Ratings: Torquay 0 Plymouth Argyle 3

Plymouth Argyle completed their pre season preparations ahead of their League One opener away to Rotherham United next weekend, with a comfortable 3-0 win over Devon rivals Torquay United.

Goals from Niall Ennis and Panutche Camara just before half time were complimented by a Ryan Hardie strike as the game reached the latter stages. These goals were enough to see off the National League outfit, in a very professional performance from the greens.

So, how did the players fare and what can it tell us about how Argyle may look to lineup in Yorkshire next Saturday?

Callum Burton, GK – 5

Burton was able to get some much needed minutes under his belt, starting ahead of number one Michael Cooper this time out.

After completing a move from newly promoted Cambridge United earlier in the window, Burton was able to register appearances against local sides Plymouth Parkway and Saltash United and League Two side Bristol Rovers, before injury seemed to keep him out of the next three games at Home Park against Championship opposition.

In truth, Burton’s performance was adequate. He did not have a lot to do, as Argyle managed to control most of the game in his time on the pitch.

The few times his handling was tested he coped with it well, but ultimately it was all routine work for Burton. That would indicate an average score of 6 – largely untested but no outstanding mistakes.

Where Burton does get marked down for though is his distribution which for most of the afternoon apart from a few short passes seemed rushed and inaccurate, even under minimal pressure.

Now, whilst that judgement could be viewed as harsh, I feel that Lowe’s preferred style requires his defence and goalkeeper to start attacks by attempting to play through the press.

If Burton wants to seriously challenge Michael Cooper at points this season, the technical side of his game may need to be more refined.

Ollie Tomlinson, RCB – 6

No complaints can be made about the performance of Tomlinson this afternoon, he fitted in well to the defensive unit and did well to snuff out any danger.

He may have been forgiven for some shows of inexperience, particularly against more experienced physical players, with a direct style but he stood up to the challenge with relative ease.

Dan Scarr, CB – 6

Much like Tomlinson, Scarr dealt with what he was asked to and continued to showcase his ability as shown over pre season. He iis strong in the air and makes the right decisions defensively. This might seem like something you expect a defender to do. But, after conceding so many needless goals through lack of experience and positional awareness in the back line last season, the performances of Scarr since his arrival at Argyle seem like a breath of fresh air.

Macaulay Gillesphey, CB – 8

The most impressive of the defenders, this was an excellent performance from Gillesphey, who was good in the air despite being the shortest of the back three and displayed real intent and accuracy with the ball at his feet. He was continually finding pockets of space for his midfielders to receive on the turn. If pre season is anything to go by, Gillesphey’s progressive passing looks like it could be a real asset to Argyle this season.

Adam Randell, DM – 9 MOTM

Randell continues to excel in every game I see him play, growing in confidence every time. On his return to the club where he became a fans favourite last season, Randell was calm, composed and positive on the ball, offering himself constantly and even pulling out the odd piece of skill to get away from his marker.

That might be a part of his game that we come to expect over the next 9 months, but you would be forgiven for thinking that his defensive ability might come in to question at times this season as a result of inexperience and the open system that Argyle play.

Now, whilst it still might, today Randell and fellow midfielder Panutche Camara did an excellent job at shutting down any potential attacks with good high pressing and snappy tackles.

Based on pre season, I really think Randell could push fellow midfielder Jordan Houghton all the way for that single pivot role. All being well, looks to have a really exciting season ahead of him.

Joe Edwards, RWB – 6

It was a. typically solid performance from Edwards. The skipper was fine defensively and some really good thrusting runs going forward. The captain once again looks like he could play an important part in any success Argyle do have this season. Overall, a pretty quiet performance from Edwards on Saturday Afternoon though where he didn’t quite impose himself on the game.

Panutche Camara, CM – 8

A strong performance from Camara in this one. At his best, there don’t seem many players around this level that can stop him. He combined the aforementioned tenacious pressing and tackling in tandem with Adam Randell, with strong running to break away from the Torquay midfield, and, whilst unremarkable, his passing seemed to pick out the right options.

He also did well to get in the box to finish after a shot from Luke Jephcott was pushed out by Torquay keeper Halstead for Argyle’s second just before halftime.

If Camara can manage to combine his best attributes more consistently as shown today, this season he could prove to be a real force in the midfield this season.

Ryan Broom, CM – 8

An exciting first appearance from Broom after he was confirmed to have joined on a season long loan from Peterborough on Tuesday.

Broom seemed to gel pretty well with his new teammates and seemed hungry to make an impression on his new boss, with runs forward and some good switches of play in particular. Furthermore, he was unlucky not to put Argyle in front midway through the first half with a shot that whistled over the bar.

Capable of playing in either a CM or RWB role, I am looking forward to seeing more of what Broom can offer in the coming weeks.

It is also worth noting that strong performances from Broom could provide some stiff competition for fellow attacking midfielder Danny Mayor, which seems to be something that Mayor has often lacked since his arrival at the club.

Ryan Law, LWB – 5

Law has had some bright cameos, particularly going forward in this pre season but today he was sloppy, particularly in the early stages when he gave the ball away in quick succession in the defensive third.

He did make some good runs forward, but his end product was often lacking and he failed to make much of an impact on the game.

Luke Jephcott , ST – 5

This seems to be a reoccurring theme when talking about the performances of Jephcott over recent months. He was again largely ineffective (although his shot did lead to the second goal) and failed to really cause any threat to the Torquay defence.  After a first full season in professional football ended in 18 goals last year ended with 20 games without scoring, Jephcott seems currently devoid of any confidence, understandable given his current run of form and just one open play goal in pre season – against Plymouth Parkway.

It would be wrong not to be slightly concerned about Jephcott’s form, but I do feel he is currently trying to make up for his lack of goals by getting involved in other areas of the game, which negates his one trait which separates him from others at the club – first time finishes in the box.

If he can get back to remembering what he is best at, I feel that we could very quickly forget about this period of form.

Niall Ennis, ST – 8

Another bright performance from Ennis who was willing to hold the ball up and also is able to run at the defence, causing confusion.

This was demonstrated with the opening goal on forty two minutes, when he was able to pick the ball up and run across the Torquay defence before unleashing a terrific shot into the bottom left corner.

Along with fellow striker Ryan Hardie, Ennis has had a really good pre season, whilst, like Hardie often lacking the finish to go with his overall performance. If he can begin to take more of the chances that come his way I don’t see why Ennis can’t at least reach the ten goal mark this season.

Substitutes

Michael Cooper, GK – 6

Came on with half an hour to go for Callum Burton, and was required to make some more saves as the game drew to a close, as legs tired and substitutions disrupted the flow of the game.

Every shot that Cooper faced he held onto well, but he did for the second time in a week miss a punch from a cross, last week it resulted in a penalty and this week a bit of a goalmouth scramble. Not too much of a concern but it will be something that Cooper will need to tighten up on going into the season.

