Plymouth Argyle are on the way back, says former chief Sturrock
SOUTHEND boss Paul Sturrock believes Argyle are a better side now than they were last season.
The Pilgrims narrowly escaped relegation in 2011/12, but their former manager expects them to finish much higher up League Two this time around.
Argyle remained in 16th position after their 1-1 draw with Southend at Home Park on Saturday.
But they have won two and drawn three of their last six league games, and their performances are improving.
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Sturrock said: "Argyle have some better quality in their side now.
"They look as though they have got some strength and they are prepared to pass the ball. I think they should do okay."
Sturrock admitted the firm Home Park pitch had caused problems for his players on Saturday.
In recent weeks, Argyle manager Carl Fletcher has suggested the hardness of the playing surface has been a reason behind the club's lengthy injury list.
Sturrock said: "There's something wrong with the pitch. The ball bounces about six inches higher than you expect.
"Our boys found it really awkward to play on it. I think Argyle are starting to come around to it. They have learned to cope with it.
"The ball seems to be skipping high all the time so when you are clearing it, it's more difficult."
Southend had won four of their previous five league games but Sturrock was 'very disappointed' with their first half performance at Home Park.
However, the interval was reached without either side getting on the scoresheet.
"We looked lacklustre and a bit sloppy," said Sturrock. "Even though we had a couple of decent chances we maybe could have done better with, I thought they (Argyle) shaded the first half."
The Pilgrims took a deserved lead in the 50th minute with a goal from Alex MacDonald.
But on-loan Watford Britt Assombalonga equalised five minutes later with his sixth goal in nine games for the Blues.
Sturrock said: "We came out and were sloppy again for the first 10 minutes of the second half.
"But then we started to ground things down and got the goal. I did believe we were going to go on and win that game."
Southend's chances of doing that, however, were hampered by the 82nd minute dismissal of substitute Barry Corr after he clashed with Argyle captain Darren Purse.
Referee Steve Rushton had no hesitation in brandishing a red card after Corr appeared to lash out at Purse.
Sturrock, who did not see the incident clearly, said: "There were definitely hands flailing.
"We will have a look, but I don't think the DVD will show it. The ball moved away and I think the camera will move as well.
"He (Corr) is adamant it was handbags at dawn. We will wait and see."
Assombalonga, 19, has been a revelation for Southend since arriving on loan from Watford in the middle of August.
Sturrock said: "He took his goal very well. He's a decent player.
"We have been very lucky to get him here. He wants to learn, he asks questions, and he's strong and honest."
MacDonald had fired Argyle into the lead after the ball was cut back to him by on-loan Aldershot Town striker Guy Madjo.
Sturrock said: "It was a stupid goal to lose. A couple of people didn't do their jobs properly, but we didn't look right to the standards we have been achieving."