Pilgrims are finally ground down by powerful Millers
ARGYLE could come up with no answers as they were comprehensively outplayed by Rotherham at the New York Stadium on Saturday.
Former Pilgrims midfielder Kari Arnason sent a long range shot narrowly over the crossbar only 30 seconds after kick-off and that set the tone for the rest of the match.
Rotherham, as a team, were bigger and stronger than Argyle and never relinquished their grip of the game.
The Pilgrims had been unfortunate to lose 2-1 at Cheltenham Town last Tuesday after playing some excellent passing football.
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They created several chances in that match and, on another day, could have easily picked up three points, let alone one.
The same could not be said for Saturday, though, when Argyle's passing approach collapsed after early sustained pressure from Rotherham.
To their credit, the Pilgrims defended resolutely and goalkeeper Jake Cole was in top form when he was called upon.
Rotherham's persistence finally paid off in the 73rd minute, however, when substitute Kieran Agard scored what proved to be the winning goal.
Argyle had struggled to create chances before that and it was no better after Agard had netted.
They simply did not have the firepower to trouble a well-drilled and robust Rotherham defence.
Centre-back Curtis Nelson was pushed into attack for the closing stages but it was to no avail.
It was the first time in 11 matches, since the 0-0 draw away to Torquay United on September 8, the Pilgrims had not scored in a game.
They have also not kept a clean sheet since that Devon derby at Plainmoor either.
Nelson was recalled to Argyle's starting line-up against Rotherham because captain Darren Purse was ruled out by a toe problem.
Purse, 35, has been troubled by the injury all season and it finally became too sore for him to continue playing.
His performances have not been as consistent as they were last season, but the pilgrims could have done with his physical presence and leadership on Saturday.
That said, Nelson had a good game for the Pilgrims playing alongside stand-in skipper Maxime Blanchard.
Nelson showed good strength in the air as Rotherham repeatedly launched the ball into the penalty area, either from corners and free-kicks or Arnason's trademark long throws.
Argyle tried to get their passing going at the start of the match and looked to use the full width of the pristine pitch at the recently-opened £20 million New York Stadium.
But as Rotherham started to dominate, the Pilgrims showed signs of anxiety and they seemed to lose confidence in their gameplan.
They hit more and more long balls forward, rather than trying to get Argentine playmaker Andres Gurrieri on the ball.
Guy Madjo was Argyle's lone striker in the 4-4-1-1 formation and he was outmuscled by Rotherham centre-backs Ian Sharps and Craig Morgan.
They were as formidable a pairing in that position as I have seen in League Two this season.
Pilgrims boss Carl Fletcher changed tactics before the break, with Gurrieri moving to the left side of midfield in a 4-4-2.
That meant Paris Cowan-Hall was pushed into the attack with Madjo but the visitors still could not retain possession for any period of time.
Had Argyle held out for a 0-0 draw it would have been a reward for sheer defensive stubbornness but eventually, Rotherham made the breakthrough.
The Millers had been forced into a late change to their team when winger Lionel Ainsworth dislocated a shoulder in the warm-up.
Gareth Evans had been named as one of their substitutes but ended up starting on the left of midfield.
There was further disruption for the Millers in only the fourth minute when right-back Dale Tonge had to be taken off because of an injury.
He was replaced by Mark Bradley, but Rotherham shrugged off their double injury blow.
There was a spell in the first half when it was the home side against Cole, and the Argyle keeper came out on top.
It started when a swerving 25-yard shot from Evans was beaten away by Cole and Blanchard completed the clearance.
Midfielder Lee Frecklington had a fierce strike saved by Cole after a long throw from Arnason was headed out to him by Argyle left-back Scott Griffiths.
The pick of Cole's stops came in the 19th minute when Rotherham's Ben Pringle received the ball 20 yards out.
Pringle seemed certain to score with a powerful low shot until Cole swooped to his right and at full stretch flicked the ball wide of the post.
Pringle took the resulting corner and, from it, striker Alex Revell aimed a header towards the far corner of the net.
However, Cole came to the rescue for the Pilgrims again as he showed tremendous agility to push the ball away.
Rotherham thought they had taken the lead in the 32nd minute when Arnason headed home a corner from Pringle.
However, referee Darren Bond ruled there had been some pushing elsewhere in the penalty area and awarded a free-kick to Argyle.
Evans and Arnason both had long-range shots bravely blocked, by Blanchard and Jamie Lowry respectively, as the pressure continued.
But the Pilgrims did create one clearcut chance before half-time when Madjo was picked out by a cross from Alex MacDonald.
Madjo was not far out but could not control his diving header and the ball sailed over the bar.
Rotherham remained on top after half-time but Argyle defended strongly and the home side had far fewer chances than in the first period.
Evans fired wide and striker Daniel Nardiello had a low shot saved by Cole after cutting in from the left flank.
It seemed as though Rotherham were starting to run out of ideas and the Pilgrims could cling on for a point. That was until the 73rd minute when good play from Nardiello saw him get behind Griffiths.
He crossed to the near post and, from inside a congested six-yard area, Agard slotted the ball into the net as Rotherham finally found a way past Cole.
Argyle had already sent on Warren Feeney and Nick Chadwick as substitutes earlier in the second half, for Madjo and Gurrieri.
Onismor Bhasera was also introduced in the 79th minute for a tiring Lowry, who was making his full debut for the Pilgrims after overcoming an ankle ligament injury.
There was no way back for Argyle, although they did have one late opportunity to equalise.
It came deep into stoppage time when Cowan-Hall nodded the ball inside to Chadwick after a deep cross from Griffiths.
However, the ball came at Chadwick at an awkward angle and he headed wide of the right post.