Story of the Season: 2017/18

It looks like we’ll be waiting quite a while to see Plymouth Argyle in action once more, and even longer before we’ll be permitted to enter the ground to see them. In these most uncertain times, a little nostalgia can go a long way. With no live action to report, we’re going to be taking a trip down memory lane and looking at some Argyle seasons gone by.

Today, we’ll start by looking at Argyle’s first season back in League One: 2017/18.

Pre-season

It was incredibly difficult not to be excited. After the best part of a decade in the doldrums, Plymouth Argyle were back. Progress had been slow, painfully slow at times. But that mattered no more; whatever happened over the next 12 months, the Greens would finish higher up the pyramid than the season prior. Rejoice.

With James Brent at the helm in the boardroom, promotion was hardly going to be met with a lavish spending spree. But manager Derek Adams had always been capable of working on a shoestring budget. Shrewd summer signings including Ryan Edwards, Jamie Ness and Aaron Taylor-Sinclair helped to bolster Argyle’s squad. Gregg Wylde returned, whilst Argyle also wrestled another winger, Joel Grant, away from Exeter City. Promotion had gone a long way to proving there had only ever been one team in Devon.

Another signing that summer came in the form of Portuguese playmaker Ruben Lameiras. Recently relegated with Coventry, he entered pre-season with a point to prove, and it showed. Argyle avoided defeat in all but one game (a 1-0 reverse to Cardiff City) and achieved a frankly unbelievable 0-0 draw with Dutch champions Feyenoord. It was time to go.

August

Glorious defeat met the opening day of the season – Argyle deserved more, but went down 2-1 away at Peterborough. Ryan Taylor’s injury during the game would prove to be a huge blow. A 5-0 defeat in the Carabao cup days later saw a far poorer performance, but Argyle resisted the urge to refund travelling supporters in the face of some laughable claims.

Luckily, the Green Army had just a few more days to wait before properly arriving on the League One scene. Jake Jervis netted both goals in a 2-0 victory over Charlton at Home Park which also saw this preposterous save from Luke McCormick. Surely there could be no doubt that he’d have a big part to play this season, right?

 

A draw away at Southend followed, leaving Argyle with four points from three games and in an optimal position to push on. Alas, the fun ended there. Argyle shipped four goals in a crushing home defeat by Scunthorpe, concluding the encounter with ten men following Antoni Sarcevic’s dismissal. That would become a running theme. Conor McGregor boxed Floyd Mayweather on the same day, and some of Argyle’s actions across the next month wouldn’t have looked out of place in the ring.

September

Kyle Letheren joined Argyle at the start of the month, but the excitement surrounding a new signing was hardly palpable. He was a third-choice goalkeeper – surely we’d never see him play.

On the pitch, defeats to Walsall and MK Dons, the latter of which saw Graham Carey sent off, left Argyle in the relegation places. That was nothing to worry about, right? We were at the stage of the season where any string of defeats would make the table look crummy, but there was still plenty of time to turn things around.

The situation, however, deteriorated rapidly. Defeat to Blackpool saw Edwards sent off, before a McCormick-inspired Argyle somehow escaped with a 0-0 draw following a torrid performance away at Bury. It was Argyle’s first point for just shy of a month, but those hoping it would spark a turnaround were sadly mistaken. Argyle were demolished 3-0 by Doncaster at Home Park, and Sonny Bradley decided he fancied punching an opponent. Red card. Again.

 

The last thing Argyle needed at this stage was a trip to a high-flying opponent. So of course, the impending trip to Wigan summed up Argyle’s predicament rather neatly. Remarkably, Letheren got his chance less than a month after signing, with McCormick and second choice Robbert te Loeke injured. He and Argyle played fairly well, but still went down 1-0.

Letheren remained between the sticks for a trip to Bristol Rovers the following weekend, as Argyle again found themselves behind. Red cards, however, were conspicuous in their absence until a two-footed challenge from Gary Miller put an end to the brief respite.

 

September saw six defeats in seven league games, and four times as many red cards as points. Torrid.

October

Argyle’s conveyer belt of defeats showed no sign of slowing as Fleetwood became the latest side to leave Home Park with all three points. However, frank dressing room exchange following it may have helped turn the side’s fortunes around. Alongside that, Argyle brought in experienced midfielder Toumani Diagouraga on a short-term deal. Could he really be expected to make a meaningful impact in such limited time?

Diagouraga’s signature conincided with Adams’ subtle switch from a 4-2-3-1 style to a 4-3-2-1, which would prove to be a masterstroke. Under pressure, Argyle followed up with consecutive 1-1 draws against Shrewsbury and Blackburn, both highly respectable results given the high-flying nature of the opponents. Both games saw Graham Carey (who else?) open the scoring for the Greens in incredible fashion.

 

 

The second half of the Blackburn fixture saw an injured Letheren replaced in goal by Argyle’s fourth custodian of the season, 18-year-old Mike Cooper. He put in a performance to be proud of, but that didn’t stop Argyle dipping into the emergency loan market for Norwich’s Remi Matthews. He started and kept goal admirably in a 1-0 victory away at Wimbledon, just Argyle’s second of the campaign, with Grant’s winning goal sparking joyous scenes. Matthews was kept on for another week as the Greens then picked up another point against Rochdale.

Argyle were still rooted to the bottom of the league, but the tanker was finally starting to turn.

November

A Graham Carey screamer helped Argyle defeat Grimsby in the FA Cup, but it’s the next league game that proved to be particularly memorable. Argyle, bottom of the league, travelled to promotion-challenging Bradford more in hope than expectation, but came away with a marvellous single-goal victory. Jervis scored the winner, but the highlight of the game was a second-half penalty save by Matthews, demonstrating exactly why he was rapidly becoming a fan favourite.

 

Sadly, the good times couldn’t last. After keeping their discipline for well over a month by this stage, Argyle saw Ryan Edwards dismissed after 14 minutes against Oxford, who romped to a 4-0 victory at Home Park. The Greens then experienced contrasting fortunes across the following days, comfortably defeating Northampton before going down 1-0 at Fratton Park against Portsmouth, this time via a Matthews error.

 

Argyle were at least improving on the field, but ended yet another month at the foot of League One.

December

The goalkeeping situation was now beyond parody. Matthews had picked up a knock, so Argyle played with a clearly unfit McCormick for an FA Cup tie away at Bradford. He had a shocker, and his side were dumped out following a 3-1 victory for the Bantams.

It led to Argyle lining up their seventh goalkeeper of the season (Will Mannion played against Yeovil in the Checkatrade Trophy). This time it was Kelle Roos on loan from Derby, who made his Argyle debut against fellow strugglers Gillingham. At the very end of a tense encounter, it was new boy Diagouraga who scored the winning goal to spark wild scenes around Home Park.

