Another week at Home Park and another set of twists and turns in this seemingly unpredictable season saw Oxford visit in the FA Cup. The U’s took the victory and were rewarded with an away trip to Brentford in the New Year. 7 days later it was bottom-of-the-league Bradford City’s turn to take on the Greens in a must-win game for both sides, but on this occasion the points were shared in a game which saw the visitors take the lead 3 times; both games once again highlighted Argyle’s frailties at the back and the need for strengthening in January.
Matt Macey has been under the spotlight following recent performances. The return to action of England u21 prospect Harry Burgoyne excited a lot of us last week. Before long though, any potential of seeing him between the sticks for Argyle was quashed, as his loan was terminated and he returned to the Black Country. So, that almost undoubtedly leaves Macey as the No1 for the rest of the season as Arsenal would not be happy to see him sitting on a League 1 bench, which would surely happen if Derek Adams were to bring another stopper in.
This has left many Argyle fans dismayed. There is no doubting Macey’s potential. As a 24 year old he is still in his ‘adolescent’ years as a Goalkeeper, and with his peak years ahead of him he will no doubt develop into a fine keeper at a higher level. Unfortunately for us, we don’t have the time for potential right now. If Macey was one of our own, perhaps we could see beyond his shortcomings and accept he will make mistakes as part of his development but the games are coming thick and fast and points are slipping away from us. It is not as if we will be likely to see the long term fruits of his development. More specifically, his general distribution and kicking skills leave a lot to be desired, and he could certainly be more vocal and show the command a 6ft4 presence should possess.
However, early on in the season, Macey put in some fantastic performances and no doubt saved us points with some great saves at key points in games. His shot-stopping is undoubtedly his strongest point. The back line in front of him have not done him many favours either, for example, most recently against Bradford, where individual errors put the team on the back foot. There is of course an argument that Macey should have done better in these situations, but then he shouldn’t be faced with them in the first place.
The other options at the club lie in the shape of Kyle Letheren, who has barely made 100 first team appearances throughout his career, or Mike Cooper, at the tender age of 19 has a very bright future ahead of him. If we want potential, Cooper seems to have it in abundance. A certain Luke McCormick made his debut at the same age and went on to to represent the Greens over 300 times. Yet, can he really be expected to do so well as that with the shambolic defence in front of him?
It is always so easy to pick up on a Goalkeepers downsides. We are all quick to criticise, but he is a part of a defence, and to put it simply our defence is not good enough right now. We were fortunate last year to have the likes of Threlkeld, Vyner and Bradley and any team in League 1 would struggle to replace them. Though we cannot dwell on who we used to have, the fact of the matter is the backline needs a shake up. Macey can, and will improve, but if the Green Army are to march onwards and upwards he needs the support around him.
Elsewhere at Home Park this week Simon Hallett has been ever present during his first trip to the club since becoming the chairman last month, including an interactive fans forum on Thursday night. He continues to back Derek Adams and has been to the last couple of games at Home Park. He has said Adams is welcome to approach the board if he feels he needs more money to bolster his squad which bodes well for the Pilgrims. Let’s hope he is powering up the proverbial revolving door in time for January where we could well see a big shake up of the squad.
Next up it’s a visit to Greater Manchester and more specifically Rochdale who sit in 18th position. They have conceded 39 goals this campaign and sit 7 points ahead of Argyle in what’s been an inconsistent season for them. Argyle will definitely feel this is a winnable game and will look to take all 3 points against The Dale for the first time since 2012.