Plymouth Argyle snatched a late winner against Northampton Town to move the club into the play-off places. Kelland Watts tapped in at the back post after George Cooper’s corner evaded everyone, including the goalkeeper, to deliver the three points that Argyle deserved – and nearly threw away – after dominating 80 minutes of this game.
Northampton were genuinely poor in this game – you can see where their fans are not content at the moment and the side is struggling at the bottom of the division. They defended in numbers but Argyle still had chances to extend their lead. The Cobblers had a ten minute surge on the hour mark, yielding their goal and their best chance, but otherwise their attack was very flat and Argyle were comfortable.
Mike Cooper, GK – 7
Cooper’s place in the team could perhaps have been slightly under threat following the disastrous week in London that saw us ship 7 goals in just two games, with the young keeper himself not covering himself in glory. An improved performance against Shrewsbury secured his spot and since then he has gone from strength to strength. His distribution today (one scuffed ball aside) was largely good and he made one fantastic save, tipping a close range header over the bar at 1-0 up. Overall, he looks gradually more assured with each passing game.
An understated positive attribute is his tendency to tip shots away from goal or out to a corner, if he is unable to catch them. Very rarely do you see him parry it out to an opponent, as Matt Macey was so often guilty of the last time we were in this league. Long may his improvement continue.
Will Aimson, RCB – 7.
Aimson put in another solid display on the right side of defence but he didn’t quite demonstrate the total dominance we know he’s capable of. He did most of the basic stuff right. His aerial success was perfectly capable and he was part of the patient build-up play that saw Argyle play the ball out from the back well through most of the game. The defence came under a lot of pressure from Northampton who, especially in the first half and he did do well to withstand it without panic.
Critics will maybe say he misjudged Northampton’s first goal, trying too hard to show his man down the and ultimately leaving Cooper exposed one vs one. However, this is a bit harsh. He was left exposed by Byron Moore and was always up against it to stop the man.
Niall Canavan, CB – 7.
Canavan was barely troubled for the majority of the match. Only in Northampton’s 10-minute spell did he have to face any sort of attacking threat. Could he have done better for the goal? Possibly, but there should also be credit to the attacker who finished very well across Michael Cooper from a tight angle on the move. Canavan will think the he should have got tighter to him, but doing so might have increased the risk of a trip and penalty, or the striker finding a better shooting opportunity. Otherwise, he set Argyle’s tempo nicely, keeping the team calm in possession while winning headers with ease against a relatively small Northampton front-line.
Kelland Watts, LCB – 8. Player of the Match.
Watts picks up his first player of the match award for Argyle and rightly so after a strong performance that he capped with his second goal for the club to seal all three points. His start to the season may have been wobbly, but since then he’s retained his place and improved alongside Canavan, who has acted as a calming presence in that back-three.
Arguably most impressive is his strength bringing the ball out from the back; you can see that he’s played further forward in his youth. His dribbling and passing helped Argyle break down a deep Northampton defence. Just take Mayor’s flying shot from 25 yards that just beat the top corner. Had it not been for Watts’ overlapping run on the edge of Northampton’s penalty area, Mayor would not have had the space for such an effort.
Tyreese Fornah, CDM – 6.
After his accomplished display that saw him win rave reviews against Burton, Fornah was not quite so good against the Cobblers. He wasn’t bad by any means. As Argyle pushed and pushed to break Northampton down, he did the simple stuff well in terms of picking up loose balls and distributing them quickly to a more attacking player. He was mostly solid enough defensively too, intercepting a lot of clearances.
His issues, if anywhere, were in the Northampton’s third of the pitch. There were times when he could have dropped back and provided more defensive support as Northampton piled forward during their ten minute blitz. Additionally, when he did get back, he misjudged the flight of the ball a couple of times in the first half. Thankfully, these errors did not lead to chances but on another day they perhaps could have done. He’s a player with potential but some improvement is needed.
Byron Moore, RWB – 4.
Moore had a bit of a funny game. For the first half (and during the start of the second) he was largely pretty quiet, only really involving himself in a few basic passing moves. His crossing, when relied upon, was unexceptional and he didn’t try anything particularly adventurous in terms of taking on his man.
Where he was most conspicuous by his absence was in his defending. For at least two, possibly three of the Northampton chances in their purple patch, the wing-back was nowhere to be seen, meaning the attacks largely came down our right side. This is an aberration for him as he usually offers strong defensive support and it’s one he will hopefully recover from as time goes on.