 

This time, Argyle were able to take momentum from their victory into the crucial festive period. Despite a gut-wrenching last-minute equaliser denying the Greens all three points against Rotherham, wins against Oldham (4-1) and MK Dons (1-0) certainly made Christmas feel merrier. Then, just before New Year’s Eve, Graham Carey got the party started early with this outrageous goal against Blackpool.

 

Frustratingly, Argyle let a two-goal lead slip in that game, and had to settle for a point. However, they were at least out of the relegation zone as 2018 arrived.

January

Remember when New Year celebrations were not tainted with a sense of terror and dread about what the next 12 months may bring? Me neither. But New Year’s Day in 2018 was at least a good one for Argyle. Ryan Taylor, finally back to full fitness after his injury on opening day, scored the only goal as the Greens saw of Walsall at Home Park to further strengthen their position.

A few days later, Argyle saw off Bury 3-0 at the same ground. A certain Ryan Lowe sent off for the visitors for a horror tackle on Matthews, who had returned for the rest of the season following Roos’ departure at the start of the transfer window. The Green Army would surely never welcome Mr Lowe back to the city.

 

That would prove to be Diagouraga’s final game for Argyle, and just one point followed from the next two games. First, Argyle drew 1-1 against Doncaster, when opposition manager Darren Ferguson called for a massacre of poor referees. It was certainly a novel approach.

Argyle then lost 3-1 at home to eventual title-winners Wigan. Defender Zak Vyner made his debut, but it was tinged with sadness. His introduction was only necessary because of Ryan Edwards’ testicular cancer diagnosis, which was announced in the build-up to the Wigan fixture. It put everything on the field into perspective.

Buoyed by a sense of togetherness following the shocking news, Argyle ended the month strongly. A 2-1 win over Oldham saw them knocking on the door of the top half – who could have predicted that just a couple of months prior?

February

February proved to be Argyle’s best month of the season. It opened up with a commanding victory over high-flying Blackburn, with Lameiras netting the opener, and Taylor finishing off one of the great counter-attacking moves of the campaign.

 

Argyle again faced a promotion-chasing side in their following fixture, visiting Shrewsbury. In a true test of character, the Greens recovered from a goal behind, having missed a penalty, to win the game. Vyner notched the decisive goal in front of a delirious away following. Three days later, Argyle completed a league double over Wimbledon by prevailing 4-2 in one of the best demonstrations of Derek Adams’ 4-3-2-1 system one is likely to find. David Fox, vital to the system, also chipped in with a cracker. The celebration wasn’t bad either.

 

The Wimbledon game was probably the best of the season – it had everything. And, when Argyle followed it up with consecutive 1-0 wins over Oxford and Bradford, Argyle fans were daring to dream of a wholly unexpected promotion challenge. After all, a 100% record across the month of February was always going to bring with it a wave of optimism.

March

Argyle went into March on the brink of the play-off places following six consecutive league wins. A 1-1 draw away at Fleetwood, which would have been seen as a fine result a few months prior, was met with disappointment. Luckily, Argyle followed this up with another win in another one of the games of the season. At home to Bristol Rovers on a snowy (!) St Patrick’s Day afternoon, the Greens fell behind twice and missed a penalty, but prevailed 3-2 following Carey’s winner with five minutes to play.

Disappointment followed, as Argyle were defeated for just the second time since the turn of the year away at Charlton. Lee Bowyer was experiencing his first game in management in the home dugout, and masterminded the Addicks to a 2-0 victory.

But Argyle didn’t let it impact their momentum, and followed up with one of their most dominant performances of the season against Southend on Good Friday. The Green Army were treated to some terrific football, and their side deservedly came away 4-0 winners.

Argyle were in the play-off positions, but there were some big fixtures in the run-in to come.

April

Argyle’s first game in April was a huge encounter with fellow play-off challengers Peterborough, now managed by odious pie enthusiast Steve Evans. Argyle were hit by an injury to Matthews, and Peterborough took the lead as league top-scorer Jack Marriott lobbed stand-in Letheren. Taylor equalised, and two Peterborough red cards followed, for Liam Shepherd and Stephen Taylor. With the game in its dying embers, Carey’s stoppage time winner from the penalty spot sent Home Park into hysterics. Evans approaching the referee in gammon-faced rage after the full-time whistle made the day even sweeter.

 

The news which followed, despite all the success of the recent months, will surely go down as the moment of the season. Shortly after the Peterborough victory, Ryan Edwards announced he had received the all clear from doctors regarding his cancer treatment. It would, of course, be a while before he was able to take to the field once more, but it was just another boost to bring everybody together at a time of great success for the club.

On the pitch, the Greens had propelled themselves to 5th place, but injuries were becoming a major issue. Even Paul Paton had to have the occasional run out. Matthews again sat out Argyle’s next fixture against Portsmouth, and was joined on the treatment table by Taylor, a key cog in the Derek Adams machine. The 0-0 draw spoke volumes of Argyle’s impotent attack on the day.

Matthews did return for Argyle’s game away at Northampton, but the squad was looking more threadbare by the day. Matthews performed well at Sixfields which, given the insipid performances elsewhere, probably stopped Argyle’s hosts scoring four or five.

Now having not scored in two games, Argyle’s play-off hopes were dwindling at the end of the month. Still without many key individuals, they played host to eventual play-off winners Rotherham at Home Park. Hopes, it’s fair to say, were not high, particularly when the Millers took the lead in the first half. But somehow, Argyle hung in there, equalised through Grant, and had the chance to win the game from the spot in stoppage time. Much like against Peterborough, Carey made no mistake.

 

May & end of season

Argyle’s play-off prospects hinged on two games in the final month of the season, both away from home. It did, however, become apparent that the Rotherham victory was papering over the cracks in Argyle’s crumbling squad. The Greens were defeated on both occasions, first by Scunthorpe who did make the play-offs, before being thrashed 5-2 by Gillingham on the final day. It meant Argyle finished seventh, just one place away from the play-offs.

There was no shame in that. Injuries meant that Argyle ran out of steam as the season drew to a close, but the fact they were even in the promotion picture was miraculous. For a first season back in League One, Plymouth Argyle had left their mark, and proved that they had all the tools to be a force in the upper echelons of the football league again.

All the more phenomenally, this came after an appalling start to the campaign where Argyle seemed to be relegation certainties up until Christmas. The turnaround, however, was magnificent. Argyle’s opponents gradually converted from “fellow strugglers” to “fellow challengers”. The Greens just had to consolidate the squad in the summer, and surely another promotion challenge would follow…

Release or Retain?

