City suffered another shattering stoppage time defeat on a night full of unprecedented shaningans at Home Park.
Following another dismal first-half performance, the only positive of the night was the return to form of Nicky Maynard who bagged a brace off his own back.
Johnson decided to drop Hartley after his bust-up with assistant Keith Millen at Teading on Saturday, with Marvin Elliott chosen to partner Cole Skuse in a 4-4-2.
There was also a debut for the TWELVTH striker of the season as Stefan ‘Schwarzenger’ Maierhofer partnered Maynard in attack.
City actually started pretty brigthly early on, Elliott skewed his shot wide from the edge of the box after being teed up by Maynard whilst the impressive Cole Skuse tested David Stockdale in the Argyle goal on 22 minutes leaving Maierhofer with a tap-in, albeit from an offside position.
That proved the turning point of the game as Plymouth started to gain a stranglehold, mainly by demonstrating more hunger and desire to be first to the ball than we did.
Then, on 31 minutes, their pressure was rewarded with the game’s opening goal.
Argyle left-back Chris Barker was in space down the left and as several City defenders went to close him down, Barker had the simple task of picking out Chris Clark in acres of space inside the box to volley past Gerken.
Orr was guilty or standing off as were the two centre-backs of ball-watching leaving only McAllister to deal with the onrushing Clark.
The lively Jamie Mackie stung the fingertips of Gerken with a long-range effort before the softest of goal was conceded just before the break.
A throw-in on the right-hand side of our box was swung in, Rory Delap-style, by Kari Arnason. The ball travelled all the way to the penalty spot, was allowed to bounce which Bradley Wright-Phillips punished with an overhead kick for 2-0.
Then came the really talking point of the game. There appeared to be an altercation between manager Gary Johnson, a steward and Ivan Sproule as the side’s trotted off and the Northern Irish winger was not to re-appear after the interval.
Sproule’s replacement Danny Haynes was straight into the action, sending Maynard through on goal only for Stockdale to be alert and smother at the striker’s feet.
Then came City’s much-needed break as Plymouth’s Reda Johnson clumsily fouled Maynard 20-yards from goal. Skuse rolled the ball to Maynard who clinically fired under the wall and into the back of the net for his first goal since Boxing Day 2009.
City were affored a similar chance moments later on the right side of the Argyle box. Jamie McAllister stepped up and struck a ferocious goal-bound shot which Stockdale did brilliantly to parry away.
McAllister, who was having a game to forget on his return to the side at left-back, then allowed Mackie to go clear down his side but the forward lacked composure and skewed his shot wide of Gerken’s upright with 15 left.
But City were to be right back in it seconds later. Schwarzenger’s rare flick-on send Maynard scampering clear of the offside trap to demonstrate pace and poise to bare down on goal and fire an angled drive past Stockdale and into the net for 2-2.
Suddenly, we seemed to be in the ascendancy as Haynes surged down the right to pick out an unmarked Maynard, who could only head wide of the target.
That momentum was dashed though seconds after as the dreadful Trevor Kettle decided to give Jamal Campbell-Ryce his marching orders after a tackle on Chris Clark. Cautioned for dissent in the first-half, Kettle had no intention but to send the former Barnsley man heading for an early bath.
The board soon went up for five minutes stoppage time, where the ref got that from I really don’t know, as City retreated deeper and deeper towards their own goal.
Kettle gave a dubious free-kick to the right of the City box and from the resultant set piece, surprise surprise for the umpteenth time this season, the ball broke to Carl Fletcher to scuff in from the edge of the box to break City’s hearts.
Straight from kick-off, Marvin Elliott nearly made it 3-3 with a 50-yard effort from inside the centre circle that caught Stockdale napping and clipped the post but the night belonged to the Pasty Munchers.
ARGYLE (4-4-2): Stockdale, Duguid, Arnason, R. Johnson, Barker, Clark (Judge ’88), D. Johnson, Fletcher, Bolassie, Wright-Phillips (Mason ’70), Mackie.
CITY (4-4-2): Gerken, Orr, Carey, Fontaine, McAllister (Nyatanga ’80), Sproule (Haynes ’46), Elliott, Skuse, Campbell-Ryce, Maynard, Maierhofer (Clarkson ’80).
REFEREE: Trevor Kettle (Berkshire)
Dean Gerken 5
Won’t be happy with his performance tonight. He had nothing to do for most of it and should’ve done better with the Argyle winner.
Bradley Orr 4
Tried to provide width down the right in the second half but his final ball was an embarrasment to all professional footballers.
Jamie McAllister 4
Very poor return to the first XI tonight. He seemed happy to pump aimless hoof’s into the Argyle box and lacked any sort of positional sense to go with it.
Liam Fontaine 5
Did ok at the back but will be disappointed with the second goal in particular. He looked a bit weak, in terms of body strength at times.
Louis Carey 6
Like Fonts, will be disappointed with that second goal but tried to lead from the front. Brought the ball forward to good effect in the second half and defending as resolutely as he could.
Jamal Campbell-Ryce 7
Ran his heart out for the team down the left flank and was a constant threat. Had little or no support from his left-back, or the midfield inside of him, when he needed it and his overenthusiasm cost a his second yellow.
Marvin Elliott 6
Started energetically in the engine room but soon faded and struggled to exert any influence on the game.
Cole Skuse 7
Tonight’s MOTM by a cat’s whisker.
Ivan Sproule 4
Largely ineffective during the first half and was subsequently replaced at the interval.
Nicky Maynard 7
Scored two tremendous goals to give us a sniff and harried from the front well. Had no service but long ball’s and on any other night he would’ve been my MOTM.
Stefen Maierhofer 4
Where do I start? He’s 6’8 and didn’t win a single header until just before the break when we were 2-0 down. He offered no strength, no pace, no aerial threat and was often caught offside. One of the poorest debuts I’ve ever seen.
Danny Haynes 5
Came on for Sproule but struggled to keep the width, if that’s what he was instructed to do. Fluffed his lines once of twice when the final ball was needed.
Offered sod all when he came on and was at fault for conceding a soft free-kick which led to their winner.
Worst Official’s EVER!
Chased shadows for the majority of his 10 minutes on the pitch.
GARY JOHNSON – 4/10
Not a bad team selection but didn’t understand why he was berating and subsequently subbed Sproule when we never got the ball out to him. Worried by the lack of fight the team showed, which may call his motivational skills into question once more.
PAUL MARRINER – 6/10
Impressed with the way he had his team up for the scrap as they were first to every ball for two thirds of the game.
Same Old Story…
We started pretty well in the opening 20 minutes but capitulated there after into the same old spineless, soft City we all know.
We created nothing going forward (Maynard’s goals were off his own back) and couldn’t defend if our lives depended on it.
Even more worryingly, we’re still not safe yet either as this result!
Empty Home Park
What a derisory attendance down at Home Park tonight. I know Argyle are having a poor season but this is their ‘local’ derby!
City fans rightly stayed at home, asides from those 779 hardy souls who could be bothered to travel in hope of a result.
Worst Official’s EVER!
Trevor Kettle and his linesmen should be ashamed tonight. I have never written about ref’s or lino’s impacting the game but these were appalling tonight.
Kettle made some horrendous decisions, including a blatant handball that went unseen. In that same incident, the ball went out for a thrown but was kept in play by the linesman, who refused to flag, which nearly resulted in a goal against us.
These bunch of clowns should be struck off the list for not knowing the rules of football.