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 Now in a slightly more withdrawn role than when at wing-back, he is less able to get crosses into the box, but was still able to give Argyle an extra attacking option going forward and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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Extra energy helps Argyle win Lincoln epic

Have you calmed down yet? I know I haven’t. Plymouth Argyle spent their Saturday afternoon in the sun locking horns with high-flying Lincoln City, and came away with a stunning 4-3 victory. Joe Edwards’ stoppage time winner drew the loudest celebration from myself and many others since we were confined to watching on iFollow, and whilst I’ve always missed going to Home Park during the crisis, I don’t think I’ve ever felt the sense of absence quite so much as this weekend.

Argyle’s encounter with the Imps was the sort of game the phrase “rollercoaster of emotions” was invented for. The Greens made a flying start when Kelland Watts’ centre forward instincts saw him net the opener, before Danny Mayor finally, after all these months, turned one of his mazing runs into a goal for himself. Then, we had the all too familiar collapse. Conor McGrandles got one back before Jorge Grant converted twice from the penalty spot, one after an awful tackle from Watts, and the other after an awful dive from Grant himself.

But it was Argyle who had the last laugh. One of the late goals was debatably given to Conor Grant, the other undoubtedly struck by Edwards, as Argyle fought hard right up to the final whistle to secure a dramatic win.

Extra energy pays dividends

Lincoln’s first and only change of the game came after 86 minutes, when captain Jorge Grant picked up a freak injury after appearing to be struck on the ankle by the ball. By that stage, Argyle had already made their five allotted substitutions, with Panutche Camara, Sam Woods, Luke Jephcott, Ben Reeves and Klaidi Lolos all introduced. It led to a disparity in energy levels as the game drew to a close, with one side fresh and chasing a winner, and the other looking exhausted having already put plenty of effort into turning the game around.

The differences are obvious when comparing the last 15 minutes of the game with the first 75. Of the ten shots Argyle had across the piece on Saturday, four came within the final quarter of an hour. Lincoln had an aerial duel success of 77% on the 75 minute mark, but saw that drop to 60% in the final 15 as the physical nature of them took its toll. A similar story can be seen in their pass success, which dropped from 77% to 70% across the same period, suggesting some more panicked long balls from some tired legs.

They aren’t huge drop-offs, but in a game as close as this one any decrease in performance is likely to make a significant difference. That’s exactly what we saw. Argyle brought their top scorer off the bench alongside a hungry young striker in Lolos and a remarkable physical specimen in Camara. Lincoln had nothing until there were only four minutes remaining, and even that was enforced. Even though they couldn’t be spurred on by a crowd, Argyle had enough energy in the closing stages to roll their opponents over.

Perhaps it wouldn’t have made a major difference overall, but Lincoln boss Michael Appleton may look back on his use of substitutions on Saturday as a point of regret.

Camara and Edwards impress

The conditions created in the game were perfect for two of Argyle’s stars of the season to shine. Panutche Camara and Joe Edwards would probably be the two Pilgrims you’d consider to have the highest work rate amongst the squad, based on this season’s evidence at least. And they were just the players Argyle needed to step up to the plate on Saturday. Did they? You bet.

Camara left his mark in exactly the way you’d expect: his running, his dribbling, and his ability to win back the ball. If the Lincoln defence weren’t tired before they had Camara running at the heart of them, they certainly were after. He was as effervescent as we’ve come to expect, and if we’re willing to give Argyle’s equaliser to Conor Grant, Camara would come away with the two assists that his general play deserved. The fact he was able to make such an impact after starting on the bench just makes his performance even sweeter.

Joe Edwards, meanwhile, demonstrated exactly what Argyle had been missing during his recent absence from the side. Take Argyle’s equaliser as an example. Even if we’re deciding not to award him the goal, the fact he even managed to get to the front post from his wing back position to meet the original cross was superb. Then, of course, he set himself up beautifully to score a dramatic winner in injury time, making an impact after the 90-minute mark despite just coming back from injury. Splendid. Is there any better candidate for the captain’s armband in the Argyle side at present than him?

For months now Argyle have lacked the character and ability to turn things around when they go sour. They’ve often entered into a state of panic, causing irreparable damage to their chances in certain games. On Saturday we saw the polar opposite, with both Camara and Edwards making telling contributions. It warmed the heart.

