Plymouth Argyle picked up all three points in the season’s opening game in a match that can best be categorised as a rear-guard defensive effort. It was not perhaps the type of win typical of a Ryan Lowe side. Argyle relied more on long balls than the purists would like and really ground it out at the end, somewhat riding their luck at times but by and large it was great work from the defenders and goalkeepers that secured the clean sheet.
Mike Cooper, GK – 9. Player of the Match.
What. A. Performance. If any Argyle fans were doubting the decision to make the inexperienced Cooper the first-choice goalkeeper this season, this game will have absolutely blown away any doubts that they might have. He did almost everything brilliantly, with today’s shut out the third he has had out of three league appearances for Argyle.
He made four saves that caught the attention of iFollow’s commentating team and whilst in truth, two of them were fairly routine, he did more than just save them. It’s crucial for a keeper to be able to tip away from danger rather than back into the path of the striker and the young keeper did that to precision.
The other two saves, against a one vs one stop in the first half and a low, fast effort from the edge of the area in the second were genuinely excellent and would have surely produced a roar of approval from the home crowd if not for this pesky virus that’s currently stopping all the fun.
His kicking was largely excellent, too. After a couple of miskicks in the first 25 minutes, it was thereafter flawless, demonstrating a good range of passing ability. He could do the short, composed pass out of defence with ease and he could execute the long, targeted balls with equal success. In years to come, there is a very good chance Plymouth Argyle fans will look back at today and say: that was the day a star was born.
Will Aimson, RCB – 9.
Argyle Life’s Twitter reporter gave Aimson top billing today and whilst I can’t quite agree, he’s certainly a very honourable runner-up to Super Cooper. He did virtually everything right in the defence and even popped up with an assist at the other end. You can’t ask for much more from a centre-back except maybe popping up with a goal.
Defensively, he was Argyle’s rock, letting next to nothing past him. He appeared to win the vast majority of his headers and as Blackpool pressed and pressed through the second half, his marking was as tight as you could ask for.
Where he really excelled to his 9 however, was his play out of defence. After a corner was cleared, a perfect cross right onto the head of Luke Jephcott saw Argyle get the game’s only goal. His passing out from the back was also sublime, with some excellent through balls starting passing moves for Argyle.
Scott Wootton, CB – 8.
He wasn’t quite as good as the first two entrants in this list but it was certainly a stellar display at centre-back from the man who on recent form is definitely better than the ‘alright’ attributed to him in the famous chant from last season. There were perhaps fears that his mediocre ability in the air may have made him an unusual choice for the middle spot in a back three but, alongside the centre-backs either side of him, he was perfectly serviceable in this regard.
His mental strength was also on show for all to see, reading the game in front of him well and moving into good positions to pick out deliveries. His passing out from the back, also a weakness at times, was pretty good today, He also made a game-saving block about halfway through the second half, to prevent a cross that would have surely have left a Blackpool attacker with a tap in. His only weakness perhaps that was his passing declined a touch as the game went on.
Kelland Watts, CB -6.
It feels a bit underwhelming to write this after the glowing reviews given to the previous three, but that’s by no means to say that the Newcastle loanee put in a weak performance today. There were a handful of gripes. His passing was probably the weakest of the three and there were a couple of times where he slightly misjudged the flight of the ball in the air, meaning that he wasn’t able to win quite as many headers as he should have. Arguably his marking wasn’t quite as good, with Blackpool’s biggest second half chance coming from their right side.
That said, he did more good than bad. As with the other two centre-backs, he responded well to Blackpool’s attacking movement and tracked their runners well to limit their chances at goal.
Lewis MacLeod, DCM – 6.
It was a game of two halves for MacLeod who was a very impressive part of the first half display for Argyle but definitely tailed off in the second. He was important in our barnstorming first 15 minutes, constantly pressing and picking up loose balls before quickly recycling play. Even as Blackpool pressed forward, he pressed against them and restricted them mostly to long range chances.
He wasn’t so great after the interval. Not that he exactly did anything wrong, but he definitely didn’t impose himself on the game as much. Blackpool did have more of the ball and territory than we’d have liked in the second half, even accounting for the fact that we were defending a lead. His high press was a little lacking and it let Blackpool have a bit too much of the ball in worrying areas.
Joe Edwards, RWB – 7.
Perhaps the only slight eyebrow raised upon the announcement of today’s teams, was Lowe’s preference of Joe Edwards to Byron Moore. Moore ended last season in fine fettle and Edwards whilst capable didn’t pull up any trees from wing-back. Today however, he did everything he could to justify his slot in the team. He was a constant defensive presence and even got in on the attack, heavily involved in the goal that was disallowed for a marginal offside.
Weak areas? He was pinned back a bit too often in the second half. And whilst he was good when he did get forward, he could have imposed himself more. Still, he’s done enough to prove he’s seen as a viable option in the role.
