In a fairly even game where both teams scrapped and both created chances, Plymouth Argyle were that little bit more clinical in and around the box and it was that which saw the greens return to Devon with all three points. On another day, Cheltenham’s finishing could have been better and secured them a draw or even a win but Argyle still went away to a strong side, battled hard defensively and had positive spells of chance creation themselves.
Alex Palmer, GK – 6
The West Brom loanee has been on fine form in recent weeks and he was by no means bad in the game at Cheltenham, but certain areas of his performance weren’t quite up to the level of previous games. He was strong and domineering in his communication with his defenders and he did the simple stuff well, as you’d expect.
However, where he did go downhill slightly was his kicking. Quite a few kicks went out of play or didn’t reach Argyle heads. Cheltenham thankfully didn’t capitalise but it’s an area to improve upon, going forward. In addition, a couple of slightly spilled catches pull his rating down slightly.
Scott Wootton, CB – 5
Ironically, Wootton’s performance was somewhat similar to Palmer’s, especially considering the context of recent performances too. Like Palmer, Wottoon has had a fantastic few weeks where his domineering defending and stylish passing from the back has contributed to Argyle’s fine defensive record of late.
As with Palmer, the defender didn’t have a bad game today by any means. His positional play was mostly fine and his seasonal trend of aerial improvement continued. That said, his passing, which has always been a bit up and down, was nothing special with quite a few misplaced balls out of defence. He also slipped up in the first half, letting striker Addai get away from him and nearly find the net, alongside a couple of other less serious lapses in concentration
Niall Canavan, CB – 7
After his absence in the loss at Bristol Rovers last week, the big defender was back with a bang and another assured performance to see Argyle return to clean sheets. His dominance in the air continued to cut off Cheltenham’s main threat and more often than not, he was largely composed on the ball.
It was a performance not without its flaws – one of two passes went badly awry and there were times where he lingered on the ball a little too long. Yet, overall, this is more proof if any were needed that we’re a better side with Canavan in it than out of it.
Gary Sawyer, CB – 8, Player of the match
We seem to say the same thing every time Sawyer pulls another quality performance out of the bag, but it seems remarkable that this is the same player who looked so utterly defeated for large spells of last season. The subtle change from left-back to left-centre-back has been astronomical in the difference it has made to the long-standing captain’s performances.
Not having pacy wingers ran at him has meant he is so often more able to hold his ground with more support and comparatively very rarely lets himself be dribbled past.
In the air, the strong centre-back next to him means that he isn’t so often in direct competition for headers and, when he is, his success rate is much higher. In this game, he took these areas of improvement and continued to thrive with excellent marking and (when necessary) great positional play. He began so many attacks from the defence too with a healthy mixture of short and long passing.
His performance wasn’t perfect. A couple of headers were lost from corners but by and large, he was the stand out player in the win.
Josh Grant, DM – 8
Whilst Sawyer is the selected choice for player of the match, this guy comes very close to beating him. Like Sawyer, he took has a story of recovery from humiliation. From many Argyle fans calling for him to never play again following the debacle at Exeter, he has reinvented himself in a defensive midfield role and really made it his own.
In this game, he didn’t make a great deal of tackles but he didn’t need to due to his magnificent sweeping play in intercepting loose balls. He kept loosely to the same area of the pitch but covered so much ground and did so so quickly within the context of that small vicinity.
His natural athleticism was on show, but so too was his calmness on the ball. When he did pick it up, he laid it off magnificently to Sarcevic and Mayor to begin the attacks.
Byron Moore, RWB – 5
Not the finest of games, if truth be told, from the speedy wing-back. Whilst he appeared to have put his name firmly on the slot in recent weeks, this performance will have challenged the idea that he is undroppable, especially with Lowe doubtless keen to shuffle his pack over the busy Christmas period.
His end product was a little unconvincing and his defensive work was prone to errors. He gets a 5 rather than anything lower due to his workrate which was fantastic throughout – his rapid pace allowed him to get up and down the line well.
Antoni Sarcevic, CM – 8
Sarcevic’s fantastic season has continued with another commanding performance in the middle of the park to help secure another win on the road. His trademark skill of driving forward with the ball was once again on show. This was, make no mistake, a much more direct performance than the ones against Morecambe and Bristol Rovers and as such were a lot more dependent on good counter-attacks.
Sarcevic accordingly was in his element, showing a real threat on the break. His defensive display was also more than adequate and he passed the ball well when required to.
Danny Mayor, CM – 7
Another day, another game for Danny Mayor where his performance is largely pretty good. And again, he’s come in for a lot of undue criticism from Argyle fans because, whilst his performances this season haven’t been bad by any means, ‘largely pretty good’ isn’t quite what Argyle fans were expecting when they signed the playmaker from Bury. He did all the simple things right. He covered a lot of ground with excellent effort on show throughout. His simple passing was fine and didn’t do a lot wrong.
Where he was still flawed (as before) is that he seemed caught between two instincts. He seemed simultaneously too greedy and not greedy enough at points in the game. He would often begin a darting run at goal rather than make a pass but would also often back out at the last minute and decide to pass after all. Ideally, he will let one instinct become master of the other.
George Cooper, LWB – 5
As excellent as Cooper clearly is, he does have games where he can drift out of it for long spells and not really get involved. This was one, if truth be told. It’s a slight problem area for him and one to be worked on if he does, as I hope he does, stay with us in the long-term.
That said, he only needed one moment of magic to really make his stamp on the match. His sublime cross field ball for the goal split open the Cheltenham defence and landed perfectly at the feet of Antoni Sarcevic who crossed for Zak Rudden to fire home. He’s got those moments of great individual quality in him that transcend his overall performances.
Billy Clarke, ST – 6
It came as a surprise to many fans to see Clarke and Rudden selected to start the game at Cheltenham. Both have been slightly underwhelming signings so far and it seems not unreasonable to suggest that Ryan Lowe may have said to them both ‘earn the extension, or you’re off in January’.
Clarke started brightly – he fulfilled Dom Telford’s role of hustling and bustling his way through the defence, with plenty of flick ons and smart passes to threaten the hosts. He did drop off a little though, as the game went on and was substituted in the second half when visibly tiring.
Zak Rudden, ST – 5
The winning goalscorer? Only a 5? Well, it seems harsh but in truth the goal only really served to prevent him getting a lower score. His general play was largely pretty poor. It was sardonically observed early on before his goal that he can trap a ball further than most people kick it and didn’t compete successfully for many long balls, meaning the ball often came straight back up the field after our defenders cleared it.
That said, he displayed a real poachers instinct for the goal, getting in the position to score and then successfully dispatching it to secure the win.
Dom Telford, ST – 5
In truth, he didn’t do the Billy Clarke role as well as Clarke did or indeed as well as he himself has in some previous games. He tried to link up play but passes often went misplaced and he displayed a limited spacial awareness when running with the ball at his feet.
Joel Grant, ST- 5
His close control and ability to hold the ball were perhaps a little better than Rudden’s but in truth he didn’t get enormously involved in the game and we held on for the win more in spite of his substitution than because of it.
Joe Edwards, LWB – N/A
Edwards was bought on late in a position unfamiliar to him but fought well and did his bit to see out a victory.