Argyle pair Aimson and Grant nearing return to action

Plymouth Argyle manager Ryan Lowe has confirmed that fellow defenders Will Aimson and Josh Grant are close to a return to first team action before this weekend’s match against Macclesfield Town at Home Park.

Assuming no further injuries between now and the return of the pair, Lowe would finally have a fully fit squad to choose from going into the final games of the season as the Pilgrims look to gain an immediate return to League One.

On the injuries Lowe said “Will has done a lot of work with John (Lucas, head of fitness and conditioning) and Dave (Galley, head physio).”

“It’s his first real session with the lads (Thursday) in terms of football and it being physical.”

“He will train today and recover tomorrow. Saturday will be too for him and then he will do two days next week.

“He will recover for two days and then he will train one day. Then hopefully we have got him where we want him.”

Aimson last played for Argyle at the end of October as he has struggled with a persistent pelvic injury.

Meanwhile, Josh Grant will return to Devon next week after returning to his parent club Chelsea for a calf injury he picked up in the reverse fixture at Macclesfield on February 18.

“He just had a little bit of fluid around the back of his calf, so he’s doing his rehab with Chelsea.”

“He will be back with us to train on Monday next week.”

Player Ratings: Macclesfield 1 Plymouth Argyle 1

Plymouth Argyle failed to seize their opportunity to move into the top three – or even top with a 5-0 win – as they were held by an excellent performance by Macclesfield. Town will be gutted to have only taken one point from the game, given they wasted two one-on-ones and had a couple of strong efforts repelled by Alex Palmer within the first fifteen minutes.

That period of pressure passed and Argyle were on-top for virtually the remainder of the half, only for Bakinson – on as a sub for the injured Grant – to miscontrol in midfield and launch a Macclesfield counter from which they converted their third one-on-one. It should be noted that Bakinson fell victim to a very heavy pitch that was cut up all over the place, but still.

Argyle gained the upper hand but rarely looked threatening in the box, until a cross fell for Hardie in the middle of a scramble and he was eventually tripped, with Sarcevic scoring the rebound of his own penalty.

Alex Palmer, GK – 8, player of the match

No doubt about who was the best player for Argyle tonight – Macclesfield would have been out of sight had it not been for Palmer’s first-half efforts. Within fifteen minutes he had already kept the score at 0-0 twice, the second showing he was more alert than any of his teammates when responding to a cross going back into the box after a set-piece was initially cleared.

Palmer was very close to saving the third such chance just past the half-hour, only for the ball to squirm in following a swift counter. His steady hands were key to Argyle taking a point and avoiding a dent to our goal difference, which could be equally as important given how tight the current top-four is.

Scott Wootton, CB – 5

Scott Wootton, Niall Canavan and Gary Sawyer against a quick, direct attack – need I say more? Playing the same style as Salford did in the second half last week, they ran clear of their slower, less mobile markers time and time again, with all three largely powerless to stop it. The only respite came when Macclesfield backed off to protect their goal, allowing Argyle lengthy periods of often sterile possession.

Niall Canavan, CB – 4

See above. The only extra mark down for Canavan was that he could have done a bit better to prevent the first one-on-one – he applied pressure but not enough to put the striker off from finding the bottom corner, save for Palmer – and almost certainly looked to fall asleep for the second, allowing a routine header back into the box to send Nathan Cameron clean through.

Gary Sawyer, CB – 5

Yep, same again. Fast striker, slow centre-back. Sawyer’s main savior was that Town targeted Argyle’s right more than the left, so he looked less culpable than the others.

In a nightmarish flashback to earlier in the season, he resumed set-piece duties for the 94th minute free-kick that offered Argyle the chance to win the game – his first set-piece since Port Vale? – but didn’t it was headed away by the second man, not falling within five yards of a green shirt. The ball returned to him, but rather than attempting to force in the cross he played it backwards, with the ball eventually ending up all the way back at Palmer’s feet, and the full-time whistle was blown. This shouldn’t define his night at all, but come on…

Josh Grant, DM – 6

Substituted injured for Bakinson with half-an-hour played. Decent opening but nothing special, offering nothing in particular to protect the defence from the speed of Macclesfield’s attack, but then there wasn’t much he could do. Misplaced a pass or two as yet another victim of the rutted pitch.