James Wilson, CB n\a

Came on for the last 20 minutes in and played in the middle of defence, nothing much of note to say but no dramas and helped the young duo of Brandon Pursall and Ethan Mitchell settle in for the last ten minutes.

Brandon Pursall, CB n\a

As stated above Pursall came on alongside fellow academy product Ethan Mitchell for the last ten minutes, nothing much to note.

Ethan Mitchell, CB n/a

Same as above.

Jordan Houghton, DM – 6

Houghton came on with just under 25 minutes to go, some good passes and some sloppy ones, no dramas but no stand out moments either.

Now maybe i’m forgetting some moments, given the excellence of starting DM Adam Randell, but whilst many people would’ve expected Houghton to start the season when he came in, due to Randall’s performances over pre season I think it is far from a certainty that Houghton starts on Saturday.

Brendan Galloway, LWB – 6

Came on at the same time as Houghton, Galloway has played in both the left sided centre back role and wing back role this pre season and has defended adequately in both.

Same today – good in defence, didn’t offer too much going forward.

Danny Mayor, CM – 7

Danny mayor was his usual just above average when he came on, when he squared them up torquay’s defenders could barely touch him and had two shots, one that bent over the bar and another coming when he went past most of the team on a brilliant solo run and carried it into the box, before taking the shot a bit too late to allow the goalkeeper to make the save.

Now whilst that might sound like all positives, which they are for most players, we know Mayor can do that but it is almost always the end product which lets him down.

Finley Craske, RWB – n\a

I’m not going to give Craske a rating just because he spent under 15 minutes on the pitch. But I was pleased with what I saw, he was direct in his running and this meant he got down the byline a couple of times, including for the third goal in which he was the assister.  Craske did really well to get down the right before fizzing a low cross into Ryan Hardie, before the striker took a touch, turned and finished into the bottom corner.  Promising cameo.

Ryan Hardie, ST – 7

Came on at 57 minutes, and made an impact. These are the kind of games that best suit Hardie, when legs are tiring and he is able to get at the defence and run in behind them. Got his goal as mentioned above which was well taken – Could’ve had one more wen through at the end but took to many touches and the chance was snuffed out.

Like Ennis, overall Hardie has had a positive pre season often without a goal to show for it, but if any of the three senior strikers could start taking chances more consistently, it could see Argyle fly up the table.

For me, performances over pre season put Hardie and Ennis in prime position to start against Rotherham.

Rhys Shirley, ST n\a

Shirley was a bright spark when coming on, despite only being on for the last ten minutes, Shirley provided some excitement, with nice turns away from his marker and eagerness to get shots off.

I still think being so young and with work to do on the physical side of the game, a loan would benefit Shirley this season. That said, if pre season is anything to go on on there are definitely reasons to be hopeful about the striker.

Player Ratings: Plymouth Argyle 0 Bristol City 1

Bristol City edged out Plymouth Argyle in another well contested pre-season friendly against strong opposition.

For the third consecutive game, Argyle lost by a single goal to near-full strengh Championship opposition, which is a promising sign, though a win against Torquay feels required after the Pilgrims have thus far squandered opportunities to get the right results that their performances have deserved against professional opponents.

Michael Cooper, GK – 6

Difficult performance to grade for Cooper. Passing was as composed and accurate as you could expect. Gave away the penalty, showing his inexperience to plough through the back of O’Dowda but not claim the ball, only to then save Chris Martin’s poor effort, the first penalty he’s saved in nine attempts. Had few other shots to save and had no chance with the only goal of the game. Not that City didn’t have chances, just that Palmer, Martin and Weiman wasted some great openings.

Cooper wasn’t totally error prone himself last season, and will need to iron out those silly mistakes to avoid costing Argyle needless goals in the season ahead.

James Wilson, CB – 7

Read the game very well at times, closing passing lanes and blocking off space. Strong in the air alongside his fellow centre-backs, a welcome sight after the last season.

Most impressive was how he fared up against O’Dowda, a fast, dangerous winger. Yet, he more than held his own, impressively using his experience to ease him out on occasion when you’d expect the difference in speed to tell. However, he switched off when he fouled O’Dowda but the referee somehow waved play on while both players involved waited for the whistle, allowing the winger to get up and set up a huge chance for Ciry to kill the game off. In Wilson’s defence, he did receive a stray elbow as O’Dowda went down that gave him a nose bleed.

Dan Scarr, CB – 8

Experience isn’t always the answer, but Argyle’s defence was crying out for it after last season and Scarr, together with other signings, look like they’re going to leave Argyle with a far stronger foundation at the back.

The mark of a good defender is to go unnoticed as much as possible: they read the game and make deal with danger quickly and efficiently before it becomes too threatening. Thus far, Scarr has largely ticked those boxes despite facing some tough opposition. That Scarr is not the fastest but has been able to beat quicker players to the ball when teams are on the counter speaks to the way he reads passes.

Likewise, Scarr is clearly not the best passer, but has remained calm and composed when under pressure and avoided making any clangers  – that I can recall – despite some strong pressure on him. Equally, he’s clearly a far better passer than Walsall fans give him credit for.

Brendan Galloway, CB – 6

A couple of great defensive moments, as he stuck close to Wieman early on and make the first opening of the game significantly harder than it otherwise would have been. Similarly, he provided excellent covering, racing back to prevent a City second on the counter, intercepting as O’Dowda tried to put Wieman clean-through, though the question could be asked – why wasn’t he there in the first place?

However, he was beaten by Wieman to create a brilliant chance for Martin – though that could be expected of a player who will be rusty, given he’s barely started any professional games over the past four seasons.

Looked comfortable dribbling the ball forwards when space opened up, but less so when the press was put on him. On first viewing, his passing possibly the worst of the four CBs we’ve seen (still no sight of James Bolton), though maybe he doesn’t have the confidence to attempt passes he could otherwise make.

Jordan Houghton, DM – 7

Set the tempo nicely, though should have done more in the first fifteen as Bristol City dominated the ball. After that, he and Mayor in particular teamed up to hold possession, take the sting out of City and give Argyle the platform to create chances of their own.

Two things in particular impressed me: first, Houghton’s willingness to break the lines and burst forward through the middle, which we almost never saw last season and rarely in 2019/20. Second, he knows when to not get involved. Always demanding the ball makes him an easier target to close down Argyle’s passing route out of defence. Allowing the ball to pass him by at times as City crowded the centre of the pitch with their four attackers allowed Mayor to pick up the ball either in space or with no protection behind the next line of players, or for the wide centre-backs to carry the ball forward themselves.

Poked in and won the ball back here and there, but overall Argyle’s centre of midfield remains a big problem area defensively and Bristol City created some openings, by making space to run through it with simple pass and move. As the deepest player, doubts will lead to questions about whether he is secure enough defensively if that occurs during the season.

