Sheffield Wednesday 3
Wood 33, Tudgay pen 72, 90
IT is not easy to be a Pilgrim at the moment.
Argyle's winless start to the season began with a second successive home defeat, and third pointless game in a row, after two encouraging draws.
Strange as it may sound, especially to the non-supportive supporters in Block 16 who chanted riefly for Pilgrims' manager Paul Sturrock's sacking, "encouraging" is a word that should be used in the wake of this match.
There was plenty to admire about the Greens in much of this game. Yes, they are undercooked, and there is certainly more to come from a side that saw three players making their full home debuts and another starting only his second match.
Yes, they cannot buy a win at the moment, but that is not for the want of trying, and their attitude and commitment are virtues which will stand them in good stead throughout the campaign.
And it should be remembered that that campaign lasts for 46 games, not five, and when the work-rate is married to a settled side of quality Championship players who all know their jobs, this is not a side that will struggle.
Now is the time for stout hearts. The signs are there. It will come.
The Pilgrims' never-say-die attitude saw them claw a late goal back from Alan Gow's free-kick after two more set-piece goals had put them two behind: Richard Wood with a routine header from a corner in the 33rd minute, and Marcus Tudgay with a penalty in the 72nd.
A second Tudgay strike in injury-time was an injustice the Greens did not merit, but, when things are against you, they are against you.
Argyle had made four changes from the starting line-up that had lost heart-breakingly in the final minute at Derby seven days earlier - one each in defence and midfield, and two up front.
The attack was spearheaded by Gow and Cillian Sheridan, Glasgow rivals a few weeks ago but united for Argyle now. Rory Fallon was relegated to the substitutes' bench, while Jamie Mackie dropped back to the left side of midfield.
The injured Karl Duguid, one of two potential starting right-backs that limped off at Pride Park, made way for Mackie, with Jim Paterson moving inside to partner Carl Fletcher in central midfield.
The final change was, indeed, at right-back, where new loan signing from Cardiff, Darcy Blake, was handed a debut little more than 24 hours after meeting his new team-mates for the first time.
Wednesday made seven changes, or none, depending on which way you looked at things. Manager Brian Laws reverted to the starting 11 that paved the way to a 4-0 victory over Scunthorpe United at Hillsborough seven days earlier, which was markedly different to the side that had gone out of the Carling Cup 2-0 at Port Vale in midweek.
In came:Lewis Buxton, Darren Purse, Richard Wood, Michael Gray, James O'Connor, Jermaine Johnson and Luke Varney.
Out went: Richard Hinds, Mark Beevers, Frankie Simek, Tommy Miller, Etienne Esajas, Sean McAllister and Francis Jeffers.
The last named would have been suspended, anyway, but has been transfer-listed after being sent off at Vale for butting one of the League Two side's players.
Manager Brian Laws called Jeffers' behaviour "unacceptable" - this from a man who once broke one of his players' cheek-bones after throwing a plate of chicken drumsticks at him.
Argyle, back to a rigid 4-4-2, had an early let-off after Jermaine Johnson had welcomed Blake to Home Park by skinning him, although Varney was comfortably offside when he turned in the low driven cross, which was probably a shot.
That apart, Argyle were bright, lively, and creative, with crosses and corners causing consternation for the Owls' back-line.
Their best opportunity for a nerve-settler came from one of Paterson's right-wing corners, slung in with his left boot on to the head of Sheridan, who arguably ought to have at least asked a question of Wednesday goalkeeper Lee Grant.
Wednesday looked uncomfortable and surprised by Argyle's line-up and used the chance offered them by Michael Gray's back injury after only ten minutes to bring on McAllister and match up with the Pilgrims.
Varney again made an unhelpful contribution to Wednesday's intermittent attacking cause when he got in the way of a powerful lamp by O'Connor from just outside the penalty area that was indubitably goalbound, but still had to pass Romain Larrieu.
Not for the first time this season, Argyle fell behind to a set-piece - a corner from Darren Potter this time causing the problem.
The pace and trickery of Johnson, after Marcel Seip had failed to clear, had led to the flag-kick, which Tudgay headed back across goal for Wood to rise above the Pilgrims' defence to nod home from inside the six-yard box.
Although the goal deflated the already ineffectual home crowd, it seemed to have little effect on the ones they were not cheering on, as the Pilgrims poured forward, driven on by Carl Fletcher and led by the endeavours of Mackie and Alan Judge.
A lot of half-chances followed, but no true opening, and the forward momentum often left Argyle exposed at the back. The vulnerability was nearly exploited by Wednesday when Varney left Kári Árnason in his wake and crossed for Tudgay, who should have done better than scoop his shot over the crossbar.
Argyle began the second period with a purpose and no little creativity, but all their pleasing running and movement, with and without the ball, saw no end-product.
They were getting closer, though, and came within inches of levelling when Fletcher's measured drive from 20 yards curled around Grant's outstretched dive but thumped against the post.
The home side's thrust caused Wednesday to indulge in gamesmanship to interrupt the flow, and Varney, Wood and Johnson were yellow-carded in quick succession.
Purse did not follow for a foul on Sheridan, but nearly paid a higher price when Gow fired the subsequent free-kick just wide. Sheridan, meanwhile, recovered to shoot wide himself after a lovely little feed from Jim Paterson.
Blake came to the party with a superb low cross that was taken off Sheridan's toes, mid-goal, by Purse, before Wood made a similarly late intervention after Mackie headed on Gary Sawyer's cross.
The pace of the quicksilver Johnson was about all Wednesday had to offer, and Seip was booked for halting one of his direct runs into the penalty area.
The same Pilgrim cooked Argyle's goose midway through the second half when he gave away a penalty at the Barn Park for the second home game in succession, hauling down Varney.
Tudgay completed the formalities from 12 yards although Larrieu guessed correctly and got a decent hand on the effort.
Still the Pilgrims would not lie down and die. Gow steered home a free-kick from 25 yards after Tommy Spurr had handled, and Sawyer wasted a glorious chance to equalise after Grant had punched a cross straight to him eight yards out.
Mackie, too, got himself in a good position, only to slash the shot wide, before Tudgay showed the Pilgrims how to finish.
Argyle (4-4-2):1 Romain Larrieu; 13 Darcy Blake, 11 Kári Árnáson, 19 Marcel Seip, 18 Gary Sawyer; 25 Alan Judge, 4 Carl Fletcher (capt), 3 Jim Paterson, 8 Jamie Mackie; 21 Cillian Sheridan, 26 Alan Gow. Substitutes (not used):5 Krisztián Timár, 6 Chris Clark, 9 Steve MacLean, 14 Rory Fallon, 17 Craig Noone, 20 Luke Summerfield, 23 Kyle Letheren (gk).
Bookings: Árnáson 53, Seip 70, Paterson 89.
Sheffield Wednesday (5-3-2): 1 Lee Grant; 33 Michael Gray (8 Sean McAllister 10), 3 Lewis Buxton, 4Darren Purse (capt), 16 Richard Wood, 2 Tommy Spurr; 14 Darren Potter , 17 James O'Connor, 23 Jermaine Johnson ( 6 Tommy Miller 83);7 Marcus Tudgay, 15 Luke Varney (10 Akpo Sodje 88). Substitutes (not used): 5 Richard Hinds, 11 Etienne Esajas, 15 Mark Beevers, 22 Richard O'Donnell (gk).
Bookings: Varney 46, Wood 59, Johnson62.
Referee: Andy Haines (Tyne & Wear).
Attendance: 10,228 (1,174 away).