Plymouth Argyle have returned to winning ways, making it four victories in a row at Home Park. Argyle dominated the first half but could not quite find the opening before Ritchie Sutton was sent off for bringing down Dominic Telford when clean through on goal. George Cooper, Antoni Sarcevic and Conor Grant conspired to secure the win and take Argyle to the cusp of the play-offs.
Alex Palmer, GK – 7
In one respect, it feels harsh to rate Palmer as high as a 7. Morecambe’s performance was so profound in its inadequacy that really, you have to ask what Palmer could have done to be rated as well as that when he was hardly tested all game. Morecambe did not have one single corner, nor a free-kick in a threatening area so his ability to collect crosses was barely tested. He scarcely had to kick the ball either but one of the few times he did provoked a miskick.
So why so high? Ultimately, because the one time he was tested with his shot stopping ability, he passed with flying colours. A second half defensive mishap saw former green Lewis Alessandra through on goal but Palmer made himself enormously big to stop the forward from making a contest of the game. Another solid performance from the keeper who has arguably been Ryan Lowe’s stand out signing.
Scott Wootton, CB – 7
As with Alex Palmer, it is perhaps harder than you might expect to settle on a rating for someone who was in truth barely tested in the game. However, you have to give Wootton credit in that he too largely did everything well. He positioned himself well in both the defensive sense and the attacking sense. He stuck to his man as well as ever and got forward well to overlap on odd occasions – this is a feature that has been slowly integrated into Lowe’s 3-5-2 system of late and, Cambridge aside, Argyle have been a more rounded side for it.
Where he was weak was in his passing. Too often passes were a little aimless or badly directed, simply falling straight to the feet of the Morecambe defenders. That said, it’s another clean sheet with the scouser in the team and he can be proud of his improvement this season. He just needs to shore up his media diplomacy and he might even earn a much coveted handshake.
Niall Canavan, CB – 8
An excellent game was had by the Irishman in the centre of Argyle’s defence once again, cementing his status as Argyle’s best centre-back this season. He did all he had to in the air, meaning Morecambe’s long-ball option (something you saw a lot, it is a Derek Adams side after all) was frequently cut off at the neck. The main thing he brought to the game however, was his passing ability.
An interesting sub plot of this game is we saw a lot more short passing around the opposition’s defence than in most recent matches. It was not a full throttled return to the possession based style that we saw in August and September but nor was it strict adherence to the territorial style as seen in recent weeks. Canavan’s cool and composed ability to play the ball out from the back was a big part of this.
Gary Sawyer, CB – 7
This was a classic Sawyer performance of this season, really. Did he do anything at any point in the game which could reasonably be described as stand out? No. Did he produce a consistently good performance in which he regularly dealt with the overwhelming majority of the threats to come his way? This is also a yes.
The left-centre-back role is perfect for Sawyer in his advancing years. He doesn’t have the requisite pace to play the wing-back role but the pressure on centre-backs in a back four to win the ball in the air may also have troubled with due to his lack of height. In this role though, we see the best of him and he consistently manages to link up well with the left-hand-side of Argyle’s midfield.
Josh Grant, DCM – 8
Grant largely did his role of protecting the defence pretty well although one might argue it was an easy task against a side as bad as Morecambe. What impresses most about him is his coolness of mind both in and out of possession. He will often be in just the right place to pick up a loose ball when it comes towards him in midfield and whilst his passing ability isn’t exactly that of David Fox (though we should stress, it’s still pretty damn good) where he really shines is in the decisions he makes with the ball.
He manages to be ambitious without being overly risky. His composure allows him to find passes that are high reward yet you rarely see him (from midfield) attempt passes that are especially high risk either. Compared to the gaffe-prone calamity that we saw at centre-back, Grant has been one the big success stories of the season.
Byron Moore, RWB – 8
Moore came out of this game as one of the latest in a long succession of great finds in terms of players playing outside of their normal position. Whilst he has by no means been bad as a striker in recent weeks, he added a great deal to Argyle’s display from the right-wing-back position. He showed promise in every facet of the role that is needed to impress. He got up and down the line very well, defending when needed yet also bursting forward with electric pace.
