West Brom 1
ARGYLE suffered another heartbreaking defeat after matching high-flying West Bromwich Albion in a gripping encounter.
Simon Cox' tap in midway through the second-half separated the two teams in a fiery encounter that featured two angry melees, a sending off and a penalty save.
The Cox strike apart, Argyle were excellent in every department, but the Baggies held on for victory. David Stockdale's wonderful penalty save from Graham Dorrans kept Green hopes alive but the game ended with an ugly moment.
Tackles had been flying all afternoon but Jerome Thomas' savage leg-breaker on David McNamee was an absolute disgrace, and provoked an understandably furious response from the Greens.
Head Coach Paul Mariner had made just one change from the side that were so unlucky to lose at Hillsborough a week earlier. New signing Damien Johnson look his place in midfield for his debut meaning Luke Summerfield who had to settle for a place on the bench.
Rory Fallon and Jamie Mackie were again the preferred strike partnership despite the arrival of American international Kenny Cooper who took his place in the dugout alongside Summerfield.
West Brom, who had lost only once in their 15 previous away games, made three changes from their 3-2 victory at Blackpool on Wednesday. Both full-backs had been replaced as right-back Gianni Zuiverloon was preferred to Gonzalo Jara and on the left, Joe Mattock came in for injured Marek Cech. Meanwhile, in attack, Simon Cox came in for Robert Koren.
The game started as the form book would suggest with the visitors maintaining a lot of the possession in the Argyle half, even creating a number of half-chances.
But the first real goal scoring threat came from Argyle when Jamie Mackie's strength holding off Abdoulaye Meite in the box allowed Alan judge to take a shot which, at the last minute, was deflected away by Tamas. The Pilgrims continued to press and Fallon could, and perhaps should, have got a header on goal soon after.
The pressure continued as the home side forced a number of corners and began to slowly turn the screw on the visiting defence. New signing Johnson was proving to be a hit with the home support, winning the ball and a proceeding to make crucial passes on a couple of occasions.
Argyle could not afford to take Albion for granted and were on occasions reminded just how good the Baggies can be, and had Carl Fletcher's thumping tackle on Thomas to thank for breaking up a swift counter-attack.
Judge went close with a curling free-kick midway through the first-half before Fletcher again saved the day with another perfectly-timed tackle.
But despite Fletcher's earlier heroics, it was 'keeper David Stockdale who gained the biggest plaudits of the first period, denying Roman Bednar with a fantastic save low to his right to keep the score at 0-0.
Straight from that let-off, Argyle broke and Mackie was denied what he thought was a penalty after a coming together with Meite, who, after his earlier booking, seemed to be getting involved with more than his fair share of tussles.
The Greens were dealt a blow just before the break when right-back Karl Duguid was stretchered off after appearing to twist his ankle turning in the area. A lengthy stoppage ensued which eventually led to McNamee replacing him but there was only time for a three-second restart before referee Steve Tanner blew for half-time.
Almost straight from the second-half restart, West Brom had perhaps their best chance of the game when Cox cross evaded Stockdale and then Bednar before flashing across the face of the Argyle goal.
But that was followed by Argyle's best chance of the game when Réda Johnson's knockdown from a Kári Árnason long throw fell to Mackie who lifted the shot over the bar from the edge of the six yard box.
It all turned nasty soon after when a disgraceful challenge by Joe Mattock on Damien Johnson resulted in a 20-man push about. Inexplicably, Mattock was only booked for the initial challenge, much to the disappointment of the Home Park crowd.
Cooper was introduced in place of Fallon with half an hour to go as the Pilgrims looked for the win and marked his arrival with a free-kick that just dipped too late to trouble Carson.
Despite Argyle controlling the game for large periods, Albion took the lead with just under 25 minutes to go when Thomas' cross wasn't dealt with by the Argyle defence and Cox was on hand to fire home.
But Argyle were not dead yet and continued as Mackie, Clark and Árnason both carved out half-chances.
Craig Noone replaced Judge as the Pilgrims looked to find a way back in with Árnason's long throws proving the best oulet.
But then with just eight minutes to go, David McNamee brought down Luke Moore for a penalty that might have sealed the game for Albion.
Graham Dorrans, having scored four penalties in his four previous gaes stepped up but was denied by an expert saved from Stockdale.
The 10,000 home supporters received an instant lift and the noise levels rose and Réda Johnson took his place up front as the Pilgrims looked for the winner.
The horrible challenge from Thomas was punished by a red card on the stroke of full-time and a brawl involving the entire bench ensued.
Further action is likely to be taken against Thomas who threw a cynical punch at Árnason as he left the pitch.
But, as valiant as the Pilgrims were, they could not find a way past the Baggies and slumped to defeat - again by a narrow margin.
Argyle (4-4-2): 21 David Stockdale; 2 Karl Duguid (16 David McNamee 45), 11 Kári Árnason, 22 Réda Johnson, 18 Gary Sawyer; 25 Alan Judge (17 Craig Noone 73), 4 Carl Fletcher (capt), 7 Damien Johnson, 6 Chris Clark; 8 Jamie Mackie, 14 Rory Fallon (33 Kenny Cooper 59). Substitutes (not used): 1 Romain Larrieu, 10 Bradley Wright-Phillips, 15 Chris Barker, 20 Luke Summerfield.
Booked: Sawyer 86, D Johnson 88, Árnason 90
West Browmcih Albion (4-5-1): 19 Scott Carson (capt), 22 Gianni Zuiverloon, 26 Gabriel Tamas, 23 Abdoulaye Meite, 2 Joe Mattock; 11 Chris Brunt, 31 Simon Cox (29 Andwélé Slory 87), 21 Youssouf Mulumbu (36 Gonzalo Jara 75), 17 Graham Dorrans, 14 Jerome Thomas; 9 Roman Bednar (16 Luke Moore 81). Substitutes (not used): 1 Dean Kiely, 3 Jonas Olsson, 7 Robert Koren, 37 George Thomas.
Booked: Meite 35, Mattock 52, Bednar 75
Sent-Off: Thomas 90
Referee: Steve Tanner (Somerset)
Attendance: 12, 053 (2004 away)