Winner: Graham Carey. Argyle’s talisman once again put in a superb performance in the game, showing that he is right up there with the best of Wigan’s players who are currently top of the league. Whilst Argyle played well as a team, it was clear that in most cases the Wigan players had the edge in terms of individual quality. This was not the case with Carey.
As well as a perfectly executed penalty which showed both strength and power, he had right-back Nathan Byrne on toast for much of the first half, taking the ball past him on more than one occasion which allowed Argyle to get it into the box and create scoring opportunities. He was not quite so effective when moved to the left side for the second half but still showed a good first touch and distribution. Let it never be said that Carey is one of those players who only ever does it against the weaker teams in the league. Yesterday, we played a side destined for the championship and he didn’t look in the least out of place. Furthermore, he won the penalty and should have won another in the second half and was denied by a poor refereeing decision. Which leads us onto…
Winner: Darren Ferguson. it might at first glance appear strange to include the manager of Doncaster Rovers in a match between Argyle and Wigan but, as smug and dislikable an individual as he can be, he had a point last week when bemoaning the quality of League One referees. Of course, he was wrong to suggest shooting referees in jest or otherwise but Gavin Ward’s performance in the game was appalling. He had no control over the game, allowing the tackling of Wigan’s players to become ever more reckless and even dangerous as the game progressed. This allowed tensions to build up to a fever pitch which completely distracted from the flow of the match. He also demonstrated a slipshod interpretation of ‘advantage’, deciding to play and not to play it seemingly at random with no regard for the particular situation.
In addition to this, he and his officials made several other ‘bloopers’ throughout the game, all of which cost Argyle dear. There is a strong argument to say Che Dunkley should have seen red for the penalty that denied Graham Carey a clear goalscoring opportunity before our penalty. The rules have changed to say that a red card does not have to be applied for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity any longer, but the referee still has a discretion to show a red card if an attempt to play the ball was not made. Given Dunkley was behind Carey and got nowhere near the ball, it could well be said that this was the case here. Argyle had two other strong penalty shouts aside the one that one given: Ruben Lameiras was seemingly shoved to the ground in the first half and Graham Carey tripped again in the second. Both of which would almost certainly have been given if the ball were anywhere else on the pitch. In addition, David Fox was fouled in the build-up to Wigan’s second and none of the officials spotted an off the ball elbow by Nick Powell on Graham Carey. Argyle had their flaws in this game but were not helped by low quality refereeing.
Loser: Jamie Ness. Ness is not as bad a player as some will suggest. He did show prowess in certain areas during the game. He had some very tidy passes out to the wide players and on one occasion in the first half, he played himself out of immense pressure and drove down the wing with ease, gaining Argyle valuable territory on the pitch. The player who was rated so highly as a Rangers youngster is still in there somewhere waiting to emerge.
What reflects badly on Ness, however, is his record. Out of 14 games for Argyle, he has only been on the winning team on one occasion. That was when he was brought on with just 30 seconds to go in our 2-0 victory against Charlton in August. These statistics can be coincidental, the same was once true of Tottenham with Gareth Bale and that lasted for nearly double the run of games. However, it will doubtless be a money on his back that he will want getting rid of. He also, in spite of good moments, tended to drift in and out of the game and was not the physical or ruthless presence that Argyle needed in midfield.
Loser: Derek Adams. It feels harsh to include Adams as a loser today. In theory, the game was won by the manager but lost by the players. Argyle carved open a number of goalscoring opportunities. Apart from the contested penalties, Argyle also forced Christian Walton into a fine save from Graham Carey. Antoni Sarcevic could have had a brace and Simon Church should have scored near the end that might have put a grandstand finish on the cards. That said, Adams still has to take some of the brunt of the result.
Usually, Adams has a playbook for facing a Paul Cook side. We tend to sit back and soak up play and hit them with a deadly counter-attack, catching their high defensive line. Yesterday however, we took the game to them from the start, playing a proactive style and creating plenty of chances. One might say from the fact that only our finishing let us down that Adams was right to do so and it was only by fluke that we didn’t win. However, the fact that the game was so competitive meant that Wigan’s defensive line was lower and the likes of Dan Burn were able to put pressure on Sarcevic to make his chance at scoring a little harder than it would have been if we’d caught them on the break. Additionally, two of Wigan’s goals were as a result of counter-attacks: something that arguably may not have happened if we had played our usual ‘Paul Cook’ style. It was more entertaining to watch, granted: but we did not come away with the satisfaction of three points.