Player Ratings: Portsmouth 2 Plymouth Argyle 2

Plymouth Argyle threw away two points by conceding twice in two minutes, with just three minutes remaining, having survived the storm, battered but unblemished on the scoresheet.

Argyle started the match well, but from the fifteenth minute Pompey were dominant, pressing Argyle back into theif defensive third and laying siege from set-pieces. The hosts failed to take advantage of those chances and were punished by the super-sub Niall Ennis, who had a huge hand in both of Jephcott’s goals.

Kell Watts’ clanger let Pompey back into the match and a free header moments later threw away two points in what would have been a bit of a smash and grab. Yet, Argyle went to Fratton Park and took points off promotion hopefuls, meaning 8/12 points taken from the past four away games, a significant improvement.

Michael Cooper, GK – 5

Suicidal passing at the back – not that he was the only one – helped Pompey dominate the first half. Pompey crossed the ball into the box 28 times, yet Cooper recorded no high claims and only one punch (though I could have sworn he made two). At a time when Argyle badly needed him to come and claim the ball to kill the chain of set-pieces. For a reminder of what this looks like, go back and watch Alex Palmer last season.

Cooper made one great save after another suicidal pass – Camara this time – and held on well after Marquis headed right after him from a matter of yards. He surely can’t be blamed for either goal, not to say he couldn’t have saved them but such a close-range header left him with little chance.

Will Aimson, CB – 6

Aimson started shakily but grew into the game and gave Watts a masterclass in how to deal with Curtis when he came on: don’t fall over. Now that Aimson has the right studs, he’s not falling over again, which is nice. Made a big block right before Jephcott’s second.

Aimson struggled under the high-ball from set-pieces, a factor that would be more emphasised in his score if Pompey had taken advantage of this. Once again though, he held up his wing under pressure and even carried the ball forward as Argyle started to grow into the game. Four blocks and seven clearances helped Argyle survive the Pompey siege.

Jerome Opoku, CB – 6

He, like many on the pitch, seemed half-asleep at times in the first half, taking precious seconds to react to Pompey’s swift counter-attacks. However, his recovery speed made up for this and his defending of the near post was largely strong throughout the game.

Threw his body on the line to help deny Portsmouth, but struggled in the air, both in open play and set-pieces. One area he has to work on is being dominant when he goes to win a header. His aerial duel success is now below 50%, the worst of all Argyle’s defenders and he only wins 1.4 headers per-90, less than half Canavan’s 3.4 from the centre of defence. No wonder Argyle struggle from crosses. Argyle survived Pompey’s set-piece barrage in the first half because they failed to hit the target with their headers, not because Argyle defended them well.

Kelland Watts, CB – 4

Watts was on for a 7 having started the game very well, made a goalline clearence in the first half and largely read the game well against the tricky Harness. Then he did that. Shocking defending allowed Curtis in and Pompey to get back in the game. That would be worthy of being dropped, if there were anyone to drop him for. And if he were not Lowe’s favourite (for some reason, Watts is the only player to have never been dropped, despite a raft of mistakes throughout the season that has seen every other CB lose their place in the team).

It was then Watts and/or Opoku who failed to clear the next cross into the box, which was headed home by James Bolton. I won’t lay blame here, because I honestly can’t remember exactly who should have won the header, but it was in the left-of-centre zone. Can’t be allowing free headers from that distance at any stage in a game.

Tyrese Fornah, DM – 4

Is Fornah alergic to the football? At best, he doesn’t show for the ball. At worst, he blocks players from passing or dribbling into space and helps opposition teams press the team. To be honest, I’m absolutely sick of Fornah’s utter inability to take advantage of his obvious passing and dribbling skill. Please, can someone teach him to:

  1. drop into space that opens a pass for a teammate;
  2. receive the ball facing forwards, not backwards;
  3. run into the $*%£ing space rather than always shying away from it.

Or, when Argyle are camped around the edge of their opponent’s area, show for a shot? Rather than standing in the way but declining to take the ball. The contrast between Ben Reeves and Fornah is stark.

Defensively, Fornah was awful in the first half. A non-presence when defending set-pieces, which is all the more shocking when he was marking Sean Raggett. SEAN RAGGETT. One of their primary threats from set-pieces. Fornah is surprisingly good at winning headers… in open play. Why ask Aimson to mark space and Fornah to mark Raggett. Swap that around, obviously.

Fornah ended strongly, winning the ball back more in the last fifteen minutes than he did in the rest of the game, but that didn’t mask the fact that he was the weak link in possession and aided Pompey’s play in the first half rather than disrupting it. Based on recent performances, has little chance of keeping his place in the team if Lewis Macleod is ever fit again.

