A result many of us would have no doubt gladly taken before kick-off, it felt no less devastating to be leaving Fratton Park with a 2-2 draw, following a late equaliser by Recco Hackett. Pompey had dominated the first three quarters of the game and despite some good Argyle moments, were deservedly leading. The game changed when Steven Schumacher bought on two substitutes and matched them up with a 4-4-2 formation. Argyle were thereon by far the better side and raced into a two goal lead. All seemed set for a famous win before Brendan Galloway got himself sent off for a scuffle off the ball and Portsmouth’s spare man scored from the resultant throw in. Delayed due to the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth on Monday, here are your match ratings:
Mike Cooper, GK – 6
Not perhaps the finest performance from Cooper, whose fine form recently earned him his 100th consecutive Argyle start. He didn’t exactly do anything disastrous, but he was perhaps a little slow to dive for their equalising goal at the death. His distribution was perfectly fine as was his command but a slight lapse in discipline on his part nearly cost us another sending off at the end, reacting to Hackett’s obnoxious celebration in his (Cooper’s) face by shoving the Pompey man to the ground. Whilst every Argyle fan would have dearly loved to have done the same, it wasn’t perhaps very sensible.
Nigel Lonwijk, RCB – 7
By and large, this was another very encouraging game for the Dutch loanee. His physical strength won us many battles and his pace ensured we got several counter attacks underway. He was good with his brain too, broadly keeping Pompey’s attackers in his pocket. The defender only misses out on an even higher score due to one moment on first half madness where he seemed to block a chance on the line with his hand. Thankfully, the referee missed it and Lonwijk was flawless thereafter.
Dan Scarr, CB – 8
As I mentioned in previous articles, Scarr appears to be one of the most improved players on last season and this game is no exception to that trend. He has added to that physical meatiness which he always had in spades, with a fantastic footballing brain. He marked promising loanee Dane Scarlett, who was kept quiet for most of the game. The ability of the Argyle number six to see where the game was going at all times and react accordingly was vital.
Maccauley Gillesphey, LCB – 5
After a fantastic run in the second half of last season, it once again isn’t quite happening for Gillesphey this time out. In spite of the excellent start Argyle have made to the season, the left-centre-back will probably feel that his own form could be better. When Pompey had their spells on top of the game, they tended to target Argyle’s left hand side. In contrast to Lonwijk on the other side, there were a handful of occasions where Gillesphey let his man in behind him through either a lack of pace or lapse in concentration. It was by no means all bad but he was the weakest member of the back three.
Joe Edwards, RWB – 6
It was a funny game for Edwards. His general standard of performance was pretty good. He mostly defended well and got forward to provide an attacking outlet during our good spells. So, why only a 6? His two biggest moments in the game both had a negative impact. He dived in too easily allowing Koroma to pass him before scoring the game’s opening goal. Also, he arguably should have equalised just before half-time, having been one on one with the home keeper but his shot looked to be trickling wide before an offside Finn Azaz felt the need to tap it in.
Jordan Houghton, CM – 4
I don’t want it to look like I have an agenda against certain players. Really, I don’t. That said, with one or two exceptions, it just hasn’t been going right for Jordan Houghton at all this season. His sloppy performance in this game allowed Portsmouth to too easily walk through the midfield during their dominant spell. He was too slow and too reactive, often not tracking midfield runners when we were out of possession and not showing to receive passes when we were in possession. When he did get on the ball, his passing was sloppy at best. We were much improved when Randell came on.
Matt Butcher, CM – 7
In the media last week, Butcher spoke about a desire to impress against the club he supported as a boy. He certainly did just that, with a typically reliable Butcher performance. Full of thrills and skills it was not, but it was reliable and effective and allowed those around him to do their thing. If any fault can be had, it’s that he could perhaps be doing a little better in front of goal. Two shots went somewhat tamely into the keepers arms.
