Plymouth Argyle impress but pay price for slack defending in defeat
ARGYLE saw their recent revival came to an end against Cheltenham last night, despite taking the lead in an exciting League Two encounter.
The Pilgrims had won their previous three matches in all competitions but could not extend that sequence despite a good attacking display.
They were undone by poor defending at set pieces, with both of Cheltenham's goals coming from headers.
Midfielder Conor Hourihane shot Argyle into a 30th minute lead against the fourth-placed Robins.
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Cheltenham centre-back Steve Elliott then headed home from a free-kick to leave it 1-1 at the break.
Argyle had good appeals for a penalty for a challenge on striker Guy Madjo waved away early in the second half.
Both sides had chances before Cheltenham substitute Kaid Mohamed headed home from a 78th minute corner.
The Pilgrims almost grabbed a late equaliser when midfielder Luke Young's 25-yard free-kick hit the top of the right post.
The ball rebounded to Alex MacDonald but he could not control his follow-up header and the ball cleared the crossbar.
Argyle went into the match at Whaddon Road without winger Paris Cowan-Hall, who was ruled out by injury.
Joe Lennox took over from Cowan-Hall on the left of midfield, with Onismor Bhasera added to the substitutes' bench.
Cowan-Hall had suffered a dead leg early in the second half of the 3-1 home win against Rochdale on Saturday.
Cheltenham's starting line-up included former Pilgrims' striker Chris Zebroski.
There was also a recall for Town's top scorer Shaun Harrad, who is on loan from League One outfit Bury.
Despite the ridiculously late decision by Cheltenham to lift the all-ticket restriction on Argyle's fans, there was still an excellent turn-out from the Green Army.
They filled much of the Hazlewoods Stand, behind the goal which the Pilgrims defended in the first half.
Cowan-Hall and rookie professional Jordan Copp were sat among the supporters.
Cheltenham almost took the lead in only the second minute when Zebroski forced Argyle's Jake Cole into a superb save.
Zebroski controlled a long clearance from 'keeper Scott Brown on his chest and unleashed a fierce shot which was pushed away by Cole.
Argyle responded to that early chance in the sixth minute when Andres Gurrieri fired wide from 20 yards, with the ball clipping the outside of the side netting.
Cheltenham started strongly, with Jermaine McGlashan shooting past the outside of the left post after a cut back from right-back Sido Jombati.
The home side played a 4-2-3-1 formation, which restricted the space in midfield for Argyle to pass the ball around and launch attacks.
The Pilgrims did create a decent opening for Young in the 21st minute, however.
Madjo chested down a cross from left-back Scott Griffiths and Young blasted the ball high and wide from 25 yards.
There was a let-off for Argyle in the 24th minute when Zebroski outpaced Argyle centre-back Maxime Blanchard to get on the end of a long pass.
Zebroski had only Cole to beat but sent his low shot from inside the penalty area wide of the left post.
Again Argyle responded, this time when Lennox rolled the ball back to Young and he drove the ball across the face of goal.
Zebroski had another excellent chance for Cheltenham in the 29th minute from a corner taken by left-back Billy Jones.
The ball was hit deep to the far post and Zebroski's powerful on-target header was kicked away by Cole.
Moments later, Argyle took the lead with a second goal of the season from Hourihane.
Cheltenham failed to properly clear a cross into the penalty area and the ball broke to Hourihane 20 yards out.
The Irish midfielder controlled the ball decisively and then drilled a low left-foot shot into net.
Argyle's lead lasted until the 37th minute when centre-back Elliott headed home at the far post after a free-kick from Jones.
Seconds later, Hourihane was booked for falling over too theatrically after a challenge on him.
It was Hourihane's fifth yellow card of the season and means he will be suspended for the game away to Rotherham United on Saturday.
Hourihane then almost restored Argyle's lead in the first minute of stoppage time.
He made a great run into the penalty area before his fierce shot was beaten away by Brown for a corner.
It stayed 1-1 until the break after an excellent first half of football with lots of chances for both teams.
Argyle had loud appeals for a penalty waved away in the 48th minute when Madjo tried to get on the end of a cross from Lennox and was impeded by Elliott.
Referee Stephen Martin was also not interested when Argyle centre-back Darren Purse seemed to be shoved over in the 18-yard box by Marlon Pack.
The ball would probably have been too high for Purse to get in a header anyway, which might have been a factor behind Martin not pointing to the spot.
Harrad then had a shot from outside the box saved by Cole as the game continued to be played in a very attacking spirit.
Gurrieri made a superb run into the Cheltenham penalty area in the 60th minute, leaving a trail of defenders in his wake.
The Argentine then cut the ball inside but Lennox had not followed up and could not get on the end of it, otherwise he would have had a clear shot on goal.
Gurrieri then teed up MacDonald in the 65th minute with a defence-splitting pass but the Burnley loanee fired high and wide.
Argyle had a good spell, with Gurrieri to the fore, as Town's defence was stretched one way then another.
The visitors made their first substitution in the 70th minute when Bhasera replaced Lennox.
Gurrieri went close to putting Argyle into the lead again soon afterwards when his powerful shot was pushed away for a corner by Brown.
That save proved to be crucial because Cheltenham went 2-1 up in the 78th minute.
Mohamed powerfully headed home from a corner taken by Jones, and it was almost 3-1 moments later.
Zebroski lobbed the ball over the onrushing Cole but Blanchard hooked it away from goal.
Madjo made way for Nick Chadwick in the 83rd minute as the Pilgrims tried to find a way back into the contest.
They almost equalised in the 88th minute when Young's 25-yard free-kick took a deflection and hit the top of the right post.
The ball rebounded to MacDonald who could not control his header as the ball sailed over the bar.
Jamie Lowry was a late substitute for Young as he made his debut for Argyle but the visitors could not draw on level terms.