Three goals, three points and back in the top three, some night eh? Overall, it was comfortable for Argyle, who could have won 6-0 given the three efforts that hit the woodwork.
Alex Palmer, GK – 7
Rarely tested on a night that Argyle dominated from the moment they took the lead. Made a couple of saves from shots he would have been expected to stop, with his biggest test coming from a close-range header that he was down quickly to parry away. The only question for him tonight was whether he could have pushed rebounds into safer areas, but that is a small query.
Passing out from the back was good too. As confidence grew following the early goals, he and Canavan were more inclined to take a risk or two and play through the lines without causing problems for themselves.
Scott Wootton, CB – 7
It largely went unnoticed, but it was Wootton’s tackle on the edge of the box which set Bakinson away to stroll past Grimsby’s exposed midfield and play an excellent pass right through the middle of their defence to set Hardie away for the second. It wasn’t his only smart intervention, often getting his timing spot on to turnover possession and get Argyle running in the opposite direction. Composed, controlled and effective.
Niall Canavan, CB – 7
A good night for Canavan as he mopped up most of the balls that reached him. Strong in the air to cut off Grimsby’s direct route to goal, good in possession and broke Grimsby’s press with passes under pressure (although his long passes were far more miss than hit).
His biggest question mark was when he tried to play an offside trap, only to allow Green to run through. However, the striker was wide and Canavan recovered well to cut his route to goal off and slow the attack as they saw the danger off.
Callum McFadzean, CB – 5
So, sooo, close to giving away a penalty at 0-0. Taken on, one-versus-one, in his own area, he was beaten and fell over eight yards from goal, but somehow managed to get his body in the way of the ball and not handle it. This was a hugely fortunate moment, as he could have easily made contact and was not in control at that moment. For the second time in a handful of starts at centre-back, he was very fortunate to not give away a penalty inside the opening 15 minutes.
McFadzean didn’t have a bad game, it’s more that I think five justifies the fact he was the weakest link in the defence on a night that was comfortable for his other defenders and was made the most sloppy mistakes in giving the ball away in his own half.
Bryon Moore, RWB – 6
Quiet. Not helped by the change in formation that saw Bakinson and Grant spend most of the game playing together in defensive midfield. That saw Mayor lost in central-attacking midfield and the two wing-backs isolated. George Cooper coped just fine, given he could swing in a cross from his own half and still have a decent change at finding its target, but Moore clearly needed more support, which he didn’t get.
Tyreeq Bakinson, DM – 8
In a three-way race for man of the match with Cooper and Ryan Hardie, he misses out because he went off the boil in the second half and lost possession in his own half on more than two occasions, a habit he really needs to break.
Superb late run into the box for the opening goal – so superb that he almost seemed offside given how dumbfounded Grimsby’s defenders were at how much space he was in. Then, an outstanding, inch-perfect, forty-yard through-pass that bisected Grimsby’s centre-backs and put Hardie away to go around the ‘keeper and double the lead.
Conor Grant, DM – 6
First, the negatives. Grant was suspect defensively for most of the night. At the beginning, he was regularly out of position as Clarke and Whitehouse found the pocked of space behind him and threatened. The night got easier for him as Argyle dominated the end of the first-half and then the pace of the game collapsed in the second, but in a game that was competitive past the 40th minute he would have been under the microscope more and will need to do better.
For the positives, a great driving run on the counter in the first five minutes saw him present Hardie with an early sight of goal, he was oh-so-close to scoring a wonderful goal from 30 yards – great save – and he played a smart cross into the box that Canavan flicked on before the third goal (very hard to tell who actually scored it).
George Cooper, LWB – 8, player of the match
In the end, I chose Cooper as the player of the match because of the sheer volume of chances he created. Why on earth was he dropped in the first place? His assists may have dried up in the four game stretch between Colchester and Macclesfield, but it wasn’t for the lack of crossing. He could have had two assists against Salford and Macclesfield apiece had finishing not been lacking.
