The pilgrims start Steven Schumacher’s first full season in charge with an excellent team performance.
Just 91 days after an afternoon to forget at the end of April the Greens were back in action at home to newly relegated Barnsley to signal the start of the 2022/23 season. You might have been forgiven for thinking that Argyle were in for a tough afternoon, possibly even still nursing the wounds of three months previous. Instead, they manufactured a thoroughly deserved 1-0 win thanks to Finn Azaz’s strike on the cusp of half time.
So, for the first time in a long time here are your player ratings.
GK: Mike Cooper – 8
Last season’s Player Of The Season picked up where he left off with an assured performance, looking confident when claiming high crosses and coming out to punch. Cooper didn’t have a lot of saves to make but when called upon he made it count. After a short backpass from Scarr towards the start of the second half sent Barnsley through on goal, Cooper was there to make an excellent save 1-on-1 sticking out his right leg to kick it away for a corner.
After some whispers of a move away this summer, Argyle look to have kept arguably their hottest prospect at Home Park for at least another year. If Cooper can keep going from strength to strength as he is right now, then that is surely only great news for all involved.
RWB: Bali Mumba – 9 MOTM
Mumba, who signed on loan from Norwich earlier this month, took advantage of his reprieve last week after an altercation with an opposition player in the 0-2 friendly win over Yeovil saw both seeing red.
Thankfully as that doesn’t count towards competitive mixtures Mumba started at right wing back in place of the injured Mikel Miller, a switch which saw captain Joe Edwards move over to the other side.
Mumba excelled, constantly popping up in places to cover runs from the opposition and causing a persistent threat in attack. This threat in attack eventually paid off with Mumba setting up fellow new man Finn Azaz with a lovely, cushioned pass to finish into the top corner.
Early days of course but Mumba appears to have that ‘dawg in him’ and I feel Argyle fans should be excited about what he might have to offer after this performance.
CB: James Wilson – 7
The best of the centre backs for me this afternoon, Wilson showed his experience particularly positionally mopping up loose balls in the channels. Aside from being generally solid, Wilson was unlucky not to score in the first half after seeing his effort crash off the bar when a free kick was delivered by Finn Azaz in the first half.
Most crucially, not long after Wilson was there to stop the rebound after the ball had crashed off the crossbar following a cross from Barnsley’s right-hand side, preserving the then 0-0 scoreline.
CB: Dan Scarr – 6
Wilson’s defensive counterpart Scarr was solid enough for me this afternoon and dealt with the basics ok without anything to shout about.
The reason I have marked him down though, is his hesitancy with the ball at his feet. This seems this be a slight issue which has carried over from pre-season and actually can be stretched across the defence, with the back 3 in particular appearing to be sometimes sloppy under pressure and playing themselves into trouble. Hesitancy was present amongst all the CB’s this afternoon but I think Scarr was the main perpetrator of this. His aforementioned back pass led to Cooper’s one on one save, and his passes into midfield to Adam Randell sometimes put him under unwanted pressure.
This slight complaint is my only real one it what was a top performance and isn’t really a major issue, just something that Argyle and Scarr will want to look out for as they work back towards 100% match fitness.
CB: Macauley Gillesphey – 7
Gillesphey played this game coming off a shaky pre season, but he showed no signs of that affecting his game today. He made some good strides into midfield when asked too and generally his passing was of no issue as it often is. Some question marks can be added to his one on one defending at times, but two crucial interventions, winning the ball back and blocking a goal bound shot late on, clearly shows Gillesphey’s ability to be a capable defender.
Still only 26, Gillesphey still has time to find the consistency of performance which in my option often alludes him, and if he can do that then Argyle will harbour an undoubtably valuable asset.
LWB: Joe Edwards – 7
On the flip side, consistency always seems to apply to captain Joe Edwards, and this was again the case today, Edwards was dogged and energetic providing some good width on the right hand side providing another passing option for Argyle’s midfield.
Edwards was given the opportunity on two occasions to add a goal to argyle’s tally and ultimately make the final result more comfortable, but he was unusually wild in the finish.
CM: Adam Randell – 8
A top performance from Randell, who was given the opportunity to start ahead of the suspended Jordan Houghton, and in my opinion took it really well
He was positive on the ball, positionally good and dealt well with the press that Barnsley applied. Randell seems to be growing in maturity every game and after gaining the trust of the management team last season with some excellent performances, and if he’s able to continue to push on and maintain this level of performance, I see no reason why he can’t really challenge, or even overtake Jordan Houghton as the starting deep – lying midfielder for his hometown club.
CM: Matt Butcher – 8
Steven Schumacher’s first signing of the summer on a free transfer from Accrington Stanley, Butcher was seen by many as a replacement for the transfer listed Panutche Camara, who despite still being at the club is still recovering from an injury he picked up at the end of last season.
If he is indeed intended to be the replacement for Camara then he passed his first audition with flying colours, being the main pressing threat in a formidable midfield unit this afternoon winning the ball back numerous times becoming a pest that that generally never really allowed the visitors to get going. Most impressive for me was Butcher’s ability to do this right up until the final whistle.
We already know how good Camara is at this and as this performance suggests Butcher can be too, which will hopefully provide the great depth and healthy competition that every team needs to have a successful season.
Finn Azaz – 9
Azaz, who was arguably the best of the pre-season performers, coming off the back of a hugely successful loan with Newport County where he won their player of the season award despite the 25 goals of former Argyle striker Dom Telford, showed why he why he was so liked by the Welsh club’s fanbase.
Operating as a second striker of sorts in a new variation of the 3-4-3 formation, which Steven Schumacher has favoured at the start of the season he occupied clever pockets of space which always kept Barnsley’s defence guessing, also getting into dangerous shooting positions too. He arguably should of put Argyle ahead even before his decisive goal after being played through by Danny Mayor, but a smart save by goalkeeper Bradley Collins denied him.
When the goal did come though he took it brilliantly, after being played square by MOTM Bali Mumba, he struck high into the net with a great finish that stood Collins no chance.
Furthermore, Azaz seemed composed and assured in tight spaces which allowed the midfield unit to operate more smoothly.
Azaz looks a really exciting prospect and on first viewing has all the credentials to become a favourite amongst the Green Army this season.
Danny Mayor – 6
Mayor didn’t look at his sharpest this afternoon in my opinion. Despite getting himself into good positions on the touchline his final ball was lacking and his continued eversion to shooting was frustrating. He still brought bits of what makes him so valuable to this team, but without any real conviction.
ST: Ryan Hardie – 6
Hardie ran his socks off, causing problems with his pace in behind, but he was caught offside a few times and was ultimately unable to fashion many goalscoring opportunities for himself.
Danny Mayor – 6 Mayor didn’t look at his sharpest this afternoon in my opinion. Despite getting himself into good positions on the touchline his final ball was lacking and his continued eversion to shooting was frustrating. He still brought bits of what makes him so valuable to this team, but without any real conviction.
Morgan Whittaker – 7
The on-loan Swansea attacker came on for the fatigued Azaz for the final 10 and was positive and direct against tired legs, he forced one routine save out of Barnsley ‘keeper Collins and put a couple of good challenges in.
Niall Ennis – N/A
Luke Jephcott – N/A
Both with nothing to note.