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Argyle's bright start undone by lacklustre second half as Rovers claim share of points

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 19, 2012

Bristol Rovers’ Tom Parkes (left) nicks the ball away from Argyle’s Onismor Bhasera at Home Park last night. Picture: Dave Rowntree/Pinnacle

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Argyle squandered a half-time lead for the second successive match at Home Park as they had to settle for a draw against struggling Bristol Rovers last night.

After a poor start to the League Two clash, the Pilgrims took the lead in the 35th minute with a superb goal from Conor Hourihane.

The 21-year-old Irish midfielder crashed an unstoppable 30-yard shot into the net for his first goal of the season.

But Rovers, without a league win, were the better side in the second half and deserved their equaliser. It came in the 70th minute when centre-back Tom Parkes, up for a corner, fired in from a narrow angle.

Rovers had a couple of chances to have snatched victory after that but could not convert them.

Argyle have still only won once in League Two this term, and the draw with Rovers leaves them 19th in the table. It must be a concern for manager Carl Fletcher that his side struggled so much after half-time.

Argyle were without experienced midfielder Paul Wotton because of a groin injury. The 35-year-old had been substituted in the second half of the 3-1 home defeat by Port Vale on Saturday. In the absence of Wotton, Fletcher switched from a 4-1-4-1 formation to 4-4-1-1.

Recent loan recruit Guy Madjo led the attack, with 17-year-old Matt Lecointe in support of him. Madjo was making his first start, and third appearance, for Argyle since signing from Aldershot Town earlier this month.

Lecointe had been playing in the centre of midfield as a substitute in the previous two matches.

In addition to Wotton, injuries also continued to rule out Nick Chadwick, Rene Gilmartin and Rhys Griffiths.

But Paris Cowan-Hall was included on the substitutes' bench after recovering from a hamstring strain.

There was a booking for Argyle midfielder Luke Young in only the second minute for a tackle on Parkes.

The visitors forced a couple of early corners from promising attacking moves as they tried to seize the initiative from the kick-off.

Striker Dave Clarkson also forced Argyle 'keeper Jake Cole into a save with a shot from inside the penalty area.

There were early rumbles of discontent among the Green Army as their side made a very lacklustre start. Argyle were being over-run in midfield and could not retain possession for any length of time.

Argyle had started confidently against Vale, but it was the complete opposite last night. They did not have their first chance of the match until the 21st minute, but it was a good one as Madjo's curling shot hit the crossbar.

Moments later, Lecointe's deflected drive went out of play for a corner and a roar of 'Come On You Greens' rang around Home Park.

Rovers' boss Mark McGhee was angered by a tackle by Argyle captain and centre-back Darren Purse on Clarkson in the 29th minute.

While Clarkson received treatment, Purse was booked by referee Darren Deadman.

Argyle needed some inspiration from somewhere and it came from Hourihane in the 35th minute. Young threaded the ball through to the Irish midfielder in a central position, with Pilgrims' team-mates on either side of him.

But, instead of trying to pass the ball to them, Hourihane ran forward and crashed a 30-yard shot past Rovers' on-loan Chelsea keeper Sam Walker and into the net.

It was his first goal of the season, and his third in 51 appearances for the club.

Young was now playing in a deeper position, in front of the centre-backs, and was starting to dictate the play.

Argyle were much better for that tactical change and finished the first half on top.

There was a low-key start to the second period until Cole saved at his near post from a powerful, low shot from Rovers' Fabian Broghammer in the 53rd minute.

The visitors ditched their 4-5-1 formation as Eliot Richards was sent on to play alongside Clarkson in attack.

Rovers went close to an equaliser in the 60th minute when midfielder Ollie Norburn drilled a low 25-shot narrowly wide of the right post.

The visitors were spending much of the time on the attack and the Pilgrims started to drop deeper rather than trying to push forward.

Fletcher made his first substitution in the 66th minute when Lecointe made way for Cowan-Hall.

The Pilgrims were defending numerous crosses into their penalty area, both from open play and corners, as their slender lead came under threat.

When Argyle failed to clear their lines from one corner in the 70th minute, Rovers worked the ball out to Parkes and his angled shot flew past Cole and into the net.

As they had done after leading 1-0 at half-time against Port Vale, the Pilgrims had lost their way. Parkes raced across to the Rovers' supporters in the Barn Park stand to celebrate his goal, and was booked for his trouble.

Argyle needed to lift themselves after conceding the equaliser but Rovers continued to dominate.

Broghammer saw a shot deflect off Argyle left-back Robbie Williams in the 77th minute and bounce narrowly wide of the left post.

Clarkson then had a strike from inside the penalty area safely held by Cole.

Rovers forced a succession of corners, and from one of them Williams blocked a goalbound shot from Clarkson.

Argyle's second substitution came in the 85th minute when Warren Feeney replaced Alex MacDonald. Rovers remained on top as they went in search of their first league win of the season, with Richards firing high and wide from 25 yards.

Four minutes of stoppage time were added on by Deadman but it remained 1-1 until the final whistle.

Plymouth Argyle (4-4-2): Cole; Berry, Purse, Blanchard, Williams; MacDonald (Feeney 85), Young, Hourihane, Bhasera; Madjo, Lecointe (Cowan-Hall 66). Substitutes (not used): Chenoweth (gk), Nelson, Lennox, Gurrieri, Gorman.

Goal: Hourihane 35.

Bookings: Purse, Young, Madjo.

Bristol Rovers (4-4-2): Walker; Virgo (Smith 60), Kenneth, Parkes, L Brown; Lund (Richards 55), Gill, W Brown (Anyinsah 68), Norburn; Broghammer, Clarkson. Substitutes (not used): Paterson, Gough (gk), Clucas, Clarke.

Goal: Parkes 70.

Bookings: Parkes, W Brown.

Referee: D Deadman (Cambridgeshire).

Attendance: 6,303.

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