Argyle 2 Doncaster 3
Lameiras 40, Carey 90
Doncaster Rovers 3
Marquis 18, 90, Blair 57
A FIRST SkyBet League One win of the season remains frustratingly out of reach for Argyle, who lost by the odd goal in five against Doncaster Rovers.
For the visitors, a fourth successive victory was secured through two goals from John Marquis and one from Matty Blair. Argyle’s replies from Ruben Lameiras and Graham Carey were of much higher quality, but where goals are concerned, it is quantity that matters.
With an injury list so long that team selection was a case of “hands up if you can run”, Argyle boss Derek Adams had very few decisions to make. Peter Grant, David Fox and Gregg Wylde all kept their places after coming on as injury replacements at Charlton last week, the last mentioned being asked to continue in the unaccustomed left-back role that he filled so admirably at the Valley.
The spaces created on the bench were occupied by Lionel Ainsworth, whose hamstring injury had eased sufficiently for him to be named in a match-day squad for the first time this season, Ryan Law and Dan Rooney.
Following their win over Bradford City last time out, Grant McCann made just one change to the Doncaster line-up, drafting in Jermaine Anderson for Ben Whiteman, with Ali Crawford promoted to the bench.
Argyle’s worrying tendency to make costly individual errors might easily have seen them concede within five seconds of kick-off, when Ryan Edwards’ attempted long ball was blocked by Marquis and the rebound caused Matt Macey in the Argyle goal to have to back-pedal uncomfortably to gather.
Nothing in the early exchanges suggested that one team was in fourth place and the other rock bottom, as Argyle played some neat, progressive football, particularly down the left flank. One threatening incursion by Joel Grant was thwarted by the unlikely sight of Donny centre-back Joe Wright heading the ball to safety while both he and it were on the ground.
At the other end, Edwards pulled off a similar trick while lying prone, albeit with his left foot, as the ball bobbled dangerously around the penalty spot.
However, as Argyle have experienced repeatedly this season, matching the opposition is not an end in itself, and they found themselves behind in the 18th minute. Marquis, playing his 100th game for the visitors, is not a man to leave totally unmarked 10 yards from goal. When you do, he tends to score, and he duly did. The inquests that followed were long and heated.
Argyle went in search of an immediate response, with Graham Carey testing Marko Marosi in the Doncaster goal with a low right-footer and Edwards planting a meaty header against the far post from a Carey corner. At that moment, the world seemed an awfully unfair place.
The force remained with the home side as the half hour mark came and went, but it was at the other end that the next goal very nearly arrived, when Marquis lined up a thunderous drive that cannoned back off the post, with Macey not within sniffing distance.
As the breathless pace showed no sign of relenting, it was anyone’s guess which team would score next. The smart money was on it being Doncaster when Marquis was released by a quicksilver counter-attack, but the threat was extinguished by a superbly timed tackle by Edwards.
Instead, it was Argyle who conjured an equaliser in the 40th minute. More good build-up play on the left led to chances for Freddie Ladapo and Lameiras, both repelled by Marosi, but when the third shooting opportunity fell to Lameiras in the same attack, his left-footed strike was only ever going to find the top corner.
The fact that the teams left the field to a chorus of “We love you Argyle” said everything about the performance and the balance of play.
As so often though, the interval seemed to have a disruptive effect on the team that had been in the ascendancy, and it was Doncaster who came out after the break on the front foot. In truth, they remained there.
Although clearly on top, the visitors had not produced any real goal threat until the 57th minute. An error by Yann Songo’o appeared to have gone unpunished, as Peter Grant produced a magnificent tackle, but Rovers quickly recycled the ball and worked an opening on the right flank. Mallik Wilks delivered the low cross and Blair, arriving late and unattended, swept home from 12 yards.
Falling behind for a second time seemed to deflate Argyle, who could not rediscover any of the fluency that had marked their play before the interval.
Stuart O’Keefe entered the fray in the 69th minute in place of the unlucky Joel Grant, who had asked as many questions of the visitors as anyone, but he was no more able to influence the flow of the game than his teammates.
Instead, it was Doncaster who continued to press, with first Wilks, then Alfie May, being magnificently denied by Macey’s astonishing double save.
Derek Adams rolled the dice again, introducing Ainsworth for Songo’o, then Alex Fletcher for Lameiras, but the force was still with the visitors, who continued to look the more likely to score.
And so it proved in the 90th minute when Marquis, looking suspiciously offside, ran through and put the game firmly to bed.
That was that, or so it seemed.
In fact, there was still time for Ashley Smith-Brown to produce a goal-line clearance that prevented the score from getting embarrassing, and for Carey to smash home what might well be the most stellar of all the amazing goals that he has scored during his time in green.
What a shame that it came in the 95th minute and in a losing cause.
Argyle: (4-2-3-1): 1 Matt Macey; 23 Ashley Smith-Brown, 5 Ryan Edwards, 24 Peter Grant, 20 Gregg Wylde; 4 Yann Songo’o (7 Lionel Ainsworth 77), 8 David Fox (capt.); 10 Graham Carey, 11 Ruben Lameiras (29 Alex Fletcher 82), 16 Joel Grant (13 Stuart O’Keefe 68); 19 Freddie Ladapo. Substitutes (not used): 18 Calum Dyson, 21 Kyle Letheren, 33 Ryan Law, 34 Dan Rooney.
Booked: P Grant 67, Carey 74.
Doncaster Rovers (4-4-2): 13 Marko Marosi; 2 Niall Mason, 5 Joe Wright, 6 Andy Butler (capt), 3 Danny Andrew; 15 Herbie Kane, 22 Jermaine Anderson (11 Ali Crawford 59), 17 Matty Blair, 7 Mallik Wilks (14 Alfie Beestin 80); 9 John Marquis, 26 James Coppinger (19 Alfie May 59). Substitutes (not used): 1 Ian Lawlor (GK), 12 Tom Anderson, 16 Paul Taylor, 24 Danny Amos.
Booked: J Anderson 2, Wright 45, Andrew 79, Marquis 90.
Referee: Kevin Johnson.
Attendance: 8,522 (237 away).