Matt Macey – 7 – Man of the Match: It was a shaky start for the Arsenal loanee, but he grew into the game as it progressed and, in the end, he may well have been the difference between a point and nothing for Argyle. With Southend squandering many chances as the game wore on, it may just be worth considering how much of a psychological edge it is to have a giant such as Macey between the sticks. It’s clear his relationship with the back four is still going through some teething problems – not surprising considering Argyle spent most of pre-season with Harry Burgoyne as the first-choice custodian – but there is clearly an element of command there. Hopefully, that continues to grow as the season progresses.
Tafari Moore – 5: A very interesting competitive debut from a very interesting player. Tafari Moore is clearly very talented, and he showed he could get forward well and link up with Argyle’s more prominent attacking threats. He was also, of course, on hand to win the dubious penalty which put Argyle ahead after 20 minutes (perhaps more camera angles will be able to show us exactly what we need to see on that one). One thing we can say for sure is that Moore did make a sizeably greater impression at right-back than Joe Riley after his torrid debut last week in Walsall. Whether either of them can sufficiently replace Oscar Threlkeld does, however, remain to be seen. Moore showed he was not exactly safe from moments of absent-mindedness, and on more than one occasion a certain nervousness on the ball put Argyle in trouble. We can let him off, it was his first game after all, but this must improve if he is to make the position his own. Sponsors’ man of the match? I’m not so sure.
Ryan Edwards – 4: After the golden moment of Edwards scoring on his first game back from cancer treatment, this game acted as much more of a reality check for the 24-year-old. Sure, there were no glaring errors from the Liverpudlian, although he did look fairly shaky throughout, and some ghastly ball control in the second half did nothing to help the nerves building around Home Park as Southend pushed for a winner. Perhaps this is symptomatic of a player who is lacking a little in sharpness; he was after all playing in only his second competitive game since January. However, it is vital that he ensures that this sort of performance doesn’t become a more regular occurrence. Niall Canavan and Peter Grant will be knocking on the manager’s door all season, and whilst we would all like to see Edwards succeed in green, we can be sure that Derek Adams will not allow sentiment to get in the way of him putting his best available XI on the field.
Scott Wootton – 5: Scott Wootton is a classic Derek Adams signing. A player who showed plenty of promise early in his career, who has come unstuck a little and fallen down the pyramid, who Adams believes can be turned around back to his former glory days. Of course, it’s far too early to judge whether this will be successful, but this performance will be one Wootton will want to forget. As with Edwards, there were no glaring errors, and he was perhaps ever so slightly more solid than his partner at the back, but the truth is Southend carved Argyle open far too often for a centre-half to be rated any higher than he has been here. The defence is unlikely to be lacking in presence with Edwards and Wootton around, negating the loss of Sonny Bradley, but it may well lack the composure on the ball that has not been replaced since the expiry of Zak Vyner’s loan. That may not be a problem considering the early indications of Argyle’s style of play but nonetheless acts as a slight worry.
Ashley Smith-Brown – 7: Perhaps Argyle’s most impressive player on the day, at least during the first half, Smith-Brown was very unfortunate to be hauled off in the second half after a positional change curbed his momentum. We can say with certainty that Argyle have an exciting talent on their hands with the ex-Manchester City man, and when he played in a familiar role he gave off every impression that he is able to thrive at Home Park. However, his performance also indicated that the experiment of playing him on the left wing is something which should perhaps not be repeated. Indeed, Smith-Brown looks comfortable on the ball, and defensively he was relatively sound amongst the general carnage at the back too, but on the wing he looked exactly as you’d expect – a player trying to learn on the job in an unfamiliar role. Off the ball he just wasn’t the player Argyle were crying out for during that period of the game. That isn’t his fault, it’s a tactical issue, but when Smith-Brown was shunted out wide it was clear his day was only going to end one way.
David Fox – 4: Fox is obviously a very important player for Argyle, as there is nobody else within the squad who can do what he does in the regista role. The 34-year-old’s style of play should ensure that he can go on for quite a while yet. His performances are also often indicative of the team’s performance as a whole – Fox is unlikely to ever stand out in a poor overall team performance, but likewise, when Argyle do well, Fox is rarely a passenger to such a display. Unfortunately, his performance on Saturday falls much more smoothly into the former category. Use of the ball is so important in the role Fox plays, and sadly that was lacking at the weekend. He lost possession far too often for a player whose job it is to ensure the retention of possession, and he will have to improve in that regard in the coming weeks, for the sake of himself and the team.