Joe Edwards, RWB – 6

Nearly turned the ball home, but the cross was just too far behind him and he struck it wide on his left foot from a signature late surge into the box to meet a Grant cross. Similarly, he had the last effort of the game after Shirley went down in the area, but his snapshot through the crowd was too close to Bentley, who saved well.

Overall, pretty quiet and didn’t deliver any dangerous crosses, unlike his brilliant ball against Swansea for Ennis to waste.

Panutche Camara CM – 7

Pressed superbly in spells, though didn’t turn over possession as effectively as he has in previous matches. Tidy but quiet in possession and failed to offer any late runs into the box of quality, which he should have been aiming to deliver given some of the crossing opportunities for Grant on the left.

Needs to find another gear sometimes,

Danny Mayor, CM – 7

Created Argyle’s best chance of the game, dropping his shoulder in signature Mayor style to beat two midfielders, driving at the centre of defence rather than at a full-back, before reading Jephcott’s late dart inside and playing a perfectly weighted pass to put him through. If only he had the finish.

Like the rest of the team, seemed timid, or overawed, or inferior during the first 15 minutes as City dominated. Yet, for the next ten Argyle’s midfield asserted themselves and began to create chances. The final twenty were more balanced, but Mayor was the creative spark more than any other player, and deserved an assist from the game.

Still needs to learn that ALWAYS SLOWING DOWN THE ATTACK is not a benefit. Sure, he’s maybe better set to deliver a cross instead of playing it first time on his left foot, but guess what? The number of players defending the opposition box has doubled in that time and you’re going to end up passing backwards. Infuritating.

Conor Grant, LWB – 6

Delivered some good crosses, most notably the one that fell just behind Edwards. Set-piece delivery wasn’t as good as it should have been. Defended competently and played some lovely passes inside that kept attacks moving, but it was a relatively quiet game for Grant otherwise.

Luke Jephcott, ST – 4

Desperately needs to work on his shooting on the run. Go back and look at his goals for Argyle: he’s almost never sprinting with the ball at his feet. The big chances he’s had when on the run – the first ones that spring to mind for me are Bristol Rovers away, Doncaster away, Swansea a week back and tonight – never seem to find the net.

Here, he was largely anonymous. He was dominated in the air when Argyle went long and a bit sloppy in possession when the ball came to his feet, but came to life with that dart inside Rob Atkinson to be put through by Mayor, only to waste the biggest chance of the first half.

Ryan Hardie, ST – 6

For most of the game, he worked hard but saw little of the ball. Ran the channels as well as you’d expect him to, but a tough game with no chances falling to him – until Ennis slipped him in behind on the angle and he drilled an excellent left footed shot towards the top corner, but Bentley parried away. Argyle’s best shot of the match, but it still came to nothing.

Not that it was Hardie’s fault tonight, but over pre-season he has been the biggest waster of chances, along with Jephcott and Ennis. Surely at least one of them has to find their scoring boots and start finishing these chances, else Argyle’s season is not going to start well at all.

Substitutes

Macaulay Gillesphey, CB – 7

More willing to take a risk with the ball than Galloway, including some nice switches of the play. Defended tidily and looks to be a good member of the trio at the back along with Scarr and Wilson. Personally, I’d be surprised if he doesn’t start the season first choice, but if he makes sloppy mistakes – as he did against Rovers – then the door is definitely open for Galloway to come in.

Niall Ennis, ST – 8

Instant impact off the bench, injecting the energy that Jephcott struggled to offer and knitted together Argyle’s midfield and attack, particularly on the counter. Started or ended almost every chance Argyle had in the final half hour.

Had a deflected shot that nearly spun in, burst beyond the defence, cut inside and shot at Bentley, hit one from range that was parried away and nearly got in behind right at the very last. Created the chance for Hardie and almost put him in behind five minutes prior. Was dangerous every time he got the ball and if Argyle were to score, it seemed as though was going to involve Ennis in some way.

Staked his claim to start away at Rotherham.

Adam Randell, DM – 6

Randell has done no harm to his chances of raking up the minutes during the coming season after another good display in pre-season against another near-full strength Championship side.

Unlike Houghton, Randell displays that extra level of fearlessness so often associated with youth. Houghton can be more passive in possession and take fewer risks; no such cautiousness from Randell! A graduate of the school of Mayor, he’ll drop to receive the ball, spin, and try to get things going whenever he can. Excellent range of passing, even if a couple were just out today.

Shame about the two, poor set-piece deliveres right at the end as Argyle chased an equaliser, but I won’t be surprised when he gets an extended run ahead of Houghton in defensive midfield during the coming season, I’m increasingly sure it’s going to happen. Maybe even in centre midfield.

Rhys Shirley, ST – n/a

Wasted a chance in behind by running it too close to the defender, though won a coner that Randell wasted. Should have won a penalty I think – looked to be clipped as he poked the ball to Edwards as the ball bounced around the box from a set-piece.

Ryan Law, LWB – n/a

Came on but had nothing to do, save a nice pass inside to Randell. Only had a few minutes at the end.

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.

Player Ratings: Blackpool 2 Plymouth Argyle 2

Plymouth Argyle followed up their pressure-relieving win over Bristol Rovers last weekend, with a well earned 2-2 draw against Blackpool at Bloomfield Road. In the first half, which Argyle mostly dominated, they found themselves good value for their half-time lead after striker Ryan Hardie’ s twelve minute strike. Sloppiness in the second half allowed the home side to take the lead, first through attacking midfielder Sully Kaikai and then 16 goal top scorer Jerry Yates from the penalty spot after a foul from Argyle left back Adam Lewis. The Greens were able to stay in the game though, and were rewarded for their persistence as the clock moved into added time when captain Joe Edwards popped up with a well placed left footed volley to salvage a point.

It’s been a while but here are your player ratings!

Michael Cooper – 6

Despite conceding two goals it was a relatively uneventful afternoon for Cooper with the first half in particular leaving him with little to do in terms of goal-mouth action as Argyle dictated most of the play. The only real save of note in the first half coming from a well struck shot from outside the box by Blackpool midfielder Grant Ward. Cooper did well to push the effort behind but nonetheless was one that you would have expected him to save.

The goals were more as a result of defensive errors from others, although the harshest of critics could say he might have been able to hold on to Kaikai’s shot which led to the first goal. The second is self-explanatory and you are often left in hope rather than expectation from the penalty spot as the player steps up to face your goal-keeper.

Joe Edwards – 8 MOTM

Another excellent performance from Argyle’s captain, of which there have been many this season. Edwards seems to excel in whatever position he plays, this afternoon it was at right-back, where he started the previous game and he once again showed great positional sense, also influencing Argyle’s attack going forward with some typical thrusting runs in to the opposition half. Now in a slightly more withdrawn role than when at wing-back, he is less able to get crosses into the box, but was still able to give Argyle an extra attacking option going forward and ultimately used his well timed runs into the box to get a result for Argyle this afternoon.

