Player Ratings: Bristol Rovers 1 Plymouth Argyle 1

Plymouth Argyle drew 1-1 away to Bristol Rovers in their first serious pre-season test. The game was somewhat reminiscent of last season: Argyle were clearly on top in the first half, wasted chances to build a two-goal lead, conceded early in the second half following a defensive error and looked the weaker side the longer the match went on.

Of course, the endless flow of substitutes ruined the second half from an entertainment perspective and demonstrated the need for further signings to bolster the squad’s depth, but there were plenty of positive signs to come out of the first hour.

Michael Cooper, GK – 7

Ultimately, the young keeper did not have a lot to do in a first half that the Greens largely dominated. However, on the rare occasions he was called upon, he dealt with his challenges well.

He plucked a couple of crosses out of the air with consummate ease and did very well in a testing situation towards the end of the half. A long ball was lofted forwards out of the Rovers defence and the home striker looked to be in a position to go one v one but Cooper calmly came out of his area and headed the ball to a teammate.

He will be disappointed that his run of facing penalties without saving one (now 0/8) in an Argyle shirt has continued but he can hardly be blamed for that in isolation.

James Wilson, CB – 7

Wilson looked solid defensively for the most part, though there were moments when Rovers attackers snuck in behind him. By and large, his pressing was good and showed an instinct to win the ball that was lacking from certain defenders particuarly at the back end of last season.

The biggest concern coming out of the game was Wilson’s passing. An over-powered backpass to Cooper in the first half meant he wasn’t able to clear properly, a couple of poor passes from his teammates put him under pressure a few times in the second half and he did not look totally when they happened. Those moments are going to come during the season and Wilson will need to polish up his ball control and awareness to prevent turnovers in dangerous positions that could prove costly.

Dan Scarr, CB – 7

Strong start for Scarr, who was dominant in the air and mopped up most that came his way. It would be unfair to call his first half duels with Ayunga a contest – there was only one winner, and that pattern largely continued in the second half, wave for one moment when he lost balance and was shrugged off by Langlais.

It’s clear that Scarr isn’t that quick, but he was just able to anticipate the danger on each occasion that a quick forward looked primed to break in behind – that or it was mopped up by a teammate.

For all the talk by Walsall fans that Scarr can’t pass, the early signs are promising. The back-three as a unit sometimes got too cocky in the second half and ran the risk of giving away possession, but Scarr’s passing was good overall. As time passes, it should hopefully continue to improve.

Macauley Gillesphie, CB – 6

It was a very good first half for the new defender who built positive momentum from an imposing performance at Saltash in midweek. He won headers well and looked comfortable carrying the ball out from the back.

One moment of madness however, put a dampener on his display. A needless push in the back to a Rovers striker on the border of the penalty area, just two minutes after the interval, gave them the spot kick they needed to get a draw. Let’s hope we can just put it down to a lack of freshness.

Jordan Houghton, DM – 7

Had he made it into the second half, Houghton would have probably been an 8, but his impact was reduced sinec he didn’t even make it to half-time. After a slow first fifteen minutes in which he demand the ball from the defence and failed to play the quarterback role, missing three out of three long passes, he took control of the game.

Changing tack and playing a short-passing game, he found space in the middle of the pitch, called for possession and slid nice passes through the midfield press to release the likes of Mayor and Grant. Dominated the midfield from then until his injury.

His defending, the big question mark arond Houghton, was good enough, though Rovers players twice skipped past him. He’ll have to stand up to tougher tests against better players and teams, and if Houghton and Randell are Lowe’s two options at DM, then that’s an almighty gamble that might not pay off.

Joe Edwards, RWB – 6

Worked hard off the ball but was rarely on it. As was the case last season, while Mayor and Grant ran the show on the left, Edwards and Camara created fewer openings but looked more solid defensively. That’s pretty much all that can be said, given how quiet Argyle’s right flank was.

Panutche Camara, CM – 6

Camara continues to be a player that offers more off the ball than on it. His attacking movement almost saw him get on the end of a couple of crosses from the left wing, his pressing off the ball almost saw him steal the ball and run clean through, and his defensive work supported Wilson and Edwards.

However, when he had the ball, Rovers almost always had players behind it and so Camara almost always opted for the sideways or backwards pass. He remains a player who probably shouldn’t start in games that Argyle are expecting to see the vast majority of the ball, as Conor Grant or Adam Randell could probably do a better job unlocking those defenses. That does mean that he’s quite likely to stand out in the upcoming matches against Championship opposition.

Danny Mayor, CM – 7

Mayor’s trademark drop of the shoulder was on display once again. However, once again, no goals or assists. It’s harsh, I know. He does a lot for the team, he gets us further up the pitch than we otherwise would be, but every game against a side like Rovers that he doesn’t score or assist against is a reminder that, with his wonderful talents, he can do so much more.

