Collins 44, Bogle 62, 86
by Rob McNichol
THE EFL's longest-running unbeaten streak came to a crashing halt at Home Park as Grimsby struck with military precision on Argyle's Armed Services Day.
It is only the second time Argyle have lost at Home Park in the league season - and, curiously, the second time the scoreline has been 3-0.
The other loss inflicted in PL2 was on the season's opening day, when Luton plundered victory, and this game was similar in many ways. The visitors far from dominated a game in which their leading goalscorer Omar Bogle scored twice following Danny Collins' opening goal, but their resolute defending and clinical finishing - combined with some less-than-sterling Argyle defending - gave the Mariners a deserved three points.
Argyle came into the game on the back of some bad news. Pivotal striker Jimmy Spencer dislocated and broke an ankle in training on Friday, ruling him out for at least three months, according to Derek Adams. The Argyle boss was fortunate, though, to have Arnold Garita back for selection. Garita had not played a single minute since being forced off with injury during Argyle's 2-0 win at Exeter City on September 17, some nine weeks earlier.
Garita for Spencer was only change on the pitch, but there was activity on the Argyle bench. Following Garita's promotion to the starting 11 Louis Rooney, back from his loan at Truro, came onto the bench. Oscar Threlkeld, who had also missed several weeks of action having been injured at Wimbledon in the Checkatrade Trophy, was also a substitute, stepping in for David Ijaha, who picked up a knock of his own during the week.
Before the football came the formalities. Argyle's annual Armed Services Day match is a calendar highlight, and the forces' women and men were shown their due respect during pre-match activities and requisite silence and anthem. Always moving, always worth it.
The match seemed, going in, to be anything but a formality. Seventh-placed Grimsby boasted one of the leading goalscorers in the division in Omar Bogle, and were unbeaten in six away games in Sky Bet League Two matches before arriving in Devon.
A remarkably fast paced opening few minutes followed the late-starting match's opening whistle, with both sides looking to break on the other, but few chances were created. It was not until the 13th minute until either side caused their opposition any nerves. It came when Graham Carey played a very Carey-like clipped through-ball towards Garita, who attempted to flick goalwards first time. He found nothing but air, but it was a positive move from the Pilgrims.
Garita was in some ways involved in the next chance - although perhaps not if you ask one assistant referee. Argyle had knocked a ball through the middle towards the clearly offside Cameroon forward, who shaped to play it, then thought twice about it. If he did not touch it, then he was awfully close to doing so, but despite a more-than-momentary pause by the linesman, he kept his flag down, and Craig Tanner burst through. Tanner got into the area and around the goalkeeper, but was slightly too wide by the time he shot, and it hit the side-netting.
Grimsby forced a couple of corners, with danger man Bogle trying to back-heel a shot after a scrimmage from one of them, but generally Argyle were getting increaingly on the front foot. With David Fox pulling more strings than Gerry Anderson, the Pilgrims started to look like prying Grimsby apart. Garita showed strength and persistence to get in behind and to the bye-line, from where he cut back to Tanner. His shot was blocked bravely by Brandon Comley, with Fix firing the loose ball back into the danger area, but again finding only a Town shirt.
Attack-minded Grimsby left-back Danny Andrew caught a long-range shot well in response, but Luke McCormick watched it go past his left-hand post, and Argyle resumed their pattern of keeping the ball, and patiently waiting to harm the Mariners.
Grimsby were always going to get the ball to Bogle if they could, but James Berrett managed to do so with a chipped cutback, it asked rather a lot of the Grimsby frontman to do anything more than he did, which was to hook it, softly, a yard or two wide.
Tanner had a 20-yard effort deflected just over, before Berrett got into an even better inside-left position than previously, and seemed to play a more dangerous cross, too, only this time Sonny Bradley was well-placed to push the ball away.
Jordan Slew went one better down the left for Argyle, winning a cat-and-mouse match with two defenders, and clipping across the six-yard box. The cross had goalkeeper James McKeown stranded, but the slightest of touches by defender Danny Collins was enough to prevent Garita from having the simplest of tap-ins, and kept Grimsby level.
