Matt Macey – 7. On paper conceding two goals is enough to ruin any goalkeepers performance, but it’s hard to pin either of the goals on Macey here. He saved Cooks initial penalty attempt, diving to his left and saving with his legs only for an unfortunate rebound off of the crossbar put the ball back into the path of Andy Cook for an easy tap in. The second goal came from a well taken free kick, curling around the wall and out of his reach. Besides the goals, Macey played well, his size proving very helpful. His handling was also top quality, catching shots and crosses many goalkeepers wouldn’t. A very encouraging performance.
Joe Riley – 3. It is likely that Riley would like to forget his debut performance, much to the agreement of most Argyle fans. On the positive side he made a few good tackles, but the negatives far outweigh the positives. He was caught out of position numerous times and struggled to stay with the opposition winger Josh Ginnelly. For Walsall’s first goal, he did well to come across and cover the mistake made by Edwards, but all the good work was undone when he clumsily brought down Ginnelly for a penalty when a better decision would have been to try and get in front and stand him up or failing that, slide in to block any attempt a shot. Riley didn’t provide too much of an attacking threat and while there some bright moments, he seemed to connect poorly with Carey on the right hand side. His performance can be summed up with a long late pass attempt that was intended to go down the wing, but sailed hopelessly out of play. A day to forget for Riley and hopefully things can only get better.
Ryan Edwards – 7. First and foremost, it was fantastic to see Eddy get back on the pitch for the first time since his cancer diagnosis, and he played like the warrior he is. Dominant in the air, winning next to nearly every header. He took his goal very well and was unlucky not to win a penalty in the second half. The only knock on his performance was a mistake for the first goal. Slightly out of position as we pressed deep inside the Walsall half, and was caught out by a quick counter attack. He played with pride and passion and will be a very important player this season.
Scott Wootton – 6. A steady debut performance for Wootton, who seemed to gel well with the rest of the defence and made some important tackles and clearances. A common theme amongst the defence this game was that for the most part they played well. The game was lost on a few mistakes despite many playing well for much of the game. Another promising performance nevertheless.
Ashley Smith-Brown – 7 – Man of the Match. Smith-Brown was arguably Argyle’s best player in the opener, getting up and down the left flank with purpose. It’s evident he’s played youth football at an academy that knows what they’re doing, as he oozes confidence and class on the ball, and worked really well with Lameiras on the left hand side of the pitch, passing and moving, creating plenty of chances down their side. Within the first ten minutes, he’d trapped and controlled two long Ness passes with such ease, and looked very comfortable playing as a wing back when we changed formation midway through the second half. His ability and versatility will be vital for Argyle this season.
David Fox – 6. A tale of two halves for Fox in the opener, and it wasn’t exactly his fault. He played his usual game in the first half, sharing the ball well, making things happen and keeping the team ticking over. A change of formation to 4-4-2 in the second half changed that as he became part of a two man central midfield unit. Even with the energy of Ness, Fox seemed to get overran and struggled to keep up with the tempo of the game, especially when Walsall had the ball for extended periods of time. The formation change appeared to be a mistake and allowed Walsall to take control of the game. The formation change was not favourable for him and it’s unlikely we’ll see him used in that system too often.
Jamie Ness – 7. Ness was his usual self, putting in an industrial defensive performance with some big tackles and constant harassment of the Walsall players when the team didn’t have possession of the ball. His passing was also of note, finding Argyle’s wide players from his central position with regularity, while maintaining quality in the short passing game, with his pass selection fantastic throughout. He seemed to fade offensively towards the end of the game, maybe due to his extra responsibilities as part a two man central midfield partnership.
Conor Grant – 7. Standing in place for the injured Sarcevic, Grant made a good impression in his first game. Positive and creative, passed the ball very well with good cohesion between him and the rest of the midfield. One notable skill he showcased on his debut was his crossing and ability to deliver the ball. He put a beautiful free kick right into the danger area which Edwards connected with for the Argyle goal, and when moved out wide he continued to deliver crosses with some conviction. His work off the ball was an unexpected surprise, and he was happy to get stuck in to win the ball back. Grant is definitely going to be in and around the first team and is another player Adams has brought in for depth who certainly appears good enough for the first team.
Graham Carey – 6. Carey showcased his abilities and continued to create opportunities throughout the game, and seemed to enjoy a wide midfield role in a 4-4-2 less than his first half position as a wide forward and struggled at times with his defensive duties, allowing a few Walsall half chances. As the game came towards its close, he almost tried to put the team on his back and win the game himself, which to his credit he has done in the past. However on this occasion, while he kept testing Walsall’s left flank, lots of things just didn’t come off for him and it was a relatively disappointing performance by his high standards.
Ruben Lameiras – 6. Lameiras was only given 45 minutes against Walsall and had it not been for a change of formation, he would likely have stayed on the pitch. He was brought off because positionally there is no place for him in a 442. He struggled to get into the game in the first 20 minutes but for the remainder of the first half he was often a threat. The period of play from minutes 20 to 45 was dominated by some incredible passing play from Argyle and Lameiras had a big role in this. Passing, moving, getting into advanced positions, it was surprising to see him brought off so early, presumably for a tactical reason rather than an injury knock.
Ryan Taylor – 6. Taylor had very few clear cut chances in the opener, the best being one where he took a shot while being grounded which was just cleared off the line. He held the ball up as well as he usually does, but decisions often went against him which is not an unfamiliar sight. He seemed to get a little frustrated throughout the game as a result of the overly physical approach taken by the Walsall defenders towards him. Regardless, Taylor is one of our best and most important players to the system when fit.
Freddie Ladapo (h/t) – 6 Brought on as a strike partner to Ryan Taylor, likely to try and divert some of the attention Taylor was receiving in the first half. Both strikers seemed to get more touches of the ball although left us more exposed when Walsall had the ball. Ladapo showed off his athleticism, lots of speed and strength, as well as promising signs with the ball at his feet, even if it didn’t come off for him on his debut. He was a handful for the Walsall defenders and should prove to be a viable attacking option with some games under his belt.
Gary Sawyer (74) – 5. Came on as a left sided centre back as part of a three, the new club captain put in a steady performance and didn’t have all too much to do as Argyle looked to press on and find an equaliser. It should be noted that his ability to play multiple defensive positions is likely to be important this season, and will possibly be utilised more frequently.
Gregg Wylde (87) – 5. Many Argyle fans were not expecting Wylde to play in a green shirt ever again following his Twitter fiasco at the end of last season, and the underwhelming reception he got reflected this. Regardless, he had little time to get on the ball and make any impact in the game. He should have been brought on earlier if Adams was so keen on using him.
Subs Not Used: Kyle Letheren, Yann Songo’o, Niall Canavan & Joel Grant.