Superb challenge charging back to prevent a Rovers counter-attack, though that’s all I can remember of him from the second half before he was subbed.

Conor Grant, LWB – 7

Combined wonderfully with Mayor at times in the first half and delivered some good crosses, but nothing exceptional. Best cross found Ennis somehow – what was going on with the defending?! – unmarked at the backpost, eight yards out, but he headed wide with the aid of a deflection (on first glance, looked to me like it was going wide anyway).

Switched seamlessly into centre-mid after Mayor went off and almost made space for a trademark long-range screamer with minutes left, but couldn’t get it out of his feet properly.

Luke Jephcott, ST – 7

Weird rating for Jephcott, who was only inthe game twice before he was substituted. He won the penalty after being budled over as he attempted to control a long ball by Wilson right on the edge of the area, then scored expertly. And he picked up a loose ball to perfeclty thread it through for Hardie’s one-on-one.

Otherwise, he rarely saw the ball and – worryingly continuing a trend from the second half of last season – got on the end of no passes into the box despite plenty of Argyle territory and pressure. It’s not that the chances weren’t there, just that Jephcott was never in the right place to receive any. That needs to change.

Ryan Hardie, ST – 5

Movement: excellent. Finishing: poor. That’s probably generous.

Hardie had all the chances – as in, apart from the penalty, every chance before he was substituted fell to him. Two headers, both of which he didn’t get enough on, a snapshot too close to the keeper, a terribly executed lob when one-on-one, a cross-cum-shot that found neither the target nor a teammate. He should have scored at least one. He could have had a hattrick on the right day.

On a positive note, Hardie sometimes struggled to get in the right positions last season, but this time he was making perfectly timed surges into the right position. Now he just needs an apprenticeship at the Paul Wotton school of finishing in Truro that so clearly worked for Jephcott.

Substitutes

Adam Randell, DM – 8 (38 for Houghton)

In the unusual position of being forced on shortly before half time due to Jordan Houghton’s injury, Randell adapted well to a testing situation. At first, he looked a little wobbly defensively, not quite dropping into the right places as well as Houghton had before him.

That said, let’s not let it take away from a very promising performance from the Plymstock Pirlo [editor’s note, grow up] on the whole. He would often attempt brave incisive passes, some of which cut through the Rovers defence and nearly created goalscoring opportunities, but for a slight lack of composure on behalf of some of the strikers.

He was always open to receiving the ball and recycling it across the field with a short pass where necessary and his defensive work vastly improved as the game went on. One late interception on the edge of the penalty area could have been particularly vital. Overall, he showed himself to be a strong contender for the season to come.

Niall Ennis, ST – 6 (54 for Jephcott)

Ennis was another player who had an up and down game. The general standard of play got worse when he was on the field, but that was more due to the ebb and flow being disrupted by substitutions more so than any errors on his part.

On the rare occasions Argyle did threaten, his dynamic movement pulled defenders out of position and he looked the most likely to cause problems.

However, we can’t get away from that miss. He really should have won Argyle the game late on when he had a header unmarked and in a great position from a Conor Grant corner but unfortunately he wasn’t able to direct the ball on target. He scores a lot of goals, all things considered, but his finishing can still let him down at times.

Callum Burton, GK – 6 (62 for Cooper)

Burton came on for Cooper part way through the second half and, like his goalkeeping counterpart, did also not come in for a lot of testing.

He had to save one serious effort and did so very well, beating away a sharp, low shot that would surely have won Rovers the game. His one wobble came moments later, coming a long way off his line for a free kick that he did not connect to. Thankfully, nor did the incoming striker. Otherwise, the game would have been won with its final real moment.

The only other thing worth noting is Burton’s passing, which was a noticeable drop off from Cooper and contributed to Argyle’s poorer second half, in which they struggled to get on the ball as much as before.

Brendan Galloway, CB – (66 for Gillesphey)

A mixed bag from Argyle’s trialist who showed the Green Army that they some reasons to be excited, whilst also demonstrating reasons to remain grounded. After being introduced, he looked more than a little sluggish. Perhaps this is to be expected from a player who has had only five competitive starts in as many years.

That said, he did grow into the game as it went on, making some good interceptions to stop home attacks. He also showed some good overlapping runs down the left wing. If he isn’t needed at centre-back, you’d think he’d be eminently capable of covering the wing-back position

Rhys Shirley, ST – 6 (75 for Hardie)

Argyle fans were excited to see what this youngster could do after a very promising cameo at Saltash the other night. Alas, despite some promising runs and good touches, he did not find himself with the same space to be able to exploit against professional league defenders.

That said, he made some runs into the right areas and displayed good game awareness, even if it did not quite pay off for him with the ball at his feet.

