Sarcevic 10, Kennedy 56
Leyton Orient 3
Massey 43, 88, Semedo 90
by Haden Tye
ARGYLE'S Valentines Day was spoiled by a heartbreaking late Leyton Orient double that snatched a 3-2 victory from the claws of Derek Adams' men in the cruelest fashion.
The Pilgrims led twice, through Antoni Sarcevic and Matthew Kennedy, but two equalisers from Gavin Massey, the first just before half-time and the second just before the end of 90 minutes, set up Sandro Semedo to fire a winner deep into time added on to keep Orient's survival hopes aflame and win them a game that Argyle had led nearly all evening.
Adams kept faith with the same side that won the Devon Derby at the weekend. The Pilgrims had done the hard work three days earlier by stopping an Exeter side that had gone 12 games unbeaten in their tracks and thumping them 3-0, but now Derek's men were burdened with the expectation of victory against second bottom Orient.
The visitors were yet to win this year, with their last win coming on Boxing Day when they beat Crawley 3-2 at home. Orient were perked up slightly by a draw on the weekend at Huish Park with Gavin Massey scoring two minutes from time to salvage Orient a point and end a run of six consecutive defeats. The O's made three changes bringing in Callum Kennedy, 18-year-old Josh Koroma and 17-year-old Sam Dalby. On paper, Argyle were firm favourites.
The Pilgrims were backed also by a crowd of just over eight-thousand, mostly Argyle fans hoping that their side would give them a valentines present to justify, for many, leaving their partners at home to watch the mighty Greens. Argyle headed into their 30th Sky Bet League Two fixture knowing that a win would at least maintain their 11-point-and-a-game-in-hand lead over 4th-placed Luton Town.
It was the visitors who threatened first, however. A Yann Songo'o clearance deflected kindly for Massey, who teed up midfielder Michael Collins. The O's number 7 fizzed a shot at Luke McCormick, but Argyle's goalkeeper comfortably had his body behind the ball.
The Pilgrims didn't need a warning, though.
An Argyle throw from the left was returned to the feet of Gary Sawyer, who looped a high cross into the Orient penalty area. The cross was met by Argyle's Ryan Taylor, who headed the ball down, and into the path of Antoni Sarcevic and the Pilgrims' new midfielder volleyed home his second goal in an Argyle shirt from close range.
The Pilgrims continued to dominate. They could have doubled their lead just after the 20 minute mark, as a Graham Carey free-kick from the right was glanced across the face of the Orient goal which begged to be turned goalwards. Songo'o couldn't stretch Argyle's advantage however and headed well wide.
Argyle looked confident in possession, but complacency could have let the O's back into the game. After a stray pass, Orient's young striker Dalby worked himself an angle but his shot was palmed over the bar to safety by McCormick with relative ease.
Generally, though, Argyle were in total command, it seemed, slickly moving the ball, and their opposition, around the field. The opener from Argyle had come from the left and Matty Kennedy continued to frighten Myles Judd at right-back for Orient. The on-loan winger whipped a low cross into the box that Taylor flicked over the bar, as he was not quite able to readjust his body around the ball.
After somewhat a stop-start passage of play in which the visitors managed to pick up three bookings, they suddenly struck level. A ball down the left was controlled by Massey, but the O's striker looked like he was heading down a dead end. Massey had a different idea however; he skipped inside and curled an equaliser into the bottom-right corner.
Argyle responded well, and began to shift the ball with more pace and more intent and nearly reaped their rewards instantly from another Carey free-kick. This time the cross came from the left, but was met by the same head; this time Songo'o cushioned the ball across the Orient six-yard-box towards Sokolik but the Pilgrims centre-half couldn't wrap his foot around the ball which was at an awkward height. It went centimetres over the bar.
The Pilgrims pressed again. The ball was once again in the magical feet of Carey, this time on the right. The Irishman curled a cross into the box which was headed out to the edge of the box to the oncoming David Fox, who controlled the ball neatly on his first touch and then prodded a volley goalwards, which missed the corner of Orient's net by a whisker.