Is this what we were promised with Lowe?

When Ryan Lowe was appointed, one game that stuck out from his Bury reign was a 4-3 win over Milton Keynes. Lowe’s Shakers found themselves 3-1 down with 20 minutes to play, but managed to secure a dramatic turnaround victory in in injury time. Whilst we’ve had some dramatic games during Lowe’s reign at Argyle – a few 3-2s this season have done nothing for my heart – a late win from behind had been something we’d lacked. Until this weekend.

Saturday’s performance wasn’t perfect. I was feeling particularly glum when Lincoln’s third was tucked away, and I’m sure I wasn’t alone. But the way Argyle came roaring back was tremendous, and being able to win games like this will do wonders for the players’ confidence. It seems to me that this is indeed what we were promised when Lowe joined, and as frustrating as it can be at times, it makes for an engrossing watch when done right. One suspects this game may be one we look back on with joy for years to come.

Of course, it’s a crying shame nobody was there to witness Saturday’s events live. But if this is what we have to look forward to next season, sign me up straight away.

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.

The Magic Still Remains

Monday night saw Plymouth Argyle come out the hat as ball number one as they drew Premier League opponents Sheffield United. The Greens managed to reach the fourth round for the first time since being a Championship club in 2008, after a largely convincing 3-2 victory away to a young Huddersfield side last Saturday.

This is the thing: the words ‘A young side’ for an FA Cup fixture is used far too much now for my liking, with the opponents from a higher league often fielding a heavily rotated side in order to deal with the modern day demands of fixture pileup.

Whilst that can lead to great spectacles admittedly – See Argyle’s 0-0 draw at Anfield in 2017 for reference, it is this that has led many in recent years to discredit the competition as a Premier League version of the Papa John’s Trophy – Games that very few care about, not played with the same intensity and not interesting enough to create the same feeling as a league match until the final rounds.

I have always enjoyed the FA Cup, because who doesn’t enjoy seeing multi title winning and one of the greatest managers of all time, Jose Mourinho turn up outside someone’s back garden in Liverpool, whilst his Spurs side worth hundreds of millions and with a plethora of experience on the international stage, take on people who like to play football as a hobby?

But even me, a lover of the sport can’t ‘get up for the cup’ in the way so many say often enough, because how can you when you too frequently see the big clubs not treat the oldest cup competition in the world (and widely considered best) with the respect it deserves.

Going to Anfield and witnessing the result in 2017, seeing the seconds tick down on the clock and the feeling when the ball was cleared out of the box for the final time was one of my top 3 experiences supporting Argyle and easily finds a space in my top ten as a football fan.

However, in my relatively short time supporting the club the negative experiences largely out way the positives in the competition.

Losses to non league to Dorchester and Stourbridge respectively in respective years remain vivid in my mind to this day and signify some of the darkest days in this clubs history.

The run up to the semi final against Watford in 1984 is way before my time and I am just about too young to remember the run up to the quarter final against the same side in 2007.

My only real positive experience of the cup from an Argyle perspective excluding that day at Anfield and Graham Carey’s penalty against Newport that took us there, is forcing a replay against League One Port Vale when Argyle were the division below in January 2014, although we did lose the third round return fixture at Home Park by three goals to two.

But now here we are, a combination of good performances and rotation from other sides has seen Argyle earn a fixture away to Sheffield United later this month, and whilst it might’ve not been the mouthwatering, money making that we would’ve preferred, it is a chance for Argyle to test themselves against Premier League opposition, and they can go into the game knowing that they stand a chance against a team horribly out of form and with the possibility to rotate with the Covid induced schedule putting huge pressure on many teams’ squads.

I think we can all agree that football isn’t the same without fans, and back to back trips to Yorkshire, would’ve had potential to live long in the memory for those that went. But the camaraderie, that a run like this can create between players and fans will only help Argyle be better placed, succeed further in seasons to come.

For the first time, on Monday I felt truly up for the cup, and if Argyle can go to Bramall Lane and force a result, they will be just Bristol City or Millwall away from the Quarter Final for as a third division club.

These are eventualities that in usual circumstances people might laugh at  but after the year we have all been through and the ‘Magic of the FA Cup’ that is begging to feel tangible inside us, why not dare to dream?