Conor Grant, RCM – 7.
Another game, another assist. That’s three in the league and four in all competitions, to go with his two goals, and another moment of real quality. His first-time left footed cross found Nouble eight yards out, unmarked, to head home at the back post. Superb. Unfortunately, Grant had to come off at half-time, presumably because he was injured. The centre-mid wasn’t too involved coming up to the half-time whistle, but he came up trumps and delivered the moment of quality that broke the deadlock for the Greens.
Danny Mayor, LCM – 7.
It was, to some extent, a game of two halves for Mayor. In the first half, he was our best player by a significant distance. Borderline unplayable in spells, his electric movement at its very best was more than enough to gain Argyle several yards of territory. That’s to say nothing of his work rate. He come out of the blocks like a greyhound and surely covered more ground than anyone else on the pitch. It wasn’t quite the perfect half. There were still occasions where he held onto the ball a little too long. By and large though, he was a master of chaos who was the key player in our first half dominance.
After the interval, whilst not exactly bad, he was a lot less cautious. He was too keen to go back with the ball where a forward pass was available and he didn’t attempt any of his trademark runs.
George Cooper, LWB – 7.
Arise, assist king. Minutes left, corner on the right, Cooper assist, three-points in the bag. Yes, Northampton’s keeper should have punched it clear but was obstructed by his own teammate (or maybe he just couldn’t get to it) and Watts applied the finishing touch. Cooper looked dangerous before then anyway. His cross into Nouble was headed over, from which the striker should have done better – he stooped too low and got underneath it. He also struck a beautiful free-kick from 30 yards that was dipping under the cross-bar, until Northampton’s keeper just got fingertips to push it inches over the bar.
Luke Jephcott, ST – 5.
It was a much quieter game for Jephcott who wasn’t quite able to keep his fantastic record of a game per game going, but still showed some promising signs. It was inevitably harder for him because of the way Northampton defended. They sat DEEP, often with all eleven men behind the ball. With that, a Fox in the Box like Jephcott was always unlikely to be able to find the space he really needed to be able to poach goals from nothing.
He still offered some positive signs. A couple of decent flicks and he won a free-kick through good use of his body but for the most part he wasn’t really involved.
Frank Nouble, ST – 7.
A much better game for Nouble. He has continued his good form in the month of October after a September that was a bit more hit and miss. It’s often a bit tricky to put your finger on exactly what he offers this Argyle side. He’s not a typical Fox in the Box striker, the type that Ryan Lowe reveres and indeed was himself. Nor is he a conventional target man in the mould of Ryan Taylor or Mickey Evans.
He’s a battering ram who uses his body to offer a more direct option. He’s strong, quick and clever in the runs that he makes. He’ll often provide a flick on, or an option to pass the ball to when he’s in direct competition with a defender. Unlike other strikers, you can bet on him winning most physical duels. There is an argument to be made that Argyle will be better served by a Hardie/Jephcott combination when the former finds health and form again. But for now, Nouble offers a different dimension and one that is definitely useful. He got a very well taken goal too, so full credit to him for that.
Ben Reeves, RCM – 6.
Reeves came on at half-time for the presumably injured Grant and largely had a solid enough half, although not, perhaps, one that lived up to the expectations fans may have had based on his previous appearance in green. He did a lot of simple stuff well, such as ball retention but (like Mayor after the break) was perhaps on occasion a little too hesitant to take risks or to release control of the ball. He is clearly capable of excellent creativity but sometimes opts for the safe option a little too much.
That’s often not a bad thing. We all get annoyed by those fans who yell ‘FORWARRRRRD’ at every chance, right? But there is perhaps a danger that Reeves sometimes goes too far the other way. Still, we all know what he’s capable of on his day.
Jerome Opoku, LWB – N/A.
Just the one touch of the ball for Opoku, who came on with minutes left after Watts gave Argyle the lead. Until then, Dom Telford was set to enter the fray to help Argyle fight for the win, only for Lowe to throw the defender on to protect the lead with so little time left.
Timmy Abraham, ST – N/A.
Abraham came on for the quiet Jephcott to help Argyle scrap for all three points, but he only managed four touches of the ball. When he was coming off the bench, he must have had thoughts of getting the winning goal on debut, but he will be slightly disappointed with his personal efforts given he wasn’t able to impact the game.