A totally bizarre game at AFC Wimbledon’s temporary home will live long in the memory of fans who bought a ticket to watch the stream. To say Argyle were a good laxative is understanding the stress of the experience. Argyle were largely good in the first half, a couple of defensive errors not enough to blot the copyback of a good 45 minutes that saw us lead 2-1. From minutes 45 to 70 however, Argyle totally fell apart at the seams, conceding three goals. Predictably, Argyle started playing again when the game seemed dead and buried. Some inspired substitutions from Ryan Lowe saw the spoils shared.
Mike Cooper, GK – 4.
I don’t want to appear like one of those fickle fans. Really, I don’t. The last thing I want to come across as, is one of those flip-floppers who changes his mind on players like like the changing of the wind. All of that said, after giving him man of the match last week and hailing the birth of a star, I’m now on the point of contemplating whether a loan move may be the best outcome for the young keeper. He has potential, of course he does. Even today he showed it, making himself big for a good save and showing the rapidfire distribution that has become a trademark of his in recent games.
We still can’t quite avoid the elephant in the room. For two of the goals Argyle conceded against Wimbledon, Cooper could have done better. Poor decision making is becoming a concern. For the second goal, he seemed to almost hover off his line before McLoughlin stabbed the ball home for Wimbledon. For the third, he was positioned too far to the right as Pigott lined up to take the free-kick for Wimbledon, leaving the left side of his goal exposed. We’ll need to see how he does with a better defender in front of him (as we surely will next week) but, as high as his potential ceiling may be, he does need to improve fast.
Will Aimson, RCB – 5.
Aimson wasn’t Argyle’s worst offender for most of the game today, but nor did he demonstrate the quality that we’ve seen from the ex-Bury centre-back at his very best. He was composed and calm for most of the first half, gliding into the right positions to clear loose balls, reading the game accurately in front of him. He was a threat from dead balls too and as ever, played the ball well out of defence.
His part in the second half shambles however, was both individual and collective. The cross for the second goal came too easily down his side and his part in the fourth goal was decisive. Giving the ball away under no pressure was an absolute howler and Wimbledon were soon one vs one with Cooper. His start to the season has been solid enough. He’s certainly been the best of the three defensively but he needs to do a lot better than the defensive debacle we saw after half-time.
Scott Wootton, CB – 4.
Aaaaaargh. Let me take a deep breath before punching the wall. I wasn’t among the fans who were writing off the capability of Scott Wootton this season, but even the most ardent optimists would surely agree that it was always a bit of a shot in the dark. Moving him to the middle of the three was a bold move by Ryan Lowe but, early on, it did appear to work. He was good against Blackpool and actually, for MOST of the Orient game too. Sadly, the enormous gaffe he made in the 93rd minute of that fixture seemed to be weighing heavily on his mind today.
He appeared flustered and panicked whenever he got the ball, trying to play the game at 100 miles per hour and just not having the skillset to do so. His use of the ball was erratic and his marking appalling, letting men get away from him on far too many occasions to justify. His rating could have been even lower if he wasn’t put out of his misery after Wimbledon’s fourth goal.
Kelland Watts, LCB – 5.
Kelland Watts is a frustrating player to watch and a difficult player to score out of ten. He does have some good attributes, not least the occasional glimpses of real composure that we can sometimes see. He played his way out well at times, especially in the first half. He offers a threat going forward too, demonstrating the ever-changing role of the centre-back in a 3-5-2 system. As seen in Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United side, the two sides of the back three expand the capabilities of the system by overlapping and offering a threat from wide areas. Watts did this well scoring on Tuesday and to his credit, should have earned a penalty today. If the game wasn’t officiated by one of the most questionable referees in the league, he surely would have done.
That said, I’m afraid he doesn’t escape a rollocking for his part in the defensive disasterclass that we witnessed. A miscommunication between Watts and Wootton saw Longman in one v one for the fourth and he was part of the general meltdown that we witnessed, with every player playing like they’d taken espresso shots before the game. Too much chaotic energy, not enough composure.
Lewis McLeod, DCM – 4.
We can have a go at the defence and the keeper all we like. And yes, there are some legitimate reasons for criticism. All that said, the defence are always going to find themselves in difficulty if they receive protection as poor as that which was offered by McLeod for most of today’s game. Frankly, he looks either unfit or out of position, quite possibly both.
He usually starts games well enough, winning a lot of loose balls and recycling the ball nicely. The more the games go on, however, the more his performance levels begin to drop. There was a spell between minutes 45 and 70 (or so) where Wimbledon cut through Argyle like a knife through butter, and the Scottish midfielder was too often AWOL during these period. The ferocious intensity and calmness whilst intercepting that we see during his good spells just weren’t present at the time.
I’m SURE he’s got more to offer than this, and I don’t doubt that’d he’d be better in an advanced role. Right now however, we’re being cut open too easily and he’s a clear candidate to be dropped. To his credit, he did deliver a lovely corner for Canavan’s goal but that in itself isn’t enough to justify his place.
Joe Edwards, RWB – 4.
After a relatively good run of form in the right-wing-back role, Edwards put in a much weaker performance today and it was one that exposed the his weaknesses in such a role. In stark contrast with George Cooper on the other side, Edwards’ end product was non existent, with barely one threatening cross into the box all game. He did technically register an assist for a nice bit of interplay before Conor Grant’s stunning goal but that was about the sum of his attacking contribution.
