Plymouth Argyle 1 Shrewsbury 1: Player Ratings

Plymouth Argyle had to settle for a point against Shrewsbury Town, with a series of good opportunities wasted. Conor Grant’s left-foot came good for the second week running, helping the club to another league point as they remain unbeaten.

Michael Cooper, GK – 7

There really wasn’t much for Cooper to do. Yes, he picked the ball out of his net before fifteen minutes had passed, but a big deflection off Scott Wootton gave him little chance on first viewing. Otherwise, he only had one save to make and made it. Notably, he clung on well to a deflected shot when spilling it would have handed Udoh a tap-in.

He handling was good, offering a more commanding presence inside his box than he had in previous games, though Shrewsbury aren’t the tallest of teams and offered limited aerial threat.

Scott Wootton, CB – 5

Under pressure after last week, Wootton struggled at the beginning of this game before settling back into his rhythm in the second half. It’s possible Wootton would not have even started had Will Aimson not been out of the squad (which makes him the probable player to have received a positive Coronavirus diagnosis).

Wootton made a few sloppy errors in the first half, including giving the ball away under little pressure to allow a dangerous counter. Most notably, he could have done much better when heading a cross away from his box, the ball dropping two yards out of the area and ending up in the back of the net seconds later. Granted, he was running backwards when he headed it, but he was under no pressure from an attacker so should have done better. It’s also possible he could have done better when blocking the shot, but I don’t want to say that until I’ve seen it again.

Niall Canavan, CB – 7

Canavan made a welcome return to the team and added a calming element in defence it seems. Then again, Shrewsbury aren’t the strongest team going forward so that possibly disguises his true impact on the team.

Canavan added a dominant aerial presence in the middle of the defence, winning eight of nine headers, and consistently positioned himself to block and clear crosses. The man is definitely too calm in possession for his own good at times, but that helped Argyle avoid giving the ball away as needlessly as they have in recent weeks – not that it didn’t happen.

Kelland Watts, CB – 6

Watts Started a bit slow in the first half as Shrewsbury target his wing. He lacked support at times from Cooper, who missed some opportunities to put pressure on the ball and allowed the opposition to build up down the wing.

Did better in the second half, pressing well as Shrewsbury posed little attacking threat, and played an excellent through ball to pick out Cooper (or was it Mayor?) in the box, but it didn’t come to anything. Better performance than last week, which will help him as he now faces increased pressure on his place from new signing Jerome Opoku.

Lewis Macleod, DM – 4

Was Macleod pulled for injury or for performance? He certainly did not start well, giving the ball away six times in 30 minutes before the substitution. Given Camara came on rather than Edwards, with Grant moving to defensive midfield, it suggests the move was tactical.

It was a smart move in the end, given that Shrewsbury offered little attacking threat in his position and allowed Argyle to hold more control of the ball and reduce the number of counter attacking opportunities.

Byron Moore, RWB – 6

Moore was fine. Nothing outstanding in defence. Nothing outstanding in attack. He pressed nicely at times, but pulled out of two easy opportunities to win the ball back and counter. He suffered from the lack of support down the wing: while Mayor and Cooper worked together as a pair, Moore often received the ball and was abandoned. That Wootton offered him the most support said a lot.

Conor Grant, CM – 7, player of the match

Grant gets player of the match because he was the player to score the goal that won Argyle the point. Other than that moment, he lacked inspiration and could have done more to assert Argyle’s strength in possession from defensive midfield, but he did at least kill Shrewsbury’s attacking momentum for the most part by doing the simple things right.

Yet, despite being quiet in attack – and a touch disappointing in defence – he caught the eye once more with his goal. Smart play to slow the game down, work the space to cut the ball onto his left foot and then bend it into the far corner. Excellent goal, exactly what we want to be seeing from Grant when he gets in that position.

Danny Mayor, CM – 7

Mayor is as Mayor does. Plenty of intelligent dribbling, making angles, creating space, but lacked the cutting edge that Argyle needed. Made space for teammates, but too many players between him and goal was the issue again. Had one good position to shoot but saw his effort well blocked after good defensive work.

George Cooper, LWB – 6

Hit and miss for Cooper. Should have pressed better in defence at times, allowing a cross to come in when he could have closed the space more. In attack, his movement was often smart, dropping inside when Mayor switched out to the wing and allowing himself to pick up possession at the top of the area, but his shots from his right foot were too soft to threaten the goal.

His crossing was frustrating. Some beautiful crosses that nobody got on the end of, and some that were too low, high or wide.

Dominic Telford, ST – 6

Positives: great attacking movement, making him the most likely member of the striker force to score. Negatives: failing to convert the chances that were presented to him. His first, he positioned himself well, between two defenders, shifted the ball well and got a good shot across the ‘keeper but it was too close for it to beat his reach. For the second, he jumped well and directed his header on target, but again it was just within the ‘keeper’s reach.

The third however, a rebound from the second shot, should have been a goal. Yes, he was stretching for it with a defender and the ‘keeper positioning himself well to save, but a bit of elevation would have seen it in the back of the net and the scores at 1-1. I’d persist with Telford because he’s clearly not a Rudden, but it’s frustrating to watch his instincts get him in the right place, only to not convert some of these chances. Two goals this season, but he should have more.

Frank Nouble, ST – 6

Worked hard, did a lot of build-up work but could have been sharper when opportunities to attack came his way. On the end of a swift counter-attack but couldn’t find the spot to squeeze the ball past the ‘keeper under a bit of defensive pressure, on his weaker foot.

Substitutes

Panutche Camara, CM – 5

Camara got a few plaudits on social media but I’m not so sure. His pressing was excellent at times, helping win the ball back and turnover possession. In particular, his hard work helped spring a quick counter, with Hardie working the ball to Nouble, only to see his shot saved from wide in the box.

Yet, in possession he was again too slow. Too long to move the ball, and too often backwards. Only twice did he pass the ball into the final third, and only two of his touches were in the final third of the pitch. This was a game in which Argyle needed to break down a pretty deep Shrewsbury team, rather than win the ball back against a high-pressing Blackpool, and so didn’t suit him so much.

Ryan Hardie, ST – 6

Relegated to the bench after Telford grabbed his second of the season but was called from the bench with 24 minutes left. Looked threatening, but the ball didn’t fall for him. A snap-shot with seconds left went well wide.

Player Ratings: Wimbledon 4-4 Plymouth Argyle

A totally bizarre game at AFC Wimbledon’s temporary home will live long in the memory of fans who bought a ticket to watch the stream. To say Argyle were a good laxative is understanding the stress of the experience. Argyle were largely good in the first half, a couple of defensive errors not enough to blot the copyback of a good 45 minutes that saw us lead 2-1. From minutes 45 to 70 however, Argyle totally fell apart at the seams, conceding three goals. Predictably, Argyle started playing again when the game seemed dead and buried. Some inspired substitutions from Ryan Lowe saw the spoils shared.

Mike Cooper, GK – 4.

I don’t want to appear like one of those fickle fans. Really, I don’t. The last thing I want to come across as, is one of those flip-floppers who changes his mind on players like like the changing of the wind. All of that said, after giving him man of the match last week and hailing the birth of a star, I’m now on the point of contemplating whether a loan move may be the best outcome for the young keeper. He has potential, of course he does. Even today he showed it, making himself big for a good save and showing the rapidfire distribution that has become a trademark of his in recent games.

We still can’t quite avoid the elephant in the room. For two of the goals Argyle conceded against Wimbledon, Cooper could have done better. Poor decision making is becoming a concern. For the second goal, he seemed to almost hover off his line before McLoughlin stabbed the ball home for Wimbledon. For the third, he was positioned too far to the right as Pigott lined up to take the free-kick for Wimbledon, leaving the left side of his goal exposed. We’ll need to see how he does with a better defender in front of him (as we surely will next week) but, as high as his potential ceiling may be, he does need to improve fast.

Will Aimson, RCB – 5.

Aimson wasn’t Argyle’s worst offender for most of the game today, but nor did he demonstrate the quality that we’ve seen from the ex-Bury centre-back at his very best. He was composed and calm for most of the first half, gliding into the right positions to clear loose balls, reading the game accurately in front of him. He was a threat from dead balls too and as ever, played the ball well out of defence.

His part in the second half shambles however, was both individual and collective. The cross for the second goal came too easily down his side and his part in the fourth goal was decisive. Giving the ball away under no pressure was an absolute howler and Wimbledon were soon one vs one with Cooper. His start to the season has been solid enough. He’s certainly been the best of the three defensively but he needs to do a lot better than the defensive debacle we saw after half-time.

Scott Wootton, CB – 4.

Aaaaaargh. Let me take a deep breath before punching the wall. I wasn’t among the fans who were writing off the capability of Scott Wootton this season, but even the most ardent optimists would surely agree that it was always a bit of a shot in the dark. Moving him to the middle of the three was a bold move by Ryan Lowe but, early on, it did appear to work. He was good against Blackpool and actually, for MOST of the Orient game too. Sadly, the enormous gaffe he made in the 93rd minute of that fixture seemed to be weighing heavily  on his mind today.

