A dreadful couple of minutes in the Kent sunshine turned a potentially resolute rear-guard performance into a bitterly disappointing – and maybe disastrous – defeat for Plymouth Argyle as they succumbed to Gillingham.
Kyle Letheren – 6
Letheren had some bright moments – he made a couple of strong charges off his line to clean up some Gillingham’s attacks. However, his distribution was below average, though that appears to be about average for Argyle’s goalkeepers this season…
He could have done more to prevent the equaliser by attacking the cross to get it away, but could not be expected to do any more with any of Gillingham’s finishes. Rushed his clearance on his weaker foot late in the game which put Canavan under pressure and led to their break-away third to kill the game.
Ashley Smith-Brown – 5
Smith-Brown put in a good defensive performance in the first half, but was caught out twice in the second half for both of Gillingham’s first two goals before he was pulled from the pitch by Adams. First, he allowed Charles-Cook to get ahead of him to chest the ball into the back of the net – not that it would have been an easy situation to deal with even if he was correctly positioned, such was the quality of the cross. Then, he lost track of Byrne from a corner, who powered home the header.
Ryan Edwards – 8 (Man of the Match)
It seems odd to award man of the match to a defender in a side that conceded three goals, but it would be unfair to apportion collective responsibility and reduce Edwards’ rating for three goals he had little to do with. Otherwise, he stood up to the challenge and dealt particularly well with the threat of Eaves in the first half.
His worst moment came when he blazed over the bar from six yards with Argyle’s best chance of the second-half after an excellent piece of composure to cut inside Max Ehmer and into space. Minutes later – Gillingham led. What a pivotal moment that could be this season. However, Edwards put in an otherwise strong individual performance, and cannot be blamed for any of the goals. Best individual in green and white on the day.
Lloyd Jones – 7
Jones did a decent job on his debut. He was composed in possession and made a few good tackles. When moved to an unorthodox right-back position, he even did a decent job, though he failed to cut back a presentable opportunity, finding none of his teammates.
His biggest problem came when dealing with the movement of GIllingham’s strikers. On a number of occasions he was dragged out of position into the left-flank. In the first half, this forced Edwards to cover him on a couple of occasions and left Eaves against Smith-Brown at the back post. In the second, it happened less but did occur during Gillingham’s equaliser. Had he been in position, he would have likely intercepted the cross and prevented the goal.
Gary Sawyer – 5
Not a particularly bad performance by Sawyer, but he was beaten on a couple of occasions and failed to direct Jones around the pitch in the way a proper captain should. Had he been more commanding, perhaps Jones wouldn’t have been drawn out of position as he was. Sawyer also offered little going forward, despite the space available on the flanks.
David Fox – 6
Not for the first time in recent weeks, Fox found his influence marginalised as a result of being man-marked throughout the game. One of the major drawbacks of so many sides opting to field diamond formations (Gillingham, Luton, Charlton, Bristol Rovers) is that he has received much more attention by the opposition this season. On similar occasions last season, Argyle had an out-ball in Ryan Taylor, but not so much this time around.
Yet, while Fox was limited in possession, he was part of a strong midfield effort, alongside Sarcevic, Ness and Carey, to deny Gillingham’s diamond territory and the space to create chances. That earns him a six overall.
Antoni Sarcevic – 6
Like his fellow midfielders, Sarcevic did a good job of denying Gillingham’s diamond throughout. While they kept the door closed – through the central avenues anyway – they were ineffective going forwards. Like Fox – and Ness – this was mostly because he was directly man-marked, though Sarcevic’s limited passing repetoire certainly didn’t help. A couple of bursts forward helped him break Gillingham’s midfield line, but his teammates failed to take advantage of these moments.
Jamie Ness – 5
For Ness, read Fox and Sarcevic. Good defensively – as part of a unit – but lacking going forward, largely due to man-marking. The difference between Ness and the others was that he gave the ball away far more often, and sometimes under far less pressure. His passing was certainly off. Not out of the question that he wasn’t fully match-fit, which raises questions about his position in the team on Monday.
Ruben Lameiras – 4
Lameiras was Argyle’s worst player on the day as he failed to make any form of impact for the vast majority of the game. The Portuguese was starved of service due to Ladapo’s poor play as the target-man and the inability of the midfield to exert much control of possesion, When he did receive the ball, he was not as sharp as usual. Currently Argyle’s player of the season – per our Argyle Life player rankings – he’ll need to be back to his best for the final games of the season.
Graham Carey – 5
Carey struggled like Lameiras, but his outstanding tackle on Mark Byrne in the first half set Ladapo away to open the scoring. To be honest, that one moment was the difference between himself and Lameiras. Otherwise, he lacked service and was poor in possession.
Freddie Ladapo – 5
Ladapo finished brilliantly to give Argyle the lead, but my word he had a very poor game (I heard many others around me use far worse adjectives than that). With Argyle’s midfield trio man-marked, the onus was on Ladapo to act as a focal point, yet he was continually dispossessed throughout the match. Unfortunately, this was just the latest in a long list of poor away performances by Ladapo. Minus his goal, he would have been lucky to score higher than three. Yes, he scored, but otherwise he was a major hindrance on the team. There’s a reason why Argyle struggle so much to create chances on the road; he’s a bigger part of it than some would care to admit.