Argyle traveled to South Wales to face Newport County at Rodney Parade. It was ultimately a difficult game for the Pilgrims and resulted in Argyle’s first defeat of the season. Following a rather one-sided first-half display from the team in green with the Welsh side sat very deep defending in their own half. Newport gained a foothold in the second 45, and eventually scored from a header in the 81st minute. The defeat saw Argyle slide down the table from 1st to 5th.
Alex Palmer, GK – 7
Alex Palmer is still showing positive signs. After a relatively untroubled first-half, he made a good save to prevent Newport scoring from a corner and cleared a long throw shortly before Newport took the lead. Howkins’ header, the first league goal conceded by Palmer in an Argyle shirt, would have been tough for any goalkeeper to stop.
Along with his consistently stellar distribution and footwork, Palmer added to his strong start to the campaign and continued to show how important of an acquisition he may prove to be this season.
Scott Wootton, CB – 6
Another positive display from Scott Wootton, continuing his stint on the right side of Argyle’s back three. Wootton seems far more composed in possession then he used to and carried out his limited defensive duties with relative ease.
Wootton also didn’t hesitate to get forward, joining the attack freely at points. He went close late in the game, finding himself in the Newport box and fired over from just outside the six yard box. As the song goes, he may not have been ‘great’ in the past, “but now he’s alright”.
Niall Canavan, CB – 6
Despite being beaten to the ball for Newport’s goal, Canavan was and is still Argyle’s best defender. It would be harsh to pin the blame on him as it was a good delivery and Taylor could also have done better but barring that, Canavan had a very solid game.
Canavan recycled possession well when Argyle were in possession and led the backline confidently, seemingly growing in confidence from last year, just like Wootton. He seems to fit well in the back three, and was rarely caught out of position.
Gary Sawyer, CB – 6
I’d say Gary Sawyer was probably the weaker of the three centre-halves and had a tough assignment in facing physical former Pilgrim Jamille Matt. He did his routine defensive duties well as he normally does, made some key blocks and interceptions and dealt with Matt as well as he could, and I imagine, better than most thought he would.
On the flip side, due to a lack of a true set-piece taker in the starting 11, Swayer was on corner duty, and his skills in that area are lacking. It surprised me that he continued to take corners even when Conor Grant came on to the pitch later in the game.
Joe Riley, RWB – 6
Joe Riley started very brightly, providing fantastic width down the right flank. He marauded down the right during Argyle’s best spells of possession and his width helped to stretch the opposition backline. Riley probably went closest for Argyle, cutting in from the right, and seeing as no one closed him down, fired a venomous shot which produced a fantastic save from Newport goalkeeper Tom King.
He and Sarcevic worked well early in the game, providing good overlapping runs, and fulfilling his defensive duties when called upon. He is another that while seemingly struggling last season has excelled so far this season and has taken to his new wing-back position incredibly well.
Joe Edwards, CDM – 7 (MOTM)
Joe Edwards had a good 53 minutes. He should have had a good 90. I’m not sure whether there is a reason for his departure early in the first-half but I hope it is a good one. Argyle are a far better team with him on the pitch and he was instrumental in large parts of Argyle’s sustained periods of pressure in the first-half. I don’t think it is a coincidence that Newport saw more of the ball following his departure.
While his passing may not be of the level of his predecessor David Fox, Edwards has great defensive know-how; he has a knack for getting a foot in where most wouldn’t, winning back the ball and recycling possession with some tidy footwork. Edwards also went close in the first-half, controlling a clearance on the edge of the box and firing narrowly over. I hope that Edward’s early exits in the opening games are not forced because he will be imperative to any success Argyle are to have this year.
Antoni Sarcevic, CM – 5
Sarcevic had a very typical game; good energy and good runs but little to no creative end product. Sarcevic managed to get himself into consistently good positions but too many passes went astray and too many touches were just a little too heavy. Another midfield option may have been more suited to this game.