Plymouth Argyle learn FA Cup fate

Plymouth Argyle will face Sheffield United in the fourth round of the FA Cup. The Pilgrims, making their first appearance at this stage of the competition for 13 years, were drawn as the away side, so the game will take place at Brammall Lane on the weekend of 23rd-24th January.

Former Liverpool and Tottenham striker Peter Crouch then conducted the draw for the fifth round, with both draws taking place consecutively to aid fixture planning during the continuing COVID-19 disruption. That saw Argyle or Sheffield United drawn at home to Millwall or Bristol City, meaning a potential clash with some recent League Cup opponents in round five should the Greens prevail against Chris Wilder’s side.

The tie against the Blades will be a repeat of the second-round encounter back in 2014/15. That saw Sheffield United win 3-0, but only after Reuben Reid missed a penalty with the sides deadlocked early in the second half. That was the last time the two sides locked horns, with the previous meeting in the league seeing the Blades beat Argyle 4-3 in an entertaining clash in 2010. Argyle have a fairly mixed record against Sheffield United overall, winning 15, drawing 10 and losing 21 of 46 total encounters.

Should Argyle progress beyond the next round, it’ll be their best run in the competition since 2007. That year, Ian Holloway’s side made it all the way to the quarter finals before eventually being knocked out by Premier League Watford.

Player of the Month: December 2020

After a dark beginning to December, light finally emerged in the week before Christmas Day. Argyle’s worst month this season saw four consecutive defeats after capitulations against Ipswich, Rochdale and Bristol Rovers, followed by an identity crisis against Crewe as Ryan Lowe turned to a back-four to start a game for the first time in his tenure as manager of Plymouth Argyle.

Thankfully, a hard-earned victory over MK Dons finally broke a six-match run of defeats and saw Argyle victorious in League One for the first time since Swindon on the 3rd November.

A 2-2 draw away at Charlton followed, meaning Argyle are still without a win or a clean sheet away from home in the league, and the month closed with another disappointing defeat, this time to Oxford, after a promising start to the match.

Player of the Month: Luke Jephcott (10.79)

It will come as little surprise to anyone that the player of the month was Luke Jephcott, the man who scored five of the seven goals for Argyle in December. Jephcott has come a long – long – way since he was loaned out to Southern League Truro City. Yet, at the age of 20, he still has even further to go before he can become the best player he possibly can, but his finishing is so impressive that it would be a real coup for Argyle to keep him next season, assuming he doesn’t leave for another club in January.

Despite his ridiculous goal scoring rate, Jephcott is still far from the complete package at this level, and may yet struggle if he moves to another team that cannot provide chances for him at the rate that Lowe’s Argyle have. Yet, the flip-side of that coin is that Argyle will struggle if they lose Jephcott, since a whole raft of players (other than Jephcott) have conspired to miss as many goals as possible in spite of the chances created for them. December was, of course, another reminder of just how valuable the Welshman is to this team. Creating chances means nothing if the ball doesn’t actually go into the back of the net.

Jephcott doesn’t always get the highest ratings, mostly because his style of play is largely geared towards getting on the end of attacking moves.That’s not to say that all Jephcott can do is finish – far from it. No, it is merely a reflection that 17 of his 20 goals in 2020 have been from a first-touch finish, while the other three were with a second touch, all of which came inside the box at an average distance of 5.7 yards from goal. It’s not for nothing that nearly a fifth (18%) of Jephcott’s completed passes this season have been kick-offs. Or that he has recorded no assists in 2020 (and no big chances created), compared to a combined 16 among his strike partners.

Yet, there can be no doubt that he is deserving of player of the month in December, after coming second in November, when he once again carried the goal-scoring burden for Ryan Lowe, possibly saving his job in the process.

To put his remarkable 2020 in context, Jephcott is the first Plymouth Argyle player since Reuben Reid (2014) to score 20 goals in a calendar year. Reid scored 22 at a rate of one every 193 minutes, Jephcott scored 20 at a rate of one every 116 minutes. However, Reid played a full, regulation season. Jephcott lost 9 games (potentially 12 had Argyle ended up in the play-offs) due to the curtailment of the 2019/20 season, and an anywhere between 3-7 games because of the late start to the 2020/21 season.

If you’re a betting man (unless you’re an addict, in which case seek help), you’d surely want to put your money on Jephcott to receive a senior call up to Wales’ national team at some point in his career. He started the last year in the Southern Football League Premier South, and ended it as the second highest scorer in League One. And as the player of the month, of course.

