Carl Fletcher is impressed by Port Vale's early season form
ARGYLE manager Carl Fletcher has not been surprised by the excellent start Port Vale have made to their League Two campaign.
The Valiants were widely tipped to struggle this term but, instead, are among the early pacesetters as they prepare to take on the Pilgrims at Home Park tomorrow.
Their experienced manager, Micky Adams, has led them to third position in the table after six games, with 10 points out of a possible 18.
That is despite the fact Vale have been in administration since March and their top scorer in 2011/12, striker and captain Marc Richards, moved to Chesterfield in the summer.
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The void created by the departure of Richards has been admirably filled by Tom Pope, who has netted six times this season.
Four of those goals came in a 6-2 rout of title favourites Rotherham United at Vale Park last Saturday.
Port Vale are the top scorers in League Two with 13, followed by Exeter City on 12 and both Rotherham and York City on 11.
Fletcher told Herald Sport: "I'm not surprised at all where Port Vale are in the table. I thought they were a very good side last season and that hasn't changed this year.
"They have got some good players and the way Micky Adams has got them set up is working really well for them."
Fletcher has good cause to have a high regard for the Staffordshire club.
Port Vale completed the double over Argyle last term, winning 2-0 at Home Park last September before beating the Pilgrims 1-0 in the return match in January – courtesy of a late goal from Pope.
The Valiants are unbeaten in their last four matches, with their three wins in that period including a 2-0 home defeat of League One outfit Tranmere Rovers in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy first round last week.
So they will be in high spirits when they arrive at Home Park tomorrow.
Fletcher said: "We will have to be well prepared for the game and give the players the best opportunity to go out there and do well, in terms of working on their strengths and weaknesses and working on ours as well."
The Pilgrims boss insisted there was more to Vale than the goal threat of the in-form Pope.
He said: "They have got some good players at this level and we have got to be wary of all their threats and dangers.
"But we have also got to work on what we want to do and how we want to approach the game."
Argyle's squad against Port Vale will be boosted by the return of versatile left-sided player Onismor Bhasera.
He was away on international duty with Zimbabwe last weekend, so was an absentee from the 0-0 draw at Torquay United last Saturday.
Instead, Bhasera played at left-back for the Warriors in a 3-1 win at home to Angola in the first leg of their final qualifying round tie for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.
Goalkeeper Rene Gilmartin (knee) and midfielder Jamie Lowry (ankle ligaments) are still on the long-term injury list.
But Fletcher is keeping under the wraps the fitness, or otherwise, of a trio of strikers – Nick Chadwick and Rhys Griffiths (both calf) and Paris Cowan-Hall (hamstring).
All three of those players were ruled out of the trip to Torquay.
Striker Guy Madjo made his debut for Argyle as a second half substitute in that game, after signing on a one-month loan from League Two rivals Aldershot Town the previous night.
Fletcher said: "Guy has played games and scored goals at this level. He knows what to expect so he's a great asset for us to have at this time when we have got a few injuries.
"He's a good option to have come selecting the side."