He appeared flustered and panicked whenever he got the ball, trying to play the game at 100 miles per hour and just not having the skillset to do so. His use of the ball was erratic and his marking appalling, letting men get away from him on far too many occasions to justify. His rating could have been even lower if he wasn’t put out of his misery after Wimbledon’s fourth goal.

Kelland Watts, LCB – 5.

Kelland Watts is a frustrating player to watch and a difficult player to score out of ten. He does have some good attributes, not least the occasional glimpses of real composure that we can sometimes see. He played his way out well at times, especially in the first half. He offers a threat going forward too, demonstrating the ever-changing role of the centre-back in a 3-5-2 system. As seen in Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United side, the two sides of the back three expand the capabilities of the system by overlapping and offering a threat from wide areas. Watts did this well scoring on Tuesday and to his credit, should have earned a penalty today. If the game wasn’t officiated by one of the most questionable referees in the league, he surely would have done.

That said, I’m afraid he doesn’t escape a rollocking for his part in the defensive disasterclass that we witnessed. A miscommunication between Watts and Wootton saw Longman in one v one for the fourth and he was part of the general meltdown that we witnessed, with every player playing like they’d taken espresso shots before the game. Too much chaotic energy, not enough composure.

Lewis McLeod, DCM – 4.

We can have a go at the defence and the keeper all we like. And yes, there are some legitimate reasons for criticism. All that said, the defence are always going to find themselves in difficulty if they receive protection as poor as that which was offered by McLeod for most of today’s game. Frankly, he looks either unfit or out of position, quite possibly both.

He usually starts games well enough, winning a lot of loose balls and recycling the ball nicely. The more the games go on, however, the more his performance levels begin to drop. There was a spell between minutes 45 and 70 (or so) where Wimbledon cut through Argyle like a knife through butter, and the Scottish midfielder was too often AWOL during these period. The ferocious intensity and calmness whilst intercepting that we see during his good spells just weren’t present at the time.

I’m SURE he’s got more to offer than this, and I don’t doubt that’d he’d be better in an advanced role. Right now however, we’re being cut open too easily and he’s a clear candidate to be dropped. To his credit, he did deliver a lovely corner for Canavan’s goal but that in itself isn’t enough to justify his place.

Joe Edwards, RWB – 4.

After a relatively good run of form in the right-wing-back role, Edwards put in a much weaker performance today and it was one that exposed the his weaknesses in such a role. In stark contrast with George Cooper on the other side, Edwards’ end product was non existent, with barely one threatening cross into the box all game. He did technically register an assist for a nice bit of interplay before Conor Grant’s stunning goal but that was about the sum of his attacking contribution.

In defence too, his performance was (whilst not as bad as some others) certainly flawed. He was too often pinned back and the good pressing that we saw against Blackpool was nowhere to be seen. Like Wootton, he was rightly subbed off early.

Conor Grant, RCM – 8. Player of the Match.

THAT was the performance Plymouth Argyle had been waiting for from the man some are now calling the Merseyside Messi. I’ve said it for a while but I just think we play a bit better when Conor Grant plays, especially with the ball. He’s always good for composure and for recycling the ball. What we don’t see from him too often however (and it was very welcome today) is an assertive, controlling performance that bosses the midfield and creates chances going forward.

He did all of this today as well as scoring an absolutely beautiful goal, a clear contender for goal of the season. He took control from over 20 yards out and at a tricky angle before whacking the shot into the top corner. One of Argyle’s best technical players, today he also played like a leader. He scrapped for possession all over the pitch and was one of the few not to lose their head. Only a cheap free kick for Wimbledon’s third stops him getting an even higher mark.

Danny Mayor, LCM – 8.

The resurgence of Danny Mayor so far has been one of the season’s success stories. Argyle are playing a style of football that, whilst still not exactly like Ajax 1995, is far more focused around ball retention than the somewhat more direct style that we resorted to in the winter months of last season. What we’re really starting to see grow in Danny Mayor is confidence.

He takes on defenders with a swagger that lets them know that they have something to wear. Some of his interplay with George Cooper, particularly in the first half, was genuinely a pleasure to watch. There’s a lot of moaning to be had about the defence but let’s celebrate the attack too. Argyle scored four goals today and Mayor was an irresistible attacking force for most of the game.

George Cooper, LWB – 8.

If Mayor was good in the first half, Cooper was bordering on unplayable. His movement was absolutely joyous to witness, weaving in and out of the Dons’ defence with total ease. He also got the opening goal for Argyle, picking the ball from the feet of the Wimbledon defender after the (admittedly slightly botched) short corner routine. He then slammed the ball into the top corner of the net, firing the starting pistol on what was to be a truly remarkable game of football.

Did he drop off in our bad spell during the second half? Yes, he did a bit. But when we picked up again, he returned to his very finest form, whipping in some lethal crosses that nobody quite got on the end of in the last twenty minutes.

Ryan Hardie, ST – 7.

It’s quite ironic really. Argyle have scored twelve goals so far this season (with eleven different scorers no less!) but none of them have yet fallen to Ryan Hardie, the man who, last season, looked like he could find a way to score a goal in a locked room. It’s not as though he hasn’t been lively. He’s still been trying the right things. He attacks misplaced balls from wayward defenders with the hunger of a terrier and he shows expert movement to get into behind when the chance presents itself.

Where he’s lacked so far is in the finishing. He had a big chance to put Argyle 3-1 up early in the second half and potentially kill the ball in the process, but unfortunately he fired tamely into the arms of the goalkeeper. He had another chance whilst scores were level at 2-2 but again he couldn’t find the net. It may take a while for that first goal to come, but I’m confident that the floodgates will open when it does.

Frank Nouble, ST – 5.

Despite his excellent last twenty minutes, this was another game from Nouble that asked more questions than it answered. He was pretty appalling for the first 65 minutes of the match, probably the worst in a crowded field for the greens. When Dom Telford lined up to come on, most fans assumed it would be Nouble who came off. To our great surprise, it was the largely effective Ryan Hardie.

The chance of a reprieve however, breathed new life into the big striker. He did more good in the next five minutes of the game than he’d done in the first three quarters. He offered a brilliant outlet for targeted long balls and he ran at defenders with menace, a key component in our dominant final twenty of the game. There was only ever going to be one winner after the scores went to 4-4 and Nouble looked among the most threatening players for Argyle. That said, he does need to improve. He can’t just keep on turning up for part of the game, or else his place in the side will be at risk.

Substitutes.

Byron Moore, RWB –  7.

Moore was brought on just after Argyle went behind in the game and frankly he improved matters for us simply by not being Joe Edwards. Moore carried the ball well down the line and put considerable effort into the high press as the greens took the game to the hosts. There are still some questions to be asked about the end product, but it’s surely now time to give him a full game from the off against Shrewsbury.

Niall Canavan, CB – 8.

Wow! Argyle’s best defender last season, many fans were surprised and dismayed to see him left out of Ryan Lowe’s starting eleven this season. Canavan was given the chance to replace Wootton from the bench and he threw down the gauntlet to reclaim his spot in the middle of the back three.

Given the armband, Canavan led by example. A calming presence with headless chickens all around him, he put in a near flawless performance from the bench. He won headers, started breakaways and even popped up with a goal. The only reason he isn’t man of the match is the relatively short time he was on the pitch. And even then, he was under serious consideration. It’ll be a travesty if he doesn’t start at home to the Shrews.

Dom Telford, ST – 8.

Telford needed a big performance from the bench today to save his reputation with the green army after a frustrating showing on Tuesday night. The diminutive striker went from zero to hero with an electric display that was crucial to Argyle’s two goal blast towards the end of the game.

He moved brilliantly and took his goal with the instinct of the poacher. Telford showed for the duration why he was such a highly rated player at Bury and as a youngster. Let’s hope he keeps it up, especially if he’s given a start against Shrewsbury.

 

 

Player Ratings: Leyton Orient 3-2 Plymouth Argyle

What a mess. As I sat down to write these ratings, my overriding feeling was to smash my fist into the keyboard but having taken a moment to calm, I’ll try to write a more reflective analysis of the game. It’s not like the League Cup really matters (although it would have been nice to play Spurs) but to lose a game in such a slipshod fashion is pretty inexcusable. We had total control over it from minutes 10 through to about 55 but as soon as the hosts pulled one back, Argyle turned into a mess thereafter and lost in the dying moments.

 

Mike Cooper, GK – 5.

After a performance on Saturday that reminded us why he’s one of our most fancied academy products in years, we were brought slightly back down to earth with a display that did show us some of the limitations in his game. That’s not to say that it was a dreadful performance by any means. His distribution was largely excellent, with both short balls and long ones incisively finding their targets. He was rarely beaten from crosses either, perhaps opting to punch rather than cross but that’s often the best decision. And yes, he did make some good saves.