Argyle started the second-half the way they end the first - in the ascendancy. The visitors sat deep when they didn't have the ball, and Fox was dictating play for the Pilgrims, switching the ball from left to right and then back again. A lofted ball out wide was chested down by Sawyer, who then played the ball back to Kennedy who was in a crossing position.
However, putting the Pilgrims back in front was the only thing that crossed Kennedy's mind.
Kennedy feigned a cross and jinxed into the Orient box. His drop of the shoulder had gained him a yard, and then his step over gained him another. A beautiful curling shot flew into the right top corner of the goal to put Argyle ahead once again. If he hadn't announced himself on Saturday, he had now. Matthew Kennedy, everyone.
He wasn't done there. Moments later it was nearly deja vu, as Kennedy cut in again. He twisted past Judd and whipped another shot towards the right of the goal, past a stationary goalkeeper, but this time his effort hit the post and rebounded out.
Whilst the Pilgrims looked like they could smell blood, they very nearly shot themselves in the foot for their superiority. An Argyle attack was snuffed out, and the ball was played into the feet of Massey on the half way line. The O's broke away and after a neat one-two, Massey got a shot away but Songo'o made a sliding block to divert it wide for a corner. The resulting corner passed through a sea of bodies to reach the feet of Josh Koroma at the back post, but his shot was again blocked and went wide for another corner.
With five minutes to go, the game presented two alternate endings in a moment of seconds.
Argyle had a corner from the right, which was cleared away, but the clearance rebounded off Nauris Bulvitis and looked certain to hit the back of the net. However, the ball hit the left post and trickled across the goal line for Sam Sargeant to dive on.
The O's then went down the other end and very nearly equalised. A Massey cross from the right fell to Koroma, who found himself in a lot of space. The Orient winger got his shot away, but Oscar Threlkeld recovered in time to block his effort.
Then the visitors did equalise. With two minutes to play Callum Kennedy's cross into the Argyle box, which was met by the head of Dalby, who made minimal contact but just enough for Massey to run onto and smash into the Argyle net on the volley.
Argyle's Kennedy then looked to get back into the action and passed into Fox who hit a shot that was headed narrowly over the bar by Nicky Hunt. The pressure was all Argyle's, but then the Pilgrims got stung. Again.
Another Orient breakaway resulted in Massey crossing to Koroma who side-footed a shot that was blocked by the legs of McCormick but fell straight to Sandro Semedo who fired low and hard for Orient's winner.
The Pilgrims rolled the dice again, but it was too little too late. It was a result few saw coming, in a manner that even fewer could forsee. Derek's men will now have to pick themselves up on Saturday as they travel to Hartlepool.
A set-back for Argyle, but an eight point lead over fourth still exists. And a game in hand.
Have faith, Pilgrims.
Argyle (4-1-4-1): 23 Luke McCormick (capt); 18 Oscar Threlkeld, 31 Jakub Sokolik, 15 Sonny Bradley (5 Nauris Bulvitis 15), 3 Gary Sawyer; 4 Yann Songo'o; 10 Graham Carey (14 Jake Jervis 80), 24 David Fox 79, 7 Antoni Sarcevic (11 Ryan Donaldson 38), 16 Matty Kennedy; 19 Ryan Taylor. Substitutes (not used): 8 Jordan Slew, 9 Jimmy Spencer, 21 Vincent Dorel (gk), 27 Craig Tanner.
Bookings: Kennedy 82.
Crawley Town (4-4-2): 24 Sam Sargeant (gk); 29 Myles Judd, 6 Tom Parkes, 16 Nicky Hunt, 3 Callum Kennedy; 28 Josh Koroma, 7 Michael Collins, 4 Liam Kelly, 22 Sandro Semedo; 11 Gavin Massey, 30 Sam Dalby. Substitutes (not used): 12 Charlie Grainger (gk), 19 Teddy Mezague, 20 Rowan Liburd, 23 Freddy Moncur, 26 Victor Adeboyejo, 31 Steven Alzate, 34 Michael Clark.
Bookings: Kennedy 37, Parkes 39, Hunt 41, Semedo 52, Kelly 69.
Referee: Christopher Sarginson.
Attendance: 8,054 (156 away)