Plymouth Argyle were well beaten by Norwich City u21s in the EFL Trophy, who should have scored at least 4 but could have had as many as 7. They wasted chance after chance on the counter as Argyle’s midfield was missing in action defensively, leaving the back three hopelessly exposed.

Given Argyle’s record in the competition, that should see the club exit at the group stage once more. That’s either a good thing if you’re against the competition, but a negative given how much money the tournament can bring in if you reach the later rounds.

Sidenote: am I a bit grumpy because I foolishly spent £10 to watch that – yes. So maybe take the ratings with a pinch of salt because I might have been too negative. Then again, Norwich absolutely could have scored seven.

Jack Ruddy, GK – 5

Positives: Ruddy saved two one-on-one (or was it three, I really lost count), and punched the ball well enough. He was unlucky with the first goal too, as he did well to get out to the ball first, only to see the rebound fall to a yellow shirt forty yards from goal, who scored.

Now to the negatives: distribution, average short, bad long. Far too many went straight out of play, or to an opponent in Argyle’s half. He couldn’t have done any more to keep goals out. Should also be noted that Norwich’s finishing was poor, as opposed to Ruddy’s saving being excellent.

Ollie Tomlinson, CB – 5

Tomlinson struggled like all the defenders, but it was a common theme that the defence wasn’t as much to blame as the midfield. Time after time, Argyle’s midfield was MIA, allowing Norwich’s midfielders all the time and space in the world to play the ball past Argyle’s back-line and send them through on goal. The defence were hung out to dry, but they’ll get all the negative headlines.

Niall Canavan, CB – 4

Read above for the abbreviated notes, but Canavan was still rusty anyway. His long passing was not as good as it should have been and his positioning should have been better, particularly for the third. He barely stuck his leg out to block a cross that was well within his reach.

He should have been a vocal leader in the defence to help them deal with the pressure caused by the midfield’s failings, but he was too often bypassed and the defence did not perform like a unit. Then again, what can you do when you’ve got 45 yards to defend against three faster players and nobody helping?

Gary Sawyer, CB – 4

Read above. Sawyer was arguably the worst of the lot, because when he got close to Norwich’s dangerous attackers they twice turned him to run clean through, only to waste the finish. Then again, he saved two goals, one with a last-ditch interception, then with enough pressure at the back post to prevent a tap-in.

Sadly, that led to an apparent shoulder injury which saw him leave the pitch on a stretcher, which was a dreadful way for him to mark his first appearance since February. Good luck with the recovery, Gary.

Byron Moore, RWB – 4

Hopefully Moore was not fully fit – which would be vindicated by him not finishing the game – because he was bad here. Outperformed by his opposite wing-back, Law, he was rarely in the game, far too often played backwards, offered little going forward, wasted his only good crossing opportunity when he had two players to pick out.

Panutche Camara, CM – 5

Cumbersome. Sometimes it felt like it took him four touches to get moving when he received the ball. By the time he had his head up he was often moving backwards. Barring a brief five minute period at the end of the first half, he was barely in the game.

He was awful at marking space. He has showed in pre-season that he is good pressing on the front foot but, when played in defensive midfield, struggled to play on the back-foot. His starting position, defensively, was awful, his pressure on the ball as a result was ill-timed. Norwich passed the ball around him (and the rest of the midfield) with consummate ease. Argyle needed a leader defensively. He should have stepped up as the senior player alongside Randell and Lolos in midfield. He didn’t. The entire team defended as individuals, and that’s suicide.

Quite frankly, Argyle should have changed tack to push Camara further forward, with Randell becoming the sole defensive midfielder. When he pushed up, for five minutes before half-time, he was unplayable and drove the team forward. But we saw next to none of that throughout the game. This position was not for him.

He should have been watching Lewis Macleod more closely on Saturday. Macleod lead the defensive press superbly, as a unit. He dominated the space. If Lowe sticks with this formation then he will probably have a good view to learn this position, watching from the bench. Conor Grant, commentating on this game, must be sleeping easy knowing his position is safe at the moment.

Adam Randell, CM – 6, Player of the Match

Randell was class on the ball. The best player on the pitch today for me, though I can see why some would pick Lolos (more on that later). His passing was excellent, breaking defensive lines. Argyle looked so blunt when they tried to play through Norwich and only really posed a threat when pressing and counter-attacking. All apart of Randell.

He was the only one who looked like he could break the team down from open play, but he suffered in a confused team alongside Camara who didn’t know whether he was coming or going, behind Lolos who did a poor job as the creator in the team, and inside the wing-backs who were isolated by the formation.

As mentioned though, he and Camara were awful defensively, and that was why Norwich won. Partly tactical – in my opinion the system should have been changed to 3-1-4-2 – but the duo failed to execute what Argyle did so well against a top range of attacking players versus QPR.

Ryan Law, LWB – 6

Law was by far the more dangerous wing-back, but like Moore suffered because the central midfielders were too deep and Lolos too narrow. It meant that he was virtually always isolated and doubled-up on, leaving them with two options: cross early and deep or pass backwards.

He persevered more than Moore though, breaking inside from the wing and crossing dangerously. He assisted the second – albeit with a deflected cross – and he deserved that for his attacking efforts. Yet, he was caught up-field often by Norwich’s swift counter-attacks.

Klaidi Lolos, AM – 6

Lolos won the penalty and scored the goal but there’s a reason he took three-times more shots than Telford, Hardie and Jephcott combined, He also took more touches in the box than all three combined. The lack of service to the strikers was largely because another striker was playing in attacking midfield: Lolos.

Lolos’ possession play was poor, as was his counter pressing in the first half. He look sharp when on the ball in dangerous positions, and it’s not his fault that he was played out of position, but too many of Argyle’s attacks broke down because of a sloppy pass or clumsy touch, more of those coming from Lolos than any other. He was also a bit lucky to win the penalty too, outfoxing Norwich’s left-back with a poor touch that ricocheted around before he was able to scramble to the ball first.

Lolos was classy, but he’s not an attacking midfielder. He loses points for being an issue with the performance of the team, but if it were only on individual performance alone he’d possibly be man of the match.

Luke Jephcott, ST – 6

Jephcott worked hard but was one of many victims of a system that was not that well thought out. Saw little of the ball and toiled but the creativity was not there. What can you do as a striker if nobody is creating for you?

Dom Telford, ST – 6

Telford positioned himself well throughout the game and deserved the goal just based on his positioning in the box. It was ironic that, after taking up good goalscoring positions all night, it had to be a deflected cross the finally found him. His header was good, drawing Argyle level.

Before then he nearly created the equaliser, beating a player only to see his cross narrowly cut out before arriving at Jephcott’s feet for a tap-in, and he looked sharp all night in spite of the lack of service.

However, when finding himself 2-v-1 with Jephcott in support, he opted to shoot from 20 yards with a defender close by rather than playing the pass. I’ve nothing wrong with him being more selfish and getting back to being a goalscorer, but that was obviously not the right decision.

Substitutes

Ryan Hardie, ST – 6

Barely touched the ball; did he even get a touch in the opposition box? If you’re wondering why, read above.

Brandon Pursall, CB – n/a

Came on for Sawyer after his injury, somehow survived the Norwich onslaught to avoid conceding a fourth or more.

Joe Edwards, RWB – n/a

Late substitute for Moore, pressed well while on the pitch. Should keep his position against Blackpool.

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