ARGYLE went into 2007 with a passion and pride that only narrowly failed to overcome a stubborn Southampton rearguard action.
Behind as early as the fifth minute to a controversial Grzegorz Rasiak goal after another kicking error from goalkeeper Romain Larrieu, manager Ian Holloway's injury-hit, callow, side showed that spirit can carry you a long way.
Indeed, had it not have been for some appalling refereeing, Barry Hayles' eighth-goal-of-the-season equalizer just after the hour might not have been only a point-saver.
Hayles was later sent off by referee Kevin Wright, who also incurred Holloway's anger when, having allowed Rasiak to net from an offside position, he ruled against David Norris who had apparently scored a perfectly good goal.
Holloway was obliged to change both full-backs that had started the Pilgrims' 1-0 defeat at Derby two days earlier, with Paul Connolly and Hasney Aljofree failing to pass muster.
A third game in a week was deemed too much for Connolly, who made a return from injury at Cardiff only on Boxing Day, while Aljofree's apparent magnetism for every odd stray elbow and knee going left the battered defender on the substitutes' bench.
Their places went, nominally, to Gary Sawyer and 16-year-old Dan Gosling, who was given his full debut two months before he signs professional terms.
Much New Year's Eve shuffling of hands had obviously taken place at Chez Holloway before the manager settled on moving Marcel Seip to right-back and Tony Capaldi to left, allowing Sawyer to partner Mathias Kouo-Doumbe in central defence.
Gosling, who began the season hoping to cement a place in the Pilgrims' Jewson South Western League side, started 2007 on the right side of midfield, facing Czech international Rudi Skacel, arguably the best in his position in the Championship. May as well start as you mean to go on, I guess.
That meant that David Norris was moved across the pitch to the largely unknown territory of the left side of the midfield.
Injury necessitated a third change for Argyle with Sylvan Ebanks-Blake failing to recover from the ankle knock that forced him off Pride Park after just 12 minutes. His place went - as it had done at the weekend - to Cherno Samba, another full debutant.
Southampton have also had their fair share of injury woes recently, but George Burley has been able to call on replacements with greater experience.
The Saints' manager had to do without midfielder Nathan Dyer, who suffered a knee injury during the 2-0 home victory over Leicester at the weekend, which gave England Under-21 international David Prutton a rare opportunity.
Burley was also without suspended Trinidad and Tobago international forward Kenwyne Jones whose boots were filled by Bradley Wright-Phillips, a £500,000-plus capture from Manchester City in the summer.
Argyle could have taken the lead and went behind, all within the first five minutes on a rain-sodden pitch.
Samba looked odds-on to give the Pilgrims a swift start to the new year when he latched on to Lilian Nalis's first-time ball and broke through with only goalkeeper Kelvin Davis to beat. Davis, though, managed to block what was never the most confident of efforts.
The Saints' riposte was deadly, but helped by some Argyle defending that was, at best, uncertain in the conditions, and the currently totally unworkable, incomprehensible, inconsistent, unexplainable, uninterpreterable, offside regulations.
Rasiak was yards offside when a long ball was played out of the Southampton defence, vaguely in his direction. The big Pole was deemed 'inactive', a ludicrous decision which he then proceeded to make a total nonsense of as - without having previously attempted to achieve a legal position - he followed up on Romain Larrieu's scuffed kick and saw it rebound off him into the net.
I would really like someone from FIFA or UEFA, or even the Old Bull and Bush to explain to us all precisely when his inaction ceased and his action began. No, on second thoughts, do not bother - the rule does nothing to enhance the beautiful game, is utter filth, and should be disposed of forthwith.
At that point, you feared the worst for Argyle's injury-hit, inexperienced, young side but, to their great credit, they showed enough of the spirit that has served them so well this season to remain a threat. Enough? What am I saying? They had it in bucketloads. It might have been 1-0 at the interval but it was 14-2 in the corner-count.
Norris and Akos Buzsaky both made inroads, individually and as a team, down the left, and Davis just beat Samba to one particularly wicked cross from the Hungarian, while Wright and Saint's own wunderkind Gareth Bale, were forced to make goal-line clerances.