Byron Moore, RWB – 5

Disappointing return to the team. Defensively fine, but a no-show in attack. Had so many chances to attack Charlie Daniels, who obviously doesn’t have the speed to keep up. 20 touches in the final third, but only two in the box. Only attempted four crosses, none successful. No shots. Only one dribble attempted, not completed. Edwards will hardly be worried about competition for his place based on that.

Panutche Camara, CM – 7

Suicidal first-half pass aside, he was quiet for the most part. Stuck out on the wing and unable to make anything happen alongside Moore. Dug in and won the ball, as always, to try and counter Pompey’s pressure.

However, it was the final 20 minutes when Camara came to life. His pressing won the ball back and his shot rebounded to Jephcott as Argyle snatched the lead against the run of play and from then on he looked dangerous on the counter, gliding past Pompey players as spaces opened up. Not his best performance, but he made the difference in what should have been the winning goal.

Danny Mayor, CM – 6

Calm as ever in possession and most of Argyle’s best moments in the first hour (well, fifteen minutes) came down the left. Unable to get in the game for the next hour as Pompey dominated, though did deliver the cross for Aimson to head right at the goalkeeper from 12 yards.

Turned down all chances to shoot, even when spaces opened up for him to cut inside and bend the ball to the back-post. This at a time when Argyle looked unlike laying a glove on their opponents.

Worked hard in defence, but he needs to work smarter. You can see he was a winger before becoming a midfielder in his awareness of defensive space. The back-three take a lot of stick, sometimes deserved, but they get so little protection from the midfield three ahead of them at times.

Conor Grant, LWB – 6

Brilliant first ten minutes, followed by the most mediocre eighty. Whenever Mayor worked hard to generate space for Grant, he just threw the ball into the middle first-time, which was meat and drink to Pompey’s centre-backs. Still, at least he did something to try and effect the game, unlike his opposite wing-back.

Largely anonymous for most of the game. Unsurprisingly offered little in the shape of defending set-pieces. Could have topped the cross from going into the box for the second, if we’re being picky.

Ryan Hardie, ST – 6

SHOOT MAN. JUST $*%£ING SHOOT. Can someone just take him to the training ground and just cross balls into him all afternoon? Shock him or something every time he takes more than one touch before shooting. Why does Jephcott score more than Hardie? Well he shoots. Of his 25 goals for Argyle, Jephcott has only required more than one touch to score on three occasions. Even then, he only needed two touches.

When Argyle’s best chance of the match falls to Hardie? He takes four touches, given the defender and keeper all the time in the world to compose themselves, others to close in, and block the shot. SHOCK.

Hardie was fine otherwise, denied a potential opener by a fantastic block by Raggett. However, his place is now under major threat from Niall Ennis. Perhaps a scoring streak might prevent that from happening. Which, of course, will require he SHOOTS.

Luke Jephcott, ST – 8

Jephcott wasn’t in the game at all. And then he was. Potentially a lesson as to why substituting your leading goalscorer even when he’s not in the game is a dangerous move.

In the first hour, he had no touches in the box and made three passes, one of which was the kick-off. In the last half-hour, he had four touches in the area, two goals, a blocked shot and his cut-back for Hardie.

With his double he stretched his lead at the top of the goalscoring charts, two ahead of Clarke-Harris, scoring a goal every 97 minutes. He recorded a quarter-century of goals for the club and only ten players have netted more this decade.

Although, surely Jephcott was offside for his opening goal, right? I presume I’m missing something, or maybe that was the linesman.

Substitutes

Niall Ennis, ST – 9, player of the match

Stealing the best player award is Niall Ennis, who was one of two Argyle players to change the game (the only one to change it for the better, mind you). It may have gone unnoticed, but in the build up to the first goal it was Ennis’ pressing on Marquis that prevented a Pompey counter and set up the opportunity for Camara to win the ball back. Then, a brilliant piece of skill to get away from his man and cross for Camara, whose shot rebounded to Jephcott for the opener.

After, as the cameraman zoomed in on Charlie Daniels after Will Aimson blocked his close-range shot, Ennis streaked away from Pompey’s defence before squaring for a Jephcott tap-in. Brilliant play off the bench by Ennis for the second time in a week, already paying off his transfer fee. I’m usually hesitant to give such high ratings to substitutes, but he earned this one.

Adam Lewis, LWB – n/a

I usually don’t bother with the late substitutes because they do little, but a shout-out to him for throwing his hat in the ring for worst defensive clearance of the season. He’s not going to beat Byron Moore’s effort at Fleetwood, but sterling work. $*%£ me.

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Nick Saunders Smith

Nick leads on Argyle Life’s strategy and administers the website while writing and editing our analysis articles. He also features on the Green & White podcast. View all posts by Nick Saunders Smith