Here, he could have had a hattrick of assists. There was the brilliant ball in for the opening goal – a cross that singularly picks out a runner into the box, perfectly matching his stride – is virtually indefensible. In the second he cut back for Hardie to tap in, only for him to mistime his effort and put it into the ‘keeper’s arms, and then you can pick one of three other crosses that found the dangerous area in the box, only for nobody to attack the cross.
Cooper wasn’t as good defensively as he had been before he was dropped, but that was mostly when he pushed up high, meaning that any player who got around him still had to travel fifty-yards to goal. When defending the edge of his box, he continued to show an every growing understanding of where to be, when to stick a foot in, and how to anticipate the path of the ball. It’s becoming a bit of an urban legend that Cooper is a liability defensively (and yes, I know, he’ll commit a defensive howler against Macclesfield).
Danny Mayor, AM – 6
Pushed forward into an attacking-midfield role, but it didn’t work. Argyle play too many of their passes out to the wing-backs and long to the strikers, meaning that he was just never near the ball. He had to drop deep to get possession, but then his only pass was wide, long or backwards, which is not what he wants to do.
He was involved at times, but when Argyle could have won 6-0, you don’t want to hear that the attacking midfielder wasn’t that involved. His best moment came when he very nearly picked an excellent through-ball to set Edwards away in the box, but it was narrowly intercepted. It was also his shot that rebounded to Edwards for his miss-of-the-season contender (not that he has a chance in that competition, Zak Rudden has had the entire top-three locked up since November).
Luke Jephcott, ST – 7
Was it his goal? All the television angles are inconclusive – before anyone says they definitely saw it cross the line, the replays are thus far from angles that prevent you from knowing for certain. Nevertheless, it was given and he now has more non-penalty goals than any other player at the club this season!
Worked but it mostly didn’t come off for him as it did for Hardie. His only other chance came after he was superbly played through by his strike-partner, but his first-time volley crashed against the crossbar from ten-yards.
Ryan Hardie, ST – 9 player of the match
Scratch that, I’ve watched the highlights since I started writing this and have now decided that Hardie was the best player
sorry George. I mean, let’s start with his goal. Bakinson gets a lot of credit, but it was Hardie who was alive to the potential and put himself exactly where he needed to be to get away, on the inside shoulder of the defender for the ball through the middle when so many of Argyle’s strikers would have been peeling away for a ball into the channel. From there, he ran it at great speed but also under great control to get away from the defence – which is not as easy as it looks, a foot race is very different when one person is also dribbling a football – and finished it expertly.
Before then, he showed great technique to control a rebound on the angle and crash a half-volley against the post to nearly make it 1-0, as well as finding the back of the net after Bakinson opened the scoring, only for it to be ruled out by an accidental hand-ball as he was controlling it. It should be noted that the ‘keeper might have stopped with the whistle, and so could have saved the shot if he tried.
He put away the third, playing on when others around him stopped, but that has now been given to Jephcott (though it might rightfully be his) then spurned his semi-hattrick chance when Cooper’s cut-back met him perfectly, only for Hardie to be unable to open his boot up more and play it into the far corner. Finally, the key-factor in him overtaking Cooper, was his perfect ball over the top to put Jephcott away. An outstanding pass to render both the centre-backs completely useless.
A hattrick and an assist was not that far away on what was probably his best performance for the club to-date.
Joe Edwards, RWB – 6
What? How did he miss it? Three yards, goalkeeper on the floor, tap in? Aaaaaaand he hit the post. Jeez. Showed good movement to be nearly put clean-through by Mayor, only for a good interception to spoil the fun.
Ryan Taylor, ST – n/a
Back from injury, needed minutes, the game was dead, so how long did he get? About eight of them. Including stoppage time, Argyle were out of sight with 51 minutes to go, so why couldn’t he come on earlier? He literally touched the ball twice, what a wasted opportunity.
Dominic Telford, ST – n/a
See above, except four minutes and one touch. Lowe’s only mistake on the night. Can there be anything more frustrating as a striker to be brought on like that?