Aimson 18, 76
Scunthorpe United 2
GIlliead 7, Eisa 90
A LAST-MINUTE equaliser from substitute Abo Eisa snatched victory away from Argyle at Home Park, earning a draw for Scunthorpe United.
Argyle looked as though they had done enough to secure back-to-back wins for the first time since the opening fortnight of the season, as a Will Aimson brace put them 2-1 up on 76 mins. Eisa’s dramatic contribution, adding to Alex Gilliead’s seventh-minute opener, left the Pilgrims players once again frustrated at the final whistle on home soil.
The Pilgrims took to the pitch in the fluid 3-4-3 formation utilised to great effect at Mansfield, with only one change, which was necessitated by George Cooper’s facial injury. Ryan Taylor was Cooper’s replacement, moving to the centre of the attacking three, with Joel Grant re-deployed wide on the right. Danny Mayor completed the attacking trio on the opposite flank.
While Argyle have undergone significant change since their fateful Sky Bet League One finale against the Iron in May, the visitors are also in the process of their own revolution.
Of the 11 players who started the Greens’ 3-2 win over Scunthorpe last season, only three started this game today – and one of those, Yann Songo’o, did so for the opposition. There were only three players who could claim to have started both games for the Iron, too, and they were James Perch, captain Rory McArdle, and Lee Novak.
While this afternoon’s meeting between the two sides did not carry the same terminal significance for either team, it was certainly a crucial opportunity for both to kickstart a season that had not started as well as was desired.
Although the Greens began the tie 11 places higher than their visitors in the Sky Bet League Two table, they found themselves behind with the first meaningful effort of the game. Junior Brown was afforded room to casually advance in the left channel, and his low, near-post cross received a crucial flick-on from Gilliead, whose effort dribbled through marker Gary Sawyer’s legs and into the far corner of the Devonport End net.
The minds of the Green Army, understandably, immediately harkened back to the previous home encounter against Cheltenham, where they were unable to restore parity having conceded a cheap goal. On this occasion, the Pilgrims hauled themselves up off the canvas to draw level on 18 minutes.
Conor Grant, the scorer of a blockbuster winner at Mansfield seven days earlier, turned architect on this occasion, delivering a fine far-post corner aimed at Sawyer. The Greens’ skipper nodded the ball back into the six-yard box, where Taylor met it with his head. The flame-haired striker’s effort drew a point-blank denial from visiting stopper Rory Watson, but the 'keeper was powerless to deny Aimson from prodding home his first in Argyle colours from the rebound.
Back on level terms, the game advanced into a phase that could at best be described as insubstantial. While the period was largely punctuated by a number of niggly fouls and over-reaching passes, both teams carved out one decent opportunity apiece. For the visitors, Kevin van Veen spurned an opportunity having wriggled between the lines of defence and midfield, before Mayor’s attempted clip from Joel Grant’s cross also sailed over the angle of crossbar and post.
As the half drew to a close, Argyle found their rhythm, as a Sarcevic cross was blocked by the forearm of Songo’o inside the box. Referee Andy Woolmer saved the blushes of the former Argyle utility player by waving play on, from a mere 10 yards away, despite the compelling evidence of Exhibit A: an outstretched Cameroonian arm.
Unperturbed, the Pilgrims drove down the left flank, the irrepressible combination of Callum McFadzean and Mayor cranking through the gears. The latter crossed for Taylor on the penalty spot, whose left-footed strike was well held by Watson.
Both sides emerged for the second-half having made a change apiece, with Joe Riley replacing Joe Edwards for the Greens. The Iron shuffled their deck by withdrawing Perch, and introducing Kgosi Ntlhe. It meant a change of shape for Argyle, who went back to their regular 3-5-2 shape, with Mayor slotting into midfield, behind Joel Grant and Taylor, and Riley heading straight out to hug the right touchline.
It almost paid immediately dividends, as Riley, Sarcevic and Joel Grant combined to thread a cross to the near post. Taylor got a subtle touch on it, but Watson made the save with an outstretched right leg; the 'keeper perhaps thankful that the ball ended up squashed under his right thigh as Green-shirted predators converged ominously on his position.
It was not all Argyle, though, and Scunthorpe had a golden opportunity to regain the lead on 55 minutes. Having been threaded into a one-on-one position, van Veen approached goal with the swagger of a man who was already preparing his celebration.
The problem was, though, that his feet were not quite on the same page as his brain. With the goal at his mercy, van Veen chipped it rather embarrassingly wide. From the nearby position of the Home Park Press Box, you could almost hear the cries of “just smack it, Kev” from the Iron faithful.
His miss nearly proved doubly costly as Argyle mounted a response down the right flank. A cross found Mayor, who helped it to the far post to McFadzean. The wing-back took a touch to steady himself before striking with his weaker right-foot. Watson saved well at a comfortable height.
Lowe introduced Zak Rudden for Taylor in search of a breakthrough, but it was through another substitute, Riley, that the Pilgrims were gaining impetus. He first found McFadzean, who could not quite squeeze an effort past a prone Scunthorpe defender at the far post, before also picking out Sarcevic on the edge of the area, but the midfield runner could not control the fizzing pass.
The breakthrough eventually came; once again through a set play, once again through Aimson. Showing the predatory instincts of an out-and-out striker, the centre-back ghosted in at the far post to direct Sawyer’s knock-down into the net after McFadzean’s superb in-swinging cross from the right, after an Argyle corner was only partially cleared.
It looked as though that would be that, before a cruel late intervention once again left the Pilgrims wondering what might have been at full-time.
With two of the four minutes’ added time played at Home Park, substitute Eisa ghosted in behind the Argyle back-line to lift the ball over Alex Palmer to secure a point for the visitors.
Argyle (3-4-3): 24 Alex Palmer (gk); 5 Scott Wootton, 4 Will Aimson, 3 Gary Sawyer (capt); 8 Joe Edwards (2 Joe Riley 45), 7 Antoni Sarcevic, 15 Conor Grant, 21 Callum McFadzean; 16 Joel Grant, 9 Ryan Taylor (39 Zak Rudden 67), 10 Danny Mayor (25 Josh Grant 78). Substitutes (not used): 1 Mike Cooper (gk), 6 Niall Canavan, 19 Klaidi Lolos, 20 Adam Randell.
Scunthorpe United (4-3-3): 1 Rory Watson (gk); 14 James Perch (3 Kgosi Ntlhe 45), 23 Rory McArdle (capt), 26 Harrison McGahey, 28 Junior Brown, 7 Ryan Colclough (30 Abo Eisa 87), 5 Yann Songo’o, 22 Levi Sutton, 17 Lee Novak, 10 Kevin van Veen (33 Jamie Proctor 78), 20 Alex Gilliead. Substitutes (not used): 12 Andy Dales, 25 Jake Eastwood (gk), 27 Regan Slater, 32 Jacob Bedeau.
Referee: Andy Woolmer.
Attendance: 8,880 (110 away).