I’ll have to apologise in advance to those who despise cricket, but Plymouth Argyle’s fortunes across the last few months have reminded me of the England test side in last year’s Ashes. England certainly didn’t play badly, and seemed to be in the ascendancy at some point in four of the five matches. But their inability to win the key moments meant they could only draw the series, which wasn’t enough to regain the famous urn.
Argyle’s struggles in putting the ball into the net on occasions this season have been akin to the poor shots, dropped catches and near misses of the cricketing summer. There’s certainly been a feeling around Home Park that, if Argyle had won more of the big moments over the campaign, they’d find themselves much higher up the League Two table. On Saturday, however, they did just that, as a combination of good Argyle play and Scunthorpe mistakes led to a 3-1 win for the Greens.
A team approach to chance creation
Across the last few weeks, chance creation has been far from the main issue facing Argyle. The chances themselves may not have been guilt-edged opportunities 100% of the time, but Argyle have certainly been outcreating their opponents more often than not. Whilst their points total certainly isn’t bad, it ought to be even higher. Numerous players have been guilty of missing big opportunities, but the fact that those opportunities have at least been created has been encouraging.
Chance creation was, once again, a big plus from the weekend, and that had a lot to do with a certain loanee from Peterborough. No Argyle outfield player spent more time on the ball this weekend than George Cooper, and his wand of a left foot was key to getting his teammates into some superb positions. Linking up well once more with Danny Mayor, Cooper assisted the first two goals simply by putting the ball into a good area. At this rate, Callum McFadzean would do very well to get back in the side when he recovers from his injury.
Cooper took the plaudits, and rightly so. He now has a superb seven assists in his last nine league appearances, as well as the opener against Morecambe. In truth, however, he wouldn’t have had the opportunity to work his magic without a supreme team effort behind him.
Joe Edwards did well, completing six tackles from the right wing to combat the double threat of Abobaker Eisa and Junior Brown. But it was Tyreeq Bakinson who stole the show in the midfield, completing a game-high eight tackles, all ensuring that Scunthorpe were unable to build any momentum.
With their opponents limited to creating chances from set-pieces, and Argyle creating a good number of chances of their own, it was for the most part a very good away performance. As has often been the case, Argyle just needed somebody capable of putting the ball in the net.
Jephcott makes his mark
Step forward Luke Jephcott. It’s been quite the week for the 19 year-old; anyone who foresaw him being Argyle’s hero at the start of the week would be quite the clairvoyant, and no doubt accused of some form of madness. It must be said, the fact that Ryan Lowe threw him straight into the side after recalling him from his loan at Truro was a surprise, but the youngster repaid that faith in style.
After just 12 minutes, he notched his first senior goal for the club, getting on the end of one of those sumptuous Cooper crosses to fire home first time. At the risk of sounding horribly clichéd, it was the true ‘striker’s finish’ that Argyle have been lacking in recent months. Jephcott’s second wasn’t exactly the most pleasing on the eye, as Iron goalkeeper Jake Eastwood spilled the ball into his path. But he had to be there – who knows whether any other Argyle strikers would have anticipated the ball rebounding back to them?
Byron Moore also had a good day, crisply volleying into the bottom corner following a deep cross from, you guessed it, Cooper. But there’s no doubt that this was Jephcott’s day. Plenty of strikers have been linked with Argyle in recent weeks in light of the side’s struggles in the box. But from here, Jephcott will no doubt have more opportunities to impress, starting with the long trip to Carlisle next weekend.
If he picks up from where he left off, could he be the goalscorer Argyle have been craving?
We’ve waxed lyrical about Argyle’s performance across the field at the weekend, but we must caveat that by a look at the opposition. For all of their possession, Scunthorpe were frightfully poor, and those hoping for Paul Hurst to join Argyle over the summer (including yours truly) were left with a lot to ponder.
Eastwood had a stinker of a game in the Scunthorpe goal. He’d have been a little disappointed not to have saved the first after getting a fairly significant touch to the ball before it hit the net. There were, however, a few mitigating circumstances, such as the fact that Jephcott struck the ball first time, and from fairly close range. For the second though, he really ought to have been stronger at his near post. As for the third? Well, the word ‘omnishambles’ springs to mind.
Those errors amplified Scunthorpe’s poor performance. They were dispossessed 13 times across the course of the game, and couldn’t make the most of their seven corners (Argyle had one). They, rather than Argyle, appeared to be the toothless side across the 90 minutes, and even when substitute Kevin van Veen did get them back into the game, they never began to create the chances needed to mount a comeback.
Carlisle were very poor when they came down to Home Park in October. Argyle will be hoping that history repeats itself next weekend. However, the Greens will eventually need to beat a few more teams who aren’t quite so charitable.