His well placed volley was his seventh goal of the season and I think there is evidence to say that Edwards is up there with some of the best finishers at the club. He has been Mr Reliable for Argyle this season and should he carry on his form until the end of the season, there is no reason why he shouldn’t be considered in the club’s player of the season awards.

Sam Woods – 6

Woods deputised for the suspended Jerome Opoku after his two game ban against Bristol Rovers for his tenth yellow card of the season. Woods looked much more assured in the back four as his last start saw him sent off in the middle of a back three against Northampton Town. Defensively Woods was good regularly stepping out to take the ball off  Blackpool front man Jerry Yates and won most of the aerial duels that he faced. Although at times he looked a bit less comfortable with the ball at his feet, there can’t be too many complaints with his performance.

Will Aimson – 7

A relatively solid performance from Aimson today, as along with Woods, he dealt with much of the balls that came his way, often drawing pressure towards the ball before releasing into more space for the midfielders. There could be question marks with how he dealt with the second goal for Blackpool but sometimes one error leads to another.

Ultimately though, he gets an extra point over Woods for the way he managed to soldier on through an injury in the final ten minutes of the game, with only eighteen-year-old apprentice Ollie Tomlinson on the bench, manager Ryan Lowe seemed reluctant to take Aimson off despite him visibly limping. It would have been easy for Blackpool to target Aimson’s side as they looked to close up the game, but no harm was done and Argyle came away with a point.

Adam Lewis – 4

A disappointing display from the on-loan Liverpool left-back, particularly after responding to a set back against Ipswich the previous week with both assists for  Argyle’s win over Bristol Rovers last weekend. Lewis had some decent moments going forward but ultimately his crosses came to no avail and when asked to defend, he often seemed to show his inexperience, particularly in the lead up to the penalty where he invited the Blackpool player to go down after a hand in the back. He could also have done better for their first, totally missing the header in the build-up.

Conor Grant – 8

Grant looked typically assured on the ball today and offered extra protection in mid-field along with fellow defensive midfielder Tyrese Fornah. Grant also continues to impress for Argyle this season when asked to play a number of different positions. His crosses from the left are consistently put in an area which causes problems for opposition defences and it was his cross which led to Argyle’s equaliser and Grant’s tenth assist of the season.

Tyrese Fornah – 7

A good performance from Fornah this afternoon and he looked much more confident when having the aforementioned protection of a second defensive  midfielder. in the first half he seemed to get Argyle on the front foot with forward passes into midfield and did well at cutting the ball out before it got to the Tangerines’ frontmen. He was instrumental in the first goal as he completed a beautifully weighted ball to set Ryan Hardie in behind. The second half saw him, along with much of the team become less influential in the game, but that doesn’t take away from a solid performance.

Panutche Camara – 6

A quiet game by Camara’s standards as there wasn’t much space for the midfielder to get in behind. he typically pressed well and won the ball back for his side but when asked to find a final ball into the strikers, it was often lacking.

Danny Mayor – 6

Along with Camara, Mayor had a quiet game and was unusually scarcely involved in Argyle’s attacks. Now in a new 4-2-2-2 formation, it seems as though the talented midfielder is being asked to hold his width a bit more, leading to him having less of a free role in hand, becoming less involved in attack. This is not a criticism, but a rather an observation, as Argyle look to experiment with formations.

Niall Ennis – 7

Ennis continued to be a nuisance for opposition defences this afternoon and he was unlucky not to have put the Greens one nil up after his turn and shot bounced off Glenn Maxwell’s left-hand post. That was his only major chance of note, but he was able to continually stretch the defence with runs down the channel and good link-up play.

Ryan Hardie – 8

Hardie paired up well with Ennis this afternoon, coming in for top scorer Luke Jephcott after his involvement with the Wales under 21 side on Friday afternoon. Much like Ennis, Hardie troubled his former employers with typical runs down the channel and in behind and he was rewarded for his efforts in the twelfth minute when he latched on to Fornah’s pass before attempting to lob the keeper. The ball bounced loose and after Ennis had hit the post, Hardie was there to slot in the rebound. a bright performance from Hardie, who after a few weeks away from the starting eleven, would have hoped to stake a claim for a starting spot.

Substitutes :

Byron Moore – 5

Moore replaced Panutche Camara for the final twenty minutes of the game, on the right side of attacking midfield, before being switched to a more orthodox left wing position as Argyle pushed for an equaliser in the final minutes of the game.

Unfortunately, I can’t remember Moore getting on the ball too much in either position and he struggled to make an impact.

Luke Jephcott N\A

Jephcott was given most of the afternoon off after featuring for an hour for his country on Friday afternoon, for that reason I think it would be unfair to give Jephcott a concrete rating.

The Welshman, came on in the 84th minute for Adam Lewis in a formation change which saw Argyle go to 4-3-3 with Jephcott as the central striker. In truth, I also can’t remember Jephcott having too much of the ball in his time on the pitch.

Klaidi Lolos – N\A

In a week where manager Ryan Lowe has talked about giving opportunities to the likes of Lolos and on loan Torquay left back Ryan Law in the end of season run in, in order to give academy graduates a chance to earn a contract ahead of next season, Lolos came on and took his opportunity (albeit limited) pretty well.

I can’t give him a rating, as he only came on for the final minute of normal time but Lolos won a few flick ons and in general put himself about well, as argyle pushed on for an equaliser.

As cameos go this went pretty well for the former Greek under 19 international.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Player Ratings: Plymouth Argyle 4 Lincoln 3

Plymouth Argyle 4 Lincoln City 3. I’m going to say that again, Plymouth Argyle 4 Lincoln City 3.

What a game. Attacking flair, defensive incompetence, excellent finishes and wasted opportunities for even more. Argyle rushed into a two goal lead as Lincoln’s increasingly leaky defence struck again, before another Lincoln trademark – soft penalties – turned the tide. Jorge Grant converted twice in three minutes to give them a 3-2 lead (8 of his 11 goals this season have been penalties).

Argyle came again, and Conor Grant’s floated shot was probably drifting in before it was glanced in by what looked like a Lincoln defender. Mayor saw a potential winner brilliantly blocked before Joe Edwards scored a brilliant winner to somehow seal all three points.

Michael Cooper, GK – 7

Honestly, I don’t know where to start with these ratings. Cooper made a huge impact on the game with a great 1-v-1 save against Johnson at 3-3 which would have won it for Lincoln. I seem to recall a few other good saves but, honestly, so much happened that I can’t remember exactly.

This is obviously Cooper’s first season as a starting ‘keeper and he’s doing a good job, but for him to become Championship level improve he’s going to have to save a few more chances like Lincoln’s first goal. That’s not one he should save, but it’s one he could save. Top ‘keepers tend to keep a few more of those out of the back of their net, like Palmer did last season (but not today).