  1. Robert te Loeke

Nick: ‘With Michael Cooper already announced as a provisional third choice keeper, it seems unlikely that RTL will last the summer.’

Sam: ‘His performances in the two games he played were patchy to say the least. Coupled with his injury problems, his release is almost certain.’

Verdict: Release

  1. Gary Miller

Sam: ‘Miller was one of the weak links in our promotion season and is out of his depth in League One. Totally unsuited to a style of play that sees the full-backs need to overlap.’

Nick: ‘That’s harsh. Defensively, he’s underrated and held his own in the earliest weeks of the season. One thing that is not debatable is that he cannot offer the attacking threat required. No doubt he can be improved upon though.’

Verdict: Release

  1. Gary Sawyer

Nick: ‘With McCormick departing, Sawyer is now the most senior player in the team. More than held his own throughout the season and remains the first choice left back. In contract and unlikely to be heading for pastures new.’

Sam: ‘I’m less convinced. His form in the first two thirds of the season was excellent but seemed to tail off towards the end. Perhaps he is finally showing his age? That said, his experience is indeed valuable. I’m on the fence.’

Verdict: Retain

  1. Yaan Songo’o

Sam: ‘He was our rock before New Year but found himself less suited to a side playing a better quality of football. With Fox’s excellent form and Edwards to come back in at CB, I can see him reaching the end of the line’

Nick: ‘Has been a very useful asset for Argyle over the past two years and was an early POTY contender. However, Argyle have reached the stage where a specialist player would be more valuable, especially a direct Fox replacement who can dictate the play.’

Verdict: Release

  1. Ryan Edwards

Nick: ‘Argyle’s premium defender for much of the season before it was unfortunately curtailed by cancer. Got a long way to go in his career and Argyle can only benefit from his presence.’

Sam: ‘A fighter on the pitch as much as off it, Edwards will be valuable again next season. Bristol City will almost certainly want Zak Vyner in and around their squad, clearing the way for Eddy to regain his spot in the starting eleven.’

Verdict: Retain

  1. Jamie Ness

Sam: ‘Injuries have prevented his good season from becoming a great one. As frustrating as his fitness is, he’s worth it when he’s on form. We were a lot worse without him the last two games.’

Nick: ‘Another to add to the list of careers that Derek Adams has saved. With new midfielders on their way in he could lose his place over the summer but would be a very valuable squad player at the very least.’

Verdict: Retain

  1. Antoni Sarcevic

Nick: ‘Arguably Argyle’s most improved player compared to last season. Suspensions and injuries disrupted his – and Argyle’s – season. Offers the runs from deep that nobody else in the squad can.’

Sam: ‘In 2017, Sarcevic was good. Underrated, but not perhaps excellent. His two months fully fit in 2018 were a delight to watch, opening teams up when he has the ball and getting into deadly positions when he doesn’t. Let’s hope he maintains it throughout 2018/19.’

Verdict: Retain

  1. Lionel Ainsworth

Sam: ‘I’d have personally played him more this season, but he evidently isn’t Adams’ cup of tea so we may as well free up some wages.’

Nick: ‘I can see the case for and against Ainsworth. Did not impress as much as I thought he would, with injuries and limited game time playing a part in that. Despite this, only Carey and Lameiras created more chances. I’ll go with whatever Adams decides.’

Verdict: Release

  1. Simon Church

Nick: ‘Easy choice really. Barely featured and appears to be reaching the twilight of his career even though he’s not yet 30. Maybe Adams can squeeze something out of him, but there are better options available.’

Sam: ‘He was a gamble when we first signed him, having not scored a goal since 2016. He’d be an even bigger gamble to keep. We can surely do better.’

Verdict: Release

  1. Graham Carey

Sam: ‘A total no brainer. By some way, our player of the season and biggest goal threat. Every season we get to see him play in a green shirt is one to cherish.’

Nick: ‘Argyle’s best player. Simple as that. What makes him so special is that he’s not even a luxury player – I doubt anybody else covered more ground than Carey, possibly in the entire division.’

Verdict: Retain

  1. Ruben Lameiras

Nick: ‘Showed enough promise in pre-season and the Checkatrade Trophy that I had second thoughts about letting Oldham sign him, but I don’t think anybody saw what was coming next… He’s still got a lot to learn, especially defensively, but who better to learn from than Carey.’

Sam: ‘The encouraging thing about Ruben Lameiras is, he’s nowhere near fulfilling his potential. He’s as good as he currently is, getting plenty of goals and assists, without being anywhere near his ceiling. If he just fine-tunes his end product and defensive work a little, he could become a majestic player.’

Verdict: Retain

  1. Nathan Blissett

Sam: ‘Not much to say here really. Good super-sub option for the league below maybe, but his balance and ball control just aren’t of the standard that we require.’

Nick: ‘Certainly he improved under Adams, but he is not yet good enough to be competing at the top end of League 2, let alone League 1. He might get there in the next year or so, but his footwork needs hard work.’

Verdict: Release

  1. Sonny Bradley

Nick: ‘Not the finest of returns to League 1, as frustration and ill-discipline overshadowed his performances early on. However, he grew into the season and built a partnership first with Edwards and then with Vyner. Still improving and hopefully he stays for another few years.’

Sam: ‘His start and end to the season were both questionable, but the sandwich filling in the middle made it all worth it. If he can keep fit and keep his temper, he’ll be an asset once again. I’d even give him the armband with McCormick leaving.’

Verdict: Retain

  1. Joel Grant

Sam: ‘’I’m really on the fence here. He can’t play the role of a central striker, at all, and it’s painful to see him shoehorned in there. However, he has proved himself to be a good option as a wide forward and he has scored goals. For that, I’m minded to give him another year.’

Nick: ‘Had you asked me this question before Easter, the answer would have certainly been different. Very good at dribbling, but even more wasteful once in a dangerous position. Chance creation was abysmal, especially compared to Ainsworth. Must improve next season.’

Verdict: Retain

  1. Aaron Taylor-Sinclair

Nick: ‘Assuming he’s on a one-year contract, I doubt he hit the target for an extension. However, during the season ATS showed himself to be good competition for the left back spot and I doubt there’s much budget for a better replacement.’

Sam: ‘I agree. With Sawyer getting on in years, that too is an opportunity for him to get more games next season. Not only that, but he is versatile, having played wide left and in central midfield in recent weeks.’

Verdict: Retain

  1. Oscar Threlkeld

Sam: ‘Threlkeld has come on hugely this season from an energetic but often over-committing defender to the all round full-back he has shown to be this season. What might have been if he was fit for the entire campaign…’

Nick: ‘I think that’s a bit harsh on Threlkeld of 2016/17… But he has indeed continued to improve and is a complete full-back. He’s got it all in his locker: stamina, composure, technique, timing, instinct – surely he’ll play in the Premier League one day.

