Winner: Jamie Ness.
Ness’ progress since coming back into the team a month ago has been remarkable. The news that it would be he rather than a new signing who would replace Toumani Diagouraga in the Argyle first team was not met with joy by Argyle fans as much as consternation from the Argyle fans who had not been impressed by the Scotsman’s performances earlier in the season. He had also not been in an Argyle winning team (bar a 30 second cameo in the opening home game of the season) up to that point. Two winless games with a couple of misplaced passes did not do his reputation the world of good.
The last few games however, he has come on remarkably. From an improved performance against Blackburn, Ness produced what was arguably his best performance in a green shirt in Shropshire. He was imperious and everywhere, covering an enormous amount of ground and being much stronger in the tackle than he showed in previous games. In addition, he also got his first goal in a green shirt with an excellent late run and composed finish in spite of a good effort by the Shrews’ keeper to narrow the angle. Long may his improvement continue.
Winner: Ryan Taylor.
It was the introduction of Toumani Diagouraga that turned Argyle from a poor side into a decent one but it was Taylor who turned a decent side into a good one. His all round play since returning to the side has been phenomenal, winning balls both in the air and on the ground. As a target man, Taylor is as good as you will get at League One level. We have had competent target men before- Jimmy Spencer for example could both hold men off and could control the ball in space. Taylor however is the next level up- he can both control the ball under tight pressure and hold off defenders pressing him at the same time.
His quality is also born out by statistics- out form in the 12 games since returning to the side would be extrapolated to over 100 points over a 46 game season. This sample size includes games against Wigan, Blackburn and Shrewsbury which is no mean feat. In all competitions, last season included, Taylor has been involved in a goal every 109 minutes with 8 goals, 10 assists, 5 second assists for Argyle. He was an integral part of the win at Greenhous Meadow with the kind of great play that has seen the play-offs become feasible.
Winner: Zak Vyner.
Vyner has big shoes to step into following Ryan Edwards’ untimely departure from the side due to his testicular cancer diagnosis but the Bristol City loanee has risen to the challenge magnificently. He is one of those defenders who can genuinely be categorised as an all rounder with pace and mental awareness to be added to his composure on the ball. He equipped himself well in the box against Shrewsbury and showed good awareness to guide the ball through the crowd of players and into the net. If he can continue be a threat from set pieces, Argyle could have a fantastic player on our hands.
Loser: Moses Makasi.
After signing for Argyle on deadline day with zero professional appearances to his name…Makasi remains two matches later with zero professional appearances to his name. The midfielder stated last week that he was prepared to wait for his debut and he may have to wait a little longer if Ness and Sarcevic continue to put in the excellent level of performance that they have done of late. It cannot be good for the youngster’s development that a loan to see him get games has resulted in his warming of the bench but perhaps his chance will come in future games.
Loser: Luke McCormick.
There’s a theme developing here and the theme is that I’m being very harsh. I’m sure McCormick is delighted with the win at Shrewsbury and doesn’t in any way consider himself to have lost out. However, it says something about Argyle’s recent excellence that the only ‘losers’ have been those not in the team.
It has been a good week for the other keepers at Argyle. Mike Cooper put in another accomplished performance in the youth team’s 3-1 loss (aet) to Fulham in the FA Youth Cup, moving him further into Derek Adams consideration. As well as this, Kyle Letheren made his return to the first team squad against the Shrews having missed three and a half months due to a thigh injury sustained in the Autumn. And of course, Remi Matthews put in another very solid performance between the posts, making saves and dealing with high crosses with his usual aplomb. McCormick when he regains fitness will find it very tough to get back into the side.