Former Reds’ loanee Hiram Boateng stunned Crawley with an 88th minute winner as Mark Yates’ side went down to a harsh 2-1 defeat to the new League Two leaders.
Plymouth were well worth the interval lead given to them by Reuben Reid, but Mark Yates’ side worked their way back into the game in the second half and were rewarded on 84 minutes when substitute Roarie Deacon equalised.
But when Freddie Woodman failed to hold Graham Carey’s free kick Boateng, who was with Crawley in 2013, was first to react to slam the ball home.
Reds made one change to the side that beat Newport County on Tuesday with Mitch Hancox replacing Christian Scales at left back. Luke Rooney, available again after suspension, was on the bench while the Argyle squad included two ex-Reds in Josh Simpson, who was on the bench, and Boateng.
Argyle have started the season strongly and it was not hard to see why in the first half as they dominated possession and stretched Reds’ defence thanks to two full backs, Kelvin Mellor and Gary Sawyer, who needed no invitation to bomb forward.
Having said that Woodman had little to do in the first third of the contest as several promising Argyle moves petered out because of a poor final ball. The home side weren’t scared of putting their foot in either and Premier League referee Stuart Attwell dished out yellow cards to Mellor, Sawyer and, just before the break, Carl McHugh.
Woodman made his first save of note on 37 minutes when he pushed out McHugh’s shot out after Graham Carey had headed a corner into the box. Four minutes later Woodman made a routine stop from Reuben Reid’s header.
Just when it looked as if Reds would get to the break unscathed they were undone on 43 minutes. Carey’s simple ball down the middle split the visitors’ central defenders and Reid, in space, guided the ball past Woodman from ten yards for his third goal of the season. From a Reds’ point of view it was a poor goal to let in and not for the first time this season Crawley conceded a goal just before half time.
Reds had offered little in attack with Gwion Edwards well shackled but Rhys Murphy nearly conjured up a surprise equaliser in stoppage time when he was found by Luke Young, but his shot on the turn was straight at keeper Luke McCormick.
The Argyle keeper dealt with a 25-yarder from Ross Jenkins at the start of the second half as Reds made a purposeful start to the second half. Edwards began to get more involved and Crawley were playing much higher up pitch.
Young, who had been booked for committing two fouls in as many minutes, was replaced by Deacon on 57 minutes and two minutes later Reds fashioned their best move of the game. Jenkins and Harrold were initially involved, Jimmy Smith laid the ball into the path of Edwards but his attempt at a cushioned volley went wide of the right-hand post after taking a deflection.
At the other end Woodman pushed out a cross into the path of Mellor but he skied his shot from close range under pressure from Liam Donnelly.
With an hour played there were signs that Reds were starting to look more of a threat as they enjoyed their best spell of the game. Another change was made when ex-Argyle favourite Simon Walton replaced Jenkins after 67 minutes before Edwards and Hancox took the tally of yellow cards to seven for fouls.
Simpson came on in the 70th minute to applause from both sets of fans and as both teams began to tire in the closing stages the game got increasingly stretched, although neither goalkeeper was having a great deal to do.
Mark Yates made his final change with 11 minutes to go when Murphy was replaced by Shamir Fenelon and six minutes from time it looked as if Crawley’s second half show had got its reward. Harrold won a free kick which Walton lofted into the box. Yorwerth met it with a firm header which McCormack could only push out to Deacon, who bundled it over the line from close range for his third goal of the season.
But with two minutes of normal time remaining another free kick, this time at the other end, proved Crawley’s undoing. Liam Donnelly gave away a free kick 25 yards out and Carey drilled it around the wall. Woodman got both hands to it but could only push it out as far as Boateng, who side-footed home from close range.
It was harsh on Crawley who now have three home games to try and build some momentum, starting against Southend on Tuesday in the JP Trophy.