Will Aimson, CB – 5

Aimson made some vital interventions, denying a 2-v-1 at 3-3 to prevent Lincoln. However, when he did make those blocks he seemed to find him in the right place through luck rather than anticipation, as a result of Lincoln’s fantastic attacking movement. Aimson’s efforts to race back for Hopper’s 1-v-1 might have also cut off the opportunity for him to square it for a tap-in.

However, there were lots of sloppy moments, not least when he gave the ball away in Argyle’s box without realising the pressure he was under with seconds remaining. The ball was scrambled clear, but that could have been costly. Ultimately, he was part of a defence that just did not know how to deal with Lincoln’s attack.

Jerome Opoku, CB – 5

That game was such a blur that I can’t remember the specifics of why I’ve given Opoku five. It’s partly because of Argyle’s general inability to keep Lincoln’s attack at bay. There was a quite visible lack of coordination and leadership in defence, throughout the game. The first goal was a classic example of this, look at the positions players ended up in: I think Watts was in RCM, Edwards in CDM, Fornah LCM, Grant RWB and Mayor god-knows where.

This is just part of the long-running trend of Argyle lacking defensive structure as a team, and Ryan Lowe needing to find answers to questions he doesn’t seem to often ask himself about defending. But it was brutally exposed by Lincoln.

Kelland Watts, CB – 5

Watts gave Argyle the lead with a good right-footed finish after Lincoln showed off their inner Argyle by failing to properly re-organise after seeing off the initial set-piece. He then made a vital back-heeled back-post clearance as Lincoln came surging forward minutes later.

Yet, Watts was one of the players dragged out of position for Lincoln’s first goal. Had he been in position instead of chasing shadows, he’d have made a simple block and the shot never would have reached the goal. Watts then ran across an attacker to give Lincoln their first penatly of the afternoon.

I know this defence makes mistakes, but does anyone ever factor in how bad Argyle’s midfield is at protecting them? Conor Grant hardly covered himself in glory while doing nothing to prevent Johnson bursting into the box.

Tyrese Fornah, DM – 5

Fornah again showed that just how good he can be at receiving the ball and distributing it. I just wish he had the confidence to drive into wide-open space when it’s presented to him. On that topic, why do Argyle always have to go wide? Do they not know that driving into the box from the centre is actually more dangerous than crossing from the wing?

Fornah made some important defensive interventions but also was caught out by Lincoln’s quick counters. When he made two fouls inside fifteen minutes and had already been booked, it was obvious that he wasn’t going to finisht the game, only a question of who would send him off the pitch.

Joe Edwards, RWB – 7, player of the match

Until Edwards won the game, it was difficult to know who was going to be player of the match. But then he won the ball back in the 90th minute, gave it to Camara, received it back on the edge of the area, flicked it up and burried the volley in the bottom corner to give Argyle a victory that seemed so unlikely fifteen minutes earlier.

Edwards was hardly at his best throughout the game. He, like everyone, struggled immensely to contain Lincoln, though at least his wing seemed to be more secure than the left, down which the Imps ran riot. As Lincoln tired, Edwards – brilliantly supported by half-time substitute Panutche Camara – found his second wind. Argyle drove forward down the right into the space on offer throughout the final portion of the game. Edwards nearly flicked in Grant’s goal and was close to finishing off two rebounded shots, but it wouldn’t quite sit for him. Then, it was his moment.

Conor Grant, CM – 7

Like most, Grant was a real mixed bag. Started well, but his passing range was a bit off. Then he delivered a great cross that was cleared to Watts for his opener. Then he was barely in the game for an hour. Grant moved to defensive midfield after Fornah was pre-emtively removed by Lowe at half-time, but struggled defensively as Lincoln finally made good on their threat to draw level and then take the lead.

Then his soft-effort somehow found the back of the net. Argyle had got back on the front foot, but it was a tame shot from an awkward position that somehow squirmed in past two defenders. Grant, like virtually every player, had highs and lows throughout this rollercoaster of a game.

Danny Mayor, CM – 6

HE SCORED! HE ACTUALLY SCORED! Done a massive favour by ex-Pilgrim Alex Palmer (who has had an awful few weeks, go look at the goals he’s let in recently), who possibly didn’t expect the shot given he’s played with Mayor before and knows that most of the time he’ll dribble the ball to the corner flag rather than let fly. As if to prove the point, Mayor actually did that a few minutes earlier, turning down a chance to shoot just outside the six-yard box and ended up being dispossessed on the left wing.

Mayor nearly won the game too, seeing his effort brilliantly blocked after a neat lay-off by Lolos. Sandwiching these two highs were an hour of largely poor defending – one awful moment when he just stopped running, allowing a 1-v-1 that Cooper saved at his near post – and an inability to get his foot on the ball. When he did, he often had no outlet and was pressed by at least three red shirts.

Adam Lewis, LWB – 5

Struggled defensively and lacked coordination with Mayor. Surprised to see him take an early free-kick from what I would define as Conor Grant territory; even more surprised that Grant wasn’t stood over any of the set-pieces at all…

Energetic, but lacking an understanding of the game at points. Lincoln drew him in and exposed the space behind him consistently in the first half. Not too surprising to see him withdrawn and Grant moved to wing-back as Argyle chased the game.

Ryan Hardie, ST – 7

Surprisingly returned to the starting line-up at the expense of top scorer Luke Jephcott and he justified his place in the team. Worked hard, linked the play and got into dangerous positions. The only thing missing, as it has been most of the season, was the goal.

He had a great opportunity after the ball broke for him 1-v-1, but he declined the first-time finish (lifting it over Palmer) and tried to take it around him. He got the ball around him, but his shot was easily blocked from a narrow angle.

Niall Ennis, ST – 5

Ennis struggled to get in the game after Lincoln took control in the first half. I can understand what Lowe was trying to achieve in going with two, fast strikers and an attempt to out-counter Lincoln, but Ennis struggled once Argyle started lumping it under pressure.

Would have benefited from Lowe switching to 3-4-1-2 and putting Mayor in the hole. That would have offered an out-ball on the counter rather than just clearing it downfield, and had a player to pick up loose balls in midfield rather than letting them fall to a red shirt.

Substitutes

Panutche Camara, CM – 7

Camara made very little impact in the first half hour after coming on. Lincoln dominated the ball and Argyle provided no threat at all. Yet, in the last 15-20 minutes, Camara came to life. He pressed, won the ball back, and used his fresh legs to drive forward on the counter. His first assist for Grant was little more than recycling possession, but his cut-back for Edwards was smart and well executed, unlike his earlier waste of a counter attack.

Just as Ennis changed the game off the bench against promotion changing Portsmouth, Camara had a similar impact here.

Sam Woods, CB – 6

Woods came on after Opoku couldn’t finish the game following a knock he picked up in the first half. He showed a smart reading of the game to win the ball back and benefitted from tired Lincoln legs being unable to stretch the game as much as before. Nevertheless, Lincoln continued to create chances and could have won the game before Argyle snatched it.