Joe Edwards, RWB – 6

Edwards toiled as usual on the right, and we saw again some good play out down the right – a more direct style than Mayor and his wing-back partner often prefer, but recently an effective one – but he and Sarcevic were largely quiet in a creative sense. No crosses attempted, only the one shot (a left-foot half-volley that went wide). Withdrawn to move Moore out wide and add Hardie to the fire-power up front.

Antoni Sarcevic, CM – 5

Five might seem like a low rating for the player in fine-form and the one who scored the all-important equaliser, but in truth today was not a good game for him. The worst midfielder in possession by some distance, lost possession with two of every five touches – worst in the team – created nothing, wasted Argyle’s best opening of the second half with a dreadful cross that sailed over the crossbar, and missed a penalty. Lucky for him, the rebound fell right where he needed it too.

I’ve got to be honest, I’m not a fan of his penalty technique – using your laces leads to less control over the placement of the shot – and he’s now missed two of seven. Maybe this is just a personal preference thing, but I’m just not that confident when he steps up to take them.

Danny Mayor, CM – 6

Close to a seven for Mayor, who faded a bit and couldn’t quite find the final pass. Adapted quite well to the pitch, or at least better than most, and benefited by often taking up a position to receive the ball in the corners, where the turf was more even. Got in-behind once and was set to square it, only for it to bobble up to shin-height and bounce away from him at the crucial moment.

Very, very close to getting the opening goal too. His finish was perfect, if a little scuffed, into the bottom corner, only for the linesman’s flag to go up; the ball had fractionally rolled out of play before Jephcott could cut it back from the by-line.

George Cooper, LWB – 6

First things first, Cooper’s defending has come so far this season. It’s still far from perfect, but his positioning, awareness of the players around him, anticipation, and the timing of his interventions have all improved. A big hat-tip to him on that front, because it was a glaring weakness that McFadzean mostly did not have.

His movement off the ball isn’t quite what McFadzean’s is – you can see Mayor getting in position to attack the full-back, but Cooper isn’t fully on the same wavelength – but his crossing is outstanding. Once again, he could well have had at least one assist. Sarcevic only just failed to connect with a perfect right-footed cross, and there were others into dangerous areas that nobody anticipated.

Byron Moore, ST – 5

Struggled in the game, as did all the strikers. For the most part, they were either struggling to win their aerial duels as Argyle were fully penned in during the opening twenty minutes, struggling to control balls that were bobbling towards them while harassed by Macclesfield’s defenders, or surrounded and isolated when they had the ball in advanced positions.

Moore was okay when he moved out to the wing, but offered no more than Edwards. Crossing was poor when he found himself in position.

Luke Jephcott, ST – 5

Struggled, like the others, due to the pitch, the pressure, and Macclesfield’s spot-on tactics. Did a decent job of linking up play but nothing special as he toiled again without receiving any chances – his only shot came from outside the box.

Substitutes

Tyreeq Bakinson, CM – 4

Misplaced more passes than he should have, even though he had a high pass-completion rate. He kept possession ticking over, but for the most part that was Macclesfield’s plan as they sat very deep to defend their lead – consequently, he had acres of space to orchestrate things. There were some nice forward passes that cut through a line of pressure, it should be noted – I fear some are about to overreact to Bakinson’s display like they did when he showed early promise.

Bakinson’s sin, however, was that he was the one to give the ball away for the goal. With Argyle not fully reset following an attacking set-piece, he had the ball under control only to misjudge the pace (or lack thereof) of the pitch and allowed himself to be robbed. From there, Macclesfield sprung the counter, running 3-v-2 and scoring. With Argyle having rode the wave of pressure at the start and begun to take control of the game, it was a sucker punch that possibly cost the team all three points.

Ryan Hardie, ST – 6

The super-striker super-sub failed to score off the bench once more, but he did win the penalty that gained his team a point. Demonstrated maturity to not snatch at the shot when there were enough legs in the way to block it, and saw a reward as a slight trip brought him down.

Dominic Telford, ST – n/a

Came on late as Ryan Lowe shook things up to chase an equaliser. It was a bit of an unorthodox position that Telford took-up, looking most commonly like an attacking midfielder in the hole. It didn’t really work – unsurprising, given he’s a striker, on his first appearance back from his latest injury and playing on a pitch that was torn to pieces through the middle.

