Ryan Lowe’s first game managing Plymouth Argyle on our own turf ended in success. It was not perhaps such a dazzling performance as last week’s, but a 1-0 victory over Colchester United continued the perfect start to the season.

Alex Palmer, GK – 8

Rarely has a ‘keeper filled me with confidence quite so supremely as this guy. He’s kept two clean sheets from two games and has just about everything you could feasibly want from a ‘keeper at this level. As was the case at Crewe, his command of area was purposeful and assuring. He collected almost every cross that came in and whilst he wasn’t tested as much in terms of clear scoring opportunities, every shot he did face he swallowed up with ease.

His most impressive skill by far is his distribution. Not only are his long kicks accurate but as soon as he has both hands on the ball, he is immediately looking to throw it out to a player who can create a breakaway chance. It’s been an astounding start to the loanee’s Argyle career.

Scott Wootton, CB – 8, player of the match

It’s only early days but what we’ve been witnessing so far is nothing short of an incredible transformation from the ex-United man. From the man who last season barely won any headers and whose distribution was quite aimless and inaccurate, the tight marking, improved aerial success and calm passing into space were as refreshing as a glass of lemonade on a hot summer’s day.

His improvement was on show all game, as it was last week at Crewe, but the truly defining moment was towards the end of the first half when a ball was whipped across the area for what looked to be a tap in for Colchester’s Luke Norris. Wootton made a vital interception to keep it out. Long may the improvement continue.

Niall Canavan, CB – 5

I’m usually a big fan of the Irish centre-back but it’s fair to say he wasn’t really at the races today. In spite of the clean sheet, he seemed to lose concentration a couple of times and many of Colchester’s openings came from Canavan’s marking. He did grow into the game second half, seeming to win more aerial duels, but his usually composed passing wasn’t of its normal high standards throughout the 90.

When he did keep possession, it wasn’t with the productive forward balls out of defence that we tend to see from him. He didn’t have a dreadful game by any means but perhaps a little below average.

Gary Sawyer, CB – 6

He didn’t perform badly by any stretch of the imagination, but there were a few occasions in the game when his 34 years of age began to become apparent. He was skinned a little for pace on a couple of occasions and didn’t prevent as many excursions into the box by Colchester’s widemen as he may have liked.

There were no glaring errors and positionally he was sound but the visitors did have a fair few chances during the game, in spite of Argyle’s overall control. He is another one whose distribution was not quite what we’d like from a team who tries to play out from the back.

Joe Edwards, CDM – 7

His first twenty to twenty five minutes were a little on the sloppy side and there were a few occasions where he lost possession trying to play the more complex passes. However after his somewhat shaky start, he did grow into the game superbly.

He did the same things well today as he did last week at Crewe: he showed relentless energy and pressing to mop up even the faintest hint of a loose ball. His off the ball work is consistently superb and again it was a bit of a surprise to see his name listed to be substituted. Perhaps he’s not quite ready to keep up the standard for a whole 90 minutes after his injury?

Joe Riley, RWB – 7

In many ways, his performance was similar to his display at Crewe last week. He defended well when he had to, not letting a lot go down his side (albeit this was helped by the strange reluctance of Colchester’s wide players to press our wing-backs). He got up and down the line well, showing for a passing option and putting in good tackles when he needed to. Where his rating drops slightly from the Crewe game is in terms of his use of the ball in the final third. He didn’t really put in the killer final ball and as such didn’t contribute to chance creation as well as he might have.

Antoni Sarcevic, CM – 7

Sarcevic is one of the most difficult players to assess when it comes to his usefulness in Ryan Lowe’s system. In truth, there are some obvious flaws. For instance, his passing isn’t as good as many of the alternatives for that position, meaning it can sometimes be harder for Argyle as a team to win the midfield battles.

Whilst it is possible or even probable that Conor Grant or Jose Baxter will take his place over the course of the season, right now there’s no argument to drop the Mancunian from the side. Where he excels is his engine: he covers so many areas of the park and relentlessly presses defenders. Today he also added the winning goal with a fine finish – not something we often say of him. He does need a fair bit more work on his possession.