Luke Jephcott, ST – 6

Jephcott tried hard but struggled to get into the game for the most part. No chances fell to him and Camara wasted the best chance for him to get a shot off in the box. Surprising ommission from the starting eleven.

Player Ratings: Portsmouth 2 Plymouth Argyle 2

Plymouth Argyle threw away two points by conceding twice in two minutes, with just three minutes remaining, having survived the storm, battered but unblemished on the scoresheet.

Argyle started the match well, but from the fifteenth minute Pompey were dominant, pressing Argyle back into theif defensive third and laying siege from set-pieces. The hosts failed to take advantage of those chances and were punished by the super-sub Niall Ennis, who had a huge hand in both of Jephcott’s goals.

Kell Watts’ clanger let Pompey back into the match and a free header moments later threw away two points in what would have been a bit of a smash and grab. Yet, Argyle went to Fratton Park and took points off promotion hopefuls, meaning 8/12 points taken from the past four away games, a significant improvement.

Michael Cooper, GK – 5

Suicidal passing at the back – not that he was the only one – helped Pompey dominate the first half. Pompey crossed the ball into the box 28 times, yet Cooper recorded no high claims and only one punch (though I could have sworn he made two). At a time when Argyle badly needed him to come and claim the ball to kill the chain of set-pieces. For a reminder of what this looks like, go back and watch Alex Palmer last season.

Cooper made one great save after another suicidal pass – Camara this time – and held on well after Marquis headed right after him from a matter of yards. He surely can’t be blamed for either goal, not to say he couldn’t have saved them but such a close-range header left him with little chance.

Will Aimson, CB – 6

Aimson started shakily but grew into the game and gave Watts a masterclass in how to deal with Curtis when he came on: don’t fall over. Now that Aimson has the right studs, he’s not falling over again, which is nice. Made a big block right before Jephcott’s second.

Aimson struggled under the high-ball from set-pieces, a factor that would be more emphasised in his score if Pompey had taken advantage of this. Once again though, he held up his wing under pressure and even carried the ball forward as Argyle started to grow into the game. Four blocks and seven clearances helped Argyle survive the Pompey siege.

Jerome Opoku, CB – 6

He, like many on the pitch, seemed half-asleep at times in the first half, taking precious seconds to react to Pompey’s swift counter-attacks. However, his recovery speed made up for this and his defending of the near post was largely strong throughout the game.

Threw his body on the line to help deny Portsmouth, but struggled in the air, both in open play and set-pieces. One area he has to work on is being dominant when he goes to win a header. His aerial duel success is now below 50%, the worst of all Argyle’s defenders and he only wins 1.4 headers per-90, less than half Canavan’s 3.4 from the centre of defence. No wonder Argyle struggle from crosses. Argyle survived Pompey’s set-piece barrage in the first half because they failed to hit the target with their headers, not because Argyle defended them well.

Kelland Watts, CB – 4

Watts was on for a 7 having started the game very well, made a goalline clearence in the first half and largely read the game well against the tricky Harness. Then he did that. Shocking defending allowed Curtis in and Pompey to get back in the game. That would be worthy of being dropped, if there were anyone to drop him for. And if he were not Lowe’s favourite (for some reason, Watts is the only player to have never been dropped, despite a raft of mistakes throughout the season that has seen every other CB lose their place in the team).

It was then Watts and/or Opoku who failed to clear the next cross into the box, which was headed home by James Bolton. I won’t lay blame here, because I honestly can’t remember exactly who should have won the header, but it was in the left-of-centre zone. Can’t be allowing free headers from that distance at any stage in a game.

Tyrese Fornah, DM – 4

Is Fornah alergic to the football? At best, he doesn’t show for the ball. At worst, he blocks players from passing or dribbling into space and helps opposition teams press the team. To be honest, I’m absolutely sick of Fornah’s utter inability to take advantage of his obvious passing and dribbling skill. Please, can someone teach him to:

  1. drop into space that opens a pass for a teammate;
  2. receive the ball facing forwards, not backwards;
  3. run into the $*%£ing space rather than always shying away from it.

Or, when Argyle are camped around the edge of their opponent’s area, show for a shot? Rather than standing in the way but declining to take the ball. The contrast between Ben Reeves and Fornah is stark.

Defensively, Fornah was awful in the first half. A non-presence when defending set-pieces, which is all the more shocking when he was marking Sean Raggett. SEAN RAGGETT. One of their primary threats from set-pieces. Fornah is surprisingly good at winning headers… in open play. Why ask Aimson to mark space and Fornah to mark Raggett. Swap that around, obviously.

Fornah ended strongly, winning the ball back more in the last fifteen minutes than he did in the rest of the game, but that didn’t mask the fact that he was the weak link in possession and aided Pompey’s play in the first half rather than disrupting it. Based on recent performances, has little chance of keeping his place in the team if Lewis Macleod is ever fit again.

Byron Moore, RWB – 5

Disappointing return to the team. Defensively fine, but a no-show in attack. Had so many chances to attack Charlie Daniels, who obviously doesn’t have the speed to keep up. 20 touches in the final third, but only two in the box. Only attempted four crosses, none successful. No shots. Only one dribble attempted, not completed. Edwards will hardly be worried about competition for his place based on that.

Panutche Camara, CM – 7

Suicidal first-half pass aside, he was quiet for the most part. Stuck out on the wing and unable to make anything happen alongside Moore. Dug in and won the ball, as always, to try and counter Pompey’s pressure.

However, it was the final 20 minutes when Camara came to life. His pressing won the ball back and his shot rebounded to Jephcott as Argyle snatched the lead against the run of play and from then on he looked dangerous on the counter, gliding past Pompey players as spaces opened up. Not his best performance, but he made the difference in what should have been the winning goal.

Danny Mayor, CM – 6

Calm as ever in possession and most of Argyle’s best moments in the first hour (well, fifteen minutes) came down the left. Unable to get in the game for the next hour as Pompey dominated, though did deliver the cross for Aimson to head right at the goalkeeper from 12 yards.

Turned down all chances to shoot, even when spaces opened up for him to cut inside and bend the ball to the back-post. This at a time when Argyle looked unlike laying a glove on their opponents.

Worked hard in defence, but he needs to work smarter. You can see he was a winger before becoming a midfielder in his awareness of defensive space. The back-three take a lot of stick, sometimes deserved, but they get so little protection from the midfield three ahead of them at times.

Conor Grant, LWB – 6

Brilliant first ten minutes, followed by the most mediocre eighty. Whenever Mayor worked hard to generate space for Grant, he just threw the ball into the middle first-time, which was meat and drink to Pompey’s centre-backs. Still, at least he did something to try and effect the game, unlike his opposite wing-back.

Largely anonymous for most of the game. Unsurprisingly offered little in the shape of defending set-pieces. Could have topped the cross from going into the box for the second, if we’re being picky.

