REPORT | ARGYLE 3 MIDDLESBROUGH 3
Coburn 23, 60
Argyle and Middlesbrough shared the points and six goals in a Sky Bet Championship classic at a saturated Home Park.
Boro struck first, Josh Coburn scoring midway through the first period but fabulous goals from Bali Mumba and Finn Azaz gave the Pilgrims a half-time lead.
The visitors dominated the opening 20 minutes of the second half and led 3-2, thanks to Coburn, slotting the rebound after his penalty had been save by Michael Cooper, and a prodded finish from Sam Greenwood.
Back came the Pilgrims, and Morgan Whittaker secured a deserved point with a lovely curling free-kick into the far corner.
Argyle manager Steven Schumacher made two changes from the narrow loss at Ipswich, Jordan Houghton and Ben Waine replacing Adam Randell and the injured Ryan Hardie. Middlesbrough, meanwhile, warmed up for their trip to Devon with another trip to Devon, beating Exeter 3-2 in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday night.
The Pilgrims took just two minutes to construct a delightful move down the right, Mumba exchanging passes with Azaz to bear down on goalkeeper Seny Dieng, who did well to spread himself and make the block.
Boro responded with a slick move, culminating in a fizzed low cross from Coburn, eventually shepherded clear by Houghton. Argyle, however, were also playing with impressive purpose, finding passing combinations all over the pitch.
A short corner routine opened the space for a low Houghton cross hacked clear by Matt Crooks before stout defending by Dan Scarr prevented Coburn from reaching a bouncing Isaiah Jones cross.
Unfortunately, there was no stopping Coburn moments later. Lewis Gibson brilliantly blocked the initial drive from Crooks but the ball bounced to Lukas Engel and his driven cross to the near post was stabbed past Cooper by Coburn.
Boro almost doubled their lead when Jones found space on the edge of the box and only a slight deflection took it over the bar. The resultant corner was met on the volley by Crooks, forcing Cooper into a terrific low save.
The Greens completely switched the momentum with a glorious equaliser. The ball was moved beautifully from left to right, involving Whittaker and Luke Cundle before the final pass from Azaz was met by an accomplished side-foot finish from Mumba.
A superb team goal was swiftly followed by a sumptuous individual strike. Azaz picked up the ball on the right from a Mumba flick, jinked inside and curled a wonderful 20-yard effort beyond Dieng and into the far top corner.
Argyle calmly managed the remainder of an enthralling first period but Boro were the side asking questions immediately after the restart, Greenwood curling a well-struck free-kick narrowly over.
Greenwood did find the target from the next move, prompting a smart save with the legs from Cooper. Crooks was next to find a gap from an incisive pass and Cooper, again, was quickly off his line to snuff out the threat.
The Pilgrims then hit the self-destruct button. Scarr played the ball into Luke Cundle in a dangerous area, Crooks pounced on the ball and Scarr hacked him down for a clear penalty. Coburn’s spot-kick was saved by Cooper but the rebound was an easy tap-in.
Argyle badly needed a spell of possession and some respite at the back but the opposite happened, as Boro carved a lovely move down the right and the cut-back was steered into the bottom corner by a stretching Greenwood.
The Greens turned to the bench, Julio Pleguzuelo and Adam Randell replacing Waine and Mumba. An inviting low cross from Mickel Miller required a last-ditch clearance by Paddy McNair, as Argyle sought another switch in the pattern.
Crooks spurned a decent chance to extend the Boro lead, slicing wide from a good position, as the rain swept across a gloomy Home Park. The gloom was lifted in fabulous fashion by Whittaker, curling a lovely free-kick from the right that evaded everyone in the box and crept into the far corner.
A brilliant game had taken yet another twist, and Argyle were the side looking more likely to find goal number seven. Successive corners had the Boro defence under huge pressure, with the rain now reaching monsoon proportions.
Callum Wright made his return from injury to replace Cundle for the final few minutes, as we awaited the final act in a compelling drama, with Freddie Issaka replacing Whittaker for his first Championship appearance.
The final act proved to be a delicious Argyle move, ending with a fierce drive from Houghton, palmed over by Dieng. Boro then broke from the corner and Kaine Kesler-Hayden produced a match-saving tackle to complete a sensational game of football.
Argyle: 1 Michael Cooper; 2 Bali Mumba (20 Adam Randell 65), 4 Jordan Houghton (capt), 6 Dan Scarr, 10 Morgan Whittaker (35 Freddie Issaka 90+1), 14 Mickel Miller, 17 Lewis Gibson, 18 Finn Azaz, 23 Ben Waine (5 Julio Pleguezuelo 65), 28 Luke Cundle (11 Callum Wright 87), 29 Kaine Kesler-Hayden. Substitutes (not used): 21 Conor Hazard (gk), 3 Macaulay Gillesphey, 7 Matt Butcher, 8 Joe Edwards, 19 Tyreik Wright.
Booked: Miller 70, Cundle 72
Middlesbrough: 1 Seny Dieng; 3 Rav Van Den Berg, 6 Dael Fry, 7 Hayden Hackney, 11 Isaiah Jones (18 Sammy Silvera 86), 16 Jonny Howson (capt), 17 Paddy McNair, 19 Josh Coburn (9 Emmanuel Latte Lath 79), 25 Matt Crooks (10 Morgan Rogers 79), 27 Lukas Engel, 29 Sam Greenwood. Substitutes (not used): 23 Tom Glover (gk), 4 Daniel Barlaser, 5 Matt Clarke, 14 Alex Gilbert, 15 Anfernee Dijksteel, 24 Alex Bangura.
Booked: Crooks 30, Coburn 62, van den Berg 66
Referee: Darren England
Attendance: 16,471 (1,644 away)