ARGYLE'S youngsters were knocked out of the FA Youth Cup on penalties after drawing 2-2 with Gillingham.
Argyle took the lead twice - through Alex Fletcher and Callum Rose - but suffered FA Cup heartache as they lost 4-2 on penalties to Gillingham.
Under the floodlights on a Tuesday night at Home Park, Kevin Hodges side edged a hard-fought contest against Gillingham, who are managed by another former Pilgrim, Mark Patterson, but could not find a winner.
The Gills started the brighter of the two but didn't reap the rewards for their pressure and Fletcher punished the away side as he latched onto a through ball behind the Gills' defence and rifled home for his fifth goal of the competition.
The lead didn't last though. Noel Mbo equalised for the Gills just minutes later, after an Argyle clearance rebounded across the Pilgrims' penalty area which left Mbo free to loop a header over Michael Cooper in the Argyle goal.
The Pilgrims responded well; Alex Battle went close but Will Sykes in the Gillingham goal kicked his effort away for a corner, which resulted in Callum Rose rising the highest and narrowly heading wide.
Despite Argyle's edging the rest of the first half and the beginning of the second, Gillingham had a glorious opportunity to take the lead just before the hour mark. A cross from the left crept underneath Cooper in the Argyle net, but the goal mouth scramble that followed saw Gillingham denied by the post and a crowd of bodies.
Argyle fought back. Battle rose highest from a cross from the right and headed for the top right corner, only for it to be pushed away by the finger tips of Sykes in the Gills' goal.
With 20 minutes to play Argyle came close again but a rising Connor Mcauley strike fizzed over the bar. Still the Pilgrims pushed. An excellent turn from Dan Rooney split the Gills' defence. Tearing down the right, Argyle's number 10 teed up goal scorer Fletcher just inside the box, but he could not replicate his earlier effort and his strike finished several rows up in the Devonport End.
With nothing to separate the sides, extra time beckoned.
It was Argyle who took the initiative first, as a corner from the right was met by a Rose bullet header; this time the centre-half made no mistakes and put the Pilgrims ahead for the second time of the evening.
Gillingham levelled the scores up early on in the second half, as striker Bradley Stevenson fizzed a shot low and hard that escaped the reach of Cooper in the Argyle goal.
Stevenson's equalising strike took the game to penalties. Gillingham prevailed the stronger, with Alex Battle and Josh Richards missing penalties for the Pilgrims, and Gillingham converting all of theirs.
The Pilgrims were impressive for large parts of the FA Cup clash, but were ultimately left with an unwelcome reminder of the cruel nature of the beautiful game.
Fletcher (Argyle) Scored 1-0
Woods (Gillingham) Scored 1-1
Battle (Argyle) Saved 1-1
Oldaker (Gillingham) Scored 1-2
Jephcott (Argyle) Scored 2-2
Hlabi (Gillingham) Scored 2-3
Richards (Argyle) Saved 2-3
Stevenson (Gillingham) Scored 2-4
Argyle (4-2-3-1): 1 Micheal Cooper, 2 Harry Hodges, 5 Callum Rose, 6 Jordan Bentley (capt), 3 Ryan Law; 4 Cameron Sangster (14 Billy Craske 111), 8 Josh Richards; 7 Connor McAuley (15 Matt Ward 116), 10 Daniel Rooney (12 Luke Jephcott 114), 11 Alex Battle; 9 Alex Fletcher. Substitutes (not used): 13 Max Childs (gk), 16 Elliott Crawford.
Goals: Fletcher 8, Rose 96.
Gillingham (4-4-2): 1 Will Sykes, 2 Danny Divine (15 Ryan Huckle 109), 5 Finn O'Mara, 6 Jack Tucker, 3 Aaron Simpson; 11 Jack Conway (14 Henry Woods 105), 4 Ben Chapman, 8 Darren Oldaker, 7 Sam Lawford (capt) (12 Leroy Hlabi 76); 9 Noel Mbo, 10 Bradley Stevenson. Substitutes (not used): 13 Louie Catherall (gk), 16 Theo White.
Goals: Mbo 12, Stevenson 106
Referee: Timothy Burley