Friday 23 March 2018

Plymouth boss Derek Adams plays down underdogs tag

Plymouth manager Derek Adams
Plymouth manager Derek Adams

Plymouth boss Derek Adams insists his side are not underdogs heading into the League Two play-off semi-finals against Portsmouth.

Pompey were pre-season title favourites but finished a massive 21 points behind champions Northampton and had to settle for a play in the play-offs, where the bookmakers have again made them favourites to go up.

However, Plymouth, fifth at the end of the campaign, finished one place and three points in front of the club who just six years ago were still in the Premier League and preparing for an FA Cup final.

Ahead of the first-leg tie at Fratton Park, Argyle manager Adams told the club's official website: "We're not the underdogs - that's only by the bookmakers. If you look over the season, we've won more games than we did last year and we've collected 81 points, so we'll see.

"Leicester City weren't the favourites at the start of the season either. If people want to do that, that's fair play to them, but from my point of view, we'll go there and try to win over two legs.

"We've seen each other twice this season, we know each other's strengths and weaknesses, and we'll try and take advantage of their weaknesses on Thursday night.

"I'm not going to go into [detail about] Portsmouth. What I want to look at is how we can deal with their strengths and weaknesses. We'll try and take the game to Portsmouth and try and win the match. We want to be attack-minded and forceful, we don't want to be defensive, and I think that's important as well.

"Obviously we would like to come back here with that advantage, and we're going to try and do that."

Plymouth supporters, understandably, are dreaming of a first trip to Wembley for 20 years - when Argyle clinched promotion from the old Division Three with a 1-0 victory against Darlington - b ut Adams is not getting carried away and remains focused on the task at hand.

He said: "We've got two games to win first. We have to try and get over this hurdle and try and get into the final first."

Meanwhile, Portsmouth assistant manager Leam Richardson believes Conor Wilkinson could emerge as Pompey's play-off hero.

The Republic of Ireland Under-21 international striker, on loan from Bolton, was signed with the play-offs in mind in the knowledge that on-loan Swindon man Michael Smith had to go back to his parent club.

Wilkinson, fit again after injury, made his Pompey debut against Northampton on the final day of the regular season and Richardson hopes he will now be ready for Thursday night.

"Going into the play-offs, Conor's going to be a big, big player for us," he told The News. "He's got all the tools to be a top player.

"He's back in business and has picked up some minutes. Conor would have worked out the dimensions of the pitch on Saturday and got a few relationships going. It may only have been 20 minutes but he's got on the pitch and got involved. It's another ticked box for us."

Press Association

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