Danny Mayor, CM – 6

In terms of his overall level of performance, he was truthfully one of the weakest players on the pitch. His passing just didn’t quite meet the required standard for much of the game, often being the primary culprit for attacks breaking down due to loss of possession in the midfield. This was especially true in the first half of the match. There were just a few too many times when he looked a bit unsteady on the ball, lacking variety in his passing, looking for McFadzean out left before any other option).

However, his rating is bumped up to a 6 due to his beautiful jinking run before feeding the ball through to Dom Telford, earning a second-assist for the winning goal. Two goal involvements in two games: if this is Mayor before he builds up a head of steam, what will he be like when he does?

Callum McFadzean, LWB – 7

Very much like Joe Riley, last week’s hero could be termed as having a ‘game of two halves’ today. The defensive side of his game was really very impressive. He provided a lot of good cover to Gary Sawyer down the left hand side, restricting Colchester’s attacking avenues.

Positionally he showed well, albeit Mayor too often chose him as an easy option rather than creatively opening up the defence. Where the wing-back didn’t shine as he did Gresty Road was in his attacking product. He didn’t make any runs inside to the kind of positions from which he scored two goals last week and frankly his crossing was a little poor. He gets a low 7 because his stamina and defensive awareness didn’t go far wrong.

Byron Moore, ST – 6

Moore is one of the hardest players we have to judge on the basis of the first two games. As was the case at Crewe, the striker was nothing short of a menace for the Colchester centre-backs in the first 45. His runs, which can only be described as galloping, often terrify defenders into errors. At 30, he still has an incredible amount of raw pace and that can be enough in itself to carve out chances or at least force a hurried clearance that turns over possession towards Argyle.

Why only a 6? Two reasons. First, his finishing was below par. He had three good chances in the game from which you would expect him to score at least one. He also tired towards the end of the game, raising questions over whether his energetic style can be maintained over the full 90 minutes.

Joel Grant, ST – 6

Like Moore, he caused the visitors a fair bit of bother during the 34 minutes which he spent on the pitch. The pressing style of the striking pair can be attributed to a lot of chance creation. Grant didn’t quite make quite as much for himself as his strike partner but he had a solid game and fans will be hoping his injury isn’t too severe.

Substitutes

Dom Telford, ST – 7

Telford was very quiet for the eleven minutes in which he came on for the remainder of the first half, notable primarily for giving away the ball in a situation that allowed a Colchester counter attack at Argyle’s goal. Something was seemingly said at half-time and he emerged from the dressing room a different player.

For someone as short as he is, his ability to hold the ball up is surprisingly good. He can bring it down well with his chest and pick out passing targets with great effect. His movement, too, was sharp and often stretched defenders away from their position, in order to exploit gaps. That’s before we mention his composed assist for Antoni Sarcevic’s winner. A good start to his career in green.

Jose Baxter, CDM – 6

Like Byron Moore, he’s a difficult one to judge. In general, the substitution didn’t harm us, though as mentioned, it was a surprise to see Edwards brought off. Baxter by and large kept the ball on the ground and looked calm in possession, often slowing the tempo down in order to dictate momentum as Colchester pressed for an equaliser.

That said, two errors could have cost us. He got himself into a bit of bother trying to play out from the back in our own final third which almost gifted the Us an opening, as well as blasting a pass out wide to Joe Riley that went out for a throw-in. More to come, I’m sure.

Ryan Taylor, ST – 7

Taylor had another strong appearance from the bench to compliment his previous one at Crewe last week. Both times, he did exactly what he was brought on to do. He won headers, won flick-ons and provided an outlet up front to make the ball stick. We shouldn’t fall into the trap of starting him unless we really need to; his legs aren’t up to playing the way in which Moore and Grant do. Yet, I’d be perfectly happy to see us keep on bringing him on to see out wins all season long.


 

Antoni Sarcevic: Plymouth Argyle’s Midfield Enigma

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