Carl Fletcher cautiously optimistic after Plymouth Argyle win
MANAGER Carl Fletcher is cautiously optimistic the recurrence of a calf injury suffered by Plymouth Argyle striker Rhys Griffiths is not a serious problem.
Griffiths made a goalscoring debut for the Pilgrims in their 3-2 win against Northampton Town at Home Park on Saturday.
The 32-year-old, who was working as a fireman in south Wales until signing for Argyle at the start of last month, was sent on as a substitute at the start of the second half.
He had been included in the Pilgrims’ squad for the first time after recovering from a calf injury.
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Griffiths celebrated his first appearance for Argyle by putting them 2-1 up in the 59th minute with a confident finish.
But, soon afterwards, he had to be taken off because of a recurrence of his injury.
Curtis Nelson, usually a defender, came off the bench to replace Griffiths in attack and headed home a third goal for the Pilgrims in the 74th minute.
Although Northampton grabbed a goal deep into stoppage time, Argyle secured their first League Two win of the season at the fourth attempt.
Fletcher did not rule out the chance of Griffiths playing against Torquay United in the Devon derby at Plainmoor this coming Saturday.
He told Herald Sport: “We will have to wait and see. I will have to speak to the physio (Paul Atkinson).
“There was a bit of tightness in the calf and it was a case of do we keep him on and something really bad happens or do we take him off and hope we can rest him up and have him ready for next week?”
Griffiths initially suffered his injury in the final training session of pre-season, and was forced to sit out the first five competitive matches.
He replaced midfielder Paul Wotton against Northampton as Argyle switched to a 4-4-2 system.
His strike partner, Warren Feeney, equalised in the early stages of the second half before Griffiths struck in the 59th minute.
He slotted past keeper Lee Nicholls from 12 yards after the visitors failed to clear a cross from the Pilgrims’ new loan signing Alex MacDonald.
Griffiths was the top scorer in the Welsh Premier League for the last seven seasons.
Now, at this late stage in his career, he has been given the chance to play professional football for the first time, and he marked his debut in style.
Fletcher said: “I’m delighted for him. He has given up a good lifestyle to come here.
“Then he got his injury and he was bitterly disappointed with that. He just wants to go out there and show everyone what he can do.
“He’s a good player and he scores goals – as you saw.
“Sometimes, players have the knack that the ball falls to them all the time. He seems to be one of them, which is great for us.
“It also helps he’s 6ft 2in and takes no prisoners.”
Griffiths was involved in the build-up to his goal, sweeping the ball out wide to MacDonald after a lay-off from Feeney.
Fletcher was not surprised to see Griffiths take the scoring chance with such confidence.
“It’s a sign of someone who has been scoring regularly over the years,” said the Pilgrims boss. “It doesn’t matter what division it is.
“He showed the desire to get in the box once he had made the pass. For your hard work, you get that little chance and he put it away lovely.”
Nelson was a surprise choice to partner Feeney in attack for Argyle after Griffiths was substituted in the 67th minute.
Fletcher could have opted for wingers Johnny Gorman, Andres Gurrieri or Joe Lennox, and moved MacDonald into the centre with Feeney.
But he was concerned about the threat posed by Northampton at set pieces because of their height and strength.
So Nelson was thrown into the fray, and his goal meant it was a tactical masterstroke.
Fletcher said: “We know Northampton are a big, physical side and are very good at their set pieces, and have got a huge long throw (from Plymouth-born Ben Tozer).
“When we had to take Griff off, we could have pushed Macca up front with Feeno and brought any one of Johnny, Andres or Joe on.
“But it would have left us short defensively. For all the hard work that Johnny, Andres or Joe would have given us, they are not going to mark big (David) Artell at a set piece.
“I think it was what we needed to do at the time,” he added.
In addition to Griffiths, Argyle also lost the services of Paris Cowan-Hall in the first half because of a hamstring injury.
He was replaced in the 34th minute by MacDonald, who was starting a second loan spell with the Pilgrims from Burnley.
Cowan-Hall had impressed for Argyle in their Capital One Cup second round tie away to Burnley last Tuesday with a hard-working display.
Fletcher thought that could have led to his injury against Northampton.
“He felt his hamstring a little bit,” said Fletcher. “He did so much running on Tuesday night it might have been an aftermath of that. We will see how it is.”
Fletcher also revealed striker Nick Chadwick had not been included in the squad because of a calf injury.