Conor Grant, RCM – 5.
I’m on record as being a big fan of the man I affectionately call the Scouse Xavi. We seem to win and play a bit better when he plays and I like his calm ability to take stock of a game, dictate the tempo and move the ball forward. He didn’t do a lot today however and perhaps the injury he went off with was actually troubling him all game. He didn’t make any big errors but he was just a bit anonymous. I can’t really remember him touching the ball more than a short handful of times.
Danny Mayor, LCM – 7.
After getting on the scoresheet against QPR, many Argyle fans hoped Mayor would get his League One season off with a bang today, going like for like against talented opposition. It wasn’t quite an explosive Mayor performance, but there’s no doubt that some warning shots were fired ahead of the year to come.
His greatest strength, as it so often is, was his movement. His terrier-like pressing ability shook Blackpool early on. Wherever they went, so was Mayor, covering every blade of the midfield in the first quarter of the game. He did well to slow down the play as the Tangerines attacked in the second half, often finding a green shirt to quell the attack.
Any nitpicks? His decision making still leaves a little bit to be desired. If he got that sorted, he’d be up there with the very best in the league but too often today he seemed to bottle a run at a defender or picked the wrong pass when a better one was available. Still, he did more good than bad today and let’s hope he keeps this run up.
George Cooper, LWB -6.
It feels sacrilegious to give the prodigal son any less than an 8 given the excitement his return generated among Argyle fans but in truth, it wasn’t his very finest performance today. The case for him to be given a 7 is very viable. He put a number of threatening crosses into the box, especially early doors, but none of them quite found their target in the precise way that we’re used to seeing.
He was also a little vulnerable defensively, being pinned back a couple of times without providing quite the same support as demonstrated by Joe Edwards on the other side.
Luke Jephcott, ST – 7.
He’s one of our own and he won us the game with a superb leaping header in the third minute that is testament to his vastly improved ability in the air. Credit must also be given to the movement the Welsh wizard showed to get himself into the perfect position to head the cross home. Jephcott is first and foremost a poacher. He knows what he has to do to score goals and he ruthlessly prioritises it above every aspect of his game.
He should have got another too, brilliantly breaking behind the defence for a one vs one chance just four minutes after his goal. On the downside, he didn’t exactly make the most of that chance running into a bit of a cul-de-sac which ultimately killed the chance and meant he failed to get the shot away. Being picky, he could have done a little more in terms of holding up the ball, an area in which he’s demonstrated strength in the past. He’s clearly worked on his upper body throughout lockdown though, so hopefully this will come with time.
Frank Nouble, ST -6.
Nouble’s performance ran oddly opposite to Argyle’s as a unit. As Argyle dominated the early stages, Nouble was fairly ineffective. He showed some signs of the ball bouncing off him and he didn’t win many long balls, which was an essential skill as Argyle began to move more and more towards long balls. He just didn’t make any impression on the game and he was probably the weakest performer before the half-time interval.
In the second half however, Frank Nouble was pretty damn good. Argyle’s performance weakened but the big striker good into the game admirably, winning a lot of the long passes that would have previously been lost. His hold up play was also vastly improved but his real star turn came in stoppage time. His strength, poise and balance were perfect in seeing out the victory, keeping the ball in the corner flag for almost three minutes.
Pantuche Camara, CM – 7
Camara made a significantly better impact on the game than Conor Grant who he replaced and barring injury, has probably kept his slot partnering Mayor in central midfield for the foreseeable future. He put in a very industrious performance, covering a lot of ground as Argyle battled to hold onto a 1-0 lead. He also put through two excellent through balls as Argyle tried to counter in the second half, but sadly nothing came of them.
So why only a 7? In truth, he may have been a little too enthusiastic at times. He covered a lot of ground but sometimes he strayed too far out of position, leaving room for the visitors to exploit. Still, there was more diamond than rough and it was a very encouraging league debut with the promise of more to come.
Dominic Telford, ST – 5.
Telford was bought on for an injured Luke Jephcott early in the second half and in truth he didn’t get the chance to do a lot as Argyle clung on. It’s not really his fault, it wasn’t really the right game for him. As a smaller striker, a match where Argyle were clearing a lot of long balls up to the centre-forwards wasn’t the ideal opportunity for him to impress.
He could still have done more though. Whilst he did well to get on the end of a Camara pass for a one vs one, the striker panicked and skied the resultant shot. He needs to be a little better to improve upon his current position as Argyle’s fourth choice striker.
Byron Moore, LWB -7.
Moore covered on both sides during his cameo and impressed on both similarly. As George Cooper began to tire, he added freshness to Argyle at a time where the visitors were really getting a foothold on the game. He helped secure a final ten minutes that were a little less troublesome on the heart than the twenty that proceeded them.