Plymouth Argyle quickly returned to winning ways in front of the partially-opened new Mayflower Grandstand, as Ryan Lowe’s team swept Morecambe aside with a comfortable 3-0 win. George Cooper, Antoni Sarcevic and Conor Grant got on the scoresheet to help the Greens put last week’s defeat at Cambridge firmly behind them.
What made this victory particularly pleasing was that it came against a side now managed by ex-Argyle boss Derek Adams. We’ve all experienced away victories by Adams sides in our time when they were unexpected and perhaps ill-deserved. There would, no doubt, have been a lingering feeling in the back of some Argyle fans’ minds that the same may happen again, with Morecambe bottom of the table and unfancied. But Adams’ side were poor, Argyle did what they had to do, and the win was never in doubt.
All-out attack pays off
One may have been forgiven for thinking Argyle’s side lacked balance at the weekend. Reacting to that defeat to Cambridge a week ago, Lowe made changes, opting to operate with George Cooper on the left, Byron Moore on the right, and Dom Telford up front alongside Joel Grant. As lineups go, it was perhaps the most attacking we have seen since Lowe joined the club this summer.
And whilst it was the sort of lineup we were promised when Lowe was hired, it did seem like this one did indeed lack a little balance. Bury’s all-out attack last season still had a player able to transition from defence into attack in midfield in Jordan Rossiter, rather than Josh Grant, a centre back by trade. They had a capable defensive player well versed in running the left channel in Callum McFadzean, rather than the much more creative talents of George Cooper.
It did seem like Lowe may have neglected to link together his back line with his wealth of attacking talents. But at the weekend, it didn’t matter a jot.
Argyle were well on top for the entire game, regularly manoeuvring their opponents around with accurate passing, and regularly peppering the goal with shots to exert their dominance. The goals themselves came after Morecambe’s Ritchie Sutton was sent off, deservedly, for fouling Telford when he was clean through. In truth, however, that was a coincidence. Argyle ran things from start to finish, and fully deserved their three-goal victory.
The stats appear to back up the idea of Argyle’s total control. 73% of the possession across the 90 minutes, 22 shots to Morecambe’s four, 13 corners for themselves, none for their opponents. One-way traffic puts it kindly. Argyle’s pass success was 86%, with every single starter managing more than a 77% success rate. By contrast, only Lewis Alessandra beat that figure for the visitors.
That brings us onto something else rather important that needs mentioning. Argyle did what they had to do, but spare a thought for the 62 Morecambe fans who made the long journey south. They were abysmal.
Yes, you can only beat what’s in front of you. But suffice to say a number of National League sides would have fancied their chances against Morecambe on Saturday afternoon. Based on this evidence, Derek Adams has a huge job on his hands to steer his side clear of relegation this season.
The tone was set early on, with the visitors clearly looking to soak up the pressure and nick a goal at the other end, as we’ve seen so often from Adams. They almost got lucky early on when Sarcevic sold Alex Palmer down the river with a horrendous backpass, which almost allowed AJ Leitch-Smith to cash in. That was their only chance of the half though, as they struggled to get a foothold in the game.
Argyle really ought to have been ahead before Morecambe’s red card – Danny Mayor almost delivered the goods, with his sweetly struck shot agonisingly striking the woodwork. But if it briefly threatened to be ‘one of those days’ for Argyle, two pieces of woeful Morecambe defending just before half time certainly made sure it wasn’t.
First, Sutton got himself sent off by bringing down Telford, after the Argyle striker started a number of yards behind the Morecambe centre back. Yes, it was good play from Telford, but it almost felt as if Sutton only became aware of the danger when it was too late. Cooper scored the resulting free kick, and just a couple of minutes later, another simple long ball into space troubled Morecambe. Alex Kenyon tangled his feet with Joel Grant, Sarcevic tucked the penalty away, and suddenly the visitors were 2-0 down.
There are some general points we need to look at outside of those isolated incidents. Remember, only Alessandra completed more than 77% of their passes out of the Morecambe starters, with the team’s total being a paltry 55%. That contributed to them having just 27% of the ball against a side where possession hasn’t even been a priority in recent weeks. Their aerial game was also alarmingly poor. Josh Grant of all people dominated the aerial battles across the game, winning five, more than anyone on the field.
That perhaps explains exactly why Argyle were able to get away with playing in an ultra-attacking manner, with perhaps a side lacking balance. Morecambe simply weren’t good enough to take advantage. If Adams doesn’t buck up his side’s ideas, the Football League exit door surely beckons.
The perfect set-up?
A game as easy as this ones against opponents simply not at the races could be exactly what Argyle need. That’s not only because of the obvious boosts to the points tally and goal difference, but also because their next opponents in the league are Macclesfield Town. They, of course, are a club in financial crisis, and had last weekend’s game against Crewe postponed after a number of senior players refused to play due to unpaid wages. They were, however, back in action this weekend, securing a 1-1 draw away at Walsall.
At this stage, we don’t know which Macclesfield are going to turn up at Moss Rose this weekend. Literally. That’s why the win over Morecambe could prove to be so vital. If Argyle’s hosts can only put out the sort of side that lost 4-0 to Kingstonian in the FA Cup, Argyle’s experience on Saturday will tell them exactly how to play against sub-standard opposition. But if Macclesfield are able to put a strong team out, Argyle will be under less pressure, owing to the points picked up at the weekend.
The way Argyle have set themselves up to start the Christmas period has been perfect. As we’ve mentioned, it’s unlikely that lining up in the same ultra-attacking way will be workable long term, but with the confidence generated from the weekend, the short-term boost should be exactly what they need.