ARGYLE pushed Championship side Millwall all the way in their Carabao Cup second-round cup at the Den, finally succumbing to a 3-2 defeat only in the final minute of the game.
The Pilgrims led twice, through Jamie Ness and – after Ryan Edwards’ foul allowed Shaun Williams to level from a penalty – Freddie Ladapo. However, goals from home-side heavyweight substitutes Lee Gregory and Aiden O’Brien turned the tide on its head.
Manager Derek Adams took heart from another good performance from his team but said: “It’s disappointing because the manner of the defeat in the end.
“Millwall are a good side and we stopped them being a good side, which was pleasing.
“We just ran a Championship team; we were 2-1 up with 15 minutes to go; and we have beaten a Championship team in the last round.
“We had a very good performance. We limited [Millwall] to very few opportunities on target – I don’t think our goalkeeper’s made many saves – which we came here to do.”
Argyle started with a midfield five that included new loan signing form Cardiff City, Stuart O’Keefe, with Graham Carey making way.
Derek said: “We knew that Millwall would play a lot of diagonal balls, crosses in the box, and we dealt with well with that.
“We went ahead early in the game. We played a good ball down the channel, got a corner kick; a great ball in from Conor Grant; a flick from Edwards; and a good finish from Jamie Ness.
“It allowed us to defend a lead, which we’re good at, and, in the second half we allowed [Millwall] back into the game – we gave them a penalty kick, a needless penalty from Ryan Edwards.
“It’s stupidity. He doesn’t have to get as close as he is with [Tom] Elliott and he allows him to be in a position where he has to pull him back. It’s quite rightly a penalty.”
Argyle responded almost immediately, when Ladapo picked up the ball just inside the Millwall half and outstripped several defenders before shooting past goalkeeper Ben Amos.
Derek said: “We flooded the middle of the pitch and we were able to win the ball, play a couple of passes, and Freddie ran beyond their defenders, as he did a number of times, and [it was] a very good finish into the corner.
“With not long left in the game, it looked like we could see out the 15 minutes or so to go.”
Millwall subsequently put the Argyle defence under pressure, slinging balls into the box, and won the game in the last ten minutes with two close-range goals from wide deliveries.
Derek said: “It was through crossed balls into the box, which we didn’t deal well with – we didn’t stop the cross at source. If we had done that, we’d have been in the next round of the cup.
“We know that Millwall like to get the ball into wide areas and get the ball in the box.”
O’Keefe’s Argyle debut – the 1,083rd first-teamer to pull on Pilgrims’ colours – was an impressive one.
“He kept shape well; got on the ball,” said Derek. “It’s not easy, making your debut away at Millwall; [it was] a good performance from him.
Asked about the decision to bench Carey, Derek said: “Horses for courses. You have got to perform to get in the team.”