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Fletcher full of praise for talented squad put together by Fleetwood

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 17, 2012

Plymouth Argyle will face former midfielder Damien Johnson when they tackle Fleetwood Town  Phil Mingo/Pinnacle

Plymouth Argyle will face former midfielder Damien Johnson when they tackle Fleetwood Town Phil Mingo/Pinnacle

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Plymouth Argyle will come up against one of the most experienced and talented squads in npower League Two today when they take on Fleetwood Town at Highbury Stadium.

Fifth-placed Fleetwood are new to the Football League this season but promotion is very much on the agenda at the Lancashire club. They made some eye-catching signings in the summer, after winning the Blue Square Bet Premier title in 2011-12.

Former Argyle midfielder Damien Johnson, burly forward Jon Parkin and ex-Preston North End pair Youl Mawene and Barry Nicholson were all added to the squad by manager Micky Mellon.

Then, only two weeks ago, Fleetwood snapped up former Rangers and Scotland midfielder Barry Ferguson on loan from Blackpool until January.

The capture of 34-year-old Ferguson, who was capped 45 times by his country, demonstrated the ambition at Fleetwood's Highbury Stadium. Argyle manager Carl Fletcher admitted: "They've got some really good talented players to choose from."

As recently as the 2007-08 season, four divisions separated Argyle and Fleetwood in the football pyramid. Now, Fleetwood are 14 positions and ten points above the Pilgrims in the League Two table.

Johnson, 33, has missed the last five matches for Town because of hamstring trouble but could be involved against Argyle. The former Northern Ireland international had been an ever-present in League Two this season prior to his injury.

Johnson was signed by Argyle from Birmingham City on a lucrative contract at the end of the January transfer window in 2010. He went on to make 20 starts for the Pilgrims that season, many of them alongside Fletcher in midfield, but the club were relegated from the Championship.

Johnson's wages were too expensive for Argyle after they dropped into League One, and he spent the next two seasons on loan to Huddersfield Town.

He was part of the Terriers' team when they beat Sheffield United in the League One play-off final at Wembley in May.

Johnson's contract with Argyle ended in the summer and he had the chance of a full-time move to Huddersfield but, instead, took the chance to sign for Fleetwood.

Fletcher said: "I got on really well with Jonno. We used to chat and talk about stuff, which was great, and I have spoken to him since he left the club on a few occasions.

"He's a real nice, down-to-earth fellow. He has been injured and I'm not sure if he will be back. I will try to call him, but I'm not sure he will give too much away! It will be nice to see him and have a catch up, anyway.

"He's a family man and keeps himself to himself. He has got good morals and he's a great professional for young lads to learn from and see how he carries himself on and off the pitch."

Argyle's players and management will be staying in the north of England after their fixture at Fleetwood today.

Following their encounter with the Lancashire side, the Pilgrims will turn their attention to their npower League Two away game against Bradford City next Tuesday.

The back-to-back matches will be a formidable test for Argyle as Fleetwood and Bradford are both promotion contenders.

Instead of making two separate 650-mile round trips to Fleetwood and Bradford, the Pilgrims will be based in the north of England in the coming days. They will train in West Yorkshire on Monday morning, at Blue Square Bet North club Guiseley, to prepare for their game against Bradford at Valley Parade.

Plymouth Argyle (from): Gilmartin, Cole; Berry, Blanchard, Purse, Nelson, Richards, Bhasera, S Griffiths, Lowry, Hourihane, Lennox, Young, Gurrieri, Feeney, Madjo, MacDonald, Chadwick, R Griffiths, Cowan-Hall, Lecointe, Sims, Copp, Harvey.

Unavailable: Wotton (back), Williams (stomach muscle).

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