Where he showed himself to be somewhat lacking was his positioning in one vs one scenarios. For the second goal, he came far too far off his line leaving the clear opportunity for Jobi McAnuff to lob him and find the back of the net. He could have done better for the third too. At an angle, he again came charing out perhaps a little too soon and Danny Johnson slotted it through his legs. However, games like this will help him in the long term. He got some big judgement calls wrong but it’s definitely the kind of thing he can learn with time.

Will Aimson, RCB – 7.

Aimson put in a display that wasn’t quite as good as the excellent one that he demonstrated against Blackpool but was still solid enough, doing most things right and being the only centre-back not at fault for any of the three goals. He had a couple of wayward long balls at the very start of the game but largely he played the ball well out from the back and stuck to his man, if not like glue, then certainly well enough to avoid any real issues. If the other two played like him, we wouldn’t have lost…

Scott Wootton, CB – 7.

Wootton’s performance was a microcosm of Plymouth Argyle’s. You can’t deny there are some promising signs to take, but it was spellbounding stupidity that undermined all the good work.  After a few dodgy passes early doors, Scott Wootton was largely fantastic for most of the game. He was dominating in the tackle and even commanding in the air, an area of his game that seems vastly improved under Ryan Lowe. He was relaxed on the ball and happily joining the party playing it out. Even as Argyle imploded in front of him, his last ditch defending was pretty good.

In the dying embers of the game, disaster struck. He horrendously miscontrolled a ball that he should have either sent down the line or at worst kicked into touch. His attempted first touch frankly trapped the ball further than he could have planned to kick it and it left Johnson with a one vs one chance against Cooper, which he duly converted. As with the game generally, we can try to see the positives but my goodness it’s frustrating,

Kelland Watts, CB – 5.

I think if any rating is going to get me a bit of flack in the comments section, this one is. He overlapped very well to score our second goal and yes, did make some other promising runs forward. None of that changes the fact that his primary role in the team is to be a defender. Defending is something he did pretty dismally, if we’re being honest. His positioning was erratic at best, being found way higher up the pitch than he should have been for their second goal and unable to prevent McAnuff from going one vs one. He could arguably have done better for the first too, with the loanee once again too far from the play.

Whilst his advanced play was good, he was very poor in his efforts to actually play the ball out of defence, far too often opting for an aimless long ball that came straight back to us. If not for his good movement and finishing in the final third, he’d be looking at an even lower rating.

Lewis McLeod, DCM – 6.

McLeod is a very difficult player to rate. Like Argyle generally, his first half performance was very commendable. He pressed and snapped at the heels of midfielders aplenty, winning the ball back with impressive regularity. He didn’t have much incisive passing to speak of but he played the DCM role as well as he could have. After Orient got their goal back early in the second half however, McLeod appeared to run out of batteries.

Where he previously pressed and harried, he was slow and sluggish. Where he’d previously make a tackle, he would instead let a man pass him and invite pressure in the process. Against Blackpool also, his second half performance was considerably weaker than his one in the first half. You’d hope this changes with match fitness because it’s concerning if it’s a permanent problem.

Byron Moore, RWB – 5.

Another unconvincing performance starting the game from a man who very much impressed in his cameo from the bench against Blackpool. He was involved in the early stages of the game, often providing himself as an outlet for passes. That said, even when Argyle were on song, Moore’s end product wasn’t exactly amazing. There were some good crosses but in truth these were outweighed by the mediocre ones that weren’t really going anywhere.

As Argyle dipped, Moore became a bit anonymous in truth. He was forced back regularly and didn’t provide the best support to his back three. Like so many, his head seemed to drop with the mental blow of conceding. This is something Ryan Lowe needs to work on. Argyle could have been 4-0 up before Orient’s goal against the run of play. There was no need for so many players to develop the jitters the way in which they did.

Pantuche Camara, CM – 7.

Camara is one of the players who emerges from the game with the most credit. His energy is absolutely brilliant and in that regard, he’s clearly a natural replacement for Sarcevic. He did more than enough to earn his spot in the starting eleven for Wimbledon in the league on Saturday. As against Blackpool, he seemed to cover more blades of grass than any other player and in the first half, you never felt he was putting the team at risk positionally from doing so. His use of the ball was also fantastic and of course he popped up with a great finish.

Why only a 7? Well, his head didn’t really drop in the second half like so many did, but his general standard of performance wasn’t as good. He wasn’t blameless as Orient began to take more control of the game. His ball retention became worse and perhaps he slightly ran out of energy, following two games of relentless pressing.

Danny Mayor, CM – 7. Player of the Match,

That first half performance from Danny Mayor is one of the best 45 minutes he’s given the greens since signing from Bury last summer. He was absolutely terrifying the Orient players with every move he made and his decision making, sometimes an area for criticism, was much improved. He spotted the run of Kelland Watts and sent him a pitch perfect assist for Argyle’s second goal. His movement and dribbling were equally delightful on the eye and he was easily headed for a very high score.

Like Camara, if he’d maintained his standard of performance, he was going to be on for a very high score. An 8 at the very least, maybe a 9. That he went missing with the rest of them after the break is a cause for worry but he deserves credit for a cracking first half display. That in itself earns him POTM.

George Cooper, LWB – 6.

Let’s get one thing clear. Cooper is still a tremendous acquisition for Argyle and we’re all still delighted to see him back but there’s no denying that the GC32 we’ve seen so far hasn’t quite been the classic vintage that we know and love. In the second half, his defensive work was particularly lacking and he provided no imputes as we imploded mentally. I know I’m sounding like a stuck record, but there’s no excuse for so many players to go missing in the trenches.

Whilst he was very active in the early stages of the game, his strengths mostly came in running at defenders and forcing them back. We could have done with a few more trademark George Cooper crosses into the box though with Ryan Hardie waiting on the end.

Ryan Hardie, ST – 6.

If you guessed I was going to say that he was lively in the first half and missing in the second….guess what, you’re absolutely right. How did you guess? His movement was absolutely electric in the early stages of the game, his sheer pace breaking through the Orient back line on more occasions than one. He began the move that saw Camara put Argyle into the lead with a fantastic bursting run. That said, he had a second chance after that he should probably have scored. His movement scared the Os but as with Cooper, the end product isn’t quite there yet. It’ll doubtless come as he’s given more time.

Dom Telford, ST -6.

Urgh. That’s about all I can muster. I don’t want to criticise him too badly because there were genuinely some aspects of his performance today that I did really like. Like Hardie, his first half was largely solid. He wasn’t as involved as his Scottish counterpart but he drew their defenders out of position and he played a threaded through ball beautifully for Hardie’s second chance. He obviously wasn’t much of a threat in the air, given his height, but his first half display was something to build on.

Sadly, he came out in the second half and missed an absolute stone wall sitter that would have surely put Argyle 3-0 up and the game beyond reach. He looked furious with himself and was understandably subbed off shortly afterwards. He will have been kicking himself all the way home.

Substitutes.

Frank Nouble, ST – 5.

He was clearly brought on to offer a more aerial outlet but in truth he didn’t really provide that. Naturally, he won more long balls than Telford did but he didn’t offer the escape route out from the back that we were hoping for.

Joe Edwards, RWB – 5.

A baffling substitution. Lined up to come on for Cooper before Argyle conceded their second goal, he would have been a good sub to defend a lead. He wasn’t so much use at chasing a game and as such felt a little superfluous.

Conor Grant – CM – N/A

He really wasn’t on long enough to justify a rating. He did actually make a positive impact with some quick movement and some well delivered corners but slightly tainted his cameo with what looked to be a dive in Argyle’s last attack of the game.

 

Player Ratings: Plymouth Argyle 1 Blackpool 0

Plymouth Argyle picked up all three points in the season’s opening game in a match that can best be categorised as a rear-guard defensive effort. It was not perhaps the type of win typical of a Ryan Lowe side. Argyle relied more on long balls than the purists would like and really ground it out at the end, somewhat riding their luck at times but by and large it was great work from the defenders and goalkeepers that secured the clean sheet.

Mike Cooper, GK – 9. Player of the Match.

What. A. Performance. If any Argyle fans were doubting the decision to make the inexperienced Cooper the first-choice goalkeeper this season, this game will have absolutely blown away any doubts that they might have. He did almost everything brilliantly, with today’s shut out the third he has had out of three league appearances for Argyle.

He made four saves that caught the attention of iFollow’s commentating team and whilst in truth, two of them were fairly routine, he did more than just save them. It’s crucial for a keeper to be able to tip away from danger rather than back into the path of the striker and the young keeper did that to precision.

The other two saves, against a one vs one stop in the first half and a low, fast effort from the edge of the area in the second were genuinely excellent and would have surely produced a roar of approval from the home crowd if not for this pesky virus that’s currently stopping all the fun.

His kicking was largely excellent, too. After a couple of miskicks in the first 25 minutes, it was thereafter flawless, demonstrating a good range of passing ability. He could do the short, composed pass out of defence with ease and he could execute the long, targeted balls with equal success. In years to come, there is a very good chance Plymouth Argyle fans will look back at today and say: that was the day a star was born.