Furthermore, he displayed a refreshing unpredictability in his attacking play. often cutting inside to draw defenders in and create space yet also bursting down the line at times too. Not knowing what he was going to do added such variety to Argyle’s play that the Morecambe defenders were left dizzy by the end of the game. He’s made that spot his own for now. It’s unlikely Edwards goes straight back in.
Antoni Sarcevic, CM – 8
Sarcevic’s excellent recent form has continued with a fine performance in the game that saw a hybrid of possession and territorial based styles. His defensive work was a good as it always is, with high pressing to win the ball back whenever it was surrendered. His movement and energy levels were impossible for the midfielders to handle.
With the ball, he showed a delightful mix of the explosive dribbling that we have seen thrive in recent weeks and he actually adapted well to the shift towards a more passing based performance. He didn’t attempt intricate through balls but we saw a lot of good simple passes out wide to the wing-backs who both performed commendably. That said, his magnificent first half form didn’t quite maintain itself throughout the second half and things were refreshed upon his substitution. It was good to see him return to penalty-taking form with a bang, converting our second goal with both power and placement..
Danny Mayor, CM – 7
Mayor had another solid performance, with plenty of trickery on show as ever. He demonstrated his excellent dribbling ability in the move leading up to Argyle’s third goal that put the icing on the cake in the game. His passing ability was solid and consistent. Perhaps the only complaint if any was that he didn’t impress himself quite enough on the game, being a little too passive at times.
Still, after a Cambridge game which saw large proportions of the fanbase baying for his blood, this was a welcome return to form for someone who is unarguably one of the most instinctively creative players in the division.
George Cooper, LWB – 8, Player of the Match
I promise…it’s not just because he’s our sponsored player. Cooper had a truly excellent performance in the match, weaving his way in and out of the Morecambe defence with aplomb. He primarily played on the left but (as with Moore) drifted into the centre on so many occasions that he essentially created an overload effect against the Shrimper centre-backs.
That’s not to say he didn’t offer a threat from out wide too, making a large number of crosses in the game (24, to be precise). Whilst they didn’t all reach green heads, those which didn’t were so often in the danger area that they prompted hurried clearances or misdirected headers from which Argyle were able to resume attacking impetus. That’s not to mention his superbly hit free-kick to open the scoring for Argyle, which couldn’t have been better placed were David Beckham in his prime.
Dominic Telford, ST – 7
Telford isn’t quite proving himself to be the ‘Freddie Ladapo replacement’ in the goalscoring stakes that many fans hoped for when he came to Home Park in the summer but he he is proving to be is a consistent nuisance for opposing defenders. His agility of movement is extremely tough to handle and his ability to pick out just the right pass or flick on is indicative of a tall strapping target man, rather than the small chap that he is.
Furthermore, it was his bursting run on goal that saw him brought down one on one with the keeper which reduced the visitors to ten men – probably the most decisive moment in the match.
Joel Grant, ST – 7
Grant has come in for some criticism over flakey performances in recent weeks and was (rightly, on balance) dropped from the side to allow Dominic Telford to come in at Cambridge. He was granted (pardon the pun) a reprieve here which resulted in him grabbing the chance with both hands. He added much more than usual to his game, dropping deep to link play up when necessary as well as still moving dangerously in the box as Lowe likes his strikers to do.
He didn’t get a goal to add to his display but he will be hoping this is enough to earn him a prolonged stay in the side.
Zak Rudden, ST – 5
….Oh dear. He was only on for a quarter of the game but he somehow managed to miss two guilt edged chances that pulled his performance rating down a bit. His general play wasn’t awful, holding the ball up well and making a few successful passes.
Conor Grant, CM – 8
He was only on the field for a short duration of time but fair play where it’s due – the time he spent on the pitch was a delight to watch. He refreshed us well when Sarcevic’s legs began to tire, consistently showing for the ball with proactivity and moving it on well. It was also very encouraging to see him add a goal to his game, an area where he’s struggled in the past.
Billy Clarke, ST – N/A
Clarke was bought on for Dom Telford with just eight minutes to play and in truth wasn’t really given much of a chance to make an impression on the game.