Ryan Hardie, ST – 6

SHOOT MAN. JUST $*%£ING SHOOT. Can someone just take him to the training ground and just cross balls into him all afternoon? Shock him or something every time he takes more than one touch before shooting. Why does Jephcott score more than Hardie? Well he shoots. Of his 25 goals for Argyle, Jephcott has only required more than one touch to score on three occasions. Even then, he only needed two touches.

When Argyle’s best chance of the match falls to Hardie? He takes four touches, given the defender and keeper all the time in the world to compose themselves, others to close in, and block the shot. SHOCK.

Hardie was fine otherwise, denied a potential opener by a fantastic block by Raggett. However, his place is now under major threat from Niall Ennis. Perhaps a scoring streak might prevent that from happening. Which, of course, will require he SHOOTS.

Luke Jephcott, ST – 8

Jephcott wasn’t in the game at all. And then he was. Potentially a lesson as to why substituting your leading goalscorer even when he’s not in the game is a dangerous move.

In the first hour, he had no touches in the box and made three passes, one of which was the kick-off. In the last half-hour, he had four touches in the area, two goals, a blocked shot and his cut-back for Hardie.

With his double he stretched his lead at the top of the goalscoring charts, two ahead of Clarke-Harris, scoring a goal every 97 minutes. He recorded a quarter-century of goals for the club and only ten players have netted more this decade.

Although, surely Jephcott was offside for his opening goal, right? I presume I’m missing something, or maybe that was the linesman.

Substitutes

Niall Ennis, ST – 9, player of the match

Stealing the best player award is Niall Ennis, who was one of two Argyle players to change the game (the only one to change it for the better, mind you). It may have gone unnoticed, but in the build up to the first goal it was Ennis’ pressing on Marquis that prevented a Pompey counter and set up the opportunity for Camara to win the ball back. Then, a brilliant piece of skill to get away from his man and cross for Camara, whose shot rebounded to Jephcott for the opener.

After, as the cameraman zoomed in on Charlie Daniels after Will Aimson blocked his close-range shot, Ennis streaked away from Pompey’s defence before squaring for a Jephcott tap-in. Brilliant play off the bench by Ennis for the second time in a week, already paying off his transfer fee. I’m usually hesitant to give such high ratings to substitutes, but he earned this one.

Adam Lewis, LWB – n/a

I usually don’t bother with the late substitutes because they do little, but a shout-out to him for throwing his hat in the ring for worst defensive clearance of the season. He’s not going to beat Byron Moore’s effort at Fleetwood, but sterling work. $*%£ me.

2020/21 Progress Report – Cooper, Aimson, Mayor & Jephcott

We aren’t quite at the half-way mark of the season just yet, but with Argyle’s last game before Christmas having being played, Kevin McCallister appearing pretty much everywhere and some festive spare time on my hands that should almost certainly be spent on wrapping presents, I thought it was about time to look back on some of the targets I had for existing Argyle players at the start of the season.

For anyone that wants to read the full post, you can find it here, but in summary, the targets are summarised below. As you’ll see, these relate to four players that were with the club during our League Two campaign. They were:

  • Michael Cooper: Keep 12 clean sheets in League One.
  • Will Aimson: Make 40 appearances in all competitions.
  • Danny Mayor: Score 10 in all competitions.
  • Luke Jephcott: End the season as Argyle’s top scorer.

So, how are the boys getting on…

Michael Cooper – Keep 12 clean sheets in League One.

On the face of it, Michael Cooper is perhaps a little behind where I’d have liked him to have been at this stage of the season. At the time of writing, he has three clean sheets from 18 games, whilst perhaps quite interestingly, Alex Palmer, Argyle’s number one last term, tops the League One clean sheet table with ten in the same amount of matches.

With that being said, I think Cooper can be fairly happy with his performances to date. Argyle have just ended a six-game losing streak in the league, of which none of the defensive outfield players in covered themselves in much glory. In fact, there hasn’t been a single centre back throughout the campaign to date that hasn’t contributed to Argyle’s long list of individual errors leading to goals. To say Cooper has lacked protection, would be fair.

And yet despite this, I think many could argue that Cooper has taken to professional football pretty well. By no means has it been perfect, and yes, he has at times been at fault from some of the goals Argyle have conceded, but on the whole, he has looked fairly solid and impressed. His strongest skill emerging in the first half of the season appears to be his distribution, and with the growing trend of ball-playing ‘sweeper-keepers’ in English football ever-growing, this should hold Argyle in good stead. He’s quick to pass the ball, not afraid to play a direct, albeit riskier pass into midfield and has launched Argyle attacks from his 18-yard box.

What’s more, when it comes to hitting that target of 12 clean sheets, it’s well within reach. With another 28 games to play, I’m fairly confident he’ll be able to keep a further nine, in what would mark an impressive debut season for the young goalkeeper.

Will Aimson – Make 40 appearances in all competitions.

Prior to this season, Will Aimson had had a pretty torrid time as a Plymouth Argyle player. Whilst he’d looked like a fairly solid centre back when he had played, his time at the club had largely been marred by injury. In fact, by the time he did start the season this year, such was the delay as a result of his injuries and the COVID-19 pandemic, that Will Aimson had missed almost a year of football.

This season however, it’s a different story entirely, with Aimson having already played 19 times for the club, and avoiding a spell on the physio’s table. What’s more, despite the somewhat questionable run of the recent form mentioned above, Aimson arguably fared the best. He wasn’t without his faults, but there’s a general consensus amongst the Argyle faithful that he’s been Argyle’s most solid centre back in this year’s campaign. If his form continues, and his injuries remain firmly in the past, I highly suspect Aimson will break past 40 appearances and with some ease too.

Danny Mayor – Score 10 goals in all competitions.

Oh Danny boy… In short, Danny Mayor hasn’t scored since I wrote the original piece. Yes, he’s only scored one goal this season, and that was on the opening day in the EFL Cup. Not great Danny…

Now, I don’t want to incite the Green Army here. Danny Mayor is an extremely popular player and with good reason. He’s clearly a very gifted individual. As I said last time, I believe him to be Argyle’s most talented player and that for me is still the case. However, I can’t help but feel there’s something lacking from his game, and that’s largely his direct influence on the scoreline. It’s been suggested that he’s our best-paid player and to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure he has the influence on games one might expect to go with that tag, especially given his relatively attacking position on the field.

Personally, I don’t think we’ll see this target met this season and whilst that’s not to say Danny Mayor can’t have a good season, or indeed an influential role in a positive one for Argyle, it would be in no doubt a disappointment. The Danny Mayor debate will rage on I’m sure, but in the second half of the season he has to be a better decision-maker for me. We’ve seen glimpses of it so far, and the danger he can cause when he gets his head up and decides to pass quickly rather than run down a dead-end of three defenders, but he doesn’t do it enough. Add this to his game, and not only could he prove me wrong and hit 10 goals, he could single-handedly move Argyle up positions in the table. Dare I say it, he’s arguably the only player in the squad with this potential bar Luke Jephcott. Talking of which…

Luke Jephcott – End the season as Argyle’s top scorer.