Will Aimson, RCB – 9.

Argyle Life’s Twitter reporter gave Aimson top billing today and whilst I can’t quite agree, he’s certainly a very honourable runner-up to Super Cooper. He did virtually everything right in the defence and even popped up with an assist at the other end. You can’t ask for much more from a centre-back except maybe popping up with a goal.

Defensively, he was Argyle’s rock, letting next to nothing past him. He appeared to win the vast majority of his headers and as Blackpool pressed and pressed through the second half, his marking was as tight as you could ask for.

Where he really excelled to his 9 however, was his play out of defence. After a corner was cleared, a perfect cross right onto the head of Luke Jephcott saw Argyle get the game’s only goal. His passing out from the back was also sublime, with some excellent through balls starting passing moves for Argyle.

Scott Wootton, CB – 8.

He wasn’t quite as good as the first two entrants in this list but it was certainly a stellar display at centre-back from the man who on recent form is definitely better than the ‘alright’ attributed to him in the famous chant from last season. There were perhaps fears that his mediocre ability in the air may have made him an unusual choice for the middle spot in a back three but, alongside the centre-backs either side of him, he was perfectly serviceable in this regard.

His mental strength was also on show for all to see, reading the game in front of him well and moving into good positions to pick out deliveries. His passing out from the back, also a weakness at times, was pretty good today, He also made a game-saving block about halfway through the second half, to prevent a cross that would have surely have left a Blackpool attacker with a tap in. His only weakness perhaps that was his passing declined a touch as the game went on.

Kelland Watts, CB -6.

It feels a bit underwhelming to write this after the glowing reviews given to the previous three, but that’s by no means to say that the Newcastle loanee put in a weak performance today. There were a handful of gripes. His passing was probably the weakest of the three and there were a couple of times where he slightly misjudged the flight of the ball in the air, meaning that he wasn’t able to win quite as many headers as he should have. Arguably his marking wasn’t quite as good, with Blackpool’s biggest second half chance coming from their right side.

That said, he did more good than bad. As with the other two centre-backs, he responded well to Blackpool’s attacking movement and tracked their runners well to limit their chances at goal.

Lewis MacLeod, DCM – 6.

It was a game of two halves for MacLeod who was a very impressive part of the first half display for Argyle but definitely tailed off in the second. He was important in our barnstorming first 15 minutes, constantly pressing and picking up loose balls before quickly recycling play. Even as Blackpool pressed forward, he pressed against them and restricted them mostly to long range chances.

He wasn’t so great after the interval. Not that he exactly did anything wrong, but he definitely didn’t impose himself on the game as much. Blackpool did have more of the ball and territory than we’d have liked in the second half, even accounting for the fact that we were defending a lead. His high press was a little lacking and it let Blackpool have a bit too much of the ball in worrying areas.

Joe Edwards, RWB – 7.

Perhaps the only slight eyebrow raised upon the announcement of today’s teams, was Lowe’s preference of Joe Edwards to Byron Moore. Moore ended last season in fine fettle and Edwards whilst capable didn’t pull up any trees from wing-back. Today however, he did everything he could to justify his slot in the team. He was a constant defensive presence and even got in on the attack, heavily involved in the goal that was disallowed for a marginal offside.

Weak areas? He was pinned back a bit too often in the second half. And whilst he was good when he did get forward, he could have imposed himself more. Still, he’s done enough to prove he’s seen as a viable option in the role.

Conor Grant, RCM – 5.

I’m on record as being a big fan of the man I affectionately call the Scouse Xavi. We seem to win and play a bit better when he plays and I like his calm ability to take stock of a game, dictate the tempo and move the ball forward. He didn’t do a lot today however and perhaps the injury he went off with was actually troubling him all game. He didn’t make any big errors but he was just a bit anonymous. I can’t really remember him touching the ball more than a short handful of times.

Danny Mayor, LCM – 7.

After getting on the scoresheet against QPR, many Argyle fans hoped Mayor would get his League One season off with a bang today, going like for like against talented opposition. It wasn’t quite an explosive Mayor performance, but there’s no doubt that some warning shots were fired ahead of the year to come.

His greatest strength, as it so often is, was his movement. His terrier-like pressing ability shook Blackpool early on. Wherever they went, so was Mayor, covering every blade of the midfield in the first quarter of the game. He did well to slow down the play as the Tangerines attacked in the second half, often finding a green shirt to quell the attack.

Any nitpicks? His decision making still leaves a little bit to be desired. If he got that sorted, he’d be up there with the very best in the league but too often today he seemed to bottle a run at a defender or picked the wrong pass when a better one was available. Still, he did more good than bad today and let’s hope he keeps this run up.

George Cooper, LWB -6.

It feels sacrilegious to give the prodigal son any less than an 8 given the excitement his return generated among Argyle fans but in truth, it wasn’t his very finest performance today. The case for him to be given a 7 is very viable. He put a number of threatening crosses into the box, especially early doors, but none of them quite found their target in the precise way that we’re used to seeing.

He was also a little vulnerable defensively, being pinned back a couple of times without providing quite the same support as demonstrated by Joe Edwards on the other side.

Luke Jephcott, ST – 7.

He’s one of our own and he won us the game with a superb leaping header in the third minute that is testament to his vastly improved ability in the air. Credit must also be given to the movement the Welsh wizard showed to get himself into the perfect position to head the cross home. Jephcott is first and foremost a poacher. He knows what he has to do to score goals and he ruthlessly prioritises it above every aspect of his game.

He should have got another too, brilliantly breaking behind the defence for a one vs one chance just four minutes after his goal. On the downside, he didn’t exactly make the most of that chance running into a bit of a cul-de-sac which ultimately killed the chance and meant he failed to get the shot away. Being picky, he could have done a little more in terms of holding up the ball, an area in which he’s demonstrated strength in the past. He’s clearly worked on his upper body throughout lockdown though, so hopefully this will come with time.

Frank Nouble, ST -6.

Nouble’s performance ran oddly opposite to Argyle’s as a unit. As Argyle dominated the early stages, Nouble was fairly ineffective. He showed some signs of the ball bouncing off him and he didn’t win many long balls, which was an essential skill as Argyle began to move more and more towards long balls. He just didn’t make any impression on the game and he was probably the weakest performer before the half-time interval.

In the second half however, Frank Nouble was pretty damn good. Argyle’s performance weakened but the big striker good into the game admirably, winning a lot of the long passes that would have previously been lost. His hold up play was also vastly improved but his real star turn came in stoppage time. His strength, poise and balance were perfect in seeing out the victory, keeping the ball in the corner flag for almost three minutes.

Substitutes.

Pantuche Camara, CM – 7

Camara made a significantly better impact on the game than Conor Grant who he replaced and barring injury, has probably kept his slot partnering Mayor in central midfield for the foreseeable future. He put in a very industrious performance, covering a lot of ground as Argyle battled to hold onto a 1-0 lead. He also put through two excellent through balls as Argyle tried to counter in the second half, but sadly nothing came of them.

So why only a 7? In truth, he may have been a little too enthusiastic at times. He covered a lot of ground but sometimes he strayed too far out of position, leaving room for the visitors to exploit. Still, there was more diamond than rough and it was a very encouraging league debut with the promise of more to come.

Dominic Telford, ST – 5.

Telford was bought on for an injured Luke Jephcott early in the second half and in truth he didn’t get the chance to do a lot as Argyle clung on. It’s not really his fault, it wasn’t really the right game for him. As a smaller striker, a match where Argyle were clearing a lot of long balls up to the centre-forwards wasn’t the ideal opportunity for him to impress.

He could still have done more though. Whilst he did well to get on the end of a Camara pass for a one vs one, the striker panicked and skied the resultant shot. He needs to be a little better to improve upon his current position as Argyle’s fourth choice striker.

Byron Moore, LWB -7.

Moore covered on both sides during his cameo and impressed on both similarly. As George Cooper began to tire, he added freshness to Argyle at a time where the visitors were really getting a foothold on the game. He helped secure a final ten minutes that were a little less troublesome on the heart than the twenty that proceeded them.

Player Ratings: Plymouth Argyle 3 Grimsby 0

Three goals, three points and back in the top three, some night eh? Overall, it was comfortable for Argyle, who could have won 6-0 given the three efforts that hit the woodwork.

Alex Palmer, GK – 7

Rarely tested on a night that Argyle dominated from the moment they took the lead. Made a couple of saves from shots he would have been expected to stop, with his biggest test coming from a close-range header that he was down quickly to parry away. The only question for him tonight was whether he could have pushed rebounds into safer areas, but that is a small query.

Passing out from the back was good too. As confidence grew following the early goals, he and Canavan were more inclined to take a risk or two and play through the lines without causing problems for themselves.