Ryan Law, LWB – 6 (69 for Mayor)

Law came on for Danny Mayor halfway through the second half, forcing Conor Grant inside into the central midfield spot. Whilst the young substitute was defensively competent, it’s tough to argue we didn’t lose a little bit of the crossing threat from wide areas that Grant provided.

Law seemed a little too keen to impose himself on the central areas and less keen to offer a regular outlet out wide. That said, he made no obvious errors and helped see the game out as a draw.

Ollie Tomlinson, CB – n/a (84 for Scarr)

Tomlinson came into the side with just a few minutes to go and whilst not directly attributable to any error, will perhaps be disappointed that Rovers’ best two chances occurred with him on the pitch. Perhaps the vocal voice of Dan Scarr was missed?

Finley Craske, RWB – n/a (84 for Edwards)

Alongside Tomlinson, Craske came on with minutes to go and didn’t really have much of a chance to stamp an impression on the game. A couple of touches of the ball in congested areas are not sufficient evidence from which to draw conclusions. However, it’s worth noting that he looks considerably stronger than he did during his brief run outs for Argyle last year, which should increase his chances of being successful with the club in the long-run.

Green & White: How to turn this around?

Plymouth Argyle are now on a run of six consecutive league defeats after losses to Bristol Rovers and Crewe Alexandra. How can they turn it around?

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Argyle’s issues laid bare once more

Well, here we go again.

You’ll have to forgive my tendency to resemble a broken record during these times. I’d love to be able to explore some new topics in these pieces, but we are beginning to see the same patterns repeated over and over again. Plymouth Argyle have now lost five league games in a row, and after around ten minutes against Bristol Rovers it seemed inevitable that the dire run was set to continue.

Admittedly, that may seem like a little overreaction. Saturday’s 3-0 defeat was far from Argyle’s worst performance of the season, though the displays against Fleetwood and Rochdale don’t exactly make that a major achievement. Indeed, had Luke Jephcott taken his one big chance as he so often does, and Ryan Hardie managed to stick one of his many opportunities into the net, we may have bene telling a very different story. Alas, it wasn’t to be.

And in truth, it wasn’t Argyle’s attack that was the problem on Saturday. When you concede three goals, you can never expect to win games with regularity. When those goals are terrible ones to concede, the problems clearly run even deeper than once thought. That’s was the case with Argyle on Saturday, and it means big questions hang over the squad. In truth, they have for quite a few weeks.

What exactly happens in training?

All three of Rovers’ goals could be considered “straight from the training ground” efforts. Each one of them came from a set piece, and they were all totally avoidable from an Argyle point of view. It does lead one to wonder what defensive work actually takes place in Argyle’s training sessions.

Let’s take the two goals from corners as an example. On both occasions, Argyle decided to exclusively use man-to-man marking in the penalty area. Now that mightn’t seem like an inherently bad thing until you consider the responsibilities it puts on the players. One-on-one, Argyle’s defenders had to be experts at winning aerial battles to make the method of defending effective. Put simply, they’re not.

The first goal is a prime example. As soon as Alfie Kilgour got the run on Jerome Opoku, he more or less had a free header on the Argyle goal. I remarked at the time that Opoku didn’t cover himself in glory, and I maintain this is true, but he was hardly helped by the system. Had there been an element of zonal marking, another player may have been able to steal a march and win the ball, or at least put a little more pressure on Kilgour’s header. Setting up to defend the corner the way Argyle did was simply asking for trouble.

A lack of zonal marking also contributed to Rovers’ second goal, for different reasons. This time, the first ball was only partially cleared, and Luke McCormick (heh) swept up the pieces to double the hosts’ advantage. And it was always likely to be a Rovers player who got to the ball first. With man-to-man marking deployed Argyle’s defenders, understandably, would have been focusing on their designated attackers, allowing all of Rovers’ players to watch the ball and react quickest. Unsurprisingly, they did. Had somebody been in that zone to clear, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

Zonal marking isn’t a magic bullet – far from it. In fact, most teams opt for a hybrid approach, incorporating aspects of both man marking and zonal marking to deal with set pieces. Such an approach would have aided Argyle immensely on Saturday. Can we trust Ryan Lowe, a former striker and famously attacking coach, to implement this on the training ground? I’m beginning to wonder.

Where is the protection?

Take the best defence in the world, and they’ll still find life difficult if they have to defend with no midfield protection for 90 minutes. That difficulty will be exemplified if they have to defend as a back three rather than a back four. Argyle’s defence, it’s fair to say, isn’t the best in the world, so the lack of midfield protection being provided currently is a serious concern.

Tyrese Fornah is the main culprit here, but again he’s not helped by the system Lowe deploys. As the “1” in the 3-1-4-2, much of the defensive responsibility, particularly when the opposition launch a counter, rests on his shoulders. He doesn’t seem cut out for it at all. He regularly finds himself ten or fifteen yards further upfield that necessary, and that results in acres of space being left behind him. We saw Fleetwood, for example, take advantage of that very early on, and Rovers again were given far too much of the pitch to operate in without pressure this weekend.