Bali Mumba, LWB – 7
It’s early days of course, but if Argyle were to do a ‘Player of the Season so far’ then I think it’s fair to say that Bali Mumba would be in the hotseat for it. He put in another strong performance in the game, defensively and offensively. The highlight was a deadly low cross after the change of shape, which was turned into his own net by Sean Raggett.
Morgan Whittaker, ARM – 7
Whittaker seems to be the perfect player to support the mantra of ‘don’t judge a signing too soon’. The start to his Argyle career was frustrating to say the least, but he has played well in the last few games, including this one. His end product was variable in the first half but it improved as the game went on. His second assist for Argyle came in this game, playing a killer ball through which Niall Ennis scored from. He will feel annoyed not to have wrapped the game up having gone around the keeper with a good chance (albeit angled) to make it 3-1. On the whole though, his contribution to the game was a positive one on balance.
Ryan Hardie, ST – 4
There’s no getting away from it. Hardie just isn’t suited to the role of a lone striker in a 3-4-3 formation. There have been some games where he’s put in a better stint of it than others, don’t get me wrong. There have just been too many where he’s looked poor and not at all like contributing positively. This game, I am afraid to say, fell firmly into the latter category. He was outmuscled off the ball in most duels and he didn’t get into the right positions to receive it either. Subbing him off was the right decision and he should start on the bench for the next league game against Ipswich.
Finn Azaz, ALM – 6
Following the blistering start to his Argyle career, Azaz’s last handful of starts (his superb appearance from the bench at Derby notwithstanding) have been a little on the underwhelming side. He passed the ball well when he had to and didn’t make any errors defensively but he seemed to be lacking the sparkle of magic on the ball (and the energy off it) of the Azaz we saw in August. Better after the move to 4-4-2 but not exactly majestic.
Niall Ennis, ST – 8
Frankly, Niall Ennis used his team on the pitch to show why he really should have been starting to begin with. The forward exemplified everything a lone striker in this system ought to do. Ennis was strong, battling defenders. He was quick and sharp in his movement, pulling them out of position. He won headers and flicked them on to other attackers. Most importantly of all, he got into the position to put Argyle into the lead and finished it with aplomb.
Adam Randell, CM – 8 Player of the Match
As excellent as Ennis was however, he wasn’t quite our most influential player off the bench. Part of it was perhaps down to the change of shape, but Randell coming on for Houghton was the biggest moment when it came to turning the game. He was incredibly calm on the ball and did not look like being forced into an error at any stage. His passing range was as good as I’ve ever seen it, starting attack after attack. His pressing off the ball was also relentless.
The only reason his score isn’t even higher is because he only did it for half an hour or so. It was still good enough to win Player of the Match. It’s as clear an example as I can remember of a sub changing the game for the better. It would be a disappointment not to see him in the starting line-up against Ipswich.
Sam Cosgrove, ST – 8
Whilst Ennis and Randell were the main two stars from the bench, the hero of Pride Park also made a valuable contribution. He didn’t directly contribute to any of the goals, but he was the perfect foil for Niall Ennis. A constant menace to the Portsmouth defence, the two up front system allowed him to press with a very high intensity and take defenders out of the game for others to thrive. His distribution was also good whenever he got onto the ball.
Brendan Galloway, LB – 2.
Mistakes, I can forgive. Lapses of concentration, they too are forgivable. It’s far harder to forgive outright stupidity. Bought on because he was more suited than Gillesphey to the left-back slot in a back four, Galloway mostly did his job well. He even got a booking for a bit of tactical time-wasting preventing a throw in. That’s fine, if it’s what’s needed. What happened next was inexplicable.
At another throw-in, a bit of pushing and shoving off the ball resulted in Galloway totally losing his temper and pushing his Portsmouth counterpart over. Already on a yellow, the referee had no choice but to show red. It’s all very well being a good side, but discipline is absolutely vital. You can’t let teams like Pompey and their gamesmanship get inside your head. Galloway did exactly that and consequently two points were peed away up the wall. The hosts scored from the resultant throw-in, due to having an extra man in the box. Argyle’s Fratton hoodoo continues.