Northampton Town slumped to their first home defeat of the season as goals from Graham Carey and Jake Jervis saw Plymouth Argyle to a fully deserved 2-0 victory at Sixfields this afternoon.
The first half had started well for the Cobblers and there seemed to be little between the two sides in a tight opening 45 minutes, however a costly mistake right on half-time gifted the visitors the lead and that proved the turning point as Northampton struggled to recover.
It was a forgettable day for Ryan Watson, who was making his second Cobblers debut, as it was his error that allowed Plymouth to strike first when Carey stole possession and cantered through on goal before slotting past Adam Smith.
In an attempt to rescue the situation, Cobblers boss Chris Wilder switched to 4-4-2 in the second half but that failed to have the desired impact as a disjointed Northampton side were unable to build up a head of steam with the visitors looking more likely to add to their lead.
That proved to be the case when Jervis bundled home a corner before Josh Lelan’s sending off in time added on compounded a miserable afternoon for the Cobblers, who have now suffered back-to-back defeats after starting the campaign with three straight wins.
Hopes were high for a positive outcome prior to kick-off, with Leicester loanee Watson brought straight into the starting XI, with the suspended Jason Taylor making way, while the fit-again Zander Diamond replaced Rod McDonald.
Other changes saw Nicky Adams, Alfie Potter and Marc Richards return to the starting line-up as Wilder continued to shake things up in an attempt to keep his players fresh during the early season rush of fixtures.
After lambasting his side’s sloppy passing in last week’s win over Exeter, Wilder would have been frustrated by the way Northampton started against Argyle as they failed to capitalise on several promising positions having dominated possession in the opening stages.
Plymouth almost went ahead with their first foray into Northampton territory as a sloppy back header from Ryan Cresswell gifted the visitors a cheap corner, but Peter Hartley headed over.
That was largely against the pattern of play, though, with Plymouth happy to sit back and allow their hosts to dictate the play while waiting for the opportune moment to counter-attack.
Once again it was Nicky Adams at the heart of most of Northampton’s brightest moments and he had the first shot on target when firing from long-range, but his shot was comfortable for Luke McCormick.
As the Cobblers probed for an opening, Argyle presented a threat on the break and only an inch-perfect sliding tackle from Josh Lelan prevented Carey from making further progress inside the Town penalty area.
Northampton then countered from that and Lawson D’Ath fired a dipping 30-yard effort narrowly over.
Both sides had their moments but clear-cut chances were at a premium and a largely uneventful first half appeared destined to end goalless, only for the visitors to then be presented with an opener.
It was a nightmare moment for Watson as the on-loan midfielder dallied on the ball on the halfway line and was pickpocketed by Carey, who then sauntered through on goal unchallenged before placing a cool finish beyond the onrushing Smith.
It was a sickening blow for the Cobblers and came right on half-time to gift the visitors a lead going into the break following a tight half of few chances.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin replaced Alfie Potter at the start of the second half with Wilder switching to 4-4-2, but initially it made little difference as the Cobblers struggled to make much headway.
Instead, it was Plymouth who threatened a second, much to the frustration of the increasingly restless home crowd, with Ryan Brunt scuffing his effort when well-placed.
Plymouth then saw a huge penalty shout turned down when Brunt chested the ball down in the box and was about to pull the trigger, only to fall to ground under pressure from Diamond.
The visitors continued to crank up the pressure as they sought a second and they were only denied by a sensational Smith save when Carey cut inside and unleashed a vicious effort, which the Cobblers stopper tipped onto the bar.
Smith was again in action from the resultant corner as he pushed over Jervis’s header before the Cobblers scrambled clear another Argyle corner in a frantic passage of play that the home side somehow managed to survive.
A brief Cobblers attack almost saw Cresswell beat McCormick with a header from a free-kick, but that came against the run of play and it wasn’t long until the visitors added a deserved second.
This time Jervis got the better of Smith when a corner was swung in deep and the Argyle winger bundled the ball home.
For all their endeavour, Northampton failed to conjure a response and their miserable afternoon ended in apt fashion with Lelan sent off for a second yellow card.
Cobblers: Smith, Lelan, Diamond, Cresswell, Buchanan, Bryom (Corry 76), Watson, Potter (Calvert-Lewin 45), Adams (Hoskins 63), D’Ath, Richards (c)
Subs not used: Clarke, McDonald, Hackett, O’Toole, Calvert-Lewin
Plymouth: McCormick, Mellor, Nelson (c), Hartley, Sawyer, McHugh, Boateng (Tanner 83), Jervis, Carey, Wylde (Simpson 45), Reid (Brunt 15)
Subs not used: Cox, Harvey, Purrington, Bittner
Referee: Nicholas Kinseley
Plymouth fans: 710