Verdict: Retained

  1. Ryan Taylor

Nick: ‘Surely nobody has any doubts about how important Taylor is to the side now. The question here is less about whether Argyle should keep Taylor, and more about who they should sign as his backup.’

Sam: ‘Carey is our best player, but Ryan Taylor is our most important one. Having a big striker who can make great use of the ball, whilst also holding off defenders was vital to our great run of form in the winter months. He allows us to play the mixed style of passing football combined with long-balls at times. It’s imperative we keep him.’

Verdict: Retained

  1. Gregg Wylde

Sam: ‘Like Blissett, a decent League Two option but not a League One player. He offers little except for pace. May have another year on his contract but he doesn’t have a future at Home Park.’

Nick: ‘Offers the ability to beat a man that appeared to form a key part of how Adams wanted to play earlier in the season. Unfortunately limited in ability and when the formation changed to 4-3-3 he was a spare part.’

Verdict: Release

  1. Luke McCormick

Nick: ‘It’s a real shame to see McCormick go. Superb servant to the club and by no means out of his depth in League One – his superb start to the season proved that. To be honest, I expected him to return to the first team next season, but, alas, no.’

Sam: ‘In spite of a pretty good start to the season, I can actually see why he was let go. Whilst he’s a good keeper for this level he isn’t an excellent one and with Letheren we already have a capable back-up and as I’d be looking for a new first choice, something had to give.’

Verdict: Release

  1. David Fox

Sam: ‘He isn’t a very versatile player, but the one role he can play he is absolutely vital for us in. Constantly recycling possession and opening up play in his midfield quarterback role, he’s got at least another season in him yet.’

Nick: ‘Similar to Taylor, he plays a very important, specific role within a very delicately balanced formation. Again, the discussion should be about who can be brought in as direct backup to lighten the load.’

Verdict: Retain

  1. Kyle Letheren

Nick: ‘I’ve heard that he might be on his way, but I cannot see why. He is a very solid backup and could possibly be first choice if he hit the right run of form. What would be the point in signing a new backup when we already have an ideal one?’

Sam: ‘I have to agree. What’s more, he seemed to really get a lot out of coaching Mike Cooper when the latter was in the matchday squad as Letheren was coming back from injury. That, and the fact that he’s made noises about wanting a career in football after retirement, means he’s perfect to keep a bit of experience between the posts as back-up/competition.’

Verdict: Retain

  1. Jordan Bentley

Sam: ‘He was making decent progress this season until the killer injury that ended his campaign early. He’s worthy of another year to see how he progresses.’

Nick: ‘Won’t return from injury until pre-season is underway. The young defender should form a part of the new reserve squad and try to build a career for himself.

Verdict: Retain

  1. Alex Fletcher

Nick: ‘Promising first season for Fletcher as a professional. A long way to go yet, but a season-long loan to a National League club could be the way to go.’

Sam: ‘He’s not the finished article just yet but there have been games this season where he’s shown real flickers of promise. Worth persevering with? For sure.’

Verdict: Retain

  1. Callum Rose

Sam: ‘Haven’t seen a great deal of him, but it sounds like he’s made great progress with Dorchester. I can see the case to give him one more year but with Bentley, Hodges and Law all on pro deals, the defence is a little congested’.

Nick: ‘Although Adams has already stated that Rose will be released, I cannot understand why. He’s successfully established himself at Dorchester and could fairly expect have the opportunity to make the step up to the National League South – no mean feat at the age of 19.’

Verdict: Retain

  1. Paul Paton

Nick: ‘Paton is by no means a bad player, but he really wants to be occupying the position that Fox does in an entirely different set up. I just don’t think that this is the role for him. His wages could go to hiring a backup for Fox.’

Sam: ‘I have to agree- that and the fact he’s barely looked fit for the few games he’s been in the team. A gamble that did not work out.’

Verdict: Release

Lessons Learned: Rochdale v Plymouth Argyle

  1. Argyle without Taylor are impossible to replicate. The fantastic performances of Ryan Taylor are self-evidently impossible to fully replicate for Argyle as the big striker remains out injured. The Northampton and Rochdale games both taught us this lesson: but in different ways and for different reasons.Against Northampton, when we ever even got the ball, we persistently attempted big hoofs upfield, the kind of which Taylor would tend to gobble up for breakfast. All of our defenders would put long balls into the channels as usual, the only problem being that Joel Grant was completely ill-equipped to win them. Not only is his physical statute just not strong enough to win the physical contests, regrettably there were occasions where he scarcely even entered into them. As such, Argyle created virtually nothing.Against Rochdale, we were taught a similar lesson for a different reason. We played an altogether different style of football, playing along the ground more to Grant’s strengths (incidentally, far more like the system in which he was used as a central attacker for Exeter last season) and swapping his position with Ruben Lameiras at times. It worked a lot better, if not perfectly. Argyle controlled the majority of the game and created several chances, though often Grant still came short when he should have been making defence-stretching runs. What it did re-enforce though, is that it was pointless going for the long-ball (targeted or otherwise) without Taylor in the side.
  2. Remi Matthews continues to thrive since coming back into the side. It wasn’t an easy time for Remi Matthews up to his brief paternity leave. He was suffering a slight dip in form after previously establishing himself as Argyle’s firm first choice keeper. His command of area was not quite its best and there were two notable occasions where he was caught taking too long on the ball before clearing it. It seems however, that his time out of the starting eleven has potentially worked in his favour when it comes to reminding him of what able competition is on the table. Kyle Letheren did well in his two games deputising and Derek Adams admitted it was a tough choice deciding which keeper to start against Northampton.Matthews since then though, has more than proved his worth in the side with two fine performances. Against Northampton, he made save after save to keep the score down in what was a very poor Argyle performance on the day. Against Rochdale, it may be said that he was somewhat caught in no-man’s-land for their goal (though in truth, I don’t think anybody was stopping that bullet of a header) but that one moment of indecision aside he had another very good game. He was a commanding presence at every other set piece and his distribution was excellent, outshining Letheren in the latter’s weak area during his two games in the team.
  3. Sonny Bradley’s questionable form continues. There is no doubt that Sonny Bradley’s place in the team is no in threat for Saturday’s colossal game against Rotherham. He continues to be a far better bet than Yann Songo’o who made three big blunders (and a few small ones) during his three games in the side and was by no definition a left-centre-back. But all that said, it cannot be said that Bradley is in the best of form following the kidney illness that kept him out for nearly a month.Against Northampton, quite aside from converting the ball into his own net, he was beaten as the last line of defence on several occasions, forcing Remi Matthews into the aforementioned saves. Against Rochdale, he was not so notably below par but there were still a fair few occasions where he showed lapses in concentration, not perhaps marking attackers as tightly as he may have. Additionally, his passing, whilst never Vyner-esque, was positively poor for most of the game. It is understandable (indeed, his own business) that Argyle have never gone into depth as to what exactly what the nature of his illness. But, nearly a month since coming back into the side, he does not appear quite back to his imperious best just yet,
  4. Argyle do not have adequate strength in depth. Letheren, Miller, Songo’o, Taylor-Sinclair, Ainsworth, Rooney, Fletcher. That was the subs bench that began the game as Argyle’s options-in-waiting at Spotland in what was at the time, one of if not the single biggest games of the season..at the end of April, with just four games to go. No disrespect is intended to any of those players, but that is not a subs bench fit for standard for a team targeting promotion to the Championship. Yes, Argyle have a few injuries. Yes, you could perhaps critique Derek Adams’ methods of double training that (whilst apparently good at getting Argyle firing on all cylinders) have the disadvantage of drawing more burnout than most.Questions also have to be asked, however, of the level of Argyle’s backing. In the January transfer window as we began to push for the play-offs, we had a potentially historic opportunity to invest significantly in the future of the club: a speculation that would be accumulated if we were promoted to the Championship. Argyle have the fifth highest crowds and the third highest ticket prices in the league. Why, then, do we have a budget that would appear to all intents and purposes as though we are at the lower end of the league? When Charlton bought in Michal Zyro, an established player in a respectable European league, and Sully Kaikai who has proven himself more than good enough for this level, we gambled on a half-fit Simon Church (a cast off from another play-off rival) and a 22 year old who had never played professional football before. This is not to denigrate the players we have: far from it, they’ve done the best they can. But surely next season (if, as is now likely, we are not promoted) has to be the occasion where Argyle’s backing is of a higher level for Adams to be able to sign a few more of his first choice targets.

