Plymouth Argyle were frustrated by Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium where they were unable to find a winning goal during late minutes of massive pressure in a 1-1 draw.
Argyle went north as favourites, with Wigan, who are struggling financially in League One this season, starting the new campaign poorly – and the Pilgrims got a first goal through Ryan Hardie.
But the home side were spurred on after having a goal chalked off early in the second half, and grabbed an equaliser to set up a desperate finish.
Manager Ryan Lowe called the game ‘interesting’ and said his team should have taken more of the chances they had. “We should have been certainly out of sight in the first half,” he said. “We had some great chances and played some great football.
“We always knew coming to Wigan was going to be tough, in their circumstances with what they are going through at the moment, but we had to make sure we were professional and do our job.
“We certainly did that in the first half and the only thing missing was a couple of goals – and I have looked at some of the chances back – but, look, it’s one of them, isn’t it. You come up against different teams, different personnel and different styles.
“I thought our football, to the top end of the pitch, to the six yard box, was clinical today – it was just that last little bit in the six-yard box and around the 18-yard box where we need to be a bit more ruthless.”
Danny Mayor had a great chance on 32 minutes, but his shot went narrowly wide. Hardie was the biggest threat for Argyle in the first half – he had several chances and one stinging shot that was blocked – but when the lively Luke Jephcott, back in the team for the game, forced the Wigan defence into making an error, Hardie got to a poor back pass first and beat goalkeeper Jamie Jones with a confident strike for 1-0.
Captain Joe Edwards won possession soon after and began a move involving Jephcott, Ben Reeves, and Danny Mayor – but Byron Moore curled his shot over the bar.
Apart from a header, which was held well by goalkeeper Michael Cooper, Argyle were rarely threatened. And when Argyle went ahead, Wigan’s heads visibly dropped – they really did take a punishment in the first half.
But, at the start of the second half, Wigan thought they had an equaliser, though there was a flag. There was a long conversation between the referee and his assistant – but it was still no goal.
Hardie did well to find some space on the edge of the area on 55 minutes but his shot went over. Frank Nouble replaced Jephcott on the hour.
Then, Wigan, who had a few more chances in the second half, got back into the game with a goal from a Kal Naismith cross from the right that was headed home by Will Keane.
A Nouble shot was blocked and Tyrese Fornah sent a powerful shot wide as Argyle rallied after the equaliser. Panutche Camara made way for Dom Telford, who was instantly involved. Moore got around his man brilliantly after some good work from Telford – but his cross rolled across the goalmouth and away from danger.
Argyle kept attacking but Wigan’s defence held firm – they were throwing bodies in the way of shots as they strove to keep the point.
There were eight minutes added on to the end 90 after an earlier Wigan injury. Argyle had a series of corners but they were unable to find a winner. It was a frustrating end for the Pilgrims.
Lowe added: “It’s a point on the road after a tough few days of travelling up and down the country – and so many miles, and missing key players.
“So I am pleased with the point but I would have been more pleased, obviously, with three points.”