Fornah seems to be suffering the same way we saw Yann Songo’o suffer in 2018/19. Neither are bad players in their own right – Fornah picked out a superb pass on his weaker foot in the second half to demonstrate his ability on the ball – but neither have been played to their strengths for large portions of their time at Home Park. It’s seen the same pattern emerge on both occasions: a complete lack of protection for an already shaky defence.

Argyle’s defence isn’t great. The protection afforded to them is inadequate. The results? Obvious.

How big are the issues?

I don’t want to overreact. Argyle have shown across this season that they have the tools to compete. This is an awful run of form, of course, but that doesn’t mean Argyle have suddenly become a bad side. There are issues that need resolving, and I’m very happy to concede that. But it’s not as if Argyle aren’t capable of doing just that, and still making a success of this campaign.

Still, the leadership void at the back needs resolving, and it may well take until the January transfer window before that issue can be put to bed. But the defence could still be improved by bringing in those most competent in the air, with Niall Canavan a prime candidate. I note that Argyle’s best back three (in my view at least) of Kelland Watts, Will Aimson and Canavan were again not given a chance together this weekend.

Argyle should be able to solve the midfield issue straight away. Lewis MacLeod being back to full fitness will be a great help, and providing he is at 100% he really ought to start against Crewe on Tuesday night in Fornah’s position. But if not, Lowe can still make things work with Fornah in the side. Giving him a partner by subtly changing to a 3-4-1-2 or 3-4-3 would give Argyle’s the double benefit of solidifying the midfield whilst retaining Lowe’s preferred back three, minimising the upheaval in the process.

But the issues, whilst solvable, are serious. It certainly feels as though how he responds to this run will be the making of Lowe. Derek Adams failed to solve Argyle’s problems two years ago, despite having the tools to do so, and it ultimately cost the Greens their place in League One, and Adams his job. Lowe will need to learn from his predecessor’s mistakes to ensure his time at Argyle doesn’t follow a similar trajectory.

Opposition View: Bristol Rovers v Plymouth Argyle

This weekend, Argyle will make another trip to Bristol Rovers in poor form. As always, we had the pleasure of being joined by GasCast for our Opposition View. You can also find them on Twitter.

First of all, how have things been at Rovers since we last spoke?

From memory the last game we had was the FA cup came at Argyle where we fluked a win with Anssi Jaakkola pulling off one of the best saves I’ve ever seen live!

Since then Rovers have hired and sacked Ben Garner, sold our best player, turned over half the squad and hired a certain Paul Tisdale. I’m sure he’s looking forward to seeing you at the Mem on Saturday! As usual never a dull moment at Rovers.

More specifically, how have the club dealt with the disruption caused by COVID?

Oddly we have weathered it pretty well. Our board were working on measures to make us more sustainable before the pandemic that have softened the blow. Also, our owner writing off the debt the club had is absolutely huge. We’ve also completed phase 1 of the training ground (this is a much bigger deal to us than to other clubs) so we should come out of the other side in decent shape. We’ll certainly have weathered it better than a lot of clubs.

On the field, what have you made of your season so far?

Up until last Saturday I would have said it was an unmitigated disaster. Garner brought in a lot of signings that on paper looked like would really improve us. Names like Ehmer, Baldwin, Oztumer, Westbrooke got fans really excited for the season.

Unfortunately the results didn’t follow and he was sacked after we lost at home to Fleetwood which left us just above the relegation zone.

Tisdale was swiftly appointed and we lost against Swindon and then drew to Wigan in our next two league games which for a new manager bounce wasn’t the best.

We then battered Darlington 6-0 in the FA cup and last week demolished Wimbledon 4-2 at Plough Lane. Hopefully that is a corner turned as against Dons we played some really positive attacking football that Garner was brought in to provide.

And what would you say your ambitions are for the rest of the campaign?

Fans expectations have been up and down, but I’d say we’d be happy with mid table at this point. If we play like we did against Swindon and Wigan we’ll be down there struggling, if we play like we did against Dons then we could be right up there.

What sort of tactical style do you expect to set up with on Saturday?

Tisdale has been struggling to find his best team and system with every game having something slightly different. He’s also made tons of changes during games to try things out as he’s only had two weeks at the helm and something like 5 games. It’s been a bit mad for him.

I expect us to line up as we did against Dons. Flat back 4 with 2 holding midfielders. Then a fairly fluid front 4 diamond with Hanlon at the tip, Westbrooke at the base and Oztumer and Nichoson on either side. They will switch around a lot, but we’ll look to attack through those 4 primarily.

Mostly on the deck, mostly trying to get those front 4 in the game. Width to be provided by Leahy at left back and Ehmer at right back.

