Watford 2 (Hope 6, Jakubiak 65)
A combination of Argyle’s fringe players and promising youngsters lost out in the Under 21 Premier League Cup to a bright Watford side, but the 2-0 scoreline doesn’t do justice to The Pilgrims’ performance.
Watford scored a goal in each half, via Ryan Hope and Alex Jakubiak, but had Argyle converted through Tyler Harvery’s penalty just before half-time it could have been a different story.
Argyle fielded several playewrs with first team experience; Jake Cole, Andre Blackman, Hamza Bencherif and Dominic Blizzard all played as part of the allowance for over age players, while Luke Young and Tyler Harvey have experienced first team action this season, too.
Watford had a shout for a penalty after only four minutes, when Connor Smith evaded Kieran Asumadu-Sakyi and seemed to be brought down by Bencherif. The referee, though, waved it away.
Only two minutes later, though, Watford did go ahead. The attack again came down Argyle’s right, with this time Bernard Mensah getting to the byline, squaring the ball for Hope, who fired home from just inside the area.
Argyle, playing a 3-5-2 system in the mould of the first team of late, responded well to going a goal down, with Isaac Vassell looking a lively presence in the van. On more than one occasion he got the better of at least two defenders, but strength of numbers from Watford prevailed each time.
Young was showing his relative experience and class, being at the heart of most good things for Argyle, and after a drop of a shoulder opened up some space for him, he rattled a post with a shot from twenty yards. The ball fell to Harvey, but the young forward sliced when in a good position to level.
Harvey and Vassell’s pace and movement continued to cause issues for Watford’s defenders, which included former Sunderland defender Nyron Nosworthy. When Harvey was brought down on the edge of the area, Andre Blackman curled an effort goalwards, but it was straight at the goalkeeper.
Later, Bencherif lined another free kick up from distance and whistled it only inches past Daniel Wilks’ right hand post.
Argyle switched to a more orthodox 4-4-2 line up as half time approached, and it looked as though they would be rewarded for this as Harvey burst through a phalanx of Watford defenders and was felled by O’Nien. He picked himself up to take the spot-kick, but his low drive was pushed away by Wilks.
Argyle made a change at half time, with Sol Wheatley replacing Callum Hall and lining up on the right flank, allowing Andre Blackman to slot in on the left in front of Ben Purrington.
Wheatley’s first action was to fly down the right wing and stand up an inviting ball that a posse of onrushing Argyle players couldn’t quite meet. At the other end, Watford’s Connor Smith jinked through Argyle’s backline and rolled a tame shot just wide.
Purrington’s airshot let Alex Jakubiak run clean through on goal, but a lack of composure saw him dribble a ball well wide, as Watford wrestled back the momentum in the game.
Jakubiak then proved to the impressive crowd nestled high in the grandstand that he did have a finish in his locker, as he ran onto a pass in the left hand channel and clipped classily past Jake Cole.
Argyle brought on Mason Hughes for Kieran Asumadu-Sakyi and pressured Watford with a series of corners and free-kