First XI:

Matt Macey – 5
One highlight in amongst the despair for Argyle on Saturday afternoon was a superb double save from Arsenal loanee Macey, whose quick reactions prevented Doncaster from making it 3-1 a long while before they eventually did. There’s hardly an awful lot he could have done about the goals that did go in either – sure, perhaps he could have covered more of his goal for John Marquis’ two smart finishes, but you can hardly detract marks from a goalkeeper for not having arms the size of King Kong. As is so often the case, however, question marks remain surrounding Macey’s distribution. His kicking was once more shaky at best, although he wasn’t helped by the completely ineffective Freddie Ladapo on the end of some of his lengthy punts, but one particularly noticeable facet at the weekend was his hesitancy in distributing the ball. On a few occasions, Argyle had the chance to break quickly against their possession-hungry visitors, but Macey’s indecisiveness prevented those potential opportunities from becoming reality. With news last week that Harry Burgoyne, Derek Adams’ supposed number one choice in goal before his injury, is set to return in December, it will be interesting to see how Argyle’s goalkeeper situation sets up when Big Ben bongs in 2019.

Ashley Smith-Brown – 5
Playing out of position, against a side producing waves of attacking pressure, Argyle’s £10 full back might have been expecting a slightly busier day than he eventually experienced. Luckily for Smith-Brown, however, his partner at full back was playing even further out of position, meaning Doncaster’s forward play was mainly focused on the other side. That’s not to say he was anonymous – in fact he ended up putting in the sort of performance we’ve come to expect of him in recent weeks, with a decent display going forward juxtaposed with a shaky, unspectacular defensive display. His attacking qualities were apparent as some good work in the unfamiliar right wing position led to an assist for Ruben Lameiras’ goal. However, whilst he wasn’t under extreme pressure at the back, it seemed that whenever a Doncaster player wanted to beat him, they could do so with ease. Smith-Brown has impressed some Argyle fans this year, but many opposition supporters have left some not-so flattering reviews. Does this go to emphasise Argyle’s catastrophic state of affairs, or is it indicative of the potential the 22-year-old demonstrates to fans who watch him more often? Either way, it shows that in the present day, a level of improvement is required.

Ryan Edwards – 3
The season started so incredibly for Eddy, a fairy-tale story as he scored in his first game back from treatment for testicular cancer. But my goodness, it’s been anything but a fairy-tale for the 24-year-old centre back since then. Since returning this season it appears he’s developed the turning circle of a double decker bus, and he appears to be a complete bag of nerves when facing any opposition strikers with even an ounce of pace. After just five minutes at the weekend, a comical handball on the edge of the penalty area gave Doncaster their first chance of the afternoon, and set the tone for what would be a dismal 90 minutes for the Liverpudlian. Can his current problems be linked to his long-term absence from the game last season? Perhaps – he certainly looks a little rusty on the field, although it’s hard to say for certain whether there is a causal link there. Whilst we’d all like to see Edwards succeed at Home Park, we’ve mentioned before that sentiment cannot get in the way of team selections. That has only been amplified by Argyle’s start to the season, and perhaps the only reason Edwards finds himself in the team now is down to the ongoing injury crisis.

Peter Grant – 6
Whilst it really isn’t saying a great deal, the lesser spotted Grant at Home Park was the pick of the Argyle defenders on Saturday afternoon. For a start, it appeared as if he was able to move, a talent Argyle appear to have been bereft of at centre back this season. But furthermore, he appeared to defend as solidly as anybody for the second week in succession after a decent enough debut against Charlton. His ability in the air has been obvious over the last two games, and on Saturday some eye-catching tackles and a ‘no nonsense’ approach helped endear him to the Green Army a little further. Of course he wasn’t perfect – nobody in green was even close – he kept Marquis onside for Doncaster’s opener and he picked up a booking for his troubles later on, but the player who came in as the 4th choice centre back may have already done enough to promote himself to the top of the pecking order. Perhaps there is a Sonny Bradley style story in this yet.

Gregg Wylde – 5
The one thing we can say about Wylde’s performance is that he looked every bit the winger playing in an unfamiliar left back role that he was. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since his ability to get the ball forward quickly and put in a teasing delivery certainly aided Argyle, and allowed them to double up on the left flank when chasing the game. It is clear, however, that this will not be a long-term solution for Adams’ side. Defensively he did his best, his pace and touch handy at times, but realistically it was unfair to expect him to do anything more. Against Charlton Wylde was relatively untroubled, and therefore successful, due to the narrow nature of the opposition attack. But Saturday was different. Doncaster knew Wylde was in an unfamiliar role, and did all they could to exploit it, with Leeds loanee Mallik Wilks beating him on countless occasions. Wylde tried hard, and he is far from the biggest problem Argyle have to deal with at present, but perhaps it would be no bad thing if one of Tafari Moore or Joe Riley recovered from their knocks soon, allowing Argyle’s defence to line up in their familiar roles.

David Fox – 4
Going into the season, and going into last season for that matter, there were question marks as to whether David Fox’s legs were set to get the better of him. He is, after all, set to turn 35 this side of Christmas, and whilst he hardly plays a box-to-box role in any system employed by Adams, age will surely have to catch up with him eventually. Sadly, for a player who has given us many moments of joy since his arrival in 2016, Fox’s start to the season will have done nothing to convince the doubters that he’s still able to perform at this level. At the weekend, Doncaster knew that if they pressed Fox, he wouldn’t have the legs to deal with the intensity of the game, and therefore his effectiveness as a playmaker was severely limited, to the extent that he was merely a passenger for much of Saturday’s encounter. Of course, the same things were said at the start of last season before he went on to have another superb campaign for the Greens, so there’s no reason to write him off just yet. What Saturday’s game did perhaps show, however, was that he needs his midfield sidekicks Jamie Ness and Antoni Sarcevic on the field with him to allow him to perform to his best.

Yann Songo’o – 3
No, no, no, Yann. The problem I have with this critique is that I really want Yann Songo’o to do well, as when he’s at his combative best it really does go a long way to giving everybody a lift. There was also a glorious moment in Saturday’s encounter which saw Songo’o bombing down the wing in an attempt to aid an Argyle counter attack, something which it is fair to say is not a talent within his regular skills set. Unfortunately, whilst Songo’o does occasionally put smiles on faces, his work of the ball totally counteracts this, and he’s therefore more likely to make Argyle fans miserable, not merry, in any given game. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player guiltier of ball-watching than Songo’o was on Saturday, simply watching as the first two goals went in when he should have been using his physicality to prevent them. He does a lot of things fans like, but that regularly gives him a free pass with the Green Army that he seldom deserves. Unless he develops a footballing brain, there really is no justification for Songo’o remaining in the team when anyone else is available.

Joel Grant – 5
The longest serving Grant at Argyle was quite possibly the hardest player to rate on the basis of Saturday’s game. Fine, there were some good touches, and he got a few Argyle fans off their seats on certain occasions, but aside from that, does anybody really remember anything he did? That is perhaps indicative of a player who shows glimpses of promise, but all to regularly fails to back them up with a sufficient end product. This can be backed up by looking at his form over his entire Argyle career – since his arrival from Exeter City just over a year ago, Grant has at the very least shown he is a capable footballer, but his high-quality performances have been a little infrequent, suggesting that he’s the sort of player who will try, often fail, but keep trying. What he isn’t going to be is the player who is able to make something out of nothing and turn a game on its head all on his own. Is he the player Argyle need at present? Well, his perseverance would certainly come in handy if there is a relegation battle on the cards this season, but I’d be much happier if he had one of his more impressive performances sooner rather than later.

Graham Carey – 6
Seconds after John Marquis scored Doncaster’s third goal of the afternoon at the weekend, the fourth official indicated that he’d be subjecting us to seven more minutes of the torture unfolding in front of us in the form of stoppage time. It occurred to me there and then that, if refereeing didn’t work out for him, he’d have no trouble finding a new profession, since there are many people around who would pay good money to experience that level of sadism. What we experienced, however, was arguably worse than we expected. Instead of allowing us to count the 420 seconds down before making a swift exit, Graham Carey decided to lash a rasping shot into the net from an impossible angle, reminding us all what he is capable of when it mattered the least. That allowed hope to creep in again, hope that perhaps Argyle could just rescue something from the ashes. That wasn’t to be, of course, and so the disappointment arrived in another wave. In truth, however, with Graham Carey on the pitch there will always be hope for Argyle, which is why I’m very cautious to criticise him. Even against Doncaster, he took his goal superbly and put in a few testing deliveries as Argyle chased the game. Thinking he’s the problem? Ludicrous.

Ruben Lameiras – 7 (man of the match)
For the vast majority of Saturday’s game, Lameiras was the only man who looked like making something happen, culminating in a sumptuous shot into the top left corner in the first half which briefly restored parity for Argyle. His performance, particularly in the first period, made a mockery of Adams’ decision to use him sporadically in recent weeks, and reemphasised the point (as if it needed to be reemphasised) that Argyle are more likely to score goals and win games with their best players on the field. His effervescence continued into the second half too, with an early shot outwitting Rovers goalkeeper Marko Marosi, but slipping narrowly wide of the post. Had that sneaked in, Lameiras may well have earned Argyle an undeserved point or three. In the end, he did tire a little, so his substitution in favour of Alex Fletcher was perhaps not as much of a surprise as some made out. You can hardly blame him – he had been carrying a number of passengers for well over an hour after all.

Freddie Ladapo – 2
Joey Barton once described Neymar as the “Justin Bieber of football,” commenting that he is “brilliant on the old YouTube” before calling the Brazilian something rather more derogatory in reality. That was Tweeted in March 2013, and it’s fair to say that Barton’s words have not aged well. However, Plymouth Argyle may have belatedly found the Justin Bieber of football, at least by Barton’s definition, in Freddie Ladapo. Anyone watching a highlights reel of Ladapo’s performances this season may well be suitably impressed, particularly after viewing his magnificent solo goal against Millwall in the Carabao Cup. However, those watching him every week will recognise that many of his performances do reek a little of feline urine. On Saturday, Ladapo was completely dominated by Doncaster’s defence, going down far too easily and holding up the ball to a standard that would make Rhys Griffiths ashamed. I almost felt sorry for him by the end, but he thankfully avoids a 1 rating by chance as he played the ball to Graham Carey as he lashed in Argyle’s second goal.

Substitutes:

Stuart O’Keefe (67) – 5
O’Keefe came on for Joel Grant in what we can only assume was a short lived unsuccessful tactical mix-up from Adams. So far, O’Keefe has seemed to be the sort of player who keeps Argyle ticking over with the status quo, and Saturday was no different. Unfortunately, when you’re bottom of the league, that is no good thing. O’Keefe wasn’t bad, at least compared to some of his teammates, and he did get involved with play on occasions, but on others he was as anonymous as ever. Not being noticed can occasionally be good – the best centre backs or defensive midfielders, for instance, go about their business often without fuss or reward when things are going well. When you’re in the team to be creative, however, it’s a fairly significant flaw.

Lionel Ainsworth (77) – 4
Coming on for Yann Songo’o, Adams’ second substitution was not exactly like-for-like. The hope, therefore, was that Ainsworth would have the ability to change the game as it continued to slip away from Argyle. Unfortunately, he didn’t begin to show the sort of talent we were all hoping he would. I recall one occasion where Smith-Brown bombed down the right side and needed support from his winger, who just seemed to stand around in the box and do nothing. In all fairness, Ainsworth doesn’t play nearly enough to allow us to establish whether this absent-mindedness is rife in his game, but if it is, perhaps that’s an indication as to why he doesn’t play as often as he does. It’s a vicious circle.

Alex Fletcher (82) – 4
Fletcher came on and within eight minutes played a key role in setting up a goal. Unfortunately, that goal was Doncaster’s third, as some carelessness in possession from the 19-year-old allowed the visitors to spring the offside trap catch Argyle on the break. Granted, Fletcher did not have very long to make an impact, but he hardly used the time he did have well. To be brutally honest, I’d imagine he’d have been released by now had he not come through the academy at Home Park.

Subs not used:

Calum Dyson, Kyle Letheren, Ryan Law, Dan Rooney

Author: Adam Price

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