Wow. What a year this lad has had. Incredible. In terms of the target, I might as well rule it over already, although in truth, I could have done that weeks ago. The young striker has 10 goals to his name, whilst his closest competitors Conor Grant and Joe Edwards have three each. Fellow strike partner from last season, and for parts this term too, Ryan Hardie has two and looks unlikely to catch up, especially given Jephcott’s goal conversion rate of 42%.

At the start of the season, I added to Jephcott’s piece that with a bit of luck he could give Wales manager Ryan Giggs something to think about ahead of the delayed EURO 2020 competition in June and on his current trajectory, I think he’s on course to do just that. Ryan Giggs has shown a tendency to give young players a chance, and with Jephcott hunting down a 20 goal season, which is well within reach I might add, there’s an outside chance he might get the call up in my opinion.

When Argyle last sent a player to a major tournament, Rory Fallon played for the undefeated All Whites, in a World Cup campaign that saw New Zealand draw 1- 1 with the then defending champions Italy. This summer, who should Wales be facing in their final group game. Well of course, it’s the Italians and if you ask me, it’s written in the stars. Go on Jephers!

 

Ipswich defeat sees Argyle lose their heads again

Plymouth Argyle will not be the force they have the potential to be at this level without sorting out their glaring mental deficiencies. That is the simple reality at the moment.

It’s been a path well-travelled in recent days, but let’s explore it again. On the 70-minute mark against Ipswich at the weekend, Argyle were in control. By the 75-minute mark, they were a goal and a man down. Danny Mayor lost his mind to get sent off before pure panic in the Argyle ranks led to them conceding two goals in as many minutes. Somehow, from a position of extreme strength, Argyle had thrown it away in the time it takes for me to…no, I won’t finish that.

Anyway, the worst part of all of this is that it’s hardly the first time we’ve seen Argyle fall apart this season. It almost seems to be a weekly occurrence. Stopping these mad moments in games surely has to be Ryan Lowe’s number one priority.

Mayor loses his mind

I’m a fan of Danny Mayor. I think that’s a sentiment shared by most Argyle fans. But his performance on Saturday was exceedingly stupid. It was his red card that sparked the Greens’ capitulation, and looking back, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a dismissal made up of two more ludicrous bookings.

The first could be considered a little unlucky, but I don’t have a great deal of sympathy. Lowe’s argument in the aftermath was that Mayor’s yellow card for timewasting shouldn’t have been awarded because a couple of Ipswich players were preventing his corner from being taken. And I’m not totally dismissive of that argument; indeed, it looked as though the defenders were closer to five yards away from Mayor than the required ten on occasions.

What Lowe didn’t mention was that Mayor had already dallied over taking the corner before this happened. He’d already been warned that he was taking too long before he started complaining about the enclosing defenders. He really didn’t need to insist on playing the corner short if he was worried about picking up a booking. Regardless of the circumstances, getting booked for timewasting with around 40 minutes still on the clock is a little silly.

That pales into insignificance, however, compared to the mind-numbing stupidity of his second booking. Already on a yellow card, he saw Armando Dobra advancing downfield with the ball and just…tripped him up. No attempt or chance of playing the ball, he just tripped the man. For a player who, I must repeat, was already on a yellow card, this was the absolute nadir of dim from the 30-year-old.

As I’ve already mentioned, I like Mayor. He’s definitely the most talented player at the club in a number of areas. But considering the wages he eats up, can a player with his decision making really be considered value for money? The jury is very much out.

The state of panic

Mayor’s mindlessness has been well covered, but it wasn’t the only reason for Argyle’s collapse at the weekend. Rather, his red card was the catalyst for panic in the ranks from which the Greens ultimately couldn’t recover.

Nobody wants to see one of their players receive their marching orders – that goes without saying. However, when it does happen, you need to have some sort of plan. Tighten up and drop back if you must, but continuing to keep your head is imperative. You may have to soak up pressure with ten men, but if you play with intelligence and calmness you’ll give yourself a decent chance of keeping your opponents at bay, particularly if you only have to do it for around 20 minutes.

Alas, Argyle’s reaction was the complete opposite. As soon as their premier playmaker was sent from the field, every player to a man seemed to lose their heads. Nobody took control, nobody showed leadership, and nobody played for the next five minutes as well as they had for the first 70.

The collapse itself happened in the blink of an eye. Rushed clearances were the order of the day, and Argyle scarcely looked capable of calming things down just by keeping the ball for a few moments. They could easily have done so after kicking off following Ipswich’s equaliser, for example. Both of those are mental issues, and clear and obvious examples of the sheer terror in Argyle players’ minds following Mayor’s dismissal.

Lowe mentioned after the game that Argyle would’ve had players blocking both of Ipswich’s goals had Mayor been on the field. I’m not convinced. But I’m certainly confident that Argyle would’ve avoided the issue entirely had they not lost their minds in the wake of the red card.

How do you stop the rot?

Well, that’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it?

A dip into the transfer market must surely now be in the offing with January just around the corner. Each of Argyle’s defenders has shown they have talent this season, but few of them have demonstrated any level of leadership. Niall Canavan is perhaps the exception, but he doesn’t seem to have Lowe’s trust at the moment, particularly after the mistakes against Rochdale in midweek. It may sound simplistic, but I wouldn’t be against the idea of a big noisy b*stard coming into Argyle’s defence this winter. A Sonny Bradley type player would be just what this team needs.

The management also have to be questioned on a run like this. I’m not calling for Lowe’s head at this time; that would be a knee-jerk reaction to the extreme. But it’s clear that work needs to be done on game management, and it’s been clear for a while. To respond to a red card, that was already ridiculous, by conceding two goals in as many minutes against a team who hadn’t scored in over five hours of football is unacceptable. I remarked after the final whistle that this was some of the worst game management I had ever seen, and I stand by that claim.

As painful as it may be, it may simply be a case of learning from experience. Ipswich’s two goals on Saturday, Nolan’s in particular, were superb finishes. Had they not found the net, we’d have been praising an Argyle side capable of winning in the face of adversity, rather than dissecting a capitulation. And Argyle have shown they can “win ugly” before. Think Blackpool this season, or the trips to Cheltenham and Forest Green last term. Maybe Argyle just need to get through a similar game again to get the confidence flowing.

Blame certainly needs to be shared. Argyle’s players have natural talent, but how good can they really be considered as footballers without the concentration and composure to back up their skills? Similarly, Ryan Lowe is a good young manager with a bright future ahead of him, but if he had the foresight to take a tiring and booked Mayor off the field, a horrible situation may have been avoided. Clearly, he still has a lot to learn.

Argyle have all the tools to be a success at this level. But as I say, they will not become the force they have the potential to without sorting out their glaring mental deficiencies.