Plymouth Argyle failed to seize their opportunity to move into the top three – or even top with a 5-0 win – as they were held by an excellent performance by Macclesfield. Town will be gutted to have only taken one point from the game, given they wasted two one-on-ones and had a couple of strong efforts repelled by Alex Palmer within the first fifteen minutes.

That period of pressure passed and Argyle were on-top for virtually the remainder of the half, only for Bakinson – on as a sub for the injured Grant – to miscontrol in midfield and launch a Macclesfield counter from which they converted their third one-on-one. It should be noted that Bakinson fell victim to a very heavy pitch that was cut up all over the place, but still.

Argyle gained the upper hand but rarely looked threatening in the box, until a cross fell for Hardie in the middle of a scramble and he was eventually tripped, with Sarcevic scoring the rebound of his own penalty.

Alex Palmer, GK – 8, player of the match

No doubt about who was the best player for Argyle tonight – Macclesfield would have been out of sight had it not been for Palmer’s first-half efforts. Within fifteen minutes he had already kept the score at 0-0 twice, the second showing he was more alert than any of his teammates when responding to a cross going back into the box after a set-piece was initially cleared.

Palmer was very close to saving the third such chance just past the half-hour, only for the ball to squirm in following a swift counter. His steady hands were key to Argyle taking a point and avoiding a dent to our goal difference, which could be equally as important given how tight the current top-four is.

Scott Wootton, CB – 5

Scott Wootton, Niall Canavan and Gary Sawyer against a quick, direct attack – need I say more? Playing the same style as Salford did in the second half last week, they ran clear of their slower, less mobile markers time and time again, with all three largely powerless to stop it. The only respite came when Macclesfield backed off to protect their goal, allowing Argyle lengthy periods of often sterile possession.

Niall Canavan, CB – 4

See above. The only extra mark down for Canavan was that he could have done a bit better to prevent the first one-on-one – he applied pressure but not enough to put the striker off from finding the bottom corner, save for Palmer – and almost certainly looked to fall asleep for the second, allowing a routine header back into the box to send Nathan Cameron clean through.

Gary Sawyer, CB – 5

Yep, same again. Fast striker, slow centre-back. Sawyer’s main savior was that Town targeted Argyle’s right more than the left, so he looked less culpable than the others.

In a nightmarish flashback to earlier in the season, he resumed set-piece duties for the 94th minute free-kick that offered Argyle the chance to win the game – his first set-piece since Port Vale? – but didn’t it was headed away by the second man, not falling within five yards of a green shirt. The ball returned to him, but rather than attempting to force in the cross he played it backwards, with the ball eventually ending up all the way back at Palmer’s feet, and the full-time whistle was blown. This shouldn’t define his night at all, but come on…

Josh Grant, DM – 6

Substituted injured for Bakinson with half-an-hour played. Decent opening but nothing special, offering nothing in particular to protect the defence from the speed of Macclesfield’s attack, but then there wasn’t much he could do. Misplaced a pass or two as yet another victim of the rutted pitch.

Joe Edwards, RWB – 6

Edwards toiled as usual on the right, and we saw again some good play out down the right – a more direct style than Mayor and his wing-back partner often prefer, but recently an effective one – but he and Sarcevic were largely quiet in a creative sense. No crosses attempted, only the one shot (a left-foot half-volley that went wide). Withdrawn to move Moore out wide and add Hardie to the fire-power up front.

Antoni Sarcevic, CM – 5

Five might seem like a low rating for the player in fine-form and the one who scored the all-important equaliser, but in truth today was not a good game for him. The worst midfielder in possession by some distance, lost possession with two of every five touches – worst in the team – created nothing, wasted Argyle’s best opening of the second half with a dreadful cross that sailed over the crossbar, and missed a penalty. Lucky for him, the rebound fell right where he needed it too.

I’ve got to be honest, I’m not a fan of his penalty technique – using your laces leads to less control over the placement of the shot – and he’s now missed two of seven. Maybe this is just a personal preference thing, but I’m just not that confident when he steps up to take them.

Danny Mayor, CM – 6

Close to a seven for Mayor, who faded a bit and couldn’t quite find the final pass. Adapted quite well to the pitch, or at least better than most, and benefited by often taking up a position to receive the ball in the corners, where the turf was more even. Got in-behind once and was set to square it, only for it to bobble up to shin-height and bounce away from him at the crucial moment.

Very, very close to getting the opening goal too. His finish was perfect, if a little scuffed, into the bottom corner, only for the linesman’s flag to go up; the ball had fractionally rolled out of play before Jephcott could cut it back from the by-line.

George Cooper, LWB – 6

First things first, Cooper’s defending has come so far this season. It’s still far from perfect, but his positioning, awareness of the players around him, anticipation, and the timing of his interventions have all improved. A big hat-tip to him on that front, because it was a glaring weakness that McFadzean mostly did not have.

His movement off the ball isn’t quite what McFadzean’s is – you can see Mayor getting in position to attack the full-back, but Cooper isn’t fully on the same wavelength – but his crossing is outstanding. Once again, he could well have had at least one assist. Sarcevic only just failed to connect with a perfect right-footed cross, and there were others into dangerous areas that nobody anticipated.

Byron Moore, ST – 5

Struggled in the game, as did all the strikers. For the most part, they were either struggling to win their aerial duels as Argyle were fully penned in during the opening twenty minutes, struggling to control balls that were bobbling towards them while harassed by Macclesfield’s defenders, or surrounded and isolated when they had the ball in advanced positions.

Moore was okay when he moved out to the wing, but offered no more than Edwards. Crossing was poor when he found himself in position.

Luke Jephcott, ST – 5

Struggled, like the others, due to the pitch, the pressure, and Macclesfield’s spot-on tactics. Did a decent job of linking up play but nothing special as he toiled again without receiving any chances – his only shot came from outside the box.

Substitutes

Tyreeq Bakinson, CM – 4

Misplaced more passes than he should have, even though he had a high pass-completion rate. He kept possession ticking over, but for the most part that was Macclesfield’s plan as they sat very deep to defend their lead – consequently, he had acres of space to orchestrate things. There were some nice forward passes that cut through a line of pressure, it should be noted – I fear some are about to overreact to Bakinson’s display like they did when he showed early promise.

Bakinson’s sin, however, was that he was the one to give the ball away for the goal. With Argyle not fully reset following an attacking set-piece, he had the ball under control only to misjudge the pace (or lack thereof) of the pitch and allowed himself to be robbed. From there, Macclesfield sprung the counter, running 3-v-2 and scoring. With Argyle having rode the wave of pressure at the start and begun to take control of the game, it was a sucker punch that possibly cost the team all three points.

Ryan Hardie, ST – 6

The super-striker super-sub failed to score off the bench once more, but he did win the penalty that gained his team a point. Demonstrated maturity to not snatch at the shot when there were enough legs in the way to block it, and saw a reward as a slight trip brought him down.

Dominic Telford, ST – n/a

Came on late as Ryan Lowe shook things up to chase an equaliser. It was a bit of an unorthodox position that Telford took-up, looking most commonly like an attacking midfielder in the hole. It didn’t really work – unsurprising, given he’s a striker, on his first appearance back from his latest injury and playing on a pitch that was torn to pieces through the middle.

Still, great to see him fit once more. He could lay a claim to being the most naturally talented of all the strikers Argyle have available, if only he could keep himself fit! Restricted to only nine starts this season, with injury striking every time he gets into full-flow (Walsall, Cheltenham, Swindon), each time around the half-hour mark. Hopefully, he’s finally past it now.

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