ARGYLE continued their march towards Sky Bet League Two promotion with victory over Stevenage in a six-goal thriller, all four Pilgrims' goals from different scorers.
Jordan Slew, Jake Jervis, Arnold Garita and David Goodwillie all made the scoresheet as Argyle overcame a resilient Stevenage side.
Boro proved difficult to beat, and it was not until the final moments that Argyle managed to seal the victory, which means they remain second in League Two and can now look to Wednesday night, when they face Liverpool in an FA Cup third-round replay.
Despite an exciting midweek clash against Liverpool on the horizon, Derek Adams made just the one change from the 11 that started at Anfield to earn that replay, swapping right-back Gary Miller, who picked up an ankle injury at Anfield for Connor Smith, with Oscar Threlkeld moving from central midfield to right-back to fill the vacancy.
The visitors came into the game on the back of a win at bottom-placed Newport, although they had lost their three matches preceding that, albeit against teams in the top ten. Luke Wilkinson replaced Jack King at centre-back for the visitors and Rowan Liburd came in for Tyler Walker.
The visitors took the lead after just a few minutes. Argyle's defence that had stood so strong against Liverpool six days earlier was undone by the first attack of the game. A lofted Steven Schumacher free-kick from the right landed at the head of an unchallenged Wilkinson at the back post and he headed across the goal for Matt Godden to flick the ball into the bottom right corner.
Stevenage pressed further. Ben Kennedy, on the right of midfield, who had won the free-kick for the goal, cut inside again, but this time his effort was tame and did little to trouble Luke McCormick in the Argyle goal and caught the the shot with ease.
The Pilgrims played out from defence and some good hold-up play by Garita allowed Argyle's on-loan striker to lay the ball off to Graham Carey, who exchanged passes with Jordan Slew, leading to a Carey effort. Argyle's number 10 fizzed a left-footed shot that flew towards the bottom right corner, but Jamie Jones made a good fingertip save to steer the effort wide.
Argyle started to grow into the game. A combination of perseverance and raw pace allowed Jake Jervis some space down the right, and he managed to chip a cross in just before he hit the byline. The lofted cross was met by Slew, who had managed to jostle past his defender and win the header, but his effort flew over the crossbar.
The Pilgrims were in control now. Every pass, every tackle, and every loose ball seemingly would land at the feet of an Argyle player. The Greens were dominant. The visitors were deep. Just after the half-hour mark, a David Fox corner from the right was cut back to Jervis who volleyed across the melee of bodies in the box, and the ball was prodded home by Slew, despite some last-ditch attempts to clear on the line from the visitors.
Stevenage, who had seen their early lead cancelled out by the Pilgrims, ventured down the left and lofted a cross to the far right post that Ben Purrington headed high into the air, and towards the Argyle goal. Fortunately, McCormick was there to save Purrington's blushes, but had one of his own first as he flapped at the ball before recovering to claim it safely.
The Pilgrims had worked hard for their equaliser and the second goal came soon after. Slew controlled on the left, and passed Boro's full-back Ronnie Henry but saw his cross blocked. Fortunately, the loose ball bounced up to Smith, who poked it across the Boro box and it was met by Jervis, who volleyed home.
Boro attacked down the left again and a lofted cross was headed down by Liburd and turned goalwards by Godden. McCormick was to the rescue for the Pilgrims though, and did enough to block the shot and allow Yann Songo'o to clear.
There was no-one to the rescue for the Pilgrims moments later, though. A soft tackle by Carey gave away a free-kick and the visitors found their way back into the game the same way they had taken the lead. A Schumacher free-kick from 25 yards out was rifled towards the right of the Argyle goal. Unfortunately for McCormick, the ball bounced right in front of him, and the Argyle 'keeper could only offer a flailing glove that did nothing to stop Schumacher's strike.
Argyle had dominated the majority of the first half but went into the break with nothing to show for it. Fortunately, the Pilgrims regained their lead shortly into the second-half. Threlkeld received the ball on the right, jinked his way past two Stevenage players, and delivered the ball low and hard across the Boro goalmouth. Garita tried to turn the cross goalwards, but the ball was prodded clear, and out of the Stevenage box.
Unfortunately for Boro, Carey's left foot was there to meet the weak clearance and fire a shot towards the top right corner. The ball was goalbound, but hit Garita's back first to get the striker's name on the scoresheet for Argyle's third.
Just after the hour, Argyle threatened to double their lead. Carey flew down the left and whipped a low cross that evaded the Stevenage defence. Jervis was there to meet it with a volley, but his effort bounced off the crossbar and went out for a goal-kick.
Moments later, Stevenage came close. Very close. Substitute Ryan Loft, who had replaced Liburd ran through the heart of the Argyle defence and hit a shot that McCormick managed to get a leg too, but his clearance fell to Tom Pett who couldn't keep his volley down and narrowly fired over.
With less than 10 minutes to go, Stevenage came close again. Pett managed to muster a shot from the edge of the box that hit the crossbar. The ball bounced back out to the feet of Godden. The Green Army desperately cried for the offside flag to go up, but a superb recovery from McCormick enabled Argyle's goalie to push Godden's effort wide.
Stevenage continued to press, much like Argyle had in the first half. With the clock ticking down, the Green Army got behind their team, who were defending valiantly and looking dangerous on the break. The Pilgrims threat proved pivotal as Argyle's three substitutes combined to complete the win.
A courageous (and brilliant) tackle by Smith allowed Craig Tanner to break free down the right. Tanner cut the ball back to Nathan Blissett, who was only moments into his Argyle debut. Blissett's side-footed effort was saved by Jones in the Boro goal, but the ball fell to Goodwillie who almost had too much time. Fortunately, he kept his cool and hit a low side-footed shot to seal the points for Argyle.
It has been an exciting couple of weeks for Argyle.
Does anyone know what's happening on Wednesday night?
Argyle (4-3-3): 23 Luke McCormick (capt); 18 Oscar Threlkeld, 4 Yann Songo'o, 15 Sonny Bradley, 16 Ben Purrington; 6 Connor Smith, 24 David Fox, 10 Graham Carey; 14 Jake Jervis (27 Craig Tanner 76), 26 Arnold Garita (7 David Goodwillie 72), 8 Jordan Slew (13 Nathan Blissett 88). Substitutes (not used): 3 Gary Sawyer, 5 Nauris Bulvitis, 21 Vincent Dorel (gk), 31 Jakob Sokolik.
Stevenage (4-4-2): 1 Jamie Jones (gk); 25 Ronnie Henry (capt), 6 Luke Wilkinson, 5 Fraser Franks, 33 Kgosi Ntlhe (18 Micheal Tongue 62); 14 Ben Kennedy (22 Charlie Lee 87), 8 Steven Schumacher, 17 Dale Gorman, 11 Tom Pett; 24 Matt Godden, 9 Rowan Liburd (35 Ryan Loft 62). Substitutes (not used): 7 Jobi McAnuff, 16 Chris Day (gk),, 23 Henry Cowans, 30 Mark McKee.
Booked: Loft 65.
Attendance: 8,137 (99 away).