Jamie Ness – 4: The complex case of Jamie Ness shows no sign of becoming even slightly less mysterious. Last season, the pre-Christmas Ness, whose poor form and lack of fitness led to the signing of Toumani Diagouraga to turn Argyle’s fortunes around, looked a completely different player to the post-Christmas Ness, whose superb form from midfield help drive his team into the play-off picture. On Saturday, we experienced the pre-Christmas Ness again, particularly during the second half, as he appeared to lose all ability to both win and use the ball. Perhaps this suggests that Ness fits much more comfortably into a settled team, rather than one still looking to gel at the beginning of the season. Whether Adams will have the patience to wait for Ness to find his best again remains to be seen.
Conor Grant – 6: Grant didn’t play badly at all, and he was certainly the pick of the midfielders on the day. He was generally tidy again, and once more his ability and willingness off the ball mopping up in midfield was another pleasant surprise. It is also very handy that he possesses a decent, if not exactly spectacular set-piece delivery. However, what Grant’s performance did not do at any point was demonstrate that he could successfully replace Antoni Sarcevic, should Argyle’s number 7 experience a lengthy spell on the sidelines. Grant was far from poor, but the midfield was missing the ability of somebody who would allow Argyle to play ten yards further up the field, particularly during the second half with Southend banging on the door. On current form, Sarcevic will have no problem getting back into the side, and whilst Grant is perhaps the least deserving of being dropped, the success of the Fox-Ness-Sarcevic combination last season will make Adams reluctant not to give that winning formula another chance to succeed.
Ruben Lameiras – 3: I like Ruben Lameiras; I think it’s clear that a lot of Argyle fans do. However, he is worryingly prone to games like this where he is being carried by his teammates, waiting for the fourth official to hold his number up to put everybody out of their misery. When the team is on form, Lameiras is a phenomenal player to have around, with his ability on the ball perhaps matched only by Graham Carey in Argyle’s squad. But he is a luxury player, and with Argyle under the cosh for much of the weekend’s encounter, it was a luxury the Greens could ill afford. Lameiras will undoubtedly put in some eye-catching performances over the course of the season, and we all look forward to them, but he wasn’t the player Argyle craved at the weekend. Don’t be surprised if Adams ‘rests’ the mercurial playmaker for Tuesday’s visit to Bristol City in the Carabao Cup to give somebody else the chance to impress in his position.
Graham Carey – 7: When things aren’t going particularly well, it’s very easy to point the finger at your team’s best player and suggest he may be underperforming. That may not be too far wide of the mark in this instance, but if Carey is underperforming, it is only up against the standards the Green Army holds him to. The truth is, we have become so used to Carey winning games on his own and being a constant thorn in the opposition’s side, that when he does none of those things it almost comes as a shock. However, there can be no doubt that he was Argyle’s main threat on Saturday, with an emphatically dispatched penalty one highlight of an overall decent performance. Had any other player performed as he did, we would be praising them, but as it’s Carey it appears to be the bare minimum expectation. He’ll want to improve, but he needn’t worry about his performance at the weekend.
Ryan Taylor – 6: We’ve long since learnt that it is useless to judge Argyle’s centre-forward on his goal tally, as it’s clear that Taylor offers so much more to this team than putting the ball in the net occasionally. The way he battles with the opposition centre-backs and how he sets up chances for those around him are much more accurate barometers of any Taylor performance. At the weekend the battle success rate appeared to be fairly mixed – he still seemed to win more than he lost, but when he did, Carey and Lameiras were too far away to pick up on the second balls and allow the team to enjoy the fruits of Taylor’s labour. This would appear to be a clear tactical issue, and one would hope this is picked up on soon, because once it is, Taylor’s efforts will be both more appreciated and noticeable.
Gary Sawyer (55) – 5: Argyle’s new club captain certainly looked a little shaky when he came on, with his ability on the ball simply not up to scratch during the opening ten minutes. He grew into it, though, and in the end showed the sort of calmness Argyle needed at the back to claim their point.
Yann Songo’o (65) – 6: Argyle and Yann Songo’o are stuck in a never-ending cycle. When Argyle aren’t playing well, they need Songo’o to come on, perform as he does and save them from being overrun. When Argyle are on form, however, his technical deficiencies are laid bare, and there is simply no room for him in the team. He performed when Argyle needed him to at the weekend, but let’s not get carried away.
Freddie Ladapo (71) – 5: Ladapo showed brief glimpses of the sort of player he is, but nothing that allowed Argyle to turn the tide and put the Southend defence under any sort of real pressure. It’s clear from the little we’ve seen of the 25-year-old that he will offer a significant physical presence, although technically he does seem to be lacking in certain areas. That will work against some opponents but alas, not Southend.
Subs not used: Niall Canavan, Joel Grant, Gregg Wylde, Kyle Letheren