Southend United 2
by CHRIS PARSONS
A&nbsp;LATE goal from debutant Alex MacDonald&nbsp;gave the Pilgrims a share of the spoils&nbsp;in the only npower League 2 fixture of the day at a rain drenched Home Park.
As seems to have been the case in many of Argyle's recent games, they did not make it easy for themselves, conceding a sloppy Michael Timlin goal inside the first minute.
Further misery followed when David Martin doubled Southend's lead half an hour later to leave the Pilgrims with a mountain to climb.
But, as always, a sense of belief and resolve remained and in the second half, they bounced back, peppering Shrimpers' 'keeper Glenn Morris' goal with several guilt-edged efforts.
Then just as it looked as though they would never break through, Nick Chadwick pounced, firing in from the edge of the box four minutes from time to tee up an edge-of-your-seat ending.
Two minutes later, MacDonald pounced and Home Park simply erupted.
Before the game, the worry had been about the temperature and it was only through round-the-clock care from the Home Park ground staff that the game went ahead, referee Chris Sarginson deeming it fit for play at an 8am pitch inspection.
The addition of new signing Juhvel Tsoumou was the only change to Argyle manager Carl Fletcher's team-sheet, with the German replacing teenager Matt Lecointe.
Fellow new boy MacDonald was forced to settle for a place on the bench and was joined by Conor Hourihane, named in his first squad since his dismissal at Crewe back in January.
Southend's team was, of course, awash with ex-Pilgrims, with no less than three in the starting line-up. Chris Barker and Peter Gilbert will have been the most memorable but the side also include Liam Dickinson who signed for the Pilgrims in July 2010, only to change his mind a week later.
Shrimpers' boss Paul Sturrock had opted for two changes from their 4-1 defeat to Swindon on Tuesday night, replacing Jack Sampson with David Martin and Kane Ferdinand with Bibel Moshni.
There's no way of dressing it up, it didn't start well for the Pilgrims, when, in seemingly comfortable possession, they gave away a silly goal when Luke Young's backpass was chased down by Michael Timlin.
Jake Cole got to the ball first but cannoned his clearance against Timlin who, having gained the right deflection, wheeled away in celebration as the ball trickled into the open net.
Tsoumou's debut had so far been quiet until he showed a clean pair of heels to Timlin and had a shot at goal. His strike was deflected but quickly gobbled up by Hemmings who crossed for Wotton to volley just over.
It wasn't the most clear cut of chances but if lifted the sodden Home Park crowd who since the goal had understandly been subdued.
They were lifted further with a minor to-do between Wotton and Dickinson, before the game came to life with a series of unpunished robust challenges from both sides.
Tsoumou then sent a freekick into the arms of Glenn Morris before Dickinson nudged an effort just wide at the other end.
Sadly, though, the crowd were silenced once more 11 minutes from time when Southend doubled their lead - Martin prodding home Dickinson's wayward shot.
Keen not to begin the second half in the same manner that they had the first, Argyle pushed forward immediately and could have pulled one back had Hemmings unleashed his shot from the corner of the six yard box a little earlier.
Southend then had 'keeper Morris to thank as Hemmings again threatened, this time providing a cross from which Chadwick to nod goalwards. His contact was good and direction even better but somehow the Shrimpers' 'keeper got to it, pouncing on it on the goal line.
Morris was on fire and again kept Southend two goal to the good by clwing out Wotton's curling free-kick from the left.
Argyle were now on top and were carving out some really tasty chances. First, Hemmings' free-kick was charged down before Tsoumou saw his swivelling shot deflected wide.
Fletcher opted for changes just after the hour mark, throwing on Conor Hourihane and Joe Lennox in place of Walton and Young. Alex MacDonald then replaced Tsoumou soon after.
The injection of pace into the side immediately told as Wotton again fired goalwards from a swift move down the pitch.
Substitute MacDonald then turned provider for the lively Hemmings but the on-loan youngster couldn't get his shot off.
Having had the most of the second-half, Argyle finally capitalised on their dominance with four minutes remaining when the previously unbeatable Morris failed to stop Chadwick's drive from the edge of the box.
With the noise levels rising and then belief returning, the Pilgrims pushed on and then, in spectacular fashion, drew level.
When Bignot provided a cross into the box, Lennox swivelled and smashed his shot against the post. With the Southend defence still reeling, MacDonald pounced with a goal on his debut to deny Paul Sturrock's men top spot and gain an important point for the Pilgrims.
Argyle (4-4-2): 23 Jake Cole; 28 Paul Bignot, 5 Darren Purse, 22 Maxime Blanchard, 14 Onismor Bhasera; 15 Luke Young (21 Joe Lennox 66), 8 Simon Walton (capt) (20 Conor Hourihane 66), 19 Paul Wotton, 31 Ashley Hemmings; 28 Nick Chadwick, 9 Juvhel Tsoumou (32 Alex MacDonald 70). Substitutes (not used): 1 Romain Larrieu (gk), 2 Durrell Berry.
Booked: Blanchard 30.
Southend United (4-4-2): 1 Glenn Morris; 2 Sean Clohessy, 27 Pat Baldwin, 23 Chris Barker (capt), 3 Peter Gilbert; 6 Bibel Moshni , 4 Ryan Hall, 19 Jean-Paul Kalala, 8 Michael Timlin; 22 Liam Dickinson, 14 David Martin (9 Neil Harris 84). Substitutes (not used): 7 Anthony Grant, 12 Kane Ferdinand, 16 Luke Prosser, 24 Elliot Benyon.
Booked: Martin 52, Timlin 58, Dickinson 60.
Referee: Chris Sarginson.
Attendance: 6,328 (143 away)