Scott Wootton, CB – 7

It largely went unnoticed, but it was Wootton’s tackle on the edge of the box which set Bakinson away to stroll past Grimsby’s exposed midfield and play an excellent pass right through the middle of their defence to set Hardie away for the second. It wasn’t his only smart intervention, often getting his timing spot on to turnover possession and get Argyle running in the opposite direction. Composed, controlled and effective.

Niall Canavan, CB – 7

A good night for Canavan as he mopped up most of the balls that reached him. Strong in the air to cut off Grimsby’s direct route to goal, good in possession and broke Grimsby’s press with passes under pressure (although his long passes were far more miss than hit).

His biggest question mark was when he tried to play an offside trap, only to allow Green to run through. However, the striker was wide and Canavan recovered well to cut his route to goal off and slow the attack as they saw the danger off.

Callum McFadzean, CB – 5

So, sooo, close to giving away a penalty at 0-0. Taken on, one-versus-one, in his own area, he was beaten and fell over eight yards from goal, but somehow managed to get his body in the way of the ball and not handle it. This was a hugely fortunate moment, as he could have easily made contact and was not in control at that moment. For the second time in a handful of starts at centre-back, he was very fortunate to not give away a penalty inside the opening 15 minutes.

McFadzean didn’t have a bad game, it’s more that I think five justifies the fact he was the weakest link in the defence on a night that was comfortable for his other defenders and was made the most sloppy mistakes in giving the ball away in his own half.

Bryon Moore, RWB – 6

Quiet. Not helped by the change in formation that saw Bakinson and Grant spend most of the game playing together in defensive midfield. That saw Mayor lost in central-attacking midfield and the two wing-backs isolated. George Cooper coped just fine, given he could swing in a cross from his own half and still have a decent change at finding its target, but Moore clearly needed more support, which he didn’t get.

Tyreeq Bakinson, DM – 8

In a three-way race for man of the match with Cooper and Ryan Hardie, he misses out because he went off the boil in the second half and lost possession in his own half on more than two occasions, a habit he really needs to break.

Superb late run into the box for the opening goal – so superb that he almost seemed offside given how dumbfounded Grimsby’s defenders were at how much space he was in. Then, an outstanding, inch-perfect, forty-yard through-pass that bisected Grimsby’s centre-backs and put Hardie away to go around the ‘keeper and double the lead.

Conor Grant, DM – 6

First, the negatives. Grant was suspect defensively for most of the night. At the beginning, he was regularly out of position as Clarke and Whitehouse found the pocked of space behind him and threatened. The night got easier for him as Argyle dominated the end of the first-half and then the pace of the game collapsed in the second, but in a game that was competitive past the 40th minute he would have been under the microscope more and will need to do better.

For the positives, a great driving run on the counter in the first five minutes saw him present Hardie with an early sight of goal, he was oh-so-close to scoring a wonderful goal from 30 yards – great save – and he played a smart cross into the box that Canavan flicked on before the third goal (very hard to tell who actually scored it).

George Cooper, LWB – 8, player of the match

In the end, I chose Cooper as the player of the match because of the sheer volume of chances he created. Why on earth was he dropped in the first place? His assists may have dried up in the four game stretch between Colchester and Macclesfield, but it wasn’t for the lack of crossing. He could have had two assists against Salford and Macclesfield apiece had finishing not been lacking.

Here, he could have had a hattrick of assists. There was the brilliant ball in for the opening goal – a cross that singularly picks out a runner into the box, perfectly matching his stride – is virtually indefensible. In the second he cut back for Hardie to tap in, only for him to mistime his effort and put it into the ‘keeper’s arms, and then you can pick one of three other crosses that found the dangerous area in the box, only for nobody to attack the cross.

Cooper wasn’t as good defensively as he had been before he was dropped, but that was mostly when he pushed up high, meaning that any player who got around him still had to travel fifty-yards to goal. When defending the edge of his box, he continued to show an every growing understanding of where to be, when to stick a foot in, and how to anticipate the path of the ball. It’s becoming a bit of an urban legend that Cooper is a liability defensively (and yes, I know, he’ll commit a defensive howler against Macclesfield).

Danny Mayor, AM – 6

Pushed forward into an attacking-midfield role, but it didn’t work. Argyle play too many of their passes out to the wing-backs and long to the strikers, meaning that he was just never near the ball. He had to drop deep to get possession, but then his only pass was wide, long or backwards, which is not what he wants to do.

He was involved at times, but when Argyle could have won 6-0, you don’t want to hear that the attacking midfielder wasn’t that involved. His best moment came when he very nearly picked an excellent through-ball to set Edwards away in the box, but it was narrowly intercepted. It was also his shot that rebounded to Edwards for his miss-of-the-season contender (not that he has a chance in that competition, Zak Rudden has had the entire top-three locked up since November).

Luke Jephcott, ST – 7

Was it his goal? All the television angles are inconclusive – before anyone says they definitely saw it cross the line, the replays are thus far from angles that prevent you from knowing for certain. Nevertheless, it was given and he now has more non-penalty goals than any other player at the club this season!

Worked but it mostly didn’t come off for him as it did for Hardie. His only other chance came after he was superbly played through by his strike-partner, but his first-time volley crashed against the crossbar from ten-yards.

Ryan Hardie, ST – 9 player of the match

Scratch that, I’ve watched the highlights since I started writing this and have now decided that Hardie was the best player sorry George. I mean, let’s start with his goal. Bakinson gets a lot of credit, but it was Hardie who was alive to the potential and put himself exactly where he needed to be to get away, on the inside shoulder of the defender for the ball through the middle when so many of Argyle’s strikers would have been peeling away for a ball into the channel. From there, he ran it at great speed but also under great control to get away from the defence – which is not as easy as it looks, a foot race is very different when one person is also dribbling a football – and finished it expertly.

Before then, he showed great technique to control a rebound on the angle and crash a half-volley against the post to nearly make it 1-0, as well as finding the back of the net after Bakinson opened the scoring, only for it to be ruled out by an accidental hand-ball as he was controlling it. It should be noted that the ‘keeper might have stopped with the whistle, and so could have saved the shot if he tried.

He put away the third, playing on when others around him stopped, but that has now been given to Jephcott (though it might rightfully be his) then spurned his semi-hattrick chance when Cooper’s cut-back met him perfectly, only for Hardie to be unable to open his boot up more and play it into the far corner. Finally, the key-factor in him overtaking Cooper, was his perfect ball over the top to put Jephcott away. An outstanding pass to render both the centre-backs completely useless.

A hattrick and an assist was not that far away on what was probably his best performance for the club to-date.

Substitutes

Joe Edwards, RWB – 6

What? How did he miss it? Three yards, goalkeeper on the floor, tap in? Aaaaaaand he hit the post. Jeez. Showed good movement to be nearly put clean-through by Mayor, only for a good interception to spoil the fun.

Ryan Taylor, ST – n/a

Back from injury, needed minutes, the game was dead, so how long did he get? About eight of them. Including stoppage time, Argyle were out of sight with 51 minutes to go, so why couldn’t he come on earlier? He literally touched the ball twice, what a wasted opportunity.

Dominic Telford, ST – n/a

See above, except four minutes and one touch. Lowe’s only mistake on the night. Can there be anything more frustrating as a striker to be brought on like that?

Player Ratings: Bradford 2 Plymouth Argyle 1

It was a truly bizarre game of two halves for Argyle who found themselves 2-0 down and a man light at half-time before a much improved showing after the interval.

It took going down to 9 men however for Argyle to finally claw their way back into the match with Ryan Hardie slotting the ball through O’Donnell’s legs late on. The second half was a much more spirited showing than the first but Argyle were caught a lot more on the counter and in truth could have lost by more.

Alex Palmer, GK – 7

It’s always going to be difficult to rate a goalkeeper fairly in a game like this. His distribution was nothing short of awful throughout, frequently shanking the ball out of play or straight to opposition players. You can possibly say the atrocious surface can’t have helped that but it’s worth noting O’Donnell was a lot more accurate in this regard.

However, the reason he gets his reasonable mark is due to the very good use of his hands. He collected most high balls very well despite a lot of pressure from tall Bradford attackers. He also made two great one vs one saves to keep Argyle in with a sniff at the start of the second half

Scott Wootton, CB – 4

After a good season generally, this game was straight out of the 2019/20 playbook from the centre back. He lost a header for Bradford’s opener from a corner, something that has almost happened more than once in the last few months already before Argyle’s luck finally expired.

His passing also showed infuriating streaks of aimlessness, often panicking himself into long hoods down the pitch with almost nobody in sight to aim for. He wasn’t helped by the lack of midfield protection after ten men but he was still far from impressive.

Niall Canavan, CB – 6

A stoic performance from the big centre back who wasn’t entirely his most impressive self but he did reasonably well given the fact that Argyle were totally outnumbered for most of the game. He was capable enough in the air and held his position well throughout. He was more flawed in his attacking game, twice squandering the opportunity to get big headers onto set pieces that could have changed the course of the game.

