Plymouth Argyle fail to hold on to lead in dismal defeat to Burton
A TRULY miserable week for Argyle continued as they were beaten by Burton at Home Park last night after throwing away a 1-0 lead.
It came after the Pilgrims lost 1-0 away to part-timers Dorchester Town in the FA Cup on Sunday.
News of possible redundancies among the club's non-playing staff emerged on Tuesday and was then followed by the defeat against Burton.
It leaves them in 19th position in League Two, four points clear of the relegation zone.
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Argyle had seemed in complete command after substitute Paris Cowan-Hall gave them the lead in the 49th minute.
But, against the run of play and with time running out, Burton hit back in devastating style.
First, centre-back Nathan Stanton equalised in the 74th minute and then midfielder Robbie Weir put them ahead.
The Pilgrims could not come up with any response to the double salvo as they slipped to a fourth successive defeat in all competitions.
Next up is the visit of League Two leaders Gillingham on Saturday, so it will not get any easier for them.
Manager Carl Fletcher shook up Argyle's starting line-up with five changes from the defeat at Dorchester.
One of them was enforced, though, with Conor Hourihane ruled out by suspension after he was sent-off in the FA Cup tie.
Luke Young slotted into the centre of midfield alongside Jamie Lowry.
Jake Cole, an ever present in League Two this season, returned between the posts instead of Rene Gilmartin.
Burnley loan signing Alex MacDonald, who had been ineligible for the FA Cup tie, replaced Joe Lennox on the right of midfield.
There were also recalls for Warren Feeney and Guy Madjo, who were paired in attack in a 4-4-2 formation.
Dropping out of the side were left-back Scott Griffiths and striker Rhys Griffiths.
Onismor Bhasera moved from midfield to fill the vacancy caused by Scott Griffiths dropping down to the substitutes' bench.
That meant former Burton player Andres Gurrieri was on the left of midfield for Argyle.
Burton, with only one defeat in their previous 11 league games, included former Pilgrims' youth team graduate Damien McCrory at left-back.
There was a subdued atmosphere inside Home Park before the kick-off with lots of empty seats around the stadium.
The attendance of 5,219 was the lowest for a league game this season and included only 33 visiting supporters.
There was a low-key start to the match, with the exception of one driving run from Young into the penalty area, which was halted by a tackle from Stanton.
The first quarter-of-an-hour passed without any other goalmouth action as the teams sized each other up.
Fletcher had called on his players to 'go out and express themselves' but there was no early evidence of that.
Argyle showed signs of tension as they misplaced a series of passes and they also lacked any urgency about their play.
Burton were not much better than the Pilgrims but were more assured on the ball.
Argyle were forced into a substitution in the 28th minute when an injured MacDonald made way for Cowan-Hall.
MacDonald had been on the receiving end of a crunching challenge earlier in the first half.
Burton's Cleveland Taylor was booked for a late tackle on Gurrieri, showing no sentiment towards his former team-mate.
The match was played in near silence as Argyle did not give the Green Army much to shout about.
Bhasera fired wide from 20 yards after a corner in the 36th minute before Burton's on-loan Hull City 'keeper Mark Oxley was finally called into action.
Centre-back Curtis Nelson got on the end of a perfectly flighted free-kick from Lowry but his goalbound header was clawed away by Oxley.
Argyle's stand-in skipper Maxime Blanchard was hurt in a tackle with Weir in the 43rd minute.
Blanchard miscontrolled the ball and had to slide in to make sure Weir did not pick up possession.
The centre-back had to be helped off the pitch by physio Paul Atkinson and club doctor Paul Giles.
Blanchard did return to the action, though, and it remained goalless until half-time.
Argyle continued with their 4-4-2 formation at the start of the second period as they attacked the Devonport End.
And they took the lead in the 49th minute with a fourth goal of the season from Cowan-Hall.
Feeney turned away from one Burton defender and played a superb pass to Cowan-Hall who raced into the box.
Cowan-Hall cut back inside McCrory and fired low past Oxley, beating him at his near post.
McCrory was booked for a foul on Cowan-Hall in the 53rd minute
Burton sent on striker Billy Kee as a substitute for Taylor soon afterwards as they changed to a 4-4-2 formation.
Zola and Kee have been a potent partnership for Burton this season and it had been a surprise the latter was not in the starting line-up.
Nelson headed high over the crossbar from a Lowry corner after Madjo's shot was blocked behind.
Argyle had more of the play as they chased a second goal, with Feeney and Madjo working tirelessly up front.
Gurrieri had a tremendous 25-yard swerving shot beaten away by Oxley in the 67th minute.
Blanchard had shaken off the injury he suffered before half-time but was not over-worked as Burton rarely troubled the Pilgrims' defence.
However, the Staffordshire visitors equalised against the run of play in the 74th minute.
Stanton applied the finishing touch from close range after Argyle 'keeper Jake Cole could not hold onto a looping header from centre-back Zander Diamond.
Cole was jostled as he tried to catch the ball but referee Mick Russell did not see any foul.
Burton then took a 2-1 lead in the 79th minute when Weir headed home after Cole could only parry away a cross-shot from substitute Chris Palmer.
The match had been transformed in a matter of moments and Argyle were suddenly staring at another defeat.
Rhys Griffiths and winger Joe Lennox were sent on as late substitutes but it was to all no avail as Burton picked up an unlikely three points.