Where Sarcevic’s defensive skills and ability to lead the high press are useful against teams trying to play football, a more creative player would have been better placed to break down a resolute defensive team, which is how Newport played in the first 45 minutes. If teams do sit back against us this season, Sarcevic’s creative deficiencies will become rather evident.
Danny Mayor, CM – 4
A 4 may seem a tad harsh on Danny Mayor who found himself man-marked again throughout the contest. However, Argyle’s number 10 was rendered near irrelevant throughout the game, having a fair amount of the ball but creating very little. Mayor found himself drifting very wide, pulling his marker away from the action for a large part of the second-half. Mayor’s main highlight came in the first-half, where he turned a number of players near the corner flag, setting up McFadzean in the process.
He can dwell on the ball a little too much, almost disrupting the flow of the attack; giving opposition defences chance to organise and reset. He is, realistically, talented enough to do what he wants with the ball, but the end product was lacking. The talent is clearly there, after all he is being marked out of games for a reason.
Callum McFadzean, LWB – 5
Argyle’s top scorer had a weaker game against Newport. His crossing was ineffective and whereas him and Mayor usually combine very well on the left flank, the duo wasn’t working effectively, and resulted in poor chance creation and frequent losses of possession, which grew worse as the game progressed and Argyle saw less and less of the ball.
I will also mention that while he may have scored a scissor kick in the opener, I’d rather he didn’t try it in our own box, with McFadzean missing the ball and nearly giving Newport a sitter. Frustratingly, this was part of the period in which Argyle failed to clear the ball and Newport eventually scored.
Dom Telford, ST – 7
Dom Telford provided Argyle’s brightest offensive spark in Saturday’s trip to Rodney Parade. He was the most lively of the forward players and seemed to give Newport’s defence the most problems. He fed off of the balls played by the midfielders with his runs into the channels proving effective early in the game. His link-up play with his teammates was strong as well and was often involved with the neater moves the Pilgrim’s created.
He seems to be the perfect player for Ryan Lowe. He is fast and is a smart runner, getting into good positions frequently. His hold-up play is surprisingly good and he is able to hold off bigger players with relative ease for a man of his stature. While the goals were not there on Saturday, he was always a threat and looked the most like scoring throughout.
Ryan Taylor, ST – 4
In stark contrast, Ryan Taylor does not seem to fit Ryan Lowe’s system. For the most part of two years, I have been banging on about Taylor being one of our more important players but he struggles in this system and struggled against Newport. Ryan Lowe’s system requires forwards to be be quick, and able to make good incisive runs in behind enemy lines.
However, Taylor was dropping into very deep positions to collect the ball as opposed to leading the line and his usual stellar hold-up play was lacking a little; his game hindered by a physical battle with the Newport backline. Taylor will always have his place in the squad, but should likely be looked at as a plan B if we persevere with Lowe’s preferred methods. His strengths are not translating well to this style of football.
Jose Baxter (53), CDM – 4
While Baxter went close with a shot at goal, and also contributed by making a goal line clearance, the game changed following Baxter’s introduction and Argyle lost their hold on the game as Baxter struggled to dictate the game as Edwards had before him. Losing our control of the ball was part of what lost Argyle the game.
Lowe has used Baxter in a deeper role than many expected, with the majority of fans seeing him more as an attacking midfielder or maybe even a striker. The talent is clearly there, what with his previous experience and what we have seen, the crucial part is his fitness. Once that comes he could slot perfectly into that right-sided midfield role and, on his day, could be one of the best players in League Two.
Conor Grant (69), CM – 5
Antoni Sarcevic made way for Conor Grant midway through the second-half, in a bid to try and create more goalscoring opportunities for Argyle’s forwards. However, Grant struggled to impose himself on the game, and as I said earlier, I was surprised to see him not taking set-pieces following his introduction.
Klaidi Lolos (84), ST – N/A
Lolos came on late in the game for Dom Telford, and while it was great to see the youngster make his professional debut, he had little time to make any impact on the game besides attempting to remove the ball from the opposition corner.