Grimsby Town suffered a second consecutive defeat against a promotion-chasing side as Plymouth Argyle won comfortably at Home Park.
After making the long trip to Devon, the Mariners began well but fell behind to a Tyreeq Bakinson header on 22 minutes.
Plymouth doubled their advantage on the half-hour when Ryan Hardie made it 2-0, before Luke Jephcott added a third to put the game out of Town’s reach and send the home side into League Two’s automatic promotion places.
Six changes were made to the side that started Saturday’s home defeat by Northampton, with Harry Davis making a return from injury.
Captain James McKeown was back in the line-up in goal, while Bradley Garmston, Elliott Whitehouse, Matt Green and Charles Vernam also returned.
McKeown started behind a defence of Luke Hendrie, Davis, Luke Waterfall and Garmston, while Harry Clifton and Josh Benson began alongside Whitehouse in midfield and Vernam and Green were joined in attack by Billy Clarke.
The substitutes were Sam Russell, Anthony Glennon, Mattie Pollock, Elliott Hewitt, James Tilley, Max Wright and Elliot Grandin.
Plymouth made three changes after their weekend loss at Bradford, although two of them were enforced after two red cards in West Yorkshire.
An early Mariners corner was eventually cleared after home keeper Alex Palmer failed to fully deal with Benson’s delivery.
The hosts then had their first opportunity when Conor Grant broke through the middle before finding striker Luke Jephcott but his weak shot from the edge of the penalty area required only a comfortable stop from McKeown.
Davis did well to prevent another chance on eight minutes, getting back well to put a superb challenge in and deny Ryan Hardie as he looked to run onto a through-ball.
At the other end, a cross from Hendrie led to Clifton flicking a header just wide of the far post, before another attack ended when Clarke was caught offside.
A volley from Hardie bounced back off the post with McKeown beaten after Town failed to deal with a chipped cross from George Cooper on the left. The ball was then put out for a corner, which caused no significant problems.
Green looked to have an opportunity on 18 minutes but was forced wide and unable to hit the target.
A great tackle by Waterfall on the six-yard line stopped Hardie as he was about to pull the trigger as the hosts threatened.
But the Mariners were not so lucky the next time Plymouth attacked, as a cross from the left was met by BAKINSON and he had the simple task of heading unchallenged past McKeown to open the scoring.
A foul by Hendrie on the home left brought a free-kick but the ball from it was headed away and a cross from Cooper then beat everybody and went out for a goal kick.
A good ball by Clarke on 27 minutes found Whitehouse inside the box but the midfielder could only volley off-target from a narrow-angle.
Town fell further behind on the half-hour, when a pass through the middle from Bakinson split their defence and HARDIE ran onto it, rounded the advancing McKeown and finished calmly.
Glennon replaced Garmston as the away side made the first substitution of the game on 32 minutes after the left-back picked up an injury.
But it was the hosts who were continuing to threaten and McKeown had to make a good save to tip a curling effort from Grant over the bar for a corner.
From the flag though, Plymouth went further ahead after a short corner routine. Town failed to deal with the danger and after the ball was crossed again from the right, JEPHCOTT met it at the far post and squeezed it past McKeown.
Soon afterwards, Bakinson was fouled in a central position, 25 yards from goal but Cooper’s free-kick flew over the bar.
Two added minutes were played at the end of the first half and with no further chances, the home side went in at the interval holding a commanding lead and the Mariners had left themselves with a mountain to climb.
Pollock came on for Benson before the restart in Town’s second change and the visitors had the first opportunity of the half, with Whitehouse firing over the bar from distance.
Vernam won a corner when his right-wing cross was blocked but it did not lead to a chance in front of goal as Clarke’s ball was cleared. A long, defence-splitting ball then almost let Hardie in at the other end but he was adjudged to have fouled Hendrie and a free-kick was given.
A foul by Clifton on Bakinson earned the midfielder a yellow card, before a cross from Cooper was blocked for a home corner. It didn’t cause any problems though as the high ball from the flag went away for a goal kick.
A shot by Clarke at the other end was blocked, then a Town free-kick caused no danger as Clarke’s delivery was flicked out for a goal kick.
The final Grimsby change saw Wright come on in place of Davis three minutes after the hour and soon afterwards, Clarke picked the ball up in midfield before advancing and letting fly from 25 yards with an effort that keeper Palmer pushed away for a corner.
The Town pressure continued with another two corners in quick succession and another attempt by Clarke was blocked, this time for a throw-in.
A Plymouth counter-attack on 68 minutes led to McKeown making a good save after Hardie got on the end of Cooper’s cross.
Vernam then diverted a cross towards goal at the other end but Palmer was there to make a simple stop.
Another Town corner came on 72 minutes and this time, Clarke’s ball was met by Waterfall at the first half but Palmer got down to stop the centre-back’s header.
At the other end, Hardie’s deep cross found Jephcott but his volley from the edge of the box hit the bar and went away for a goal kick.
Joe Edwards was sent on for Cooper, then a Plymouth corner came after another ball through the Town defence was touched away.
Edwards should have made it 4-0 with six minutes to go after McKeown could not hold a shot from the edge of the box but when the rebound fell to the substitute, he hit the post.
Three added minutes were played at the end of the game as the Town looked for a consolation goal but it was not to come and they were left with a second 3-0 defeat in a row.
The Mariners and their fans will now look ahead to their next game, away to Scunthorpe United on Saturday.
- Alex Palmer
- Byron Moore
- George Cooper
- Callum McFadzean
- Niall Canavan (C)
- Scott Wootton
- Conor Grant
- Tyreeq Bakinson
- Danny Mayor
- Luke Jephcott
- Ryan Hardie
- Michael Cooper
- Jarvis Cleal
- Joe Edwards
- Joel Grant
- Adam Randell
- Ryan Taylor
- Dominic Telford
- James McKeown (C)
- Luke Hendrie
- Bradley Garmston
- Luke Waterfall
- Harry Davis
- Josh Benson
- Harry Clifton
- Elliott Whitehouse
- Matt Green
- Billy Clarke
- Charles Vernam
- Sam Russell
- Anthony Driscoll-Glennon
- Elliott Hewitt
- Matthew Pollock
- Elliot Grandin
- James Tilley
- Max Wright
Referee: David Rock