DEREK Adams is not typically a man to pick out certain players for praise, but the performances of two of his starting 11 against Bristol Rovers prompted him to give glowing reviews.
It was fitting in many ways that Josh Simpson was the man to give Argyle a late equaliser that earned a deserved point at the Memorial Stadium. His all-action display in the middle of the park saw him tirelessly break up potential attacks and get Argyle going on forays forward of their own.
After Billy Bodin had nodded Rovers in front with 11 minutes remaining, it looked as though Argyle’s six-match unbeaten away run was coming to an ended. Simpson, though, was lurking on the edge of the area when the home side half-cleared Jake Jervis’ right-wing cross, and the Pilgrims’ number eight rifled home a low drive to send 1,200 members of the Green Army down the M5 with slightly happier hearts.
“It was a very good finish,” said Derek. “He is an experienced campaigner, he plays the role well. He is very calm, and he finished it into the bottom corner.”
Had it not been Josh to secure the point, one feels that Gregg Wylde would have been an equally suitable candidate. The Scottish winger excelled in playing in the gaps allowed him by Rovers’ 3-5-2 formation, and his powerful drive against the crossbar was the closest Argyle came to breaking the first-half deadlock.
His continued bursts down the left side came with pace unmatched by any home defender, all of whom will be feeling the effects after the game.
“Gregg Wylde was unplayable today,” said Derek. “He was probably as close to being man of the match as Josh. He was outstanding.
“The amount of times he got into a wide area, the crosses he made into the box, the pace he had – they just couldn’t live with him.
“He’s a big player for us; Jake Jervis had to do it on the opposite side, but we didn’t get the ball down that side as many times as we did on the left.”
Adams selected Ryan Brunt in the starting line-up, in a move that looked initially like he was going for a front two of Brunt and Reuben Reid. Ryan, though, playing against his old club, actually played in a deeper role just off of Reid, and with an eye to keep tracks on Bristol playmaker Chris Lines.
Brunt was selected ahead of Craig Tanner and the returning Graham Carey, who was on the bench, marking his return to the squad following a knee injury sustained around two months ago. After the match, Derek explained his thinking.
“We had to deal with the physical approach from Bristol Rovers from corner kicks,” he said, “and I knew the goalkeeper didn’t kick the ball far so it gave us an extra one in midfield where we could head the ball on the halfway line and start our attacks from there.
“[Carey] is still a wee bit away but it was good to have him back on the bench and good to get him on the pitch today.”