fejiri Okenabirhie. He joins us from fellow League Two side Shrewsbury Town, costing us 205k, and is most effective in the Advanced forward role, due to his pace and flair. After spending 3 and a half seasons at Shrewsbury Town, where he scored 26 goals in 117 appearances, he joins our squad to provide competition for Mason Bloomfield. 
For my 2nd January signing, I went back to Newport County to sign a player I had signed before. The defensive midfielder, Liam Nolan, joins us for 8,750k, 18 months after he left Accrington Stanley for Newport. Although he mightn’t be the total answer to our players in the long term, I’m certain he can be a good acquisition for our push for promotion. 
With the arrival of Okenabirhie into Home Park, I decided to let Klaidi Lolos go out on loan to Albanian club Egnatia until the end of the season. After scoring 10 goals in pre-season last summer, I really thought he could be an asset to us when the competitive matches started, but he hasn’t scored so far this season. 
His contract with us runs out in the Summer, so it’s probably the last he’ll play for us.    
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Fejiri Okenabirhie made his debut for Plymouth Argyle as a 2nd half substitute, as we beat Barnet 2-0 at the Hive ground. Mason Bloomfield put us ahead after 24 minutes, when Tommy Doyle won the ball in defence and burst forward on run, playing a beautifully weighted pass in behind the Barnet defence, for Bloomfield to finish, just before the out-rushing Barnet ‘keeper couldn’t stop him from scoring. 
Tommy Doyle was again the provider for our 2nd goal, as it was his corner delivery, that was headed in at the near post by Jamie Proctor after 66 minutes. 
A comfortable enough victory in the end, in a match I was expecting to be more difficult. And it see us move up to 3rd in the table, with only our superior goal difference separating ourselves and Wrexham in 4th, while leaders Crewe are 9 points ahead of us at the top of the League Two table.  

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The day after we beat Barnet, our No.1 ‘keeper Mike Cooper left Plymouth Argyle, after 5 and a half seasons with the club, to join Championship side Portsmouth. Initially, when the offer came in from Portsmouth, I wanted to reject it but then I seen his agents advice, that he could become unsettled should I reject the bid by Portsmouth, and I began to negotiate. We eventually agreed an initial deal of 325,000k, that may rise to 450,000k, and I think it’s a good deal. Especially when you also factor in his unwillingness to extend his current deal, which ran out in June 2022.
 It’s the 2nd consecutive season that Portsmouth have purchased my No.1 Goalkeeper, the last time this happened was when they bought Nick Townsend from Newport County at the beginning of last season. Like that time, this feels like a bit of a risk, but I feel our 2nd choice, Andrew Fisher, can step up and be our main goalkeeper for the rest of the season at least. 

 

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Our big Number 9, Jamie Proctor scored twice, in this match against Oldham Athletic at Boundary Park, as we ran out 3-1 winners. It’s our 3rd victory in as many matches, and we’re now up to 2nd in the table, 6 points behind 1st place Crewe. 
Proctor got his 1st goal just after the half hour stage of the match, when he got onto a direct pass from the defence by left wing-back Cameron Pring, to finish into the far corner with his right foot.
It remained 1-0 to us until the 57th minute, when Oldhams right full-back, Rob Hunt, fired a free-kick in from just outside the box. We went back in front in the 77th minute, when our Captain Sam Lavelle was on hand at the far post, to tap in a flicked on corner delivery. Six minutes later, Proctor smashed home his 2nd goal, after being put through with only the ‘keeper to beat by new signing Okenabirhie, to seal an important 3-1 victory away from home.  
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Heading into the final week of the January transfer window, two full-backs/wing-backs were sold. 
The 17 year-old left wing-back, Phil Hughton, who was our hottest prospect, was sold to Championship club Bradford City for an initial fee of 22,000, and may rise to 44,500k depending on conditions. Since all incomings and outgoings are handled by my Head of Youth Development, I had no act or part in this deal.
   
The 2nd deal done was the transfer of Callum Johnson to League One Salford City for a fee of 74k. Since I felt he was underperforming and he had only 6 months left to run out his contract, I accepted the bid for the 25 year-old right wing-back. 
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Mason Bloomfield scored the only goal of the match, as early as the 3rd minute, to stretch our unbeaten run in the league to 10 consecutive matches. Bloomfield used his pace to full effect, when he ran onto a beautifully weighted through ball by our right winger Jordan Cox. 
This win keeps us 2nd place in the table, while the gap between us and leaders Crewe is now narrowed to only 4 points!!!
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On the final day of the January transfer window, we completed 3 deals with 1 more player leaving the club, while another 2 players joined our 1st team squad. The 34 year-old midfielder Joel Grant, leaves Plymouth to join Ebbsfleet for a fee of 2,300. The Inside forward spent 4 and a half seasons with Plymouth, making 131 appearances and scoring 14 goals, after joining from local rivals Exeter City. 

I signed another player I had worked with previously, when Dan Butler resigned for Plymouth Argyle, almost a year after leaving to join Billericay in the National League for a fee of 19.25K. And don’t forget he was on the books at Newport County, when I was appointed as their Manager back in November 2018, and sold him to Plymouth Argyle for 225k in the Summer of 2019. This time, the 27 year-old left wing-back goes back to Plymouth for a fee of 52k. 
With Calum Johnson sold to Salford City, I decided to sign the 22-year old, Dougie Nyaupembe, from Bury as his replacement. The deal only cost us 6.5k, and I’m hoping he’ll be with us for the long-term.
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We were the biggest spenders in League Two during January, with a total of 275k spent by the club.
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The 3 wins at the end of January have boosted us up to 2nd in the table, giving us hope that we can now catch leaders Crewe and win the League Two title. Our defence has been immense lately, with only 1 goal conceded in the entire 5 matches played in the whole of January. 

Next month's fixtures kicks-off on the 5th of February, when we host Accrington Stanley at Home Park. A week after that, we travel to play Morecambe at the Globe Arena. On the 19th of next month, Yeovil Town will travel to Home Park to take us on, and then a week later we complete the fixtures for February, by travelling to Glanford Park to take on the relegation threatened Scunthorpe United. 
Hopefully these new January signings can help maintain our push for promotion!
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