Paul Sturrock expects a tough time on return to Plymouth Argyle
PAUL STURROCK has warned his in-form Southend United they will have to play at the top of their game to get anything at Plymouth Argyle on Saturday.
The legendary former Argyle manager brings the Shrimpers to Home Park on the proverbial crest of a wave, having won five out of six September matches to close within three points of second place in League Two.
Their only loss this month came away to table-topping Gillingham and the Scot believes that Southend should not have left Priestfield Stadium empty handed, such has been their improvement since an injury-affected August.
Sturrock is aware the Pilgrims, too, under the stewardship of his former players manager Carl Fletcher and assistant Romain Larrieu, are a hard team to beat.
Sturrock has watched film of Argyle's 3-2 victories against Northampton at home and last Saturday away at Morecambe and was impressed by their doggedness in earning a goalless draw at Torquay United.
He will also remember that last season Southend let slip a two-goal lead against Argyle, who were battling to beat the drop into non-league.
Alex MacDonald marked his debut for the Pilgrims on Saturday, February 4 by scoring a late winner to earn Argyle an unlikely 2-2 draw against Southend who were one of the front-runners to win promotion to League One.
Sturrock admits Argyle and their fortunes are 'dear to my heart' but said those emotional ties will have to be suspended come 3pm on Saturday when his present and former teams clash at Home Park.
"It's going to be a hard game – we'll be a difficult nut to crack – but we'll have to be at our best to win on Saturday," Sturrock, who has two stints as manager of Plymouth on his CV, told Herald Sport.
"We've started to gel as a team now after tricky spell at the start of this season when we had so many injuries.
"Also, I've only four players in this year's line-up from last season so that's been a factor in us getting results.
"But I feel now we're beginning to turn the corner and getting some pleasing wins.
"So, Argyle, like us, will have to play very well to get anything on Saturday, but I'm sure Carl and Romain will have done their homework on us like I have done on them.
"And I know from experience that travelling down to Plymouth and getting something while there is always a tough hurdle for teams to get over.
"Last year we were 2-0 up and if not coasting, then comfortably ahead, but Argyle stuck at it and in the end got a deserved draw.
"That point helped them (Argyle) stay up but at the same time it was two points shed unnecessarily for us.
"We've got ourselves up to within striking distance of second place and I think deservedly so.
"And although it's a long, long season, I don't want a repeat of last year's result, so like I said we'll have to be at the top of our form.
"Just like I'm sure Carl and Romain will be urging their players to be."
Sturrock has been impressed by the determination, plus the mixture of loan players, youth and experience that Fletcher and Larrieu have in the Argyle squad.
He said: "I brought Carl to the club knowing his qualities as a player, but it's been tricky for him as he's having to learn to be a manager on the hoof. Similarly with Romain, you've got to respect the way they have put together a competitive side.
"Argyle look like a side who don't get rolled over and obviously that's a good quality to have. They will have the fans on their side against us, which is how I used to like it when I managed Argyle.
"The club (Argyle) is part of me. I want them to do well, but I hope the Green Army will forgive me if I take time out from that between 3pm and 5pm come Saturday."
FORMER Argyle goalkeeper and assistant boss Kevin Blackwell is the new manager of League One club Bury.