Nottingham Forest 1
FRUSTRATING, infuriating, desperately disappointing.
Argyle remain firmly rooted to the bottom of the Championship after a poor performance in front of the Sky TV cameras and the biggest Home Park crowd of the season.
A major ticketing initiative by the club and the public launch of Plymouth's bid to be a host city for the 2018 World Cup provided an exciting backdrop for the Sunday lunchtime visit of Nottingham Forest to Home Park.
Initially, the Pilgrims responded well to the occasion but missed opportunities were ruthlessly punished on the stroke of half-time by a well-taken goal from Chris Gunter. The second-half fight-back never looked like materialising and the visitors strolled their way to three valuable points.
Manager Paul Sturrock stuck with the same starting line-up deployed in last weekend's 3-1 defeat at Newcastle United.
Australian defender Shane Lowry was, therefore, a surprise inclusion after suffering a knock to his ankle at St James' Park. The loanee from Aston Villa made a terrific recovery after being rated as highly doubtful by Luggy through the week.
David Gray made his Home Park return at right-back after the Manchester United defender was re-signed by Luggy, following his successful stint with the Greens in the second-half of last season.
There were two changes to Argyle's bench, with fit-again Darcy Blake replacing David McNamee and the other loan signing from Manchester United, James Chester, relegating Hungarian Krisztián Timár to watching duty.
Nottingham Forest boss Billy Davies made three changes to his side, following the 1-0 home defeat to Blackburn Rovers in the Carling Cup on Tuesday night.
Lee Camp returned in goal after Paul Smith deputised in midweek. Polish midfielder Radoslaw Majewski also earned a recall, with Joel Lynch dropping to the bench. The third change saw the bruising Dele Adebola added to the Forest attack at the expense of injured Welsh striker Rob Earnshaw.
Argyle faced their recent nemesis within three minutes and showed little sign of learning from previous mistakes. A Paul McKenna free-kick from the left was met by former Pilgrim Dexter Blackstock, whose header shaved the top of Romain Larrieu's crossbar.
Uncomfortable viewing for Luggy, as defending from early set-pieces, particularly at home, has been one of the primary reasons his side has slipped to the bottom of the Championship table.
It is a pattern that has prompted apprehension from the players and the Green Army, but the wonderful atmosphere generated by a bumper crowd at Home Park was an obvious inspiration to the Pilgrims.
Gary Sawyer, roared forward by the ebullient crowd, switched the tension to the Forest back four with a low driven cross that found Jamie Mackie unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box.
The fact the cross took a slight deflection on its way to the former Exeter man was meagre explanation for Mackie's disappointing effort, as he steered the ball wide of Camp's gaping goal.
Converted centre-back Kári Árnason, now the senior partner of Argyle's defensive duo, was evidently in for serious test of his physique, as he struggled to contend with the sheer presence of Adebola in the opening 15 minutes.
At the other end, Alan Gow's drifting runs caused problems to the Forest defence. One particular meander into the 'hole' between midfield and attack went unnoticed, and Gow's rising effort only cleared Camp's bar by a foot.
Mackie, determined to make amends for his earlier miss, set off on a mazy run from the left-wing that had Gunter looking dizzy, but, as is too often the case this season, the final shot was horribly scuffed and painfully unthreatening.
Argyle continued to press and a simple flick-on by Cillian Sheridan found the run of Karl Duguid from midfield, but the man for the big stage couldn't repeat his Emirates / St James' trick, as he scooped the volley high into the mocking arms of the travelling support.
The next Forest threat came from the dancing feet of Majewski, who showed beautiful balance to create space for a dipping shot that stretched the weave on the roof of Larrieu's net.
Argyle's reasonably solid defensive display then suffered a major set-back, as Árnason limped out of the game with an apparent hamstring problem on 35 minutes. Chester, therefore, was introduced to the Green Army and the Adebola challenge earlier than expected.
Chester assumed his position alongside Lowry and, with Gray and Sawyer in the full-back positions, the Argyle back four had an average age just shy of 22 - it was sink or swim time.
The answer, sadly, was sink.
Gunter surged forward from right-back, exchanged passes with Blackstock and burst into the box. Chester looked to be in the perfect place to thwart the young Welsh international, but a desperately unfortunate slip at the crucial moment was fatal.
Gunter accepted the gift of time and space with glee to thump Forest in front in first-half injury time. Cruel on the Greens but defensive slips and missed chances are not new problems this season.
Luggy resisted the temptation to make changes at the interval but his entrusted men started the second period like a side mortally wounded by the final act of the first 45 minutes.
Forest, mercifully, lacked the punch to punish Argyle's lacklustre restart, although Majewski's incisive running was a constant menace from midfield. One foray culminated in a reckless blast over the bar from the otherwise excellent Pole.
The Pilgrims desperately needed a lift, whether from the bench or the crowd. Luggy decided the bench was his best option, and he turned to Bradley Wright-Phillips and Alan Judge for inspiration. Clark and Gow were the men to make way.
The cavalry arrival prompted a disappointing response from the established troops. After an optimistic start to the game, Argyle were in serious danger of whimpering to a seventh consecutive defeat.
The painful truth was that the Pilgrims did not look like scoring, although Chester had a strong penalty shout turned after he was seemingly clattered to the ground by Kelvin Wilson on 70 minutes. Replays suggested Chester had got to the ball first and Wilson had taken the man, but replays don't have whistles.
It was one of those incidents that can occasionally galvanise a struggling team, but this Argyle team, at present, looks a broken unit.
Forest were enjoying the freedom of Home Park, delivering crosses at will and attempting Hollywood shots from distance. Majewski, again, was the main protagonist, but his effort on 81 minutes was superbly blocked by Gray, arguably Argyle's best player on the day.
Judge was the man to finally inject some urgency into Argyle's attack and he was unfortunate to see his powerful drive beaten away by the fists of the woefully under-employed Camp.
It was the final attempt of another difficult afternoon. The saving grace for Argyle, and Luggy, is the chance for redemption comes swiftly, with Tuesday's trip to Peterborough just 48 hours away.
Argyle (4-4-2): 1 Romain Larrieu; 39 David Gray, 11 Kári Árnason (38 James Chester 35), 37 Shane Lowry, 18 Gary Sawyer; 6 Chris Clark (25 Alan Judge 63), 2 Karl Duguid, 4 Carl Fletcher (capt), 8 Jamie Mackie; 26 Alan Gow (10 Bradley Wright-Phillips 63), 21 Cillian Sheridan. Substitutes (not used): 3 Jim Paterson, 13 Darcy Blake, 14 Rory Fallon, 23 Kyle Letheren (gk).
Nottingham Forest (4-4-2): 1 Lee Camp; 16 Chris Gunter, 5 Wes Morgan, 6 Kelvin Wilson (4 Luke Chambers 75), 15 Chris Cohen; 14 Joe Garner, 18 Paul McKenna (capt), 28 Radoslaw Majewski, 11 Nathan Tyson; 23 Dexter Blackstock, 9 Dele Adebola (19 Guy Moussi 89). Substitutes (not used): 7 Paul Anderson, 8 Lewis McGugan, 17 David McGoldrick, 21 Paul Smith (gk), 33 Joel Lynch.
Attendance: 14,792 (1,074 away).
Referee: Andy Woolmer (Northamptonshire).