But not for long. A little over a minute before the fourth official held up his board, Collins was up the other end, getting on the end of a Berrett cross to the far post and nodding Grimsby in front. Argyle had not sufficiently cleared a corner, and Collins remained forward to meet Berrett's measured return ball.
If Grimsby scored close to the break before the interval, they came close to doubling their advantage inside the first minute of the second period. Their captain, Josh Gowling, flicked on a long throw-in, which Bradley did exceedingly well to stop reaching Bogle.
At the other end, Garita tried an audacious lob from 40 yards. As you likely know, describing something as 'audacious' is usually another way of saying 'what was he thinking?', but the shot was not a million miles away, and may have sent McKeown a little reminder of Argyle's intent.
Intent was really le mot juste, too. So often Argyle got into a good area, and played the right ball, just with the wrong execution, which is ultimately more frustrating. Intent was also in Fox's mind when he tried to deliberately bring down the pacey Kayden Jackson as he burst forwards. Jackson hurdled the challenge and play went on before Grimsby's attack stalled. Referee Rob Jones surprisingly did not book Fox when given the opportunity, but then he had allowed Bogle to get away with just a chat following a late lunge on Ryan Donaldson, so matters were pretty well even on that score.
On the scorecard, not so, but Argyle were still showing intentions of regaining parity. Adams sent on Jake Jervis for Slew, and moments later Jervis played the part of the wall in a one-two with Carey, who was denied only by a terrific tackle by Gowling.
Grimsby became the first team since the opening day of the season to go 2-0 up against the Pilgrims in the league when Andrew's lofted free-kick was nodded across by Collins, and Bogle added yet another to his season's tally by nodding past McCormick.
Argyle immediately sent on David Goodwillie for Tanner and shifted to 4-4-2 in the hope of sparking their game back into life, but other than a Carey grasscutter through a crowd which McKeown saw late and did well to stop, Argyle could not get through. Louis Rooney for Garita, with 15 minutes to go, was Adams' final shake of some rather damp dice.
Rooney, who scored two goals on his debut in the final game of last season, nearly continued part of his own personal fairy-tale, as he was in position for a cut-back following a well-worked Argyle corner. His shot, though, was deflected wide. Bradley got onto a knockdown from another corner a few minutes later, but he could only steer wide of the target.
In eerie echoes of the opening game of the season, in which Argyle created chances aplenty but could not score, while getting punished at the other end, Grimsby scored their third to completely kill the game off.
Berrett, Town's best player on the day, won a header that game substitute Tom Bolarinwa latched onto. McCormick may have got there first had he tried, but hesitation cost him. Bolarinwa won the race and clipped the ball past the Argyle goalkeeper. The referee would surely have given the penalty, were it not for the ball falling to Bogle to tap home to score a double on the day.
A 3-0 home defeat is always tough to take. However, remaining top - and still four clear - is a little consolation.
Still buzzing for Tuesday.
Argyle (4-2-3-1): 23 Luke McCormick (capt); 2 Gary Miller, 4 Yann Songo'o, 15 Sonny Bradley, 16 Ben Purrington; 24 David Fox, 11 Ryan Donaldson; 10 Graham Carey, 27 Craig Tanner (7 David Goodwillie 62), 8 Jordan Slew (14 Jake Jervis 57), 26 Arnold Garita (20 Louis Rooney 75). Substitutes (not used): 6 Connor Smith, 18 Oscar Threlkeld, 19 Karleigh Osborne, 21 Vincent Dorel (gk).
Grimsby Town (4-4-1-1): 1 James McKeown; 12 Zak Mills, 6 Josh Gowling (capt), 22 Danny Collins, 3 Danny Andrew; 14 Kayden Jackson, 19 Luke Summerfield, 26 Brandon Comley (8 Craig Disley 87), 7 Ashley Chambers (18 Tom Bolarinwa 70); 16 James Berrett; 9 Omar Bogle (21 Scott Vernon 90). Substitutes (not used): 5 Shaun Pearson, 20 Andrew Boyce, 23 Dan Jones, 30 Dean Henderson (gk).
Referee: Rob Jones.
Attendance: 10,241 (335 away)