Gary Sawyer, CB – 4

Arrrrggh! Does that about sum it up? It’s becoming a bit of a concern that Sawyer, after never having had a straight red card in his career until this year, has now had two in his last four games. A horrendous tackle, albeit one Connolly made a bit of a meal of.

He was playing largely pretty well until the mistimed and overzealous tackle but he really needs to take a moment of calm whenever he next steps onto the pitch. The rush of blood to the head was probably enough to ensure the three points for the hosts and he’ll now miss the next four games. It’s a shame too because he was largely marking his man well and passing the ball with accuracy before the red mist descended.

Tyreeq Bakinson, DM – 7

Bakinson’s Argyle career began with a bang but soon declined following a string of patchy displays. It was a relief to see the loanee back to something approaching his best today as he was key to Argyle’s offensive action in the second half. He passed and moved with the ball well and was only subbed to allow a more natural striker in the shape of Dom Telford.

You could argue he didn’t guard his back four in the second half but clearly he wasn’t meant to. Argyle played 15 yards higher up across the pitch in a high risk and high reward strategy when defence wasn’t top of the agenda.

Joe Edwards, RWB – 5

Edwards has an unfortunate knack of being a man without a position in Ryan Lowe’s system. He isn’t a good enough crosser of the ball for this role and often he slowed down our play in the first half by being a good five or ten yards deeper than he should have been. He didn’t do anything disastrous but it’s hard to conclude he wasn’t the biggest blockage to our attack and he was rightly hooked at half time. Notably, he was one of four captains for Argyle in the game. Can anyone recall when that last happened?

Antoni Sarcevic, CM – 7

Like Sawyer, it’s hard to rate Sarcevic because he was definitely having a pretty good game up until the sending off. He was probably on an 8 up to that moment and the red card lost him man of the match.

A midfield general, the Mancunian did the heel-snapping, heavy-pressing work that he’s best at to recover possession for Argyle and was perfectly capable with his distribution too. His red card was a little more contentious than Sawyer’s but he still gave the referee a tough decision to make and he’ll now miss two games

Danny Mayor, CM – 6

As has been said with so many players so far, Mayor is a tough player to rate in this game, albeit him for a different reason than most. He was probably one of the better players in Argyle’s compared (if a little flaccid) first half display, building good passing triangles with McFadzean and Sawyer to gain Argyle territory.

In the second half, when moved to left wing back he was very poor. He offered little defensive protection and wasn’t able to do what he does best which is cut onto his right foot and run towards the centre of the back. It would have been wiser to take him off for George Cooper who is wasted on the bench.

Callum McFadzean, LWB – 3

A terrible performance from the left sided utility player which was probably his worst for the club to date. The one good thing that can be said is he made himself available in the first half for passes from Mayor but his end product was virtually non existent. He was slow on the ball and very rarely put in anything approaching a successful cross.

When moved to left-centre-back, he was, if anything, even worse. He was beaten one vs one twice to allow good Bradford chances.

Luke Jephcott, ST – 7

A largely good display from the young striker who, a couple of wayward passes aside was among Argyle’s best performers in the first half. He was unlucky to be subbed and in truth only was because Lowe was clearly going for a more direct partnership. He held up the ball well against much bigger defenders and by and large distributed the ball well.

Byron Moore, ST – 7

One of the few players to perform consistently well in the first half and the second, Moore was unlucky to be on the losing side in the game. In a first half was Argyle were slow and stodgy off the ball, he was one of a few to constantly make himself available. He was a good outlet on the wing in the second half and took men on with much more efficiency than Mayor on the other side. He didn’t quite have the moment of magic he was threatening to but largely, a solid display.

Substitutes

Ryan Taylor, ST – 7

Taylor is surely in the twilight of his Argyle career with his inability to stay fit and his unsuitedness to Lowe’s preferred style but (to mix my metaphors slightly) he showed signs of an Indian Summer in today’s game.

In a second half where Argyle decided to go more direct, he was the perfect outlet in winning balls as well as bringing them down well. He may not have directly created a goal but he did the job he was bought on to do.

Ryan Hardie, ST – 7, player of the match

Hardie was one of a few players who stood out in the second half and the fact that he got a goal with 9 men on the pitch is probably enough of a tiebreak to make him man of the match. He and Taylor is a bit of an archaic partnership but it was an effective one for the circumstances.

Hardie is a joy to watch for his rapid bursts of pace that can often turn defenders into frightened gazelles. He’s not so effective from the start but his electric energy makes him a master of chaos from the bench. He was far from bad with the ball either, dribbling with great aptitude. He was sometimes a little too hesitant with the end product which is why he’s only a 7.

Dominic Telford, ST – n/a

Bought on with Argyle chasing the game, he didn’t have quite enough to nick an unlikely point.

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.

Player Ratings: Plymouth Argyle 2 Crewe 1

One of the biggest games of the season so far was won by Plymouth Argyle in a crunch top of the table clash at Home Park. A tight first half saw Argyle edge it but it was the visitors who came out in the ascendency after the break, taking the lead with an unstoppable striker from Harry Pickering. Argyle persisted and equalised soon after thanks to Luke Jephcott’s great header. The greens then won a penalty for a foul on Danny Mayor which Antoni Sarcevic converted with nerves of steel.

Alex Palmer – GK, 6

It was a bit of a funny game from Palmer today. His distribution will no doubt continue to take a bit of criticism as it often has over the past few games and not without good reason. A large number of his attempted passes failed to find the intended target with a not unreasonable amount going out for throw ins. However, the conditions in the game cannot be ignored. The ball was skidding and sliding around due to intense winds and heavy rain, hard for any player to play in and for a keeper even worse.

Overall, he managed the conditions well, saving what he needed to and proving his usual, assured command of area. However, he could have managed the backpass a bit better that allowed Chris Porter a (seemingly unmissable) open goal. He seemed to go for it and then change his mind, without the benefits of either clearing the ball or guarding the goal.

Scott Wootton- RCB, 6

Wootton has still had a much better season than a lot of Argyle fans have expected but it would be fair to say his performances have trended downwards slightly in recent weeks. He defended fairly well today but still had a few issues with high balls, struggled more than others on the surface and didn’t ever really get into any consistent pattern with his distrubtuion. Balls cleared down his side had a tendency to come back more often that not. A capable enough display but a return to form we saw in November and early December would be very much welcome.

Niall Canavan- CB, 8

Another fantastic game at the back from the man who is probably Antoni Sarcevic’s closest rival for the player of the season award. Canavan was a colossus in the air as he always is and excelled himself in his calmness playing out from the back. Defensive creativity is hard at the best of times but on a day where the pitch was cutting up left, right and centre, this was doubly the case. The big Yorkshireman has had a real renaissance this season and he always keeps his head when those around him are losing theirs. His tackling was also brilliant, emphasising the importance of good timing.

Callum McFadzean – LCB, 6

This is an unusual role for McFadzean, make no mistake, Against Salford, he was Argyle’s ace card, often making unexpected runs from deep. A master of chaos for the home defence to contend with, he pulled them out of shape to our advantage. Today’s performance was very different. He didn’t run forward with or without the ball nearly as much, tending to stay as part of a solid defensive line.

He was mostly capable enough in the air and on the floor but he made two big bloopers that nearly cost Argyle goals. It was his weak backpass that resulted in that comical Chris Porter miss and he was unlucky not to concede a penalty in the first half when he caught a Crewe attacker in the box without getting the ball. Not his natural role and you’d expect to see Sawyer back in on Tuesday.

Josh Grant – DCM, 9 – Player of the Match

What a fantastic performance. The loanee was absolutely everywhere and has at least for now cemented this particular spot in the team. He won tackles with perfect timing when he needed to and his passing was exquisite. Far stronger away from centre-back, this was one of the finest individual displays from any player we’ve seen this season. He controlled a game that Argyle dominated and there was virtually nothing to fault.

Joe Edwards- RWB, 7

Edwards might not have the pace or thrills of Byron Moore at wing-back but he is growing into Mr Consistency for Argyle and he built on this reputation today with another solid display. He protects Scott Wootton superbly defensively, severely restricting the attacks which come down Argyle’s right side. He isn’t quite so good going forward but he showed positive indications here today, linking up nicely with Antoni Sarcevic for spells.

Antoni Sarcevic- RCM, 9

On almost any other day, Sarcevic would have easily claimed man of the match from this one. As it is, he only just makes third due to two other spectacular performances. But lets not undermine just how good the Mancunian was in this game. He’s been famed this season for his energy, bursting around the pitch and picking up countless loose balls and turning the balance of play in Argyle’s favour. He did all of this today and more, moving the ball forward rapidly. Let’s not forget a perfectly placed penalty, blasted into the cortner of the goal at speed. A near flawless display.

Danny Mayor- LCM, 8

Danny Mayor needed a big performance and he certainly got one today. It was his best creative display in a good while and, as seen with Sarcevic, he mucked in defensively too. He had one absolutely spectacular moment where a stunning through ball and a bit of interchange saw him running towards goal in the Crewe penalty box before he was hacked down for a penalty.