Player Ratings: Plymouth Argyle v Peterborough

Kyle Letheren- 6. Upon his return to the side following Remi Matthews becoming a father in the early hours of Saturday morning, Letheren was largely untested in a solid Argyle performance in which the win was fully deserved. He was perhaps caught somewhere in no man’s land for the goal but his command of area and kicking were good on the rare occasions he was called upon.

Oscar Threlkeld-8. Threlkeld continued his fantastic run of form since his return to the side with a performance that gave Peterborough no joy whatsoever down their left hand side. In addition, he got up and down the line well to provide an attacking threat when needed.

Zak Vyner- 8. MOTM. In an era where Argyle’s defence has been solid for years, we have had a lot of good centre-backs. None of them however quite match up to Vyner whose composure (amongst other things) remains unrivalled. You never feel in danger of conceding when he is near the ball, not to mention his ability to start attacks with pinpoint passes out of defence.

Sonny Bradley-6. He was at fault for the first goal where his error in clearing the ball left League One’s top scorer in a one vs one situation with Kyle Letheren, a scenario in which the odds were always against Argyle. He was generally not quite his best self throughout the game but redeemed himself with a biting tackle in stoppage time after Argyle had taken the lead to prevent another one vs one situation which could have led to a heartbreaking equaliser.

Gary Sawyer-7. A fantastic cross which was placed perfectly for Ryan Taylor’s opener was Sawyer’s standout contribution but he was in general to thank for Argyle barely being troubled almost as much as Threlkeld on the other side. An all round good performance in both the defensive and attacking sense.

David Fox-8. The deep lying playmaker had his best game in a few, constantly recycling possession (picking out the best options, not merely doing so aimlessly) in the middle of the park that allowed the attacking players to create chances. His defensive positioning was also good, consistently being in the right area of the field to intercept Peterborough clearances.

Jamie Ness- 7. Ness had an uncharacteristically frustrating second half, with a fair few passes going astray but his first half display was simply superb. His tackling and pressing were as pivotal as ever to Argyle winning the midfield battles and controlling most of the game as we did.

Moses Makasi-7. Makasi had a game that was in some ways the mirror image of Ness’. A poor first half where not a lot went for him but he was excellent in the second, involved in much of our creative play and bursting forward from midfield in a Sarcevic-esque fashion to stretch the defensive ranks. Less said about that shot that went out for a throw-in, the better!

Ruben Lameiras-5. Lameiras has been an excellent player for us since returning to the team in December but it cannot be denied that he had a poor game on Saturday. He was very actively involved but his end product was poor, a huge amount of his passes going awry. He also hit a very tame shot directly at the Peterborough goalkeeper from less than 10 yards out in the second half, which would have seen Argyle take the lead.

Graham Carey-8. A fantastic game all round from Carey who, as in the past three seasons, appears to be returning to his very best form as the season enters its closing stages. In addition to his classy build up play, when the pressure was truly on, he converted the winning penalty for his 14th goal of the season: as he said he would.

Ryan Taylor-8. Taylor too appears to be back to his bristling best after a run of form that was somewhat underwhelming in the previous few games. As well as getting our all important equalising goal, the big striker won almost every aerial battle to allow Argyle to build from the knock down and flick ons.

Joel Grant-7. A fiery performance from the wide forward, adding attacking impetus to our play after coming on. Was unlucky not to score but for a superb save by the Peterborough keeper from a one vs one situation.