And are there any real weak links in the side you’re worried about?

Set pieces are our Achilles heel this season. I don’t have the stats, but it feels like at least once every other game we concede from a set piece.

We are vulnerable on the counter as our defenders aren’t the quickest and Ehmer is a centre back playing at right back.

What have you made of Argyle’s progress since we met in the FA Cup last year?

I went to uni in Plymouth and they are my second team so I keep an eye out for your results and progress. I’m chuffed you got promoted as a Plymouth away day is always my favourite!

I think Argyle are a championship club. They should be anyway. Now you have hospitality facilities in the Mayflower stand you should be pushing on.

Bear in mind when I was going 2007-09ish you were in the Championship and pushing to try and get up. Those were the days of Sturrock, Ebanks-Blake beating up a bouncer outside of the candy club on union street with his mrs’ handbag. You know the good times!

What are your predictions for League One in general this year?

Looks like the expected teams will be up there, Hull, Pompey, Posh, Ipswich, etc. Lincoln being up there has put the cat amongst the pigeons. I’m gunna stick my neck out a little and say Fleetwood could go under the radar this season. I like the look of them.

At the other end, the usual suspects plus us and Oxford at the moment. I think we’ll pull clear so will Oxford. Wigan are in a sorry state and might not even see out the season. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that!

I can’t see any real shocks this season. Sunderland to bottle promotion again is on the cards.

And finally, what is your prediction for the game itself?

I’m going confident for the first time this season and saying Rovers will win. You’re in a horrible run of form and I think we can take advantage. Rovers 2-1 for me.

Player Ratings: Plymouth Argyle 0 Bristol Rovers 1

Despite having the better of the game, Argyle were knocked out of the FA Cup this evening following a 1-0 defeat to Bristol Rovers. The Pirates will go on to play Coventry City in the third round.

Starting XI

Alex Palmer, GK – 7

A disappointing evening for the West Brom loanee who was hardly tested in a match which Argyle dominated, but he still didn’t really deserve to be on the losing side. He could do nothing about the goal, a near perfect going right into the top of the net.

He did however make a very good save to prevent a Rovers sucker punch attempt going in shortly after, as Argyle piled men forward. They say it’s the sign of a good keeper to do well even when not tested for long spells in the game. Palmer certainly did that as well as consistently effective distribution.

Scott Wootton, CB – 7

Another solid enough performance from Argyle’s number 5. In the first half in particularly he made use of the space in front of him to give Argyle’s right side some added attacking impetus. He was bitterly unlucky not to level the scores with the last kick of the game, and even more unlucky with his deflected clearance leading to the only goal. One he’ll want to forget, but through no fault of his own.

Josh Grant, CB – 7

A great many Argyle fans were nervous when we saw he returned to centre back after a long spell in defensive midfield. However, we needn’t have been. In spite of his previous inadequacy in this position, he passed the test with good colours today. He was good in the air and with the ball at his feet, often starting attacks by playing the ball out well through the midfield lines. We hope Canavan isn’t injured for too long but if he is, Grant just needs to keep on playing how he has.

Gary Sawyer, CB – 6

A fairly mixed, and in all honesty unspectacular, performance from Argyle’s long serving captain. He linked play up down the left well at times, although that seemed to fade the longer the game went on. Played a pass directly out of play as the game drew to a close which didn’t help the mood, and he was beaten in the air for the winner, though he can hardly take too much of the blame considering the nature of the chance.

Joe Edwards, DM – 7

A solid game from Edwards who showed exactly why he was selected in lieu of Josh Grant in the defensive midfield role. He still displayed some of the same weaknesses. His passing over 15 yards or more for example isn’t great.

What he did do well is that which he always does well. He is a scrapper. He picked up numerous loose balls as well as tackling well when needed to regain the ball for Argyle. Against weaker opponents, we may need more of a passer but Edwards had a consistently good game in stopping the Pirates’ counter-attacking moves as well as playing the short passes well when they were needed

Byron Moore, RWB – 7

Good but not spectacular from Argyle’s right winger on the day. He followed a familiar script for Argyle players recently in looking tidy until reaching the final third. Completed some good runs and won some set pieces, but a lack of cutting edge prevented him from really shining this evening.

Antoni Sarcevic, CM – 6

Not a bad game from the dynamic central midfielder but not quite as good as many of the games that he’s played in recent weeks. He drove forward with the ball well at times but his old weakness of close control and passing came to the fore again at times in the game.

We returned again, as in the Morecambe game, to a nominally more passing based style today and it didn’t work out quite as well against stronger opponents. He still deserves to keep his place for the trip to Macclesfield but it’s worth bearing in mind. More positively, he covered a lot of ground and defended well

Danny Mayor, CM – 7, Player of the Match

In the first half, so much of the play went through Mayor. He played some superb through balls to set Taylor and Joel Grant free, where the former could have won a penalty and the other hit the side netting. He was another who faded slightly in the second half, possibly through Rovers changing their shape and focusing their defensive efforts down Argyle’s left. It is, however, still enough for Mayor to take our player of the match award.