Even generally, he carried and moved the ball a lot better than we’ve seen in the past few weeks and it’s good to see him get another assist to his name. Whilst he still needs to add some goals, this was a big step in the right direction.

George Cooper- LWB, 5

It just wasn’t really his game. That’s all there is to be said really. Paul Sturrock, back in the day, would have described this game as one for the ‘blood and snotters’. By that he meant the players who prioritise a tireless work rate and physical energy above their technical attributes and for all Cooper’s many strengths, this isn’t really what he is. He had some moments of promise, with a couple of very good crosses but by and large he was anonymous and will be hoping for a better surface next week to showcase his talents.

Byron Moore- ST, 8

Not since Oscar Threlkeld in the 16/17 season has there been a player who I’ve wanted to clone quite so much as Byron Moore. Taking aside the ethical implications, his versatility makes him worth his weight in gold for Argyle. He started the game brilliantly up front. His chemistry with Luke Jephcott develops game on game. Together, they’ve developed a near psychic understanding of when to make runs and when to hold back.

Moore battled well in the air and got some excellent flick ons. When needed, he moved out to left-wing-back and supported the defence very well there. Let’s give some credit to him too for a superb cross for Argyle’s equalising goal at a time where we really needed a tough of magic from somewhere.

Luke Jephcott- ST, 9

Josh Grant won man of the match by an absolute whisker, with an absolutely majestic performance from the 20 year old youngster coming extremely close to beating him. Jephcott was superb in every department, proving to sceptics that he’s about far more than just goals. Not that his goals don’t justify a place in the team by themselves, having got an impressive 6 from just 6 starts.

Here though, Jephcott’s real strength was in his maturity. He was up against a huge centre-back and proved every bit is equal, winning headers and physical duels that he had no right to win, as well as floating in the air for an inch perfect header to convert Moore’s excellent cross.

Substitutes

Tyreeq Bakinson- DCM, 7

Grant was moved to centre-back to allow the loanee to come in in DCM and he made a good case for a return to the starting team with his best performance we’ve seen in a while. He shielded the defence well as well as starting good counter-attacks on more than one occasion.

Ryan Hardie- ST,  N/A

Moved on to allow Byron Moore to move to wing-back, Hardie for the first time managed to come off the bench without scoring! He did come close though with a scuffed effort at the end nearly creeping under William Jääskeläinen in goal. He didn’t get on the ball a lot but looked lively when he did

Joel Grant- ST, N/A

Brought on late, Joel barely touched the ball but held it up quite well when he did as Argyle saw out the game in the corner flag.

Player Ratings: Salford 2 Plymouth Argyle 3

For the sixth time this season, Plymouth Argyle found themselves locked at 2-2 in League Two. However, away at Salford, they bucked the trend, scoring a 92nd minute winner to steal all three points.

Ryan Hardie scored a memorable late solo-goal to win the game, his forth in just four substitute appearances following a run of no goals in three starts. Prior to that Antoni Sarcevic stole the show, delivering an inch-perfect cross for Byron Moore to open the scoring before scoring a screamer to make it 2-1 just as Salford seemed to be turning the game around.

Alex Palmer, GK – 7

It was a game of two-halves for Palmer and Plymouth Argyle’s defence on the whole. In the first half, led superbly by Niall Canavan, Salford barely threatened. In the second, they scored two and could have had three more. So, while Palmer was quiet initially and could have done better to prevent James Wilson’s first from squirming in, he did also deny Wilson a hattrick to put Salford ahead not once but twice.

Scott Wootton, CB – 6

Neat and tidy for the most part, but like the rest of the defence he looked uncomfortable when Salford started to put together wave after wave of attacks, which culminated in a string of good chances for Argyle’s opposition to win the game, far more than Argyle probably deserved to on the balance of the whole match.

Wootton’s highlight was an expertly timed intervention to block Adam Rooney from converting an excellent right-wing cross by Ashley Hunter right in-front of goal. However, he also failed to pick up Rooney later on when the big-striker completely failed to connect from five yards to make the score 1-1 and was perhaps drawn out to the wing too-easily when Salford scored their second equaliser, distorting Argyle’s defensive shape so much that Bakinson was left marking danger-man Wilson.

Niall Canavan, CB – 6

Canavan enjoyed a dominant opening hour as he helped keep Salford’s dangerous (and very expensive) front four at bay. That was, until ex-Man United player James Wilson came on… Canavan’s evening can be easily split into BW and AW, that is before-Wilson and after-Wilson. Before, Canavan was around an 8 and well in contention to be named the best performer in green. After Wilson’s arrival, things changed almost immediately.

Wilson beat Canavan to the ball to equaliser a first time and failed to intercept the cross for the second equaliser. Then, Wilson easily ran beyond the Irishman, only for Salford’s pitch to conspire against him and bounce the ball behind his run, putting him off and making Palmer’s double-save decidedly less tricky. Finally, he was exposed to a 2-on-1 by some lackluster midfield play, with Wilson going clean-through again, only for Palmer to thwart his would-be-winner.

Callum McFadzean, CB – 6

Starting with the positives, McFadzean was very much Argyle’s ace in the hole during the first half. The benefit of having an unmarked winger starting at left-back is that they can maraud forward virtually unmarked and create space for others. We saw this with the opening goal – it was he that made the initial break – his near-assist for Byron Moore, when he found himself in his common position beyond the defence, fed by Danny Mayor, and when he drove forward and was unfortunate to see a last-ditch interception prevent Moore running clean-through.

However, defensively there were big question-marks. He positioned himself far too often as a left-back rather than a left-centre back, creating big problems for his fellow defenders. Just take Rooney’s missed chance in the second-half, caused by McFadzean’s poor positioning dragging Canavan out of position and opening the space for the cross into Rooney. Had Canavan not been sucked out of the centre, he would have easily intercepted the cross.

Additionally, he should have been marking Wilson for the second equaliser, as Sawyer would have, rather than Bakinson. Instead he was focused on Hunter, the winger, who should not have been his man. It’s not entirely surprising that this was the case, given he is a wing-back by trade, but this is no doubt worrying going into another big game against Crewe on Saturday.

Tyreeq Bakinson, CDM – 5

Despite some rave reviews, Bakinson still has many areas of improvement left in his game, and defensively they were on show tonight. One of his biggest problems is a relative lack of defensive awareness, that is an ability to sense the danger before it appears. Instead, he’s far more comfortable tracking a player and getting up-close, which means he can be susceptible to following a runner. That tends to open up space behind Sarcevic and Mayor for opponents to charge into, and Salford regularly took advantage of that.

Joe Edwards and Josh Grant are far more comfortable when patiently occupying space, holding their nerve and block passing lanes. So, while Bakinson gets up in players faces and turns the ball over more often, he can do so at the expense of opening big gaps to be exploited. That’s not to mention that Bakinson was (albeit expertly) shrugged off by Wilson to level the scores and was at fault (along with Sarcevic) when he allowed Canavan to be exposed 2-on-1, leading to Palmer’s 1-v-1 save to deny Wilson a hattrick. Oh, and he struggled in the air, winning 2 of 9 headers.

Joe Edwards, RWB – 7

Edwards was hardly that good tonight, but the game just appeared to suit him better. Despite facing some very dangerous opponents, he was resolute defensively and largely held-up his flank during the waves of second-half Salford attacks. He and Sarcevic also interchanged nicely on a bumpy pitch that suited their more direct style than more the intricate passing of Mayor and Cooper on the opposite flank.

Antoni Sarcevic, CM – 8, player of the match

He wasn’t the match-winner but he deserved to be. Firstly, that cross was perfect for Byron Moore to score the opener – as a striker you could hardly ask for a better delivery. Then, to top that, he scored a goal of the season contender, striking on the outside of his right-boot through a crowd of players into the top corner from 20 yards.

I’d love to say that it helped to swing the momentum, as Salford had been building up pressure before getting their equaliser only for Sarcevic to burst the bubble, but they equalised within minutes and then should have gone in-front, so, yeah…

Nevertheless, the Manchester Messi (come on, grow up people) Sarcevic was a constant source of drive and energy in an attack badly lacking it on a bad pitch that was compounded by terrible weather conditions. It was always a game that would suit he and Edwards over Mayor and Cooper, and so it proved. Sarcevic took advantage of that and played a critical role in delivering three massive points towards the promotion push.

Danny Mayor, CM – 5

This was not a game for Mayor. The centre of the pitch was cut-up before the game even started and thus his passing and dribbling was never going to be at the level we know it can be. Worse, Salford lined up with two strong defensive midfielders tasked with closing him down quickly, denying him the time and space he likes to construct attacks (it didn’t work for Sarcevic though, who loves to take on a high-pressing midfield and bully his way into the space beyond).

