Plymouth Argyle snatched the most unlikeliest of points with a last gasp penalty at Home Park this evening to deny Stevenage what would have been an excellent win on their travels.
A first Boro goal for Connor Calcutt looked to have the points heading back to Hertfordshire, but in time added on after the allotted six minutes of injury time, the Pilgrims equalised from the spot.
Team news saw three changes from the weekend defeat at Southend with Okimo, Deacon and Bond coming in for Worley, Marriott and Pett, the latter of whom was amongst the four Stevenage subs.
After a scrappy opening minutes in which both teams seemed content with finding each other out, the first chance came on 11 minutes and it fell to Boro. Charlie Lee, playing a more advanced role behind Charles, combined with Simon Walton to find Whelpdale, who in turned found Bond lurking on the edge of the area. The midfielder had Deacon in space out wide but elected to cut back inside onto his right foot and his shot was straight at McCormick.
At the other end Jerome Okimo, making his first competitive start for Boro, had to be alert to thwart Reuben Reid after Jason Banton had beaten Ashton out wide, with Banton then having a pop himself on 15 minutes but his effort flew wide.
Down the other wing for Plymouth, Lewis Allesandra tricked his way past Okimo and find Tyler Harvey on the edge of the box, but fortunately for Boro he was learning back and his effort flew into the loyal band of visiting fans behind the goal.
On the half hour mark Stevenage won their first corner of the game after good work by Charles. Walton found Charlie Lee at the back post. He had time to control and fire in a shot which was blocked.
Both teams continued to show moments of promise as the half wore on but it was Boro who were dominating possession, much to the frustration of the home crowd.
Whelpdale did well before the break to twist his way past two on the edge of the area but dragged his shot just wide. Moments later Deacon broke from a Pilgrims corner and saw covering defender Kelvin Mellor slip and handle the ball with Deacon still able to win possession and advance on goal. The referee had already blown for a Stevenage free-kick and after Mellor was booked, his defence cleared the resulting set piece.
Charles was replaced by Calcutt at the break after failing to recover from a hefty blow to the head in the opening stages but still Stevenage continued to press in the second half, looking lively up top and dominant at the back for anything which Argyle tried to create. And nine minutes in they deservedly took the lead. Lee started the move by pinging a ball out wide for Whelpdale, who did brilliantly to reach the ball before it ran out of play and hook it back for Calcutt to power home a header back across McCormick.
Plymouth were jolted into action and made a triple sub on the hour but despite peppering the Boro box, the visiting defence were able to stand firm and continued to control play. Wells saw a powerful header fly straight into McCormick’s arms from a Walton corner and Whelpdale saw a header of his own go over as Boro kept up the pressure.
The hosts eventually began to find some joy going forward with Beasant forced into a couple of low saves with 15 minutes remaining on the clock. That pressure continued with a series of corners and free-kicks for the Pilgrims but for every ball into the box there was a header clear by Wells, Dembele, Ashton or Okimo, with excellent work also being done in front of them by Boro’s midfield.
With 10 minutes left Stevenage oh so nearly got a killer second. An Argyle corner broke down and Pett was there bursting through on the counter. His pass found Lee who held off his man and raced through on
goal only for River Allen to put in a last gasp challenge and send the Boro midfielder flying. The visitors appealed for a penalty but the ref signalled a corner, much to the frustration of the Boro fans behind the goal.
Ryan Johnson replaced the battered and bruised Lee as the game entered six minutes of injury time but even then Boro didn’t give up, with Deacon stinging McCormick’s hands with a low drive after skipping past Peter Hartley.
However, with the referee looking at his watch for the umpteenth time and despite Boro heading, kicking and clearing everything which came their way, salvation came for the Pilgrims seven minutes in the allotted time. The linesman spotted a hand in the Boro box, the referee awarded a penalty and up stepped sub Deane Smalley to smash home the spot-kick.
It was a cruel end for Boro after an excellent performance but there is certainly plenty to be positive about ahead of Saturday’s visit by Wycombe Wanderers.
Plymouth: McCormick, Mellor, Cox (Allen 60), Nelson, Alessandra, Banton, Reid (Morgan 60), Harvey (Smalley 60), McHugh, O’Connor, Hartley
Subs not used: Bittner, Purrington, Blizzard
Stevenage: Beasant, Ashton, Wells, Dembele, Okimo, Whelpdale (Pett 80), Bond, Walton, Deacon, Lee (Johnson 90), Charles (Calcutt 46)
Subs not used: Day
Referee: Kevin Johnson