Argyle manager Ryan Lowe lamented the key decisions that went against his side during the 3-1 Sky Bet League One defeat to Sunderland at Home Park on Saturday afternoon.
Having trailed at the interval, Argyle had hauled themselves level through player of the season Joe Edwards’ header midway through the second half, but were reduced to ten men just moments later, when Jerome Opoku saw red for a second bookable offence.
Having battled their way into the final minutes of the game still level, the Pilgrims’ resistance was broken via Chris Maguire’s penalty – awarded for a foul that appeared, through benefit of iFollow replays, to have occurred outside of the box.
Lowe said: “I felt we were always in the game – first half was 50/50, they had a few more shots than us, but well in it. We felt that, at 1-1, we worked our way into it.
“I thought their goal could be avoided, and I thought when we got back in the game we looked like we could go on again. The effort was there, certainly, we made some good runs off the back of them, in the second half I thought Danny [Mayor] was coming down the left quite positive – but ultimately when you go down to ten men it’s hard, isn’t it, and then the ref gives a dubious penalty, which is tough to take.
“When you go down to 10 men against a team like Sunderland you’re always going to struggle a little bit, but I felt we held our own with two banks of four and one striker.
“To be done by a dubious decision, which seems to be outside the box, gives them the momentum. You’re always going to find it difficult to come back from 2-1 with 10 men. We’ve been done by a couple of decisions.”
Lowe picked up a caution of his own at half time for attempting to engage in discussion with the referee at the interval.
He said: “I was just walking over to him. We felt the first one was offside – I was just walking over to him; he was quick enough to speak to me before the game. He said if you come any closer, I’ll book you, and that’s what he did.”
With time ticking down and the Greens reduced to 10 men, Lowe made two changes of significance to the individuals involved – one enforced, and one pre-planned.
Argyle Academy graduate defender Ollie Tomlinson was introduced shortly after Opoku’s red card for his first league appearance. Shortly after the Black Cats went 2-1 up, goalkeeper Luke McCormick was introduced for Mike Cooper to make his 349th club appearance – a move intended to ensure that the club stalwart is able to reach the 350 appearances milestone at Gillingham.
Lowe said: “Luke probably won’t have the opportunity to play many more games for Argyle. He’s on 349 appearances, and I want to make sure he gets 350 and bows out with another appearance because he deserves it. It’s been planned for weeks.
“Young Ollie’s been thrown in at the deep end and I felt he held his own. I’m pleased for the boy, he won a fair few headers and passed the ball nicely. He’s still got a long way to go, he’s only a youngster, but it was a proud moment for him and one he should relish. It was always in our thoughts to give him some minutes.”
Tomlinson may well find himself involved again in the Greens’ season-ending fixture at Gillingham next week, with Crystal Palace loanee Sam Woods ruled out for the rest of the campaign, while central defensive colleague Will Aimson is also a doubt.
Lowe said: “Sam’s gone back, he’s going to be out for a few weeks with his hamstring, so he’s gone back to Crystal Palace. We thank Sam for his efforts while he was here. Adam Lewis has gone back to Liverpool because his ankle ligaments have swollen right up – we thank Adam for his efforts too.”