Aside from that, Mayor was untidy, giving the ball away far too much. He looked at his best when he was able to work his way into the corners of the pitch where the turf was more even. He helped get McFadzean in behind in the first-half and dropped his shoulder wonderfully a few times from set-piece routines, though the cross didn’t come to anything.

George Cooper, LWB – 6

Cooper was largely anonymous throughout the game, spending less time in the opposition half than Joe Edwards (which is a very rare eventuality). However, he gets a 6 rather than a 5 because of two factors: first, he delivered three fantastic crosses, any one of which could have been scored. Antoni Sarcevic was probably the main guilty party for failing to convert one. Second, despite struggling a bit defensively, he did a decent job against a trio of very accomplished wingers.

Byron Moore, ST – 6

Almost a candidate for miss off the season when he failed to convert Sarcevic’s perfect cross from just three yards. Fortunately, his failed attempt at a shot actually trapped the ball under his feet, leaving opposing ‘keeper Letheren on his arse – as if he were facing a 55-yard shot against a teenage Southend debutant… – and allowing him to pivot and sneak the ball into the empty net.

Otherwise, Moore was quiet, strangled by Argyle’s lack of threat in the final third. There was lots of running but not much to show for his efforts, though he was twice nearly a beneficiary of McFadzean’s forays forward. Moved to wing-back after Cooper came off and Lowe chased a winner.

Luke Jephcott, ST – 4

Quiet. Very quiet actually. Only touched the ball fifteen times in his hour on the pitch. Like Moore, stifled by Salford’s deep defending in the first half and domination in the second. Unsurprisingly, won 0 of 5 aerial duels as Argyle were forced to play long balls toward him.

Substitutes

Joel Grant, ST – 6

Came on for Jephcott to provide fresh legs and help Argyle see out the lead after Sarcevic’s goal, only for Wilson to equalise within seconds. Struggled for involvement from then on, like the rest of Argyle’s strikers, though I am pleased to report that he has learned to hold the ball in the corner after his ridiculous antics against Stevenage last month.

Ryan Hardie, ST – 7

Wow. Super-sub strikes again. Four substitute appearances, four goals. This one was something to behold: partly because of the amazing effort to run half the length of the pitch, batting away three defenders in the process, and score from a tight angle’ partly because of the dreadful effort Salford made to keep him out.

Particularly amusing was Touray’s attempt to wipe Hardie out from behind and give away a penalty when he was clearly not in the best goal-scoring position anyway. Other highlights include Letheren being beaten far too easily for the goal – it was a very tight angle and he barely seemed to react to the shot – and two dreadful attempts at a tackle on the half-way line by Burgess and O’Conoor.

Josh Grant, DM – n/a

On for a few minutes at the end with the score locked a 2-2, but once Hardie got the winner he did a job in helping Argyle see out their victory.

Player Ratings: Plymouth Argyle 2 Crawley 2

Plymouth Argyle fans will slice this one up depending on whether they’re a glass half-empty or half-full supporter. Those with a positive outlook will see this as a point gained on Exeter and Swindon, who both lost. Those with a negative outlook see the two points dropped, yet again against Crawley.

Alex Palmer, GK – 5

I have to say, this was a difficult rating to give. Palmer had some good moments across the game, and perhaps given time I’ll look back on this in retrospect and say that a 5 rating was possibly too harsh. There’s no doubt, however, that Palmer wasn’t at his best. He was perhaps unlucky with both goals – after all, they were scored from a combined distance of around a yard – but his distribution seemed laboured at times. A monumental mix-up with Niall Canavan also looked for a moment like it was going to lead to Crawley taking a 2-0 lead in calamitous fashion.

Scott Wootton, CB – 5

Not the best performance from Argyle’s number 5, you’d have to say. Crawley’s first goal was the second occasion this season that a clearance from Wootton has bounced directly off another player and fallen kindly for the opposition, after the Bristol Rovers palaver in the FA Cup. It looks unlucky, but you have to wonder how much poor technique may also be involved with it happening more than once. Seemed surprisingly weak in the tackle on occasions, which has been unlike him in recent months.

Niall Canavan, CB – 7

The Irishman is very quickly becoming the vital cog in Argyle’s defensive machine, if he isn’t already. His ability in the air is unrivalled in Argyle’s backline, as we saw again on Tuesday night. And whilst he isn’t required to bring the ball out from the back quite as much as his defensive teammates, his distribution is still more than good enough. He was desperately unlucky to have Wootton kick the ball against his backside for Crawley’s opener, but he was on hand early in the second half to clear as the ball again bobbled around Argyle’s goalmouth. A top, top defender for this level.

Gary Sawyer, CB – 7

Much more comfortable than Wootton on the opposite side of the defence. There’s not much more to say in this case other than the fact it was a quintessential Sawyer performance, and the mark of a man who has fully grown into his new role. He looked solid defensively as always, and linked up well with George Cooper on the left side to get Argyle into some attacking positions. The collective worry when he was down injured was palpable, but of course, he wasn’t leaving the field without a fight.

Josh Grant, DM – 8

Josh Grant is a player whose stock seems to be rising with every game he plays. No wonder Ryan Lowe was so keen to sign him permanently this month. He’s taking steps to make the defensive midfield position his own again despite the competition of Joe Edwards and Tyreeq Bakinson alongside him. Against Crawley, he made some booming tackles to get the crowd going, but also showed some finesse in his game, regularly mopping up and bringing Argyle forward again when they had lost the ball further upfield.

Joe Edwards, RWB – 5

There are games where Joe Edwards seems to thrive in the right wing back position. Take the reverse fixture against Tuesday’s opponents Crawley, for instance, where he was able to notch a couple of goals. However, he does occasionally show that he still is a central midfielder playing out of position. This was one of those performances. Most of the danger from the right across the game was from Antoni Sarcevic rather than Edwards, and Argyle looked much more threatening when Byron Moore took over the wing back position in the second half.

Antoni Sarcevic, CM – 8 Player of the Match

Does the system suit Sarcevic more than any other player on the team? There’s certainly an argument to say that it does. Can that detract from the superb performances he’s been putting in every week? Not a chance. Against Crawley he was instrumental again, driving the team forward with his supreme dribbling, and putting the opposition defence under extreme pressure whenever he had the ball. Argyle’s first goal was all his own work. Some lovely skill got him in behind on the right, and he made no mistake with the resulting penalty after he was felled.

Tyreeq Bakinson, CM – 5

Whilst Josh Grant continues to shine in the defensive midfield position, Bakinson has been suffering since his move further upfield this week. From a deeper position, he was in prime position to cut out opposition attacks, whilst also having plenty of time on the ball. In the more advanced role, he’s bypassed a little easier, and seems to struggle to bring fluency to his play on the ball. That’s exactly what we saw against Crawley – this game effectively passed him by.

George Cooper, LWB – 7

Oddly, Cooper didn’t seem to stand out for the many in attendance on Tuesday evening. The most likely explanation for that is that the quality he brings is now seen as an expectation, rather than a bonus. Without wanting to put the two in the same bracket, Graham Carey suffered similar in his final season with the Greens. With Danny Mayor absent, Cooper was Argyle’s primary creative threat from the left, and still managed to put the Crawley defence under pressure with his crossing and dribbling. Not his best by any stretch, but he was still the man Argyle wanted on the ball.

Byron Moore, ST – 6

Not a bad performance from Moore by any means. This 6 rating is certainly closer to a 7 than a 5. It was the sort of game where everyone could see what he was trying to do in getting behind the defence, and his footballing brain was clearly tuned in. However, it didn’t quite come off for him whilst he was leading the line. Nonetheless, he made his mark when switching to right wing back, playing a gorgeous cross to set up Luke Jephcott’s fifth Argyle goal. That’ll do.

Ryan Hardie, ST – 6

Not a bad game from the Blackpool loanee by any means. You could certainly see what he was trying to do in an attempt to bring his undoubted pace into the game once more. However, previously he was facing tiring defenders when coming on as a fresh-legged substitute. It’s a lot harder to do the other way around, and as such he was a little less effective than he would have liked. Didn’t managed to get his fourth goal from his first four Argyle games, but his stock is still more than high enough for now. Just don’t mention that late chipped effort.

Substitutes

Luke Jephcott, ST – 7

Came on with the game level with the hope of making an impact, and managed to bagged a late goal, incidentally his first professional strike at Home Park. Is there really much else to say? Jephcott is looking every inch like the goal poacher Argyle have been missing this season, and it’s such a shame that his headed finish on this occasion didn’t secure all three points.

Conor Grant, CM – n/a

Bringing him on did make at least some sense. As one of Argyle’s more creative talents, Conor Grant have hoped to have been able to make an impression against some tiring legs in the Crawley defence. But unlike Jephcott, he was unable to leave a mark on the game, and like many others, the final few minutes passed him by.

Joel Grant, ST – n/a

Came on late and, in his defence, didn’t really have a great deal of time to impact the game. Tried keeping the ball in the corner when Argyle were ahead, but when Crawley drew level, it never really looked like he would be the source of an Argyle breakthrough.