Crewe Alexandra 3
Murphy 20, 44
Westwood pen 53
Walton pen 50
by CHRIS PARSONS
SECOND-HALF goals from Simon Walton and Matt Lecointe were not enough to save Argyle from defeat at the Alexandra Stadium.
The Pilgrims started the stronger side but went behind after twenty minutes when Luke Murphy pounced to give his side an undeserved lead.
Murphy was the thorn in the Pilgrims' side again just before the interval, netting from 20 yards to give the home side a hefty half-time lead.
Argyle started the second half brightly and pulled one back from the spot through Simon Walton, but just three minutes later, Ashley Westwood restored Crewe's two-goal advantage with a spot-kick at the other end.
Substitute Matt Lecointe pulled it back again with 25 minutes to go but the equaliser ultimately proved elusive.
With Darren Purse available after a three-match suspension, Argyle manager Carl Fletcher had wasted no time in restoring his latest signing to the starting line-up. Paul Bignot was the man to make way. In attack, Craig Sutherland provided the like-for-like replacement for the injured Nick Chadwick.
Crewe, meanwhile, made just one change from their 1-0 defeat to Morecambe five days previously with Luke Murphy preferred on the right to loanee Jamie Lowry.
The Railwaymen had won just once in six home games prior to kick-off and it was obvious the Pilgrims were out to rattle their hosts early.
Playing in a fluid 4-5-1 formation, Argyle had their first chance as early as the third minute when Warren Feeney's low cross was angled just wide by Sutherland, lurking on the penalty spot.
Hungry for a goal to celebrate following his consolation against Torquay, Luke Young was the next to have a pop but saw his effort, from 25 yards, deflected wide.
From the corner that followed, Crewe struggled to clear the ball for a good few minutes as the Pilgrims enjoyed possession around the box.
There was no doubt Argyle were in control but need a goal to ensure all of their hard work was not to go to waste.
But it did go to waste and with 21 minutes gone, against the run of play and with their first effort at goal, Crewe took the lead when right-back Matt Tootle's pass was drilled across Jake Cole and into the bottom corner for 1-0.
Crewe's goal understandably handed the momentum to them and they had several half-efforts before Ashley Hemmings sparked his team and the Green Army back to life again with a dipping half-volley that landed on the roof of the net.
The home side were not dominating proceedings but they went further in front just a minute before half-time when Murphy again pounced, this time with a 25-yard drive.
Argyle came out in the second-half just as industriously as they had in the first and this time were rewarded for their endeavours.
When Conor Hourihane smashed over Hemmings' cross, it looked like an opportunity missed but, luckily for Argyle, referee Andrew Madley had spotted a push on Warren Feeney and pointed to the spot.
Walton stepped up and made no mistake, sending Phillips the wrong way to halve the deficit.
If the Pilgrims thought their luck had changed, they were sorely mistaken when, just three minutes later, Madley gave a penalty at the other end for a supposed foul on Leitch-Smith by Berry.
To say it was soft was an understatement and, after much protesting from the players on the pitch and from the bench, it says something about the decision that Kevin Nancekevill, one of the nicest men in the South of England, was sent to the stands after kicking a bottle in frustration.
After the storm had died down, Westwood restored Crewe's two-goal advantage from 12 yards.
Again feeling harshly done by, Argyle pressed again and came close when substitute Lecointe jumped onto a loose ball in the box and took a shot that was saved by Phillips.
Clearly enthused by his earlier effort, Lecointe was like a dog after a bone, chasing down long balls or passes even if they looked gone and with just under 25 minutes to go, made that all important difference with a goal.
It was some goal, too, as he took down a high loose ball, turned his man and fired home past Phillips and into the bottom corner.
It was end-to-end stuff with both sides enjoying chances. First, Walton went close with a header before Purse was called into action, denying Leitch-Smith with a smart sliding block.
Berry, who had barely put a foot wrong all afternoon, was next to put his body on the line, making another perfectly-timed challenge to take the ball from Nick Powell, just as he looked to pull the trigger.
Powell looked to make amends in injury time with a cheeky lob from 40 yards but Cole was ready for it and tipped his audacious effort over the bar.
Argyle pumped balls forward in vain hope before Hourihane was sent-off for a second bookable offence.
It just was not to be our day.
Crewe Alexandra (4-4-2): 1 Steve Phillips, 2 Matt Tootle, 5 David Artell, 6 Adam Dugdale, 3 Harry Davis; 8 Luke Murphy (28 Jamie Lowry 80), 4 Ashley Westwood, 7 Lee Bell (capt), 11 Byron Moore; 25 Nick Powell, 10 A-Jay Leitch-Smith (9 Shaun Miller 80). Substitutes (not used): 13 Alan Martin (gk), 17 Kevin Mellor, 19 Max Clayton.
Argyle (4-5-1): 23 Jake Cole; 2 Durrell Berry, 5 Darren Purse, 22 Maxime Blanchard, 14 Onismor Bhasera; 10 Craig Sutherland (27 Matt Lecointe 57), 15 Luke Young (21 Will Atkinson 79), 8 Simon Walton (capt), 20 Conor Hourihane, 31 Ashley Hemmings; 11 Warren Feeney. Substitutes (not used): 1 Romain Larrieu (gk), 13 Ladjie Soukouna, 28 Paul Bignot.
Booked: Hourihane 57.
Sent-off: Hourihane 90.
Attendance: 3,707 (520 away).
Referee: Andrew Madley.