Is the premiership dream slipping away?

Things couldn’t get much worse for the Pilgrims after their second defeat in three days to championship strugglers. After Saturday’s disappointment at Home Park against 17th placed Sheffield United, the Pilgrims were beaten by yet another single goal at Glanford Park. Not only did Plymouth get beaten by a team sixteen places below them but they had keeper Luke McCormick red carded for deliberate hand ball and don’t have a backup keeper for their visit to Bristol City on Saturday. Paul Sturrock’s only option for a keeper will be uncapped 17 year old apprentice keeper Lloyd Saxton and is unlikely to risk him at Ashton Gate. So Sturrock is searching for an emergency stand in for Saturday’s vital fixture. To add to Argyle’s woes Krisztian Timar will not be available for selection due to suspension, so things are looking bleak. Although Plymouth are still only one point off a play-off place, Hull have moved ahead of us and have two games in hand over the Sturrock’s men. So if Argyle’s play-off hopes are to remain intact, beating Bristol and Watford is essential. To be honest I am more positive about beating teams higher than us as the Pilgrims seem to thrive on the big match atmosphere but with McCormick and Timar both out suspended and no capped backup keeper a win is looking unlikely, but maybe the boys will give us fans something to cheer at Ashton Gate. Plymouth really can’t afford to drop points with only eight games left this season if we hope to be challenging for promotion. Maybe it was just too much to ask with all the changes this season, if we finish 7th it will be an achievement but it will still be bitterly disappointing for the Green Army coming some damn close!

On a more positive note, Liverpool made it through to the quarter finals of the champions league joining Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal beating Inter Milan 0 – 1 on the night. After a hotly contested first half Inter had Nicolas Burdisso sent off just after the half time break for a second bookable offence which allowed Liverpool to push forward with the man over. Fernando Torres was again the man to find the back of the net for the Reds with a fine volley on the turn from the edge of the penalty area. Torres’ goal sealed Milan’s fate as the home side needed to score four goals in 25 minutes without conceding again because of the away goals rule. So it was a comfortable 0 – 1 win for Liverpool at the San Siro and 3 – 0 aggregate score over the two legs. The draw for the quarter finals is going to be interesting as it’s likely that Liverpool will draw one of the other English teams in the last eight.

This weekend sees the opening round of the new Formula One season in Melbourne which I am quite excited about. Hopefully McLaren will be able to give Lewis Hamilton another strong car to challenge for his first world drivers title. Some people seem to think that McLaren won’t be as competitive this season because of spygate limiting their development potential. Ferrari have been quick in testing as have BMW, McLaren were slightly off the pace in testing but say they have made huge gains on Ferrari since early winter testing. Renault and Williams will probably be fighting it out as best of the rest behind BMW, McLaren and Ferrari, sadly I don’t think Ross Brawn’s inclusion in this years team will help Honda, at least not in the first half of the season. Red Bull Racing is a bit of an unknown quantity, can Adrian Newey really work his magic in a team that doesn’t have the same financial clout of McLaren, one to watch I would say. So in conclusion I don’t think there will be much change in the relative performance of teams but one interesting factor could be driver errors without traction control, some of the younger drivers have never raced without traction control so may get caught out especially in damp or wet conditions.

Williams’ Patrick Head has come up with a simple solution to the FIA’s wish to make F1 more exciting for Joe Public. That suggestion is that qualifying should be abandoned and the grid should be made up from the current world drivers standings. But with a twist; the grid would be reversed, so the championship leader would start from the back and the lowest placed driver at the front. It would certainly shake things up and make it more exciting. How many times has a McLaren/Ferrari had to start from the back and fight their way through, it’s great to see instead of the fastest cars scampering off into the distance and lapping most of the grid. I think it’s a wonderful idea but in reality it’s never going to happen as the top teams will veto the proposal. Some have said that Williams co-owner Head has only suggested the idea as that would be the only way his team would be near the front this season, but I doubt veterans such as Frank and Patrick want to win races in such a manner!

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