A WEAKENED Plymouth were beaten 5-0 away at Watford in the FA Cup third round, despite putting in a battling performance.
The Pilgrims went into the game with their midfield decimated so getting a result at the league leaders was always going to be difficult.
Manager Dave Leonard had already lost midfield dynamo Jessie Jones, who has moved overseas, but they were also without the injured Becky Dandridge, Kayley Lane and flying winger Amber Pollock.
Argyle welcomed back goalkeeper Ben Kyle from injury which enabled captain Katie Middleton to resume in central defence and they started with a 3-5-2 formation with, Lydia Huntley, Mollie Taylor and Middleton at the back. Bow Jackson, Ebony Dover, Leah Burridge, Steph Beck and Faye Ivall filled the midfield roles and Zoe Cunningham and Natasha Knapman were up front. On the bench were Bleazard and teenagers Nelinha Barros and Beth Everson.
Watford started on the front foot and Kyle bravely saved from Helen Ward with the Wales international heading the rebound wide.
Middleton then came to the rescue twice with great interceptions, but Watford eventually took a 29th minute lead through Kate O’Leary who headed in a Ocean Rolandsen cross.
Two minutes later Cunningham rattled the home crossbar.
Just as Argyle were getting a foothold in the game Watford grabbed a second when Ward played in O’Leary, who beat Kyle with a near post strike for her second goal.
It was almost 3-0 just before half-time when Ward just failed to get on the end of an O’Leary through ball and Middleton then bravely denuied Alysha Stojko-Down’s goal-bound strike.
The pressure continued in the second half and three minutes in Andria Carid Can created the opportunity by finding O’Leary who headed in her hat-trick goal.
Argyle had changed their formation to 4-4-2 with Bleazard coming on for Huntley. Argyle responded with Ivall being denied by a good save from Chrissie Wiggins.
The visitors’ Knapman then collide with Wiggins and after a few minutes was unable to continue and was replaced by Everson.
Teenager Nelinha Barros was then given her first taste of first team football when she replaced Bow Jackson.
Watford continued to look dangerous as Rolandsen found Ward who shot narrowly over. Kyle then made a superb save to deny Ward in a one-on-one situation.
Unfortunately, Argyle’s resistance ended in time added on when they conceded two more goals with Ward smashing the ball past Kyle to make it 4-0 and Danielle Scanlon firing in from distance to complete Argyles miserable afternoon.
Disappointed manager Leonard said: “We never troubled them, it was damage limitation. We were off it, looked tired and nowhere near it.
“I am not blaming being five players different from when we last played them but as a squad we need to do more as a team to compete with teams at that end of the table.”
He added: “Watford are a decent team but we didn’t compete against them. It’s not the end of the world you always learn more in defeat than in victory. We need to do more as individuals to compete at this level.”
Leonard revealed Knapman had suffered a dead leg but should be okay for Sunday’s match against Crawley.
Argyle: Ben Kyle, Lydia Huntley (Helen Bleazard), Mollie Taylor, Kate Middleton, Bow Jackson (Nelinha Barros), Ebony Dover, Leah Burridge, Steph Beck, Faye Ivall, Zoe Cunningham, Natasha Knapman (Bethany Everson).
Argyle’s development team faced a blank Sunday as their South West League Western Division match at Feniton was called off as their pitch at Ackland Park was deemed unplayable.