2. Will Aimson (10.57)

Aimson might be a surprise appearance at second, notably because he has deservedly earned a nickname as Bambi ever since he developed a habit of slipping over at least once per game starting with the 2-2 draw with Portsmouth. Fortunately (for Aimson and us) these slips haven’t led to immediate catastrophe and I hope that he can put it behind him in the near year (given how ridiculous it is).

Leaving that aside, Aimson ended the month poorly by giving away a needless penalty against Oxford. Regardless of the fact he got the ball, he went through the back of the player and had no need to make the tackle at that point. Yet, prior to the walls caving in on him during the final minutes of the month, he was otherwise solid. Mostly excellent against Charlton, particularly when red shirts started to find cracks in Argyle’s midfield, he was similarly solid against MK Dons to prevent any frights late on to secure Argyle’s first win since Swindon. Even against Crewe, another bad night for Argyle, he himself was impressive, at least relative to the rest of the team, and put in one of his personal best passing displays of the season. Of course, Aimson was largely spared the humiliation of the Rochdale debacle after starting from the bench.

That’s not to forget his highlight of the month, galloping back to make a superb last-ditch tackle to thwart a 1-v-1 and help Argyle to a much needed (and deserved) victory against Ipswich… oh wait I just remembered how that ended. Alas, as the PM might say.

3. Conor Grant (10.10)

With news that George Cooper is going to be injured for some time, it’s a good thing that Conor Grant has emerged as an able back-up since he was first injured against Crewe. Though he maybe does not provide the same quality as Cooper does (or maybe that should say as Cooper can, given he hasn’t hit top form yet this season), he certainly offers a similar quality of crossing from the left wing, leading to the opening goal against Ipswich and more recently the opening goal against Gillingham (though that does not count to this given it took place in January.

Grant has plenty to learn about this new role, particularly defensively, but it’s been a good enough start thus far and it’s been wonderful to see him finally blossom in a green shirt. The biggest question for him will be whether he can keep Byron Moore out of wing-back, particularly given the success of his relationship with Danny Mayor in that position back in late October and early November.

4. Joe Edwards (10.05)

Player of the month in November, Joe Edwards continue to impress from wing-back and keep Byron Moore out of the team. Though Edwards offered less in attacking during December than he has since winning his place back in the team, he still offers powerful, direct running infield from the wing, while helping to guard the right-flank of the defence when without the ball. During a month of defensive howlers, he’s largely done that job well, though more cracks have been emerging than since he broke into the team and its possible that he needs a rest, given how much running he seems to get through when on the pitch.

Edwards’ highlight of the month of course came from setting up Ryan Hardie’s much-needed winning goal against MK Dons, powering past static defenders with another direct run in from the wing and crossing for the finish. In a game in which Argyle were overly cautious and created little, he provided the inspiration that finally got three points back on the board.

5. Ryan Hardie (9.83)

Ryan Hardie has finally returned to something like his best form, and what a relief it is. Sure, he started the month slowly, but the winning goal against MK Dons was a predatory finish, the likes we haven’t seen enough of. Following that, he provided two assists for Luke Jephcott away to Charlton and then a third assist – and fourth goal involvement in three games – as Panutche Camara scored his first league goal for Argyle against Oxford.

Hardie also created another big chance for Jephcott away to Bristol Rovers, but Hardie himself missed three great chances in that game, overshadowing his otherwise good performance and leaving him with an average score of 4. Playing well means nothing if you, as a striker, miss a hat-full of chances yourself.

Last, an honourable mention to Camara, who does not feature in this list since we only cover the top five, but he finished sixth by 0.13 points and was of course voted player of the month by readers of Plymouth Live. Like Hardie, he finished the month strongly and it was great to see him get off the mark in the league. Hopefully this will translate into even more attacking output from him in the coming months.

Previous winners:

September 2020 Player of the Month
  1. Danny Mayor (11.61)
  2. Will Aimson (10.31)
  3. Conor Grant (9.86)
October 2020 Player of the Month
  1. Kelland Watts (11.20)
  2. Danny Mayor (10.56)
  3. Joe Edwards (10.26)
November 2020 Player of the Month
  1. Joe Edwards (11.86)
  2. Luke Jephcott (10.38)
  3. Michael Cooper (10.12)

How we calculate the score

Each player receives a match rating from 1-10 and one player from each match receives a man of the match bonus. Players who played fewer than 15 minutes of a match do not receive a match rating unless they made a significant impact. The players are scored by a variety of individuals who have witnessed every match this season.

