Ryan Lowe has declared Plymouth Argyle’s pre-season a success, despite all the challenges posed by dealing with COVID-19 safety protocols.
The Pilgrims’ boss admitted it had been a ‘very different’ time as he prepared his side for the start of the 2020/21 League One campaign.
They played five warm-up matches, all of them behind closed doors, and with three of them at Home Park – against Plymouth Parkway, Middlesbrough and Forest Greeen Rovers.
Argyle also took on Midlesbrough in a 3 x 30-minute match at Harper’s Park, and fitted in a game against a Rangers XI during their Scottish training camp.
With the pre-season games and all the training behind them, the focus is now on the first competitive fixture of the season, which will see them play Queens Park Rangers in the Carabao Cup first round at Home Park on Saturday (12.30pm).
The Pilgrims will also host Norwich City Under-21s in their first group game in the EFL Trophy next Tuesday, before the League One opener against Blackpool at Home Park on September 12.
Argyle have reached this point without any significant injuries and all of the players getting plenty of minutes in matches.
Lowe said: “I’m very pleased (with pre-season) considering it has been very different – what we have had to do and how we have done it.
“It was nice to get away up to Scotland, and having a four or five-day break up there, and putting some minutes into the lads.
“It has been tough, I’m not going to lie, with all the circumstances and the protocols that come with it.
“We have to be governed by the rules and regulations from the Government and the EFL. I think we have stuck to them brilliantly.
“It has been tough but, you know what, in football everything is tough. Circumstances change day in day out and we have dealt with them quite well.”
Lowe will be without suspended defender Gary Sawyer and striker Luke Jephcott, who is away on Wales under-21 international duty, for the cup tie against Mark Warburton’s QPR.
In the absence of Sawyer, on-loan Newcastle United defender Kell Watts is likely to make his Argyle debut.
Lowe said: “We are going to be missing Gaz, and Jephs is going to be away, so it’s not rocket science to see what we will do that side of it.
“In terms of the first league game (against Blackpool at Home Park on September 12), we have still got two weeks before that.
“I’m not taking the Carabao Cup lightly at all but it’s an extra game for us to put into the lads.
“Then, there is obviously the Tuesday game against Norwich. We are all geared up for League One football but, saying that, we will put the strongest and best team out against QPR as we possibly can.
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“In my head, I feel I know what I want and how I want it, but something else always pops up and someone else gives you a headache.
“So I’m not ruling anything out, but I will make sure I make the right decision when it comes to it.”