Plymouth Argyle bottom of the table after controversial defeat
NORTHAMPTON TOWN 1 PLYMOUTH ARGYLE 0
PLYMOUTH Argyle dropped to the bottom of League Two after losing in controversial circumstances against Northampton at Sixfields Stadium on Saturday.
The Pilgrims were furious about the only goal of the game, which came in the 70th minute.
They were adamant goalkeeper Jake Cole was fouled when he caught a corner and was sent tumbling, spilling the ball into the net.
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Referee David Phillips did not spot any offence, though, and allowed the goal to stand.
Even Northampton manager Aidy Boothroyd admitted after the game his team had been fortunate to take the lead in that way.
The defeat was hard to take for Argyle after a battling display which deserved some reward.
And, to make matters worse for them, they dropped to the bottom of the table, two points adrift of safety.
That was because Accrington Stanley drew 2-2 at home to Cheltenham Town and AFC Wimbledon won 1-0 away to Dagenham and Redbridge.
Next up for the Pilgrims is a crucial clash at Wimbledon on Tuesday.
Argyle's starting line-up showed two changes from the 1-0 defeat by Oxford United at Home Park last Saturday.
Paul Wotton returned to the side in a midfield holding role as part of a 4-1-4-1 formation.
Durrell Berry was ruled out by injury so Maxime Blanchard played out of position at right-back.
The late withdrawal of Berry meant the Pilgrims had only six substitutes.
Northampton included Plymouth-born midfielder and long throw-in specialist Ben Tozer in their team.
Argyle made a determined start and had the first chance of the contest in the 17th minute.
Captain Hourihane swung a free-kick into the penalty area and centre-back Guy Branston got on the end of it but headed wide.
Chances were few and far between for Northampton in the first half, with Cole not called into any saves.
Cole had to punch clear from some corners and long throw-ins from Tozer but that was about it as the Pilgrims defended strongly.
On-loan Crystal Palace winger Jason Banton was Argyle's main attacking threat with his strong running and good control of the ball.
Banton had one powerful, goalbound shot blocked by Northampton centre-back Kelvin Langmead in the 31st minute after skipping past a couple of challenges.
Moments later, Wotton went close with a 35-yard shot which was not far wide of the left post.
Former Northampton defender Anthony Charles had a header easily saved by Lee Nicholls in the 41st minute as Argyle remained on top until the break, but it stayed goal-less.
Northampton had an early chance in the second half when striker Roy O'Donovan sent a glancing header wide of the far post after a cross from Chris Hackett.
Argyle responded with a 30-yard shot from left-back Onismor Bhasera which was safely held by Nicholls, diving to his right.
Northampton adopted more of a 'route one' approach as they began to put the Pilgrims under pressure.
Adebayo Akinfenwa, Town's 17-goal top scorer, was sent on as a 59th minute substitute for right-back John Johnson.
That change saw Akinfenwa and Clive Platt paired in attack, with Tozer moving into defence.
There was not much flowing football on the bobbly pitch and with challenges flying in from both teams.
Northampton broke the deadlock in the 70th minute and in controversial circumstances.
Midfielder Ben Harding hit a corner deep to the far post and Cole seemed to have caught it before falling backwards and the ball ended up in the net.
Argyle appealed there had been a foul but Phillips allowed the goal to stand.
Wotton was booked as the Pilgrims protested in vain and manager John Sheridan was furious on the touchline.
Sheridan responded by sending on Gozie Ugwu, Andres Gurrieri and Ronan Murray as substitutes in the closing stages but the goal had knocked the stuffing out of them.
Akinfenwa wasted a tremendous chance to extend Northampton's lead when he blasted the ball over the crossbar from six yards.
But that miss did not prove costly as it remained 1-0 until full-time.
Argyle's players continued their protests to Phillips about the goal after the final whistle, with coach Gary Owers also having his say.
NORTHAMPTON: Lee Nicholls, John Johnson (Adebayo Akinfenwa 59 mins), Clarke Carlisle, Kelvin Langmead, Lee Collins; Chris Hackett, Ben Harding, Ben Tozer, Lewis Hornby; Roy O'Donovan, Clive Platt (Jake Robinson 86 mins).
Substitutes (not used): Luke Guttridge, Ishmel Demontagnac, David Artell, Emmanuel Oyeleke.
ARGYLE: Jake Cole; Maxime Blanchard, Anthony Charles, Guy Branston, Onismor Bhasera; Paul Wotton (Andres Gurrieri 77 mins); Paris Cowan-Hall (Gozie Ugwu 74 mins), Lee Cox, Conor Hourihane, Jason Banton; Reuben Reid (Ronan Murray 81 mins).
Substitutes (not used): Luke Young, Ollie Chenoweth, Jamie Richards
REFEREE: David Phillips (West Sussex)
ATTENDANCE: 5,382 (615 away)
GOALS – Northampton: Cole (og) 70 mins; Argyle: None