George Cooper, LWB – 7

A curious game for the Peterborough loanee. He always looked threatening, could have scored if a few deflections were more friendly, and he played the McFadzean role well in the second half to bolster Argyle’s threat down the left. That being said, his one-footedness prevents him from a higher mark. He’ll probably be remembered most from this game for being particularly wasteful on his weaker side.

Joel Grant, ST – 6

Another slightly underwhelming game from the striker who has managed to be capable up front without ever really being inspiring. He was far from all bad. He linked up play well at times and got into one very good position to score.

Less positively, that good position resulted in a disappointing miss and there were large spells of the game where he didn’t really involve himself enough. He has done well enough to keep his place for now but he must be sweating at the prospect of the January window.

Dom Telford, ST – 7

The little striker certainly had a very good game on the whole. There were a number of occasions where he expertly held up the ball and laid it off to advancing midfielders to develop the attack. However, he has to lose marks for THAT miss. In a game of Argyle profligacy, that was just about the worst miss of the lot. A goalscoring striker to complement Telford is badly needed in January. Jamie Reid, perhaps?

Substitutes

Zak Rudden, ST – 5

It would certainly come as a big surprise if Rudden were to stay at Argyle if recent performances are anything to go by. He clashed with the Rovers goalkeeper moments after coming on, and generally bore the characteristics of a headless chicken at times. A worrying lack of technical ability on show, both tonight and in previous games, doesn’t work in his favour either.

Billy Clarke, ST – 5

In truth, he hardly touched the hall in the short time he was on, not really impacting the game

Conor Grant, DM – 6

He was clearly brought on to give more of a passing flavour to Argyle’s game as we looked to chase a leveller but he didn’t quite managed to find the defence-unlocking pass that we needed. He still did well though, moving the ball around quickly.

Plymouth Argyle draw Coventry or Ipswich Town in third round

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Plymouth Argyle will face Coventry City or Ipswich Town at Home Park in the FA Cup third round if they beat Bristol Rovers in a replay on the 10th of December.

This is after the two sides played out a 1-1 draw at the Memorial Stadium on Sunday, to take the replay back to Home Park next Tuesday.

The replay between Coventry and Ipswich that Argyle fans will be looking out for will kick off at the same time, after the two league one sides played out their a 1-1 draw themselves on Saturday.

Should Argyle beat Bristol Rovers, FA Cup Third Round ties are scheduled to be played between the 4-6 January 2020.

Argyle only faced Coventry four times in the last decade, losing three but winning the most recent match in January thanks to a Ruben Lamieras brace. Meanwhile, the Greens haven’t faced Ipswich since the Championship days, winning the most recent meeting away at Portman Road thanks to goals from Bradley Wright-Phillips and Joe Mason.

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Player Ratings: Bristol Rovers 1 Plymouth Argyle 1

Plymouth Argyle are in the hat for tomorrow’s FA Cup third round draw following a dramatic tie against Bristol Rovers at the Memorial Stadium. Antoni Sarcevic’s late penalty miss – after his earlier equaliser from the spot – will see Rovers return to Home Park for the second time this season (the third if you include the pre-season friendly match) later this month.

On the whole, it was a good performance from Argyle who were marginally the better side over the game. In truth, a draw was a fair result and both keepers were tested heavily. The draw for the third round will be awaited eagerly by both sets of fans.

Alex Palmer, GK – 9, player of the match

Palmer was tested a few times in the closing stages of the game, when both sides had the chance to win the tie, most notably as he made a fantastic save to deny Rovers at the death while the score was still 1-1. Throughout, his cross collection was assured and his distribution – an area that have been worse in recent weeks – was back up to its top level.

Scott Wootton, CB – 7

Another largely solid game from the centre-back who has reinvented himself as one of Argyle’s most consistent players over the last couple of months. His heading was good once more and only a few panicky decisions with the ball at his feet cost him a higher rating.

Niall Canavan, CB – 8

There were a couple of occasions where Canavan showed a hint of losing his man in a game that was an enthralling end-to-end battle for much of it.

By and large though, he dealt with the tests well. His dominance in the air was as strong as it always is and he started counter attacks well with his assured passing out of defence.

Gary Sawyer, CB – 7

Another consistent performance from Sawyer, who has continued to astound many supporters who wrote him off after an admittedly dire showing last season (that includes me, the idiot!).

He was solid and kept his shape well against some troublesome attacks. Overall, an impressive performance against his old club. One weak area is that he didn’t show to overlap and support his wing back in the same way that he often does (and as Wootton did on the other wing).

