Argyle returned to action in fine fettle with a comfortable victory over Oxford United. Although we only won by one goal to nil, we were the better side for the vast majority of the game and our commitment to possession football won us the game in the end. Here are your player ratings:
Mike Cooper, GK – 6.
It was largely a quiet evening between the sticks for Argyle’s number one. Oxford were dominated throughout and rarely troubled the goalkeeper. He mostly did what he had to do well: he collected a couple of crosses in the first half and made the right decisions with distribution throughout. He would perhaps have a higher mark but for one troubling moment in the second half where he came for a cross and did not quite get there. Thankfully, he made up for his error with a follow up save.
Nigel Lonwijk, RCB – 8.
Lonwijk has been a bit Jekyll and Hyde in his Argyle career so far. A very promising league debut at Forest Green was followed up with two shaky displays against Bolton and Derby (albeit they did come with two team wins). The pressure was building for him to put in a spot-keeping performance and he certainly delivered one under the lights. He was imperious in every way: winning headers, starting attacks and keeping the defensive line brilliantly. He looked like he’d been part of the team for years, and James Wilson surely will have to wait for his return.
Dan Scarr, CCB – 8. Player of the Match.
As good as Lonwijk was, Scarr managed to go one better with his excellent performance in the clean sheet victory. He did all the stuff he usually does: winning headers and physical ground duels perfectly. He also showed great composure at getting the ball out from the back and applied pressure as part of a high defensive line when Oxford were in possession. The decision making was his most notable area of brilliance. He rarely executed a pass that he wasn’t certain he could implement successfully, often knowing the right time for a short ball to Randell or Butcher instead.
Macauley Gillesphey, LCB – 5.
Far from his worst performance in an Argyle shirt, but in truth a fair way from his best either. He was very involved in the game in the first half, bursting forward to join the attack with creditable aplomb. He tried another one of his trademark 25 yard shots that (in what can almost be called tradition) blazed over the crossbar. One day, one of those will go in but this was not the day. In the second half his passing became quite poor and he had a momentary lapse of concentration for Oxford’s best chance in the game towards the end.
Bali Mumba, RWB – 7.
There are only so many ways of saying it: this lad is just too good for League One level. He’s quick, he can do it on both sides and his ball control is second to none. He showed all these attributes and more in the win over Oxford and helped put the frighteners on their defence even if he didn’t directly contribute to the winning goal. Why only a 7? Despite the great ability he demonstrated, there were some times where he faded in and out of the game a little. I’m sure that greater consistency will come with time and when it does, watch out EFL.
Adam Randell, RCM – 7.
It was a welcome return to top form for Randell after a slightly below par performance by his high standards at Derby. Credit must be given to Steven Schumacher for keeping faith in the tenacious young janner. His passing was broadly back to its crisp best with only a couple going astray. He showed fantastic energy off the ball too and his corner delivery was mostly pretty good. He even added some dribbling skill to his toolbox, with a remarkable turn to get around the Oxford defender after the ball rebounded to him from a set piece. The move to 3-4-3 has inarguably benefited him more than most and truly allowed him to thrive.
Matt Butcher, LCM -7.
It is an oft used cliche that a footballer ‘does the dirty work’ for a team without that ever really being explained exactly what it means. Butcher is someone who absolutely does do the dirty work and then some. I don’t have the stats to justify this, but he seems to cover more ground than almost anybody else on the pitch. An opposition CM can’t get the ball without Butcher being busily on their back, determined to press and force an error. His passing is not perhaps as impressive as Randell’s but his off-ball work is more than good enough to make up for it.
Joe Edwards, LWB – 6.
Edwards put in a solid if unspectacular performance on his less familiar left hand side. He didn’t show his very best brilliance in the game, but considering he’s a right footer who likes to run at defenders and put in conventional crosses, rather than cut inside and dribble, it’s to be expected that the role may not suit his skills so well. He did the defensive stuff tidily and looked capable on the occasions that he did decide to cut inside. It is a slight shame that our only two fit wing backs both prefer to play on the right, but if we keep winning, who will complain?
Finn Azaz, ARM – 6.
Whilst it was far from a poor performance from the tricky Irish winger, it wasn’t perhaps the level of dazzling creativity that we are used to watching from him. He still got into the right positions but he didn’t quite leave defenders trailing in his wake like he has done in other games. His finishing was also nothing to boast about, missing a number of chances. Still, his overall impact on the game was positive and he should expect to remain a regular starter in the team.
Ryan Hardie, ST – 6.
I’ve said it before about Hardie – he isn’t the type of striker who’s a natural in this formation or set-up but that certainly doesn’t stop him being a trier. In truth, he’s far more at home in a two up front that allows him to burst in behind the defenders and grab goals rather than one that requires him to hold the ball up and bring others into play. He managed to win a couple of duels before distributing them in this game, but he’s notably less comfortable at doing so than either of Argyle’s alternatives for the striker slot.
Danny Mayor, ALM – 6.
He started the game like a jack in the box, full of energy and determined to make his mark on the game. Always cutting inside, he threatened to give the visiting defenders twisted blood before too long. However his influence did wane as the game went on and it wasn’t a huge shock to see him subbed off. Schumacher’s post-match explanation that the tricky playmaker was suffering from a sickness bug made perfect sense and also explained his mad dash down towards the dressing rooms after being substituted!
Morgan Whittaker, ALM – 8.
Whilst Argyle were on top for all of this game, things had began to go a little stale around the hour mark. It was the substitutes that changed the game and, of the subs, no one did more than the goalscorer. Whittaker was a breath of fresh air when he came on, his dynamism being the perfect response to threaten defenders who were already tiring. He topped it off with a fantastic winning goal, a superb, powerful finish right into the corner that the goalkeeper did well to get even near to.
Niall Ennis, ST – 7.
Whittaker may well have been the most important of the substitutes, but Ennis’ role should not be understated. As I mentioned earlier, he is a far more natural target man than Hardie. Whilst he might not get as many goals, he offered something vital: a direct option for us to go long to rather than be entirely reliant on our possession football which as good as it is, can have its limitations at times. I think he’s a good candidate for a starting spot at Fratton Park.
Sam Cosgrove, ARM – 7.
The hero of Pride Park was bought on to see the game out and that he did, making a creditable nuisance of himself in the process. He could have topped it off with another goal after a defensive scramble but he wasn’t able to find the finish on this occasion.
James Wilson, RCB – N/A.
He was bought on in stoppage time to kill a bit of time and provide a more defensive option and hardly, if at all, touched the ball.
Jordan Houghton, RCM – N/A.
Also bought on in stoppage time to kill a bit of time and provide a more defensive option and hardly, if at all, touched the ball.