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Saturday, 15 December, 2018

Poor Plymouth disappoint in opening League One loss

No excuses for Argyle's defeat at Walsall

Plymouth Argyle manager Derek Adams
1 of 1

Sky Bet League One

Walsall 2 Plymouth 1
Cook 45    Edwards 40
Leahy 64

The new EFL season was only 40 minutes old when it provided what will be one of the moments of the entire campaign, but Plymouth were unable to build on comeback kid Ryan Edwards' opener and can have few complaints in their 2-1 defeat at Walsall.

Edwards, playing his first game since January after being diagnosed with testicular cancer, was on the end of a Conor Grant set-piece to put Plymouth in front. However, Andy Cook levelled after his initial penalty was saved by Matt Macey and Luke Leahy's second-half free kick settled this Sky Bet League One opener.

Some bookmakers had reported each-way support for Argyle to win the title following last season's fast-finishing seventh-placed finish, but their shot data did not always match their excellent results and the betting markets were against Plymouth as they drifted to outsiders against a team tipped by many for a relegation battle.

On this evidence - and it is important to remember it is only one game - Plymouth did not appear a team ready to break into the top six with Adams singling out supposed creative sparks Graham Carey and Ruben Lameiras for strong criticism.

Lameiras lasted 45 minutes before being hooked for the equally ineffective Freddie Ladapo as Argyle switched to a 4-4-2 formation and Adams' post-match chat where he claimed "we created a lot of good opportunities throughout," was dubious to say the least. 

Plymouth did come on strong in the last 20 minutes as they attempted to force an equaliser, although with the exception of a late Carey shot, most of their dangerous moments came from the set-piece delivery of Grant rather than open play.

Carey's lack of influence on the game showed Argyle are one-dimensional if the gifted Scot is kept quiet. David Fox directed matters in midfield and they looked okay defensively, but in attack it was mainly direct balls up to target-man Ryan Taylor.

Adams had his excuses lined up afterwards, blaming the pitch "it was too slow" and the referee "we had a number of penalty claims and that was the story of the game," but ultimately Plymouth did not do anywhere near enough to send the 1,700 or so travelling Green Army home with a positive result.

Edwards' goal alone will have been worth the visit for many and these are still early days for Argyle with five debutants starting, so a bedding-in process may be necessary. However, Plymouth must improve considerably to get near to repeating last season's efforts.

The opposition

Walsall started the season as fourth favourites to go down with a reported bottom-four budget and their thin-looking squad could be exposed as the season progresses, but the spirited Saddlers were the better side for three-quarters of the game.

Dean Keates has worked on his team's shape throughout the summer and the 4-4-2 is attack-minded with two hungry strikers in Andy Cook and Morgan Ferrier signed from non-league plus offensive wingers in Josh Ginnelly and Zeli Ismail.

The Saddlers' star man, however, was midfielder George Dobson, who was particularly impressive in the second half as he highlighted an excellent range of passing to get Walsall on top.

As well as the two goals the Saddlers hit the woodwork twice through Jack Fitzwater and Cook, who is a powerful presence determined to shoot at every available opportunity.

Ferrier, who won the penalty which helped Walsall get back into the game, was the less selfish of the pair and put in a decent shift to suggest the pre-season doom and gloom merchants may have been too pessimistic on the Saddlers' survival hopes. 

Walsall - 4-4-2: Roberts; Devlin, Guthrie, Fitzwater, Leahy; Ismail, Chambers (Kinsella ht), Dobson, Ginnelly (Wilson 84); Ferrier (Morris 57), Cook.

Plymouth - 4-3-2-1: Macey; Riley, Edwards, Wootton, Smith-Brown (Wylde 88); Grant (Sawyer 74), Fox, Ness; Lameiras (Ladapo ht), Carey; Taylor. 

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Plymouth must improve considerably to get near to repeating last season's efforts
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