Josh Grant, DM – 7

Another impressive display, indicating his long term future clearly lies at defensive midfield. He showed his previous knack of tackling hard when required but often swooping in with grace to recover a loose ball and prevent a tackle from being necessary.

He seemed to push a good 10/15 yards higher up the pitch today in some of the attacking phases of the game as well, aided in part by a very defensive Rovers line-up, adding a new element to his game. The only downside to his performance today is that one or two tackles strayed too far into the reckless category, earning a yellow card.

Joe Edwards, RWB – 5

Edwards has put in some very impressive displays at wing-back recently but today wasn’t really one. He didn’t really show often enough for the overlap and more attacks seemed to go down his side defensively. He should keep his place in the side but he was the weakest link today.

Antoni Sarcevic, CM – 7

Another hustling and bustling performance from the midfielder. Some of his ball use wasn’t great but he covered a great deal of ground and was best when he was able to drop his shoulder and drive forward with the ball.

He deserves bonus points for a successful first penalty but loses them a few minutes later. His second penalty was dreadful: soft, central, an a good height for the ‘keeper to save it. He’s lucky to not drop a point for that miss, though Argyle may well pay if a lucrative third round clash is the price to pay.

Danny Mayor, CM – 8

Yet again with Mayor you still feel there’s a bit more to come. There were a couple of occasions where he held onto the ball for a fraction too long and you just didn’t sense he quite believed in himself to drive forward, though maybe this is due to the more direct style that Lowe has shifted to recently.

On occasions where he did, though, he looked nothing short of dynamite. He won the penalty for our equalising goal, adding to the long list of goals that he has been at least tangentially involved in.

If he just stats to do this a little bit more, the territorial style could still prove fertile ground for him in spite of the deviation from the style that saw him thrive last season. A very good performance from our best attacking threat on the day, it’s just a shame there have been fewer of those for a while now.

Callum McFadzean, LWB – 7

He had to unfortunately go off after carrying an injury but whilst he was on the pitch, he once again offered the perfect outlet for one-twos with Mayor down the left wing.

He held the ball up when needed and drove at defenders, though he could probably have done with more support from Gary Sawyer. Another pleasing aspect of what was generally a pretty good performance.

Byron Moore, ST – 7

Byron Moore continues to do everything you’d want from a striker in Ryan Lowe’s formation except score consistently.

In every other regard, he’s got it all. He’s strong, agile and battles well to win the ball. He knows when to drop out wide to help the wing backs and he knows when to make killer runs through the middle. He demonstrated that perfectly today getting in a great position to score the winner, only to be felled and win a penalty that Sarcevic wasted.

Joel Grant, ST – 5

It’s a funny thing, but Grant’s great run of goal-scoring in October may have slightly distracted from the fact that his general play wasn’t really the greatest. Whilst we’ve seen a lot worse in the role this season alone, Joel Grant once again put in a quiet performance.

He was often beaten for aerial and ground duels and didn’t do a lot with the ball when he did have it. I’d bring Telford in next week.

Substitutes

Conor Grant, LWB – 6

He had some teething problems in adapting to the wing back role, after having not played out wide for the Greens in over a year. That said, he did adapt as the game went on and began to develop good chemistry with Mayor off the ball. If McFadzean isn’t fit for the next game against Cambridge, he’s probably prime candidate to start, though that is harsh on George Cooper.

Dominic Telford, ST – 7

A typical energetic performance from the striker who, as he did against Bradford, made a hugely positive impact in Argyle’s favour when he came onto the pitch.

It’s seriously impressive how well he holds the ball up and links others into play for such a short player, not to mention his excellent forward pass to set Moore one vs one for the second penalty. A victim of Lowe’s hesitation to change a winning team, even if a tweak here or there could improve things further; he should start at Cambridge.

Plymouth Argyle fully fit to face Bristol Rovers

In his Friday press conference, Ryan Lowe confirmed that he has no injury concerns to report as Plymouth Argyle face Bristol Rovers in the second round of the FA Cup.

Speaking to reporters, he said: “we are injury free. It’s nice to not talk about, for once! Fully fit squad, and hopefully it will stay that way.”

Lowe also discussed how he is approaching this derby slightly differently, after the humbling 4-0 defeat to Exeter City, when he was criticised for his attitude before the game. He said, “I’m learning very quickly as a manager, that derbies mean a bit more, I want to say it’s just another game but I understand it can be a bit more important to the fans. Don’t worry we’ll be up for it.”

Although, Argyle have played Bristol Rovers in the EFL Trophy this season, Lowe does not think that game has any bearing on the result this Sunday: “I don’t think the previous meetings with them mean much. We know them well, but they have changed their system several times since we played, and it won’t have much relevance.”