Lessons Learned: Charlton v Plymouth Argyle

  • Nobody is infallible. Nobody can deny that Derek Adams managerial stock is sky high at the moment. He has taken Argyle to a position where they could be able to get promoted to the Championship this season with a budget that is surely amongst the lowest in the league. However, he is capable of making mistakes and that showed itself on Saturday.During the first 55 minutes or so of the game, Argyle’s performance was competent. Yes, they were losing 2-0 but they were having their fair share of the performance and the play. Charlton did not have a great many chanced aside their two goals and Argyle had a Ryan Taylor shot tipped onto the post as well as Graham Carey going close. Of coruse, we weren’t playing brilliantly. But it was firmly in ‘could be worse’ territory. Adams however, switched to a diamond 4-4-2, bringing on Alex Fletcher up front.As industrious as Fletcher was, going to the diamond system limited Argyle. A diamond can work if it is played correctly but it’s a difficult system to get right. Argyle had next to no width and Charlton were resultantly able to dominate on both sides. In addition, Fox was rather deep and Carey rather high up as base and tip of the diamond respectively, leaving space in the middle as well as that out wide. As such, Argyle barely had any chances after this stage and Charlton had a fair few in spite of not converting any.
  • Sometimes, you just have to give credit. Charlton were very good, it was not purely a case of bemoaning Argyle’s inadequacies. Lee Bowyer had his first game as caretaker manager and as predicted in our pre-match preview, he was determined to put his own stamp on things with a switch to a 4-4-2 formation. The Charlton players seemed to be just as fed up of Robinson as their fans were, coming out and starting like a train with their high line and purposeful use of the ball.In addition to this, their opening goal by full-back Page (the first of his career, no less) was amongst the finest I have ever seen scored against Argyle, slammed high into the top right corner of the net. Remi Matthews (who largely had a good game, his one risky foul outside the area aside) could do nothing to keep it out of the net.
  • Argyle are badly missing Sonny Bradley. After being involved in goals conceded and having generally iffy games against Fleetwood and Bristol Rovers, Argyle were in need of a big performance from Yann Songo’o at The Valley. Songo’o however was at fault for letting Michal Zyro run completely unmarked into the 6 yard box to easily convert their second. You simply can’t lose your man that close to goal. He was again the weakest link in Argyle’s back four generally with a few lapses in concentration allowing his man to pull away from him on other occasions which luckily did not lead to goals.Songo’o is perfectly adequate in central midfield and he can do a job at right-centre-back. He can even do a job to some extent at left-centre-back next to an experienced head like Ryan Edwards. Zak Vyner, as good as he is, does not command quite the same presence.Songo’o inarguably had a good first half of the season but an aspect of panic seems to have snuck into his game in recent weeks. That, coupled with the fact that it is perhaps somewhat easier for a player of his committed yet limited style to thrive in a struggling team than a successful one, is an argument to drop him for Friday’s home match against Southend in favour of Aaron Taylor-Sinclair.
  • Argyle are badly missing Antoni Sarcevic. Like Bradley, the absence of industrious midfielder Sarcevic cannot be understated. His has been one of the quickest and most dramatic turnarounds in fan opinion in recent times. In the last game of 2017, he had a disastrous cameo off the bench as Argyle threw away a lead to draw at Blackpool. 2018 though, has seen him well and truly come of age as an Argyle player in dramatic fashion with a series of performances that are as exquisite with distribution as they are energetic in movement.As such, it has been no surprise that he has been missed from the side. Moses Makasi’s use of the ball is smart at times and his off the ball movement is also good, regularly making himself open to receive a pass. However, he will have spells where he tends to drift in and out of the match whereas Sarcevic maintained his level of performance over the 90. In addition, where Maksi (who is by no means a bad player) falls short of Sarcevic’s excellence is his dogged pressing of the ball and the ability to steal it from opponents feet without committing a foul. This constant turnover in possession in Argyle’s favour high up the pitch is being badly missed and could have been the difference in games like Saturday’s.
  • Oscar Threlkeld continues to quietly perform. Threlkeld has perhaps tended to be a little overrated in recent seasons, with his energetic and all-action style perhaps compensating for a lack of subtlety in his game. His first couple of games upon his return to the side from injury exemplified this tendency. Whether or not this criticism was fair in the past however, it absolutely has not been so in 2018.His performance against Charlton was one in a long line of late where he has continued to put in an understated, solid performance irrespective of the general level of play shown by the time. He rarely let anybody down his side and was strong in the air, as well as always looking to counter-attack and he was one of the best players for overlapping and proving forward options during a game where too few players moved off the ball.

Player Ratings: Plymouth Argyle v Bradford

Remi Matthews: 7. Another good game was had by Matthews by and large who picked up his second clean sheet in a row. He claimed most of what he had to deal with admirably in terms of crosses and his distribution was also accurate. One flap in the air however near the end of the game (combined with the fact he did not ultimately have that much to do) brings his rating down from an 8 to a 7.

Oscar Threlkeld: 8. Threlkeld may not have been on his best form in the first few games after his return from injury but the last 4 or 5 games have seen a return to the domineering form at full-back that helped us get out of League Two (and then some). He’ll throw his head in the way of anything and his athleticism combined with long-range passing ability often provides a means to get the ball out of defence when we are clinging on to a late lead, as was the case against Bradford.
Zak Vyner: 7. He had a slightly iffy first fifteen minutes of the game in which he seemed a little too complacent on the ball and occasionally played teammates into trouble but that problem soon disappeared. For most of the match, he showed all the signs of being the energetic yet classy centre-back that he has the potential to become.
Sonny Bradley: 8. Bradley is another player whose form has improved in recent games, putting in yet another imperious performance to go alongside his one last week at Oxford. Everything that went his way was stopped and cleared, the accuracy of his passing was also much improved.
Gary Sawyer: 7. After a shaky couple of games leading into this one, it was a relief to see the reliable left-back back to his usual solid form, letting little get down his side. If Argyle do get promoted, the ‘no frills’ players like Sawyer who produce a 7 out of 10 performance more often than not will be to thank, as well as the attacking stars like Carey and Lameiras.

 

David Fox: 8. MOTM. Once again permitted to thrive in his ‘role in the hole’ in front of the back four, Fox’s passing was as inspired in its vision as it was accurate in its implementation. Spared from heaving to do the midfield ‘heavy lifting’, his ability to intercept loose balls and recycle possession with either the short pass or the long was integral to Argyle winning the midfield battle.
Jamie Ness-8. There’s no other way of putting it: Jamie Ness was quite simply everywhere. He reminded me of a young Conor Hourihane in his final season for us (albeit Ness himself is only a month younger than the Irishman) in the way he buzzed about the midfield, snapping at the heels of whichever player had the ball and winning it back for Argyle. His industry combined with Fox’s efficiency won us the game- just a shame about that miss right at the end!
Antoni Sarcevic-7. His general play, whilst far from poor, was not perhaps quite of the standard of recent games as he tended to tire towards the end. However, that was more than made up for by his incredibly quick responses to make the right run to get the shot away for the (albeit deflected) winning goal.

Ruben Lameiras-7. For spells in the game, he looked excellent, picking out through balls to Taylor on a couple of occasions but not quite being able to execute them. In a paradoxical way, Lameiras’ flaws make him more exciting. If he’s as good as he is (and another assist in this one) whilst having a few flaws, he could be a truly incredible player when he works on his end product a little.
Graham Carey-7. He didn’t have his finest game in the attacking sense, with quite a few passes not going as he intended to, but he shone in the other side of his game which is his incredibly high workrate. He made himself an outlet on multiple occasions in the second half when Taylor was being tightly marked or double marked, even though receiving long balls is hardly his forte and was not Argyle’s primary game plan.
Ryan Taylor-6. Not one of his finest performance, losing a couple more aerial duels than he usually does. However, dispensation must be given in that he was tightly marked and having two men on him at times created more space for Carey and Lameiras to pick up the ball and interlink with the overlapping full-backs.