A firm downward header by Nalis, following Capaldi's right-wing corner, was shoveled away by Wright on Davis's left-hand post, while Bale nipped in front of Gosling to deprive the youngster of an opportunity to mark his full debut with a goal that would have made him the club's second-youngest ever scorer.
Holloway was forced to switch his options again ten minutes before half-time when Mathias Kouo-Doumbe added to the Pilgrims' injury problems, limping out of action with what appeared to be a back problem.
Luke Summerfield came on, with - pay attention - Seip moving to centre-back, Gosling dropping to right full-back, Norris switching to right-midfield, Buzsaky going out to the left, and Summerfield slotting in to centre midfield.
In ever-worsening climatic conditions, the Pilgrims continued to take the game to the Saints. Buzsaky's shot after a sweet turn was blocked by Chris Baird, while a smart shot from skipper Barry Hayles was grasped by Davis.
Davis then made two splendid saves in the space of a few minutes, beating away Buzsaky's fearsome left-footed drive on his right-hand side, and similarly thwarting Sawyer's attempt at the far post.
Argyle began the second half as they had ended the first, encamped in the Southampton half. Davis was booked within two minutes for handling outside the area but Buzsaky could not get the ball up and down, while Norris, back on the right, continued to terrorise.
Samba was withdrawn ten minutes into the half in favour of Reuben Reid: Reid, Summerfield, Gosling, Sawyer - you would have got long odds at the beginning of the season on that quartet featuring in a first-team line-up together.
Sawyer showed why he was there with a fantastic block as Southampton - now playing entirely on the break - fashioned an opening for Wright-Phillips which he took in his stride with a full-blooded strike.
As Argyle began to tire, mentally and physically, Southampton should have added to their lead when Jermaine Wright picked out Wright-Phillips for a header that he should at least have got on target.
Just as Southampton must have been thinking 'job done', the estimable Hayles sniffed out the umpteenth goal of his career, seizing on a rebound after Buzsaky had fired in a shot at the Devonport end to stab the ball in.
Any thought that the momentum was entirely with Argyle was immediately dissipated when Wright-Phillips was again thwarted by a tremendous block, again from Sawyer.
Norris then had a goal chalked off for reasons known only to the linesman who had earlier excused Rasiak's wander into the wilderness, a decision which incurred a previously unseen depth of wrath from Holloway.
Despite sending on another green Green in the shape of left-winger Ryan Dickson, Argyle were unable to find a winner that their tireless effort and self-belief merited.
Their task in this regard was made harder when Hayles was sent off for a second yellow card, given for protecting himself at one of Davis's kick-outs, having earlier been dubiously booked when Alexander Ostlund went down mighty easily in the tackle. Two poor, poor, refereeing decisions from a poor, poor referee.
Argyle (4-4-2): 1 Romain Larrieu; 19 Marcel Seip, 13 Mathias Kouo-Doumbe (29 Luke Summerfield, 35), 18 Gary Sawyer; 14 Tony Capaldi; 30 Dan Gosling, 8 Akos Buzsaky (25 Ryan Dickson 82), 4 Lilian Nalis, 7 David Norris; 21 Cherno Samba (27 Reuben Reid 55), 10 Barry Hayles (capt). Substitutes (not used): 6 Hasney Aljofree, 23 Luke McCormick (gk).
Sent off: Hayles 84 (two yellows)
Booked: Norris 68, Hayles 71, Buzsaky 77.
Southampton (4-4-2): 1 Kelvin Davis; 2 Alexander Ostlund, 21 Chris Baird, 5 Claus Lundekvam, 22 Gareth Bale; 20 David Prutton (19 Chris Makin half-time), 3 Pedro Pele, 10 Jermaine Wright, 7 Rudi Skacel (12 Mario Licka half-time); 8 Bradley Wright-Phillips (35 David McGoldrick 82), 9 Grzegorz Rasiak. Substitutes (not used): 4 Marcelo Sarmiento, 28 Bartosz Bialowski.
Booked: Bale 42, Davis 47, Pele 77.
Referee: Kevin Wright (Cambridgeshire).
Attendance: 15,377 (1,653 away).