“Graham is a good guy, his team is effective, and organised. The respect is there, between staff and players, there’s a bit of a rivalry and we’re similar-sized clubs but for us, we just have to focus on ourselves.”

The press conference then moved on to the topic of Trevor East, who joined the Plymouth Argyle board this week, as a director.

“The appointment of Trevor East says a lot about where the club wants to get to. He’s well connected, but ultimately he’s a good guy”.

“He’s a big influence on me, have only known him a short while. We are extremely pleased to have him on board.”In terms of the Board of Directors, they are all good people. Trevor mentioned the Championship – so he’s already putting a bit of pressure on me!”

“We have aspirations, Trevor hasn’t come here for nothing, he wants to help build this fantastic club.”


 

Opposition View: Bristol Rovers v Plymouth Argyle

Opposition View: Bristol Rovers v Plymouth Argyle

With Plymouth Argyle meeting Bristol Rovers in the FA Cup this weekend, we spoke to the GasCast Podcast, who can also be found on Twitter, to get some thoughts from the other side of the Westcountry.

First of all, how did you get into supporting Bristol Rovers?

I never took a strong interest in football growing up, even though my Dad tried his best to bring me up as a Gashead. I moved to a new school in Wiltshire when I was 14 years old, and a lot of my new classmates were Swindon Town fans. Having told them I was a Rovers fan, I then needed to look into my team in more detail so that I’d know what I was talking about and be able to defend my hometown appropriately.

Incidentally the first game I voluntarily went to was Rovers vs Swindon in 2011, which we won 3-1, and from that day onward I was a fully-fledged Gashead really.

Are there any Rovers players in particular we should be looking out for this weekend?

Jonson Clarke-Harris is the obvious answer, and Argyle fans will know what he’s capable of after seeing the best of him in the 2-2 draw at Home Park last season. But for me, there are a couple of players who have stood out in recent weeks and have been influential in our good form. Rollin Menayese has been a rock at the back, grabbing his chance in the first team with both hands after breaking through from the U23’s.

A welcome return to form from Liam Sercombe has also been a key factor to recent success, the midfielder scored one and assisted two in last week’s 4-3 win at Shrewsbury.

How is Argyle legend Graham Coughlan getting on at the Memorial Stadium?

Graham is doing a fantastic job. The football isn’t always the best to watch, but it produces results. Since taking over as Caretaker Manager in December last year he has a win percentage of 44.2%, (P52 W23 D16 L13).

When you take into consideration that he inherited a maxed-out wage bill and was given no transfer budget he has done a superb job with the players he’s been given. If he carries on at this rate we will be turning a few heads come the end of the season.

What would you say your ambitions are for the rest of the season?

I think there’s a lot of deadwood in our squad on high wages that the gaffer would ideally like to move on so that he can bring in some new players and explore a more expansive style of football. So many see this as another transition season whilst we move players around.

That said, the core of our team is very settled, and is getting some great results. Survival was the aim, but with the club 3 points off the play-offs going into December, Gasheads could be forgiven for looking a bit higher up the table.

What sort of tactical style do you expect to set up with on Sunday?

We usually roll out with a tried-and-tested 5-3-2 formation, with the wing-backs pushing very high up the pitch, however against Shrewsbury we tried a new 3-4-3/5-2-3 shape, which was much more attacking (and not so solid defensively), as seen in the 4-3 scoreline. I think at home in the cup we will roll out with the basic 5-3-2 we’re used to seeing, that’s what we deployed against Bromley and I can see us sticking to our guns there.

And are there any real weak links in the side you’re worried about?

The midfield lacks a lot of creativity. Our primary game-plan is generally play it long and/or try to spread it wide to the wing-backs to carry the ball. Very little goes through the middle of the park, and if our wide players and strikers are isolated then it could be a difficult match.

Do you think Coughlan may take the chance to rotate his side? Or would you expect to see a full-strength lineup with the third round in sight?

I’m expecting a full-strength side, given we’ve had 8 days since our last game, and want to progress in the cup for the competition money. With a leasing-dot-com trophy knockout game on Wednesday, there’s a small chance that maybe one or two may come in, but I’m expecting the bulk of the rotation to be for that game instead of this one.

What first comes to mind when you think of Plymouth Argyle?

“Difficult”. I can’t ever remember us playing a game against you in recent years and not struggling to get a result. I’m not expecting Sunday to be any different.

Which Argyle player, if any, would you like to sign?

I am gobsmacked that Danny Mayor stayed in League Two after the season he had with Bury. He was a player I was desperate for us to sign and play in the #10 position, an area we’re still weak in. If given the opportunity I’d love to see him in a Rovers shirt playing behind Jonson Clarke-Harris.

And finally, what is your prediction for the game itself?

I think it will be tight and low-scoring, and may even go to a replay. 1-0 to either side, or a 1-1. I’m fairly confident that it won’t be pretty affair.