Hard work undone with Plymouth Argyle boss left to rue defensive error
ARGYLE were always up against it after conceding a goal within 90 seconds of the kick-off at Fleetwood.
Manager Carl Fletcher's best-laid plans went out of the window as striker David Ball put the Lancashire side into an early lead.
Argyle have conceded several goals this season when failing to clear their lines properly from corners, free-kicks and long throws.
Ball's fourth goal of the season was the latest addition to that catalogue of errors.
A long throw from on-loan Blackpool attacker Tom Barkhuizen skimmed off the top of the head of Argyle midfielder Luke Young.
Right-back Durrell Berry then had the chance to clear the ball but did not do so.
He could only scoop it up into the air and midfielder Barry Nicholson tried an ambitious overhead kick from around the penalty spot.
The ball would probably have gone wide, and goalkeeper Rene Gilmartin had it covered anyway.
However, Ball was lurking six yards out and he got his head onto the ball and redirected it into the opposite corner of the net.
Despite a cluster of yellow-shirted Argyle players in a congested penalty area, Fleetwood could celebrate taking the lead.
Not surprisingly, Fletcher was far from impressed with the defending – or lack of it – which gifted Ball his goal.
Fletcher said: "We just didn't mark our man. We worked all week on certain things and the game changes in the first two minutes.
"Once we got over the initial disappointment of the goal, we actually got on the ball and had some good chances.
"We were looking to push on in the second half but it just didn't happen for us."
It was still 1-0 to Fleetwood in the 78th minute when Argyle captain Darren Purse was sent-off after an off-the-ball incident.
The home side soon doubled their lead as a low, driven cross from substitute Curtis Obeng was stabbed into his own net by Curtis Nelson.
That was harsh on Nelson who had a fine game for the Pilgrims at centre-back, continuing his good recent form.
Fleetwood then rubbed salt into Argyle's wounds with a third goal from Junior Brown in the sixth minute of stoppage time.
Fletcher said: "Going down to 10 men, we would have liked to have kept it 1-0 going into the last few minutes so we could have had a right good go, but we didn't.
"It was unfortunate the second goal went in off Nelse and the game was over then really."
Fletcher responded to Fleetwood taking a 2-0 lead by sending on defender Maxime Blanchard as a substitute for attacker Paris Cowan-Hall.
He said: "It was a case of putting Max on and trying to shore things up, and recognising that we weren't going to get anything out of the game."
Fleetwood moved up to fourth position in the League Two table after ending a sequence of three successive draws with their win against Argyle.
"It was always going to be a tough place to come to," said Fletcher. "With the money they have spent they have got some real good players here.
"The first goal after two minutes wasn't good enough, from our point of view, and it kind of kills everything you have been working on all week.
"We found a foothold in the game and we were doing all right. We were looking to progress in the second half.
"Then the way it went is disappointing because you don't give yourself a good opportunity to get back in the game.
"Maybe had we kept 11 men on the pitch and done a few little things a bit better we might have had that chance."
Argyle have gone six games without a win in all competitions and are only four points clear of the League Two relegation zone in 19th position.
So are the manager and his players starting to feel the pressure? Fletcher replied: "There is pressure in everything, whatever you do, especially if you want to do it well.
"If you have high standards of yourself and expect high standards of other people then there is massive pressure.
"In this division you can just as easily get six wins as six losses. We will push on and look forward to the game against Bradford tomorrow."
The Argyle squad travelled across to West Yorkshire by coach after the defeat by Fleetwood.
It was rest and recovery for the players yesterday, with a swimming pool at their hotel a good way of doing that.
The Pilgrims will train at Football Conference North club Guiseley today as they prepare for their clash against Bradford at Valley Parade tomorrow.
Bradford dropped to seventh spot in the table on Saturday after losing 1-0 at home to Exeter City.