Yann Songo’o-6. Subbed on in the 86th minute.
Aaron Taylor-Sinclair-6. Subbed on in the 86th minute.

Winners and Losers: Plymouth Argyle v Wimbledon

Winner: David Fox

Another assured performance from David Fox who did all the simple things right as he often does. His passing was excellent with his wise decision-making to utilise the short pass when necessary well complimented by his ability to go for a killer through ball when it was really needed. The real shocker though and the one that ensures his inclusion in this article was THAT fantastic goal.

It has become a bit of an accepted meme amongst many Argyle fans that for all his many great strengths that he brings to the side, David Fox cannot find the back of the net. Unlike fellow midfielder of a few years ago Lee Cox (whose shots always seemed to skim the bar or be tipped away by a keeper), Fox has tended to hit them high, wide and handsome. That makes what happened against Wimbledon all the more special- the ball came to him from Sarcevic following a clearance from a set piece and under pressure from the defender he belted the ball into the top corner of the net with what was a spectacular finish. His joy at finally breaking his league duck was apparent to all as he leapt into the arms of his manager in celebration.

Winner: Ruben Lameiras

Lameiras continues to develop from strength to strength with another fantastic performance that has seen him nail down his spot as one of the first names on the teamsheet. In a remarkable return from the cold, Argyle have averaged form that would see them acquire a stunning 108 points over a season since Lameiras came back into the team at the beginning of the Christmas period. He was simply too hot for Wimbledon to handle, weaving in and out of their defence as well as himself scoring a brilliantly placed goal, showing composure and accuracy.

The really exciting thing about Lameiras’ performance is paradoxically the stuff he did badly, rather than the things he did well. He missed a great chance to make it five late on but he had dribbled the ball through 4 defenders to get there, doing the hard work and leaving himself with only the keeper to beat. Lameiras is clearly a good player as shown by the number of goals he has been involved it, but what really became apparent from this game is that he is not that far from being an excellent one. That’s all before even mentioning THAT celebration…

Loser: Gary Sawyer

Sawyer has generally been a revelation for Argyle this season, enjoying a real Indian Summer of a career. His form has been excellent and it has been his best season back at the club in spite of being 32 years of age. His reputation however took a bit of a knock with an uncharacteristically poor performance against Wimbledon. In general play, he was caught for pace a couple of times and did not get up and down the line nearly as well as his right sided counterpart Oscar Threlkeld,

His worst moments however came in a dreadful 2 minute period that nearly threw away what was an excellent win for Argyle. Rather than clearing the ball to safety, he tried to play his way out of a situation where he was being pressed tightly down the left hand side and ended up playing it to Sonny Bradley who was himself in a bit of trouble (more on that later) which led to the Dons’ second goal of the game. After that, Sawyer sold Remi Matthews short with an underhit backpass which would have led to a goal were the ball not viewed by referee to have gone out of play following the initial block by Matthews. In addition, Aaron Taylor-Sinclair put in an accomplished performance off the bench which will have Sawyer nervous for his place looking ahead to Saturday’s game at Oxford.

Loser: Sonny Bradley

In general, Sonny Bradley’s narrative this season has been one of improvement. From a shaky start, upon his return from suspension, he formed a fantastic partnership with Ryan Edwards as the two began to gel and Argyle climbed up the league. Since Edwards has been out of the side, Bradley has been equally effective alongside Zak Vyner in what is perhaps a more balanced pairing whereby Bradley’s brute strength and canniness compliments Vyner’s technique and pace.

This however was not at all the case against Wimbledon. Bradley put in a shaky performance where he could have done better for both goals. His slow turning circle was exposed by the speed of Lyle Taylor for the first goal, the Wimbledon striker getting away from Bradley (whom he forced to turn with his sharp movement) deftly before slotting the ball past Remi Matthews. For the second, Sawyer’s part has already been well detailed but it only found the net when Bradley (rather than just getting it out of play for a corner) tried a one-two with Sawyer but it was intercepted by that man Taylor again who bundled it into the net. Bradley has been and remains a fine servant to the club but this was far from his finest hour.

Player Ratings: Plymouth Argyle v Blackburn

Remi Matthews – 7

With Blackburn on an eighteen match unbeaten run which started when the Pilgrims visited Ewood Park earlier on in the season, Matthews controlled the goalmouth when called upon with crosses, but was not forced into any serious action.

Oscar Threlkeld – 8

Threlkeld defended solidly and was excellent throughout the game. None of the players on Saturday had a bad game and all of them played their hearts out- this was epitomised by the performance of the ever-committed right-back. Play offs, why not? Considering where Argyle were just before Christmas, you’d be foolish to bet against it.

Zak Vyner – 9

On loan Bristol City, defender Zak Vyner came straight back into the starting eleven after missing last week’s win at Oldham due to illness, he and Bradley commanded the defence. He is already becoming a fans favourite with his capability, skill and confidence on the ball

Sonny Bradley – 8

Bradley was another defender who put in a solid performance against the former Premier League champions and tallied up an assist to his name as he headed down the ball from Fox’s free kick for Lameiras to rifle home.

Gary Sawyer – 8

Sawyer defended amazingly against Blackburn’s wingers and coped well when the pacey Dominic Samuel was introduced at half time. You could tell there was an undercurrent of frustration running through the Blackburn team, with Samuel picking up a yellow card with a minute of him being introduced.

Antoni Sarcevic – 10 – MOTM

Since the departure of Toumani Diagouraga at the end of last year Sarcevic, has had a chance to impress and stake a claim for a spot in the starting XI and what a performance from the man himself on Saturday controlling the midfield and chasing after every ball.  A flawless display.

David Fox – 8

Experienced midfielder Fox did not put a foot wrong and kept Blackburn’s main players including Bradley Dack who he was tasked with marking quiet all game.

Jamie Ness – 8

Ness has missed the majority of the first half of the season due to injury and since coming into the team and has impressed doing the ‘dirty work’ in midfield keeping the impressive Songo’o out of the starting eleven.

Graham Carey – 9

In Tony Mowbray’s pre-match interview he stated ‘we have to keep an eye on Carey!’ Did the Blackburn players listen to their manager? It certainly didn’t seem like it with Carey running the show in a performance which adds yet another assist to his name with Taylor slotting home the second for the Pilgrims.

Ryan Taylor – 8

Taylor showed his ability and strength to hold up the ball and link it to his team mates, the striker capped off his performance by a well taken goal inside the first forty-five minutes.

Ruben Lameiras – 8

Lameiras had another excellent game and has established himself a regular starting eleven position. The player who was brought in in the summer has had a tough start to the season but is proving Adams right with the decision to stick by him.