In defence too, his performance was (whilst not as bad as some others) certainly flawed. He was too often pinned back and the good pressing that we saw against Blackpool was nowhere to be seen. Like Wootton, he was rightly subbed off early.
Conor Grant, RCM – 8. Player of the Match.
THAT was the performance Plymouth Argyle had been waiting for from the man some are now calling the Merseyside Messi. I’ve said it for a while but I just think we play a bit better when Conor Grant plays, especially with the ball. He’s always good for composure and for recycling the ball. What we don’t see from him too often however (and it was very welcome today) is an assertive, controlling performance that bosses the midfield and creates chances going forward.
He did all of this today as well as scoring an absolutely beautiful goal, a clear contender for goal of the season. He took control from over 20 yards out and at a tricky angle before whacking the shot into the top corner. One of Argyle’s best technical players, today he also played like a leader. He scrapped for possession all over the pitch and was one of the few not to lose their head. Only a cheap free kick for Wimbledon’s third stops him getting an even higher mark.
Danny Mayor, LCM – 8.
The resurgence of Danny Mayor so far has been one of the season’s success stories. Argyle are playing a style of football that, whilst still not exactly like Ajax 1995, is far more focused around ball retention than the somewhat more direct style that we resorted to in the winter months of last season. What we’re really starting to see grow in Danny Mayor is confidence.
He takes on defenders with a swagger that lets them know that they have something to wear. Some of his interplay with George Cooper, particularly in the first half, was genuinely a pleasure to watch. There’s a lot of moaning to be had about the defence but let’s celebrate the attack too. Argyle scored four goals today and Mayor was an irresistible attacking force for most of the game.
George Cooper, LWB – 8.
If Mayor was good in the first half, Cooper was bordering on unplayable. His movement was absolutely joyous to witness, weaving in and out of the Dons’ defence with total ease. He also got the opening goal for Argyle, picking the ball from the feet of the Wimbledon defender after the (admittedly slightly botched) short corner routine. He then slammed the ball into the top corner of the net, firing the starting pistol on what was to be a truly remarkable game of football.
Did he drop off in our bad spell during the second half? Yes, he did a bit. But when we picked up again, he returned to his very finest form, whipping in some lethal crosses that nobody quite got on the end of in the last twenty minutes.
Ryan Hardie, ST – 7.
It’s quite ironic really. Argyle have scored twelve goals so far this season (with eleven different scorers no less!) but none of them have yet fallen to Ryan Hardie, the man who, last season, looked like he could find a way to score a goal in a locked room. It’s not as though he hasn’t been lively. He’s still been trying the right things. He attacks misplaced balls from wayward defenders with the hunger of a terrier and he shows expert movement to get into behind when the chance presents itself.
Where he’s lacked so far is in the finishing. He had a big chance to put Argyle 3-1 up early in the second half and potentially kill the ball in the process, but unfortunately he fired tamely into the arms of the goalkeeper. He had another chance whilst scores were level at 2-2 but again he couldn’t find the net. It may take a while for that first goal to come, but I’m confident that the floodgates will open when it does.
Frank Nouble, ST – 5.
Despite his excellent last twenty minutes, this was another game from Nouble that asked more questions than it answered. He was pretty appalling for the first 65 minutes of the match, probably the worst in a crowded field for the greens. When Dom Telford lined up to come on, most fans assumed it would be Nouble who came off. To our great surprise, it was the largely effective Ryan Hardie.
The chance of a reprieve however, breathed new life into the big striker. He did more good in the next five minutes of the game than he’d done in the first three quarters. He offered a brilliant outlet for targeted long balls and he ran at defenders with menace, a key component in our dominant final twenty of the game. There was only ever going to be one winner after the scores went to 4-4 and Nouble looked among the most threatening players for Argyle. That said, he does need to improve. He can’t just keep on turning up for part of the game, or else his place in the side will be at risk.
Byron Moore, RWB – 7.
Moore was brought on just after Argyle went behind in the game and frankly he improved matters for us simply by not being Joe Edwards. Moore carried the ball well down the line and put considerable effort into the high press as the greens took the game to the hosts. There are still some questions to be asked about the end product, but it’s surely now time to give him a full game from the off against Shrewsbury.
Niall Canavan, CB – 8.
Wow! Argyle’s best defender last season, many fans were surprised and dismayed to see him left out of Ryan Lowe’s starting eleven this season. Canavan was given the chance to replace Wootton from the bench and he threw down the gauntlet to reclaim his spot in the middle of the back three.
Given the armband, Canavan led by example. A calming presence with headless chickens all around him, he put in a near flawless performance from the bench. He won headers, started breakaways and even popped up with a goal. The only reason he isn’t man of the match is the relatively short time he was on the pitch. And even then, he was under serious consideration. It’ll be a travesty if he doesn’t start at home to the Shrews.
Dom Telford, ST – 8.
Telford needed a big performance from the bench today to save his reputation with the green army after a frustrating showing on Tuesday night. The diminutive striker went from zero to hero with an electric display that was crucial to Argyle’s two goal blast towards the end of the game.
He moved brilliantly and took his goal with the instinct of the poacher. Telford showed for the duration why he was such a highly rated player at Bury and as a youngster. Let’s hope he keeps it up, especially if he’s given a start against Shrewsbury.