Sheffield United 1
JUST fourteen days since it had happened away at Leicester, Argyle were again beaten by a late goal.
In a game played in blustery, wet conditions, James Harper's drive from 20 yards in the 88th minute condemned Argyle to back-to-back 1-0 defeats.
In a way, it was tougher to swallow than the defeat at the Walkers' because, throughout the game, Argyle had probably done just enough to deserve the win, let alone draw.
After the dismal display from his players in last weekend's abandoned match with Barnsley, Argyle manager Paul Sturrock had promised a few surprises in his line-up for today's match and he didn't disappoint.
Out went Yoann Folly to allow Karl Duguid back into the middle, in turn making space for first-year professional Joe Mason, called into the starting line-up for his senior debut.
David Gray was recalled at the expense of Darcy Blake and Kari Arnason for Krisztian Timar. Up top, Ashley Barnes was preferred to Alan Gow.
Sheffield United made just two changes from the side that beat Bristol City 3-2 in the dying minutes of injury time at Ashton Gate. Hat-trick hero Darius Henderson was ruled out through injury, giving way to Richard Cresswell, as was centre-half Andrew Davies, who was replaced by debutant Toni Kallio.
After a minute's applause following the sad death of Argyle legend Neil Dougall, the game got underway in the blowing rain.
Rory Fallon got off the Pilgrims' first meaningful chance, combining with his cross-providing mate Gary Sawyer to loop a header towards goal. Blades'keeper Carl Ikeme dealt with it easily but that pressure set the tone and lead to Mason's first competitive effort trickling just wide from a Duguid nod.
Mason's young colleague Barnes was also impressing with a few key passes that linked the full-backs with the attacks.
As in games gone by at home, Argyle were enjoying the majority of possession in the final third but failed to create a valid goal-scoring opportunity. The closest they came was just before the 20-minute mark when Alan Judge combined brilliantly with Carl Fletcher and then Barnes to burst into the area but just as he was about to unleash, he lost the ball under his feet to Matt Kilgallon.
On the flip-side of this, Sheffield United were barely threatening and had not really worked Larrieu as the game passed the half-hour mark.
Rory Fallon shaved the outside of the upright with a downward header back across goal but even had it gone the right side of the post, it would have been ruled out thanks to a foul in the build-up.
After the break though, things looked up when a Barnes shot from inside the six-yard box cannoned off Kilgallon and behind. Judge took the resulting corner and delivered it perfectly to the head of Árnason whose bullet header went just over the bar.
Credit had to be given to Mason who, in the build-up to the chance, found Barnes' run perfectly across the floor on a boggy surface.
United proved that they were just as dangerous soon after when Nick Montgomery fired off a cracking drive from 25 yards that pinged off the same part of the post that Fallon's header had in the first-half.
In return, Barnes almost punished a poor Sheffield United back pass before Mason just failed to get on the end of Gary Sawyer's cross.
Judge was the next to go close, when his curling effort dipped just too late and ended up on the roof of the net.
The Pilgrims had started the second-half in the face of a sheet of rain that, whislt not as heavy as last week, had the wind added to it to ensure that not all passes went to their intended destination.
On the hour mark, an injury to United 'keeper Carl Ikeme halted play for a few minutes. Without a substitute 'keeper in the travelling party, Ikeme was forced to play on and was grateful to his defence for ensuring that Barnes's effort from a Fallon knockdown went wide of the post.
With Ikeme not at 100%, one felt that a decent shot on target may be enough to take the lead.
The introduction of Craig Noone on the hour had helped Argyle's attacking moves and it was his cross that led to Fletcher becoming the second Pilgrim to be denied by the woodwork, when his thunderous 25 yard strike cannoning off the bar.
But then, against the run of play, Sheffield United took the lead. When James Harper's first strike was palmed wide by Larrieu, it looked as though the danger had passed but from the resulting corner, Harper received the ball in around the same area and this time made no mistake, thundering his shot down low under the big Frenchman to give his side the lead.
Argyle attacked throughout the five minutes of added time but it was not to be, they had had another hard fought point taken away from them at the death.
And not for the first time this season.
Argyle (4-4-2): 1 Romain Larrieu; 39 David Gray, 11 Kári Árnason, 37 Shane Lowry, 18 Gary Sawyer (26 Alan Gow 90); 32 Joe Mason (17 Craig Noone 65), 2 Karl Duguid, 4 Carl Fletcher (capt), 25 Alan Judge; 24 Ashley Barnes (21 Cillian Sheridan 86), 14 Rory Fallon. Substitutes (not used): 13 Darcy Blake, 22 Réda Johnson, 23 Kyle Letheren (gk), 31 Yoann Folly.
Booked: Lowry 28, Sawyer 51.
Sheffield United (4-4-2): 30 Carl Ikeme; 5 Chris Morgan (capt), 6 Matt Kilgallon, 32 Toni Kallio, 34 Kyle Walker; 4 Nick Montgomery, 12 Lee Williamson (9 Ched Evans 67), 15 James Harper, 28 Stephen Quinn; 17 Richard Cresswell (19 Jordan Stewart 85), 18 Jamie Ward. Substiutes (not used): 2 Ryan France, 3 Gary Naysmith, 16 Andy Taylor, 25 Glen Little, 26 Derek Geary.
Booked: Montgomery 33, Williamson 63.
Referee: Graham Horwood (Bedfordshire).
Attendance: 9,231 (631 away).