Subs –

Yann Songo’o (for Fox)

Songo’o’s entry onto the field coincided with Argyle’s switch to a flatter 4-1-4-1 formation for the closing stages of the game. Although Blackburn weren’t at their best, they still were a threat and if they scored one, who knows what the score would have been.

Joel Grant (for Carey)

Grant played well when he came on, stretching the game and a set of fresh legs were well needed to get Argyle up the pitch as they were showing signs of being forced back.

Aaron Taylor-Sinclair (for Lameiras)

Taylor-Sinclair, who has not been able to reinstate his position after recent injury, came on in a left sided midfield position and did a very fine job at helping Sawyer with the main threat in the second half which was Dominic Samuel.

Player Ratings: Oldham v Plymouth Argyle

Remi Matthews-7

Matthews put in yet another accomplished performance in goal with two excellent saves, one in each half. He could also not be blamed for Oldham’s goal which was an unfortunate error from Yann Songo’o. Only his kicking, which was slightly more erratic than usual, prevents him from getting an 8.

Oscar Threlkeld- 7

Threlkeld has received some justified criticism in recent weeks for being too much of an overcommitment merchant, throwing his head and body in the way of everything but without showing the necessary intelligence and subtlety to thrive in League One. In this match however, he well and truly defied all of this with a performance that showed a knowledge of where and when to make runs as well as the energy and passion that is always on display.

Yann Songo’o-6

Songo’o has had an excellent season on the whole but it was a somewhat shaky return to the team at centre-back in a game where a fair amount of errors were made. The own goal was misdirected but a bigger error was in stoppage time where he charged out and completely missed the ball, leaving a large gap behind him for the Oldham attacker to run into. Luckily, he was bailed out by a Sonny Bradley tackle.

Sonny Bradley-7

. As well as saving Songo’o’s bacon, it was a good game in general from the big centre-back who was in need of one following a poor match against Wigan last week. He showed sensible positioning and strength in the ariel battles that were vital as the crosses and long-balls began to come in later in the game.

Gary Sawyer-5

An uncharacteristically poor game was had by Sawyer, usually so reliable. He did not get forward and provide good crosses into the box as he has shown he can do in previous games; Oldham also had far more luck in getting the ball into the box from his side than they did from Threlkeld’s.

David Fox-6

His defensive work was questionable in the later stages stages in the game, being overwhelmed and seemingly overtired following an Oldham bombardment in the second half. His passing range however was as good as ever and in spite of his physical weaknesses, he rarely looks like losing the ball when he has it.

Antoni Sarcevic-7 MOTM

. Ever since his 2018 return to the team, this player has has been a real revelation. An all rounder, Sarcevic is equally good at chasing down the ball and leading the press as he is at picking out a smart pass. He tired a little as the game went on but he had a very good game and added a goal to his tally, which was much needed due to poor finishing in recent games. He’s gone from being first on many fans’ release lists to being a real favourite again.

Jamie Ness-6

Another funny game was has by Jamie Ness who is firmly nailing down his reputation as a curate’s egg midfielder. He can have moments of real brilliance where he picks out a 25 yard pass perfectly yet he can also have moments where he wilts under pressure and loses the ball in crucial areas. He is a good back-up option but Derek Adams needs to sign another central midfielder before Wednesday’s deadline.

Ruben Lameiras- 7

Lameiras is arguably the only player whose return to the team has been even more of a rise from the virtual dead as Sarcevic’s. He started and ended the move excellently for the second goal, by pinging a great crossfield ball out to Carey before running into the box to get on the end of the delivery. In addition to this, his defensive work which has always been a weak area was noticeably better.

Graham Carey-6

A mixed bag of a game from Argyle’s talisman. On one hand, he made a goal each for Sarcevic and Lameiras so some will say his rating should be higher. However, at other times, he was uncharacteristically wasteful with the ball which brings his mark down.

Ryan Taylor-7

He had a hard battle all game with Oldham defender Anthony Gerrard who seemed to rile him up on a couple of occasions. However, the big striker rose to the challenge and was as much of a handful as he always is. Another good game and we maintain our record of losing only once in our ten games since he got back into the first team on a regular basis.

Aaron Taylor-Sinclair-7

Back in the team for the first time since mid-December, he did the job he was tasked with on stretching the play and wasting a bit of time.

Simon Church-6

He was only on for a minute but showed a good little bit of timewasting with Ryan Taylor in the corner flag.

Player Ratings: Plymouth Argyle v Wigan

Remi Matthews – 6

Let down by his defence for three goals he had little chance of keeping out. Not a bad performance, but occasionally he failed to make it clear if goalkeeper or outfielder should go towards the ball.

Oscar Threlkeld – 6

Committed as ever, but his high-action style sometimes verged out of control. His natural energy and athleticism is an asset, but he makes fewer mistakes when he can tame it.

Zak Vyner – 6

Lost Grigg for his goal, but generally played well. His experience at right-back means he adds passing ability and pace to the centre of defence that neither Bradley nor Edwards have, for all their strengths.

Sonny Bradley – 4

An uncharacteristically poor game. Failed to pick up Massey for their second and beaten in the air by Burn for the third. His body isn’t made to keep up with their fast forwards like Grigg and Powell and he wasn’t clever enough to adapt.

Gary Sawyer – 5

Nearly a memorable game for Sawyer. Admittedly, all for the wrong reasons as his lob over Matthews just looped over the bar. Like Bradley, he struggled with Wigan’s pace.

David Fox – 6

As always, his passing was precise and intelligent. However, he failed to dominate as he often does. The snarling, physical football that Paul Cook encouraged meant this wasn’t a game that suited the cerebral midfielder.

Antoni Sarcevic – 5

Frustrating. His movement off the ball was excellent. However, he failed to make anything of the good positions he got into. Lucky not to give away a goal when his poor backpass was seized upon by Grigg.

Jamie Ness – 6

He wasn’t bad at anything and was reasonably competent in most areas, but that’s what’s holding him back. Think of all the world’s best midfielders. They all have specific specialties. Ness is too much of a jack-of-all-trades.

Ruben Lameiras – 6

He’s a fun player – I’d wager there aren’t many midfielders in League One who have the range of fancy flicks and tricks the Portuguese has. His decision-making needs work: an instance where he missed an easy ball to Carey on the break springs to mind.

Graham Carey – 8 (MOTM)

He can beat you in so many ways. Against an athletic full-back in Byrne, he beat him not with pace but with his superb skill. Did well to win a penalty, and should arguably have had another one.

Ryan Taylor – 6

Yet another shift where Taylor tried his best. Unfortunately, he was up against a classy centre-back in Dan Burn who gave him little to feed on. His sheer, relentless scrapping created the odd chance for us.