Still, great to see him fit once more. He could lay a claim to being the most naturally talented of all the strikers Argyle have available, if only he could keep himself fit! Restricted to only nine starts this season, with injury striking every time he gets into full-flow (Walsall, Cheltenham, Swindon), each time around the half-hour mark. Hopefully, he’s finally past it now.

Opposition View: Macclesfield vs Plymouth Argyle

Plymouth Argyle’s rearranged fixture with Macclesfield Town takes place tonight. To get an opposition view ahead of the encounter, we sent a few questions the way of Twitter’s Silkmen Army.

First of all, how did you get into supporting Macclesfield?

Macclesfield Town is in my blood. My father and his parents have lived in Macclesfield their whole lives. It’s an important part of who I am; I go with my dad, brothers and grandad and one day will take my children. I love it and it defines me.

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

I’m always impressed with Corey O’Keeffe on loan from Birmingham. He lides past players in forward areas and is trusted to play wing-back when needed. But Danny Whitehead from Salford is a class act. He was crucial in our promotion season two years ago and is so assured on the ball. Doesn’t deserve to be in a relegation fight at all.

We have to talk about the club’s financial issues, which have hit the headlines in recent weeks. How are things looking on that front at the moment?

Terrible. We’ve been docked six points for not playing against Crewe and the late payment of players that has happened for the last 9 months now. Further sanctions may be coming too for the postponement of the game with you guys first time around. This will put off any future buyer of the club and puts our very existence in extreme doubt. It’s bleak.

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

Mark Kennedy likes the high press system and to play out usually. We do chop and change the personnel regularly but we had three CB’s at the weekend with wing-backs. A couple of CM’s, two 10’s and Joe Ironside up front with his back to goal, holding it up and laying it off. Didn’t work too badly with us cruelly losing in the last five minutes vs Exeter after working back level from 2-0 down.

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

We’re short for goals up front. Most games end with both teams scoring fewer than two goals. It’s tight, low risk, low scoring football. Firepower is short at present.

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

Probably deserve to be at a higher level. Strong fanbase. Decent ground (been once before). Miles away! 1-1 draw in 2012 with George Donnelly scoring an equaliser in the 94th minute on a Tuesday night at the Moss. I remember thinking you guys won’t be home before 3:00am at best and must have been pig-sick.

In an ideal world, which Argyle player, if any, would you like to sign?

Probably Danny Mayor. Seem to remember him being a crucial part of Bury’s successful promotion winning side of last year. Would do a great job in the blue and white of Macclesfield if he thought Devon was too far away from home.

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

Top end doesn’t really concern me too much but it looks like three from four at the top for automatic promotion. I think Crewe are a strong side so expect them to make it. Swindon have goals in Doyle so looks like one of yourselves and Exeter for the other spot. I’ll back you guys to edge it.

Bottom end I’m praying Stevenage’s horrific season continues. It’ll be one of them, Morecambe or ourselves for the trap door and it looks like Boro are currently the worst. No offence to them but long may that continue.

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

1-1

Preview: Macclesfield v Plymouth Argyle

Both Macclesfield and Plymouth come into Saturday’s League Two encounter at Moss Rose in very contrasting form. Whilst the Silkmen are winless in their last eight matches, drawing the last four, Ryan Lowe’s side have won five of their last seven, including last weekend’s comfortable 3-0 win over Morecambe.

Line-Up

  • Defender James Pearson is the only confirmed absentee for Macclesfield through injury.
  • Defender Theo Vassell as well as midfield pair Theo Archibald and Ben Stephens remain doubts after missing the trip to Walsall.
  • Midfielder Connor Kirby will be available again following suspension.

 

Predicted Line-Up (3-4-1-2)

Evans

Welch-Hayes, Kelleher, Cameron

Archibald, Kirby, Harris, O’Keeffe

Gnahoua

Osadebe, Ironside

 

Style of Play

Predominantly playing in a 3-4-1-2 formation, Daryl McMahon’s side look to vary their play with a mixture of short and long balls, unlike most sides who to tend to dominate in one particular element. Attacking pair Joe Ironside and Arthur Ghanoua compliment each other in that they are both completely different types of forwards.

Whilst Ironside is the shorter of the two at 5ft 9in, he’s much more effective in the air, winning duels and flicking the ball on. Ghanoua however, is much faster and likes to run with the ball at opponents before either firing a shot away or passing to a teammate.

The 27-year-old completes nearly two successful dribbles per game whilst maintaining a passing accuracy of 70%. The attacking duo have five goals and assists between them so far this season (4G, 1A). Whilst not overly impressive, Macclesfield have scored just 19 league goals this season, with only the bottom two and Walsall managing to score less.

The Silkmen heavily rely on the creativity that they have in midfield, particularly through duo Emmanuel Osadebe and Theo Archibald. The pair have scored four apiece as well as registering a further four assists between them.

With Osadebe playing through the middle and Archibald playing down the right wing, the two utilise their abundance of pace in order to create problems for their opponents. They often like to hit the ball out wide and work the ball into dangerous positions in the middle of the final third. Unlike a lot of sides in League Two, Macclesfield aren’t particularly crossing orientated, with their tally of 14 per-game ranking them amongst the lowest in the division.

Corey O’Keeffe and Connor Kirby add a bit of bite to the Silk midfield. Birmingham loanee O’Keefe is the more creative of the duo, looking to win the ball and run with it whilst Kirby often looks to make an immediate pass into space. O’Keeffe averages 3.58 successful dribbles per 90 minutes, the best at the club by some distance whilst the pair also average more than two tackles each.

They both tend to sit a little deeper in the midfield in order to provide cover whilst attacking midfielder Osadebe goes forward and shield the back three. This allows the defenders to push out wide a little more so that they are less vulnerable down the wings as well as in the centre of the park. Against a side like Argyle who are particularly threatening down the left side, this will be crucial.

Star Player

In a side struggling to score regular goals this season, attacking midfielder Emmanuel Osadebe looks to be the Silkmen’s most dangerous player. In a side with a little more quality, he’d probably have more to show for his efforts.

His tally of four goals already this season surpasses his career total of three goals in over 60 league appearances the 23-year-old had prior to his move from fellow League Two side Cambridge in the summer. Along with his two assists, his six goal contributions this season account for nearly a third of Macclesfield’s goals.

Despite standing at 6ft 2in, the former Tottenham man possesses a lot of pace which he uses to run at opponents and create problems in the final third. His physicality ensures that it’s difficult for defenders to tackle and wriggle him off the ball and if given time and space he will look to punish opposition sides. Despite naturally being  a winger, Osadebe has done well to adapt to a more central position with manager McMahon attempting to play a system that includes both him and Troy Archibald.

Weaknesses

Scoring goals is the obvious achilles heel for Macclesfield this season and despite the ongoing turmoil at the club, they’ve remained resolute. Despite being winless in eight matches, the Silkmen have conceded the same amount of goals as top of the table Swindon (22) whilst only losing one game more (six).

A goalscorer will undoubtedly be their top priority in January and on paper. Should they find someone who can contribute a few goals they look likely to survive for another season provided the players’ heads haven’t been turned during the ongoing financial crisis at the club.

Whilst remaining solid at defending from out wide, Macclesfield are very susceptible to conceding shots in the middle of the park with 71% of shots against them coming from the middle. This often happens when more possession orientated sides find the gaps between the midfield, and the defence and with a back three they are vulnerable.

Prediction (2-0)

Coming into the game, Argyle will be looking to avenge their midweek FA Cup exit at the hands of League One side Bristol Rovers in which they did not look out of place against their higher ranked opponents. With a lot more quality in their side and an in-form George Cooper alongside Danny Mayor, Ryan Lowe’s side will certainly fancy their chances against a side winless in eight.

The Silkmen are no pushovers despite appearances, however, and despite their off the pitch drama, they’ve actually conceded fewer goals than the Pilgrims. That being said, should Argyle score first, with McMahon’s side struggling for goals it could well kill the game off.

Green & White: Pre-Season Predictions

With just days to go until the upcoming 2019/20 League Two season kicks-off, we predicted where Argyle will finish as well as which sides will be looking for promotion, the play-offs and relegation.

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