Plymouth Argyle 2-1 Town
By Liz Owen
Fleetwood Town now lie six points outside the play-off places after a disappointing defeat against Plymouth Argyle at Home Park in front of 62 members of the travelling Cod Army contingent.
Town struggled to match their attacking ventures of Tuesday night and though David Ball inspired a late surge with his eighth goal of the season, Graham Alexander’s side were unable to find an equaliser.
Alexander handed starts to Paul McKenna and Ryan Crowther in place of Anthony Barry and Gareth Evans, while John Sheridan’s Plymouth side
remained unchanged from their goalless draw midweek.
It was Alan Goodall who presented Argyle with the perfect opportunity to take the lead after referee Trevor Kettle penalised the defender for a push on Pilgrims captain Conor Hourihane in the area.
And defender Paul Wotton stepped up to blast the 25th-minute spot-kick past Scott Davies down the centre – his first goal in almost a year.
On-loan Crystal Palace youngster Jason Banton then scored his fifth goal of the season six minutes before the interval to double Plymouth’s lead, as the 19-year-old ventured forward after dispossessing McKenna to fire home a left-footed shot from the edge of the area.
Ball, who worked hard throughout, handed Town a lifeline after 74 minutes after taking advantage of a poor Guy Branston clearance and firing a
powerful left-footed strike to ripple the back of the net and claim his eighth goal of the season.
But a second yellow card for Paul McKenna dealt Alexander’s men a late blow as they pushed for a second.
Town had struggled to find a way past a physical centre-back partnership of Wotton and Branston, while goalkeeper Jake Cole was in top form and made a fantastic double-save as the first half entered its closing stages.
A Crowther cross found Brown lurking just yards from goal and the midfielder looked certain to score as he tried to guide it into the back of the net from close range.
But Cole showed great reflexes to somehow direct the ball wide with his feet, following it up with a firm catch from Ball’s point-blank header.
Ball’s second-half goal had given the visitors an extra boost and substitute Barry Nicholson forced another dramatic save from Cole three minutes
afterwards, the Pilgrims ‘keeper leaping full-stretch to tip his effort over the bar following Brown’s cross.
It was Fleetwood who initially threatened through Ball, Crowther and Nathan Pond, who both saw efforts wide inside the opening 10 minutes, but Plymouth could well have taken the lead after a deep cross caught Davies off his line, with Town’s defence eventually scrambling the ball clear.
Parkin looked hungry after his midweek endeavours and he came close after 20 minutes with a thundering 30-yard strike which was pushed behind at the post by Cole.
But taking the lead seemed to galvanise Plymouth, who attacked with intent as they fight for their lives at the bottom of League Two.
Joe Bryan’s flick at the post was sent narrowly wide shortly before the half-hour mark, while Hourihane blazed over from a good position four minutes later after Andres Gurrieri’s cross was headed clear by Pond.
Meanwhile, Town were having no luck up front – Brown was outpaced by Onismor Bhasera to Ball’s lofted pass, and Parkin was beaten to a Brown cross by Wotton as the first half drew to a close.
Fleetwood began to take back control of proceedings after half-time but they still appeared devoid of ideas in the final third while Plymouth continued to deny those who attacked in the box.
Jamie McGuire spurned a fantastic opportunity for Town after 63 minutes, heading wide from a pinpoint Alan Goodall cross in plenty of space.
Parkin had scuffed one shot and rolled another one softly towards Cole as the hour mark approached, while the striker also crashed a 58th-minute free-kick against a resilient Plymouth wall.
Alexander introduced Evans and Nicholson into the action in place of Crowther and McGuire on the 69th minute as Fleetwood upped the intensity.
For a period after Ball’s goal, Town were bombarding Plymouth’s box with crosses but Max Blanchard’s classic ball-winning tackle on Brown typified the home side’s determination.
McKenna’s dismissal six minutes from time, after his late challenge on substitute Paris Cowan-Hall earned him a second booking, took the sting out of Town’s attack and Jean-Michele Fontaine’s appearance in place of Goodall four minutes later was too late to change the game.
Parkin ran into trouble minutes from time after picking up a yellow card for a foul on Branston and following it up with a further altercation, although the referee decided against penalising him - much to the displeasure of the Home Park faithful.
A last-ditch attempt at an equaliser saw Davies come forward to join in a late free-kick, but Parkin blasted high and wide in the dying stages as the game was lost.