The scores are aggregated and weighted against the number of appearances, before the man of the match bonus is added. In this way, we are ranking the impact of a player across the season. The more often they have played and the better they have performed, the more of an impact they have made on the team’s season, and therefore the higher they rank.

The formula also adds weight to higher scores. A player who gets 6s and 7s every week would average out at the same rating as a player who got a 9 one week and a 4 the next. Yet, that 9 rating implies a player made a match-winning impact and that should be rewarded. So, players who score higher ratings receive higher scores, even if their average rating is the same as a player who gets consistent middling-scores.

This way of ranking players enables us to be more impartial when speaking of the impact made by each player across a season, as it significantly reduces:

  • recency bias (players who hit a spell of form often have their season-wide impact overstated because of their recent performances).
  • statistical bias (players with lots of goals or assists relative to their position tend to be rated above those whose performance levels have been consistently superior but are not involved in goal-scoring, often because it is hard to visualise a player’s impact across a season without resorting to these stats. It explains why attackers, or defenders involved in a high-number of goals, predominantly receive most recognition throughout a season – we’re looking at you, Garth Crooks).
  • conformation bias (fans who favour some players tend to fixate on their positive performances while neglecting to factor in their bad performances when ranking them across a season).

Argyle forced to hold on despite dominating Gillingham

Plymouth Argyle’s first game of 2021 was slightly odd. The stats would, pretty fairly, suggest that the Greens dominated the game. But look at any highlights package and you’ll notice it was their opponents Gillingham who had the better chances across the 90 minutes. Still, Argyle managed to get themselves a victory that could prove to be particularly crucial, especially after the 3-2 defeat against Oxford in midweek.

Ultimately, Argyle did well to play to their strengths to get their noses in front, particularly the prodigious Luke Jephcott. His goal on Saturday was his 14th in all competitions this season and, as we discussed in the aftermath of Argyle’s draw with Charlton, it feels as though he’s far from done.

Things at the other end felt a little more concerning, but Argyle clung on for the three points that make their position in League One seem a lot safer than it did three days ago.

Argyle’s strengths seal the deal

After the final whistle on Saturday, I remarked that this was a case of Argyle “winning ugly.” Looking back, I’d probably revise that claim slightly. Granted, it wasn’t the most fluent Argyle performance of all time, but they still played well (and, importantly, better than their opponents). Winning ugly is a label that can probably be put on a few games from last season; the 1-0 wins on away trips to Forest Green and Cheltenham, for instance.

Still, those two games and the win over Gillingham do all share one thing in common. In each fixture, Argyle played to their strengths to gain the advantage before holding on under pressure. Against Forest Green, Argyle worked a corner routine to allow Sarcevic to burst into the area and shoot, which he always loved. And at Cheltenham, Argyle used Zak Rudden’s movement in the penalty area to full effect. Rudden was never the best finisher, but that was negated on this occasion by his work to get into a position from which missing would be a near-impossibility. Don’t laugh.

On Saturday, Argyle’s main strengths came to the fore again to craft a lovely goal. Quite rightly, the spotlight has been thrust upon Jephcott’s finish; a wonderful first-time effort on his weaker foot into the corner of the net. But to get into that position, Joe Edwards’ energy worked the ball superbly from the right, allowing him to find fellow wing-back Conor Grant in space. From there, Grant’s cross was delicious, finding the perfect target in the penalty area. And so a goal was scored using Edwards’ energy, Grant’s technical ability and Jephcott’s finishing. In other words, it was perfectly crafted.

In truth, the Lowe philosophy was evident in Argyle’s play through much of the game. Playing out from the back was paramount, with Argyle’s back three all in the top five in terms of completed passes on the day. The other two occupants of that top five? Goalkeeper Mike Cooper and playmaker Danny Mayor. Argyle dominated the ball to the extent that Kelland Watts, with 77 passes, completed almost double the amount of Gills’ top passer Kyle Dempsey (41).

That domination of possession, surely ingrained into the psyche of each Argyle player by now, allowed the Greens to create chances at a greater rate than their opponents. One shot dragged wide by Edwards in the first half saw both Aimson and Watts involved in the build-up. And had Mayor put a smidgen more weight on a pass in the second half, Panutche Camara would have had the opportunity to finish a gorgeous team move. On another day, Argyle may have added more goals to reward their silky play.

Set-pieces still a worry

In the main, Argyle did have the better of the game, and created more chances across the 90 minutes. However, as discussed, the Greens didn’t have everything their own way, with some of the better-quality chances falling to Gillingham. Frustratingly, many of the problems leading to those chances were of Argyle’s own making.

Once again, set pieces proved to be Argyle’s Achilles heel. Gillingham will be kicking themselves that they didn’t take one of their big openings from such situations to steal a scarcely deserved point. Take a second half free kick, for example, when Connor Ogilvie was left completely unmarked at the back post before managing to divert his header over the bar from around four yards. Or a later corner which Cooper came for, completely missed, and Watts somehow managed to turn round his own post.

As we’ve so often seen in the past, Argyle were their own worst enemy at times. Cooper himself failed to cover himself in glory, looking notably shaky dealing with crosses all afternoon. Admittedly, my judgement of Cooper’s performance probably comes down entirely to his part in Matty Willock heading over in stoppage time. If Cooper did get a hand to the cross, it’s a match-winning save. If not, it’s a glaring error that almost costs Argyle the game. I wasn’t able to find a touch, but I’ve been told he did get a crucial fingertip on the cross. As a Cooper fan, I’m more than happy to believe it.

After Argyle’s defeat to Bristol Rovers last month, I wondered exactly what went on in training. Lowe gave us that insight after the Gillingham win, mentioning that they had prepared for corners, free kicks and long throws in the build-up. As promising as that is, it didn’t seem to help this weekend. Maybe that’s something to do with the fact that Argyle don’t have any attacking players that aren’t called Frank Nouble who can pose a regular aerial challenge during those drills.

We’ve mentioned that on another day Argyle would have scored a few more. Equally, on another day they may have lost the points due to their shoddy set-piece defending. Luckily it didn’t matter on this occasion, but the issue still needs fixing.

Is Luke Jephcott the best striker in League One?

Plymouth Argyle were unlucky not to beat Charlton on Boxing Day. That’s my take anyway.

Ryan Lowe’s side had an excellent first half, and deserved their lead through two quality finishes from star striker Luke Jephcott. That they didn’t win can be put down to two unfortunate goals against – one which looked suspiciously like a foul on Kelland Watts, and the other a moment of magic from Marcus Maddison that not many sides at this level would’ve been able to stop. I also felt Argyle ought to have had a penalty for handball midway through the second half, but perhaps that’s my bias coming to the fore.

There were plenty of positives to take from the game at The Valley. Primarily, Jephcott again proved his worth to Argyle with two fine poacher’s goals. It means he’s already hit double figures in the league this year, and as a player who has a knack for being in the right place at the right time, you sense he’s far from finished. Still only 20, there has to be an argument now that he’s the greatest striker at any club in League One.

The raw stats

It’s been shared pretty widely over the last day or so, but it’s worth repeating. Luke Jephcott is now the joint-second top scorer in the league, with only Peterborough’s Jonson Clarke-Harris having scored more. However, Clarke-Harris has been on the field far more often than Jephcott this season, and the Argyle striker’s stats compare very favourably with the rest of the league.

Player Goals Assists Goals/90 minutes Mins per goal Conversion Rate (%) Shot accuracy (%)
1 Jonson Clarke-Harris 12 1 0.68 132 26 49
2 Joe Pigott 10 4 0.58 155 21 53
3 Luke Jephcott 10 0 0.90 100 40 68
4 John Marquis 9 3 0.55 164 24 46
5 Matty Taylor 8 1 0.48 186 22 62
5= Callum Camps 8 1 0.44 206 29 71
7 Jorge Grant 7 4 0.37 244 25 46
8 Scott Fraser 7 1 0.42 214 21 59
9 Charlie Wyke 7 0 0.61 148 27 54
9= Mallik Wilks 7 0 0.47 190 20 60
11 Josh Magennis 6 2 0.48 189 32 58
11= Matthew Lund 6 2 0.36 253 24 48
13 Kane Hemmings 6 1 0.52 174 33 44
13= Dion Charles 6 1 0.47 193 21 52
13= Conor Washington 6 1 0.43 209 32 63
16 Chuks Aneke 6 0 0.96 94 23 58
16= Mikael Mandron 6 0 0.36 248 22 59

Jephcott’s early-season injury and international experience have hindered him in the race for the League One golden boot. Because as we can see, he has a far better minutes-per-goal ratio that the vast majority on the list. He outscores both Clarke-Harris and Joe Piggott, the only two players ranked above him at the moment, comfortably. And of all the players to have scored six or more this season, only Charlton’s Chuks Aneke beats his record. But Aneke only has six goals compared to Jephcott’s ten, making his sample size smaller. Plus, any neutrals watching on Boxing Day wouldn’t have a hard time deciding upon the better striker.

But there are stats there even more remarkable that minutes-per-goal. Look at his shot accuracy, which sits at a princely 68%. Hitting the target around half the time is usually a decent barometer; to do it around seven times in ten is excellent. Only Fleetwood’s Callum Camps hits the target at a better rate than the 20-year-old.

What really separates Jephcott from the rest of the field is his conversion rate. Indeed, there is quite a difference between making the goalkeeper work and actually beating him. In that regard, Jephcott’s record is unrivalled, with 40% of his shots this season finding the net. It’s a particularly remarkable statistic – Jephcott has only had 25 shots in the league all season, and found the back of the net with ten.

Add in the fact that Argyle haven’t won a penalty all season, so Jephcott hasn’t had the chance to add to his tally from the spot, and his numbers become even more revealing. Statistically at least, Jephcott is right up there with League One’s best marksmen.

Effect on Argyle

What makes Jephcott so effective at the moment is how perfectly he fits into Argyle’s system. This isn’t a Freddie Ladapo in 2018/19 situation we have on our hands, when one player almost monopolising chances ultimately acted as a detriment to the team’s efforts. (I should say, that doesn’t mean Ladapo was a bad player. Rather, Derek Adams’ preferred system asked much more of the lone striker than simply scoring goals. I suspect Ladapo would have thrived at Home Park had he played under Ryan Lowe.)

Jephcott, meanwhile, has proven to be just what Argyle have needed in Lowe’s tenure. For the first few months, a lack of clinical finishing saw Argyle drop points unnecessarily, but Jephcott managed to fix that immediately upon his recall from Truro. With Ryan Hardie not hitting the back of the net quite so often this year, Jephcott has almost single-handedly kept Argyle going. The partnership between the two, however, remains very strong. After Boxing Day’s showing, there can surely be no doubt that Argyle are better when both Hardie and Jephcott start.

There are also huge benefits Jephcott brings to Argyle that we may not see immediately. Most obviously, should he be prised away from Home Park, Argyle can expect to be reimbursed with a hefty transfer fee the likes of which we probably haven’t seen since the Championship days. And how about the boost he’s giving to the academy? Nobody could have foreseen Jephcott’s meteoric rise this time last year, but now every youngster at Argyle knows they have a path to the first team if they perform well, even if they are sent on loan to the depths of the non-league pyramid. It’s bound to help.

I know this is all gushing, and it feels as though I’m a step away from declaring my undying love for the man, but it needs to be said. In a terrible year for just about everyone, Jephcott’s emergence is by far the best thing that has happened to the club.

So, is he the best striker in the league?

There are many relevant things we’ve discussed that can be considered when answering that question, and some less relevant. Jephcott’s age, for example, is of little help in deciding how good he is now, even if it does suggest he has a higher ceiling that most at this level. It’s also important to remember that goals aren’t everything. Ryan Taylor, for example, was a magnificent striker for Argyle when fit and utilised correctly. You’d hardly call him an assassin in front of goal.

That being said, it’s incredibly difficult to argue against Jephcott’s numbers. To be going at a rate close to a goal a game this side of Christmas is remarkable. Whether he’s the best all-round striker in the league is up for debate; I’d personally like to see him get a few more assists to claim that crown, even though I do appreciate his influence in Argyle’s general play. But is he the best goalscorer? The best poacher? On current form, I don’t really see how one could argue otherwise.

But even if they did, it’s ultimately all academic. Best in the league or not, Argyle have a phenomenal player (and asset) on their hands. Managing him well could be key to the club’s success both now and for many years to come.