It was yet another breathtaking night at Home Park as Argyle established a five point gap over third in the league, beating Sheffield Wednesday 2-1. The truly extraordinary season has produced some very memorable games so far and this wasn’t an exception. Two early goals a piece saw the game level for the majority of it before Sam Cosgrove got a late winner, after having a very clear penalty shout denied and a ghost goal not awarded. Either side could have won the game, with both teams showing more aptitude in attack than they did in defence. Argyle dominated the last twenty minutes but could have been behind before that point, with Cooper saving a lot of great Wednesday chances. Here are your ratings:
Mike Cooper, GK – 9 Player of the Match.
Quite frankly, I don’t know what more I can say about Cooper that doesn’t descend into cliche. I could say he goes beyond superlatives but that itself is a cliche. All I can say is that it was another fantastic performance in goal for Argyle’s number one. He totally controlled his goal throughout, making one trademark reflex save from Johnson in the second half which somehow manages to look even more impressive on the highlight reels. This is before we even mention his superb reaction speeds when the ball bounced onto him off the crossbar, or indeed his fine positioning for the one v one against Smith. The amount of points he’s won Argyle this season must already be well past 5 and perhaps will be at double figures before too long.
James Wilson, RCB – 5.
Sadly, whilst we praise Cooper for making an array of fine saves, it does in this instance mean some criticism is due to the defence for making a few unforced errors that gave him too much to do. Wilson on two occasions (one before the goal) strayed needlessly out of position allowing the defensive line to become stretched and disorientated. You can perhaps give some allowance for the fact that these mistakes came against a good team like Wednesday but his passing too was a bit sloppy. His long passes often seemed aimless rather than targeted.
Dan Scarr, CCB – 5.
Scarr too has largely had a great season but like Wilson, had a game too often littered with errors. He can perhaps be slightly mitigated by cleaning up after the two centre-backs either side of him but some of the errors were still genuinely his own. Most of them were inconsequential and didn’t result in big chances but one act of overcommitment lead to the one v one chance that Cooper thankfully saved from Smith.
Nigel Lonwijk, LCB – 4.
It happens when you’re a young player, ultimately. I’ve spent most of my last few ratings columns raving about how brilliant he is but sometimes when you’re young and learning, the occasional stinker comes along. He completely lost his man for the goal and made plenty of other mistakes both on and off the ball. It wasn’t an irredeemable game. His energetic high pressing and tackling paid dividends on occasions. Overall though, it was one to forget for the loanee and he was rightly substituted.
Joe Edwards, RWB – 7.
Edwards was one of a number of players in the starting who put in a line-up who put in a performance that could perhaps best be classified as ‘solid if unspectacular. As much as we had our moments all game, we only truly dominated when the subs came on. Still, Edwards did what he had to do defensively and on occasions proved an attacking threat, making the odd overlapping run to draw their left-wing-back out of position.
Adam Randell, RCM – 7.
This is going to sound weird, but bear with me. The fact that Randell still has some very obvious areas for improvement is probably the most exciting thing about him. There were some moments in the game that had me frustrated with the young Plymouthian, getting a bit bullied in the possession turnover for the goal and carelessly giving it away shortly after. That said, the fact he can have these little lapses in games and still dominate them so heavily speaks to his incredibly high ceiling of potential. In the second half, his use of the ball was far better and he was his usual high-energy self throughout, winning tackles and headers (no mean feat for someone of his size).
Matt Butcher, LCM – 7.
Back in the days of Paul Sturrock’s title winning side, Steve Adams won the title of the ‘invisible man’ for doing the small and dirty things well, without ever appearing to look like a superstar. That role in this side is absolutely filled by Butcher who again had another efficient evening. When he picked the ball up, he usually kept hold of it and like Randell, he maintained a high level of energy off it. However, we should probably consider rotating him out, at least for some games, as his replacement from the bench was even better. As good as the dirty stuff is, you want to see a bit more from him on the ball.
Bali Mumba, LWB – 7.
An archetypal tale of two halves for Mumba. He was quite out of the game in the first half, often being squeezed and forced deep by the excellent performance of Palmer on the right hand side for the visitors. As Argyle began to settle into the game, he got on the ball more and more and consequently looked more dangerous. His link-up with Ennis (who was excellent as a wide forward off the bench) was cohesive. That’s a partnership that I’d like to see more of in the future.
Morgan Whittaker, ARM – 7.
Much like Mumba before him, Whittaker really found himself getting more into the game as it went on. One of the better of the starting cohort, he always was proactive in making himself available for the out ball. One of his most admirable qualities is his confidence. Never do you feel he’s one to shy away from a game. His long shots may not always go in, but enough of them do that you don’t get too annoyed when the majority sail into the keepers arms.
Ryan Hardie, ST – 7
I’ve made no secret of my view that Hardie isn’t perfectly cut out for this system, but there are games when he’s more suited. Wednesday played a high line in the first half and if you can rely on Hardie for anything at all, it’s his electric pace. Schumacher’s decision to start him was justified within three minutes. Hardie latched on to the ball wafted over that high line of theirs and coolly lifted the ball over Stockdale for the opener. He did tire as the game went on and was rightly replaced by the eventual matchwinner, but his overall contribution was positive.
Finn Azaz, ALM – 7.
Wow – how good was that pass to Hardie just three minutes into the game for the opener? A spectacular weighted long pass, at least fifty yards in length and perfectly targeted for Hardie to latch onto. Azaz may have his quiet spells where he drifts out of games, but there aren’t many in our squad who show his prodigious talent on the ball. There were a few other quick tidy passes later in the game but nothing close to being as spectacular as that. Still, you’d like him to be a bit more proactive.
Jordan Houghton, CM – 8.
You have to give credit where it’s due. A few short weeks ago, I was seriously fed up with Houghton after he followed up his final day horror show with a succession of lacklustre displays. Against Derby, Ipswich and now Wednesday, he has put in a sterling performance from the bench in each instance. His performances have helped the process of turning losses or draws into wins. He was once again dynamic and composed and who can forget his ultra-passionate celebration towards the Devonport End after the winning goal. In line for a recall on Saturday?
Niall Ennis, ALM- 8.
Normally with attackers at this level, you have to make do with either extreme strength or intricate skill. Not so, Niall Ennis. He was a constant threat down the left hand side, constantly forcing the opposing centre-backs into retreat. His finest moment however was obviously the assist for the winning goal. A perfectly weighted cross that Cosgrove headed home to send Home Park into raptures.
Sam Cosgrove, ST – 8.
Has any player ever achieved such an intense cult status after such a short amount of time. From the incredible drama at Derby, through the breaking of the Wycombe curse, to sending Home Park into raptures with the dramatic late winner against Wednesday. Once again he was disruptor when he came on, always hassling defenders and getting in their faces. Aside his beautifully taken header, he really should have been awarded a penalty after a great late run and arguably scored another goal that most likely went over the line. The officials clearly disagreed.
Brendan Galloway, LCB – 8
I mentioned that his good performance at Wycombe was badly needed after a poor run of form. Thankfully, he backed that improvement up with another excellent cameo off the bench. He was strong, committed and intelligent defensively. Going forward, he overlapped well without ever sacrificing his defensive duties.
Conor Grant, LWB – 7.
Usually, a cameo for such a short length of time is not quite long enough to rate a player. He came on with about 5 minutes of normal time to go but used that time to make a superb impression. His involvement in a fine one two with Houghton from a quick throw in, lead to Ennis’ cross for Cosgrove’s goal. Also, it was his cross to Cosgrove that lead to the ghost goal. Whether it crossed the line or not, Grant’s cross was inarguably excellent. It’s so good to have him back.