The West Country ‘derby’ is eagerly anticipated by both managers, teams and fans alike. Although it is 120 miles away Plymouth see us as their geographically closest rivals after the demise of Exeter City and Torquay Utd. They always bring a large and vociferous following to Ashton Gate and so a good atmosphere is guaranteed. After a poor start Argyle are buoyed by having won their last three, another pulsating encouter is expected. City are likely to start the game at a high tempo following defeat at Wolves on Saturday. Gary Johnson seems to have the ability to make his teams respond positively to defeat.
The Pilgrims are high on confidence after victories in their last three Championship matches. They had back-to-back 2-1 away wins against Watford and Crystal Palace before their 1-0 defeat of Nottingham Forest at Home Park on Saturday. That has seen them move up to 12th position in the table, and they are only one point behind sixth-placed City.
Manager Paul Sturrock believes City will be anxious to make amends for their 2-0 defeat away to table-topping Wolves on Saturday. ‘They are a dangerous team, they are playing at home and they are a wounded beast because they want to get back on the rails after the disappointment of the weekend,’ he said. ‘If we don’t go up and perform to the standards we did against Watford and Crystal Palace we will come back with our tails between our legs. It’s really important we are appreciative of what we have achieved and how we have achieved it. If we take that into the game I’m confident we will get something out of it.
Argyle’s on-loan Manchester United defender Craig Cathcart was substituted in the second half against Forest because of a dead leg. The Northern Ireland under-21 international, who has started each of the last three matches, took part in training yesterday. But Sturrock could consider recalling Krisztian Timar to play at centre-back because of the physical presence of City’s 6ft 3in striker Dele Adebola.
Argyle’s versatile left-sided player Jim Paterson has also returned to training after sitting out the past two games with a thigh strain.
Paterson apart, Sturrock has picked the same starting line-up for the wins against Watford, Palace and Forest, but he is not sure whether to do so again tonight.
He said: ‘I have got to think about the freshness of this team now.
‘They have done a lot and worked so hard. I’m going to deliberate on it right up until kick-off.’
City manager Gary Johnson, who signed a new five-year contract with the club last week, is someone Sturrock holds in high regard.
‘Gary is a nice lad and he has done a fantastic job everywhere he has been in the past,’ said Sturrock.
‘He’s an experienced man. I don’t know if he’s older than me. I hope he is! (Sturrock is 51 and Johnson was 53 on Sunday). I have got a lot of time for him and we have good banter on the phone periodically.’
Bristol City manager Gary Johnson sees it as an opportunity to do to the Pilgrims what Wolves and their supporters did to City as the leaders won 2-0 at Molineux. Johnson said: ‘This is our chance to create a bit of forward momentum and seize the initiative, just as Wolves did against us. They came out very fast, threw everything at us in the opening 20 minutes and pegged us back as we thought they would. You come to expect that when you go to these big clubs in the Championship and it’s something you have to deal with. Now we need to do the same thing in front of our supporters at Ashton Gate. We have to look to put Plymouth under pressure right from the very start. It’s good that we have another game so soon afterwards. It gives us an opportunity to put things right and put what happened at Wolves behind us.’
Johnson will check on the fitness of the players in training this morning after a few of them suffered knocks at Wolves. He will also have to decide whether to retain Chris Weale in goal or recall the fit-again Adriano Basso. Weale made an error for the first goal at Wolves and Johnson said: ‘I have to judge whether that has affected his confidence before deciding who I play in goal.’
Bristol City Team News:
Gary Johnson is waiting on several players who suffered knocks in the defeat at Wolves on Saturday. He will leave it until after this mornings training session before making a final decision. A misjudgement cost City a goal from a free kick on Saturday and an assessment of Chris Weales confidence will be made before deciding whether to start with the fit again Adriano Basso.
Player to watch: Nicky Maynard
With Plymouth having injury problems at the back and Adebola being perceived by them as City’s biggest threat it may well be a chance for the nippy striker to shine.
Plymouth Argyle Team News:
Krisztian Timar may be called to deputise for Craig Cathcart at centre back. Cathcart received a dead leg in the win against Nottingham Forest and is a doubt.
Player to watch: Krisztian Timar
Whether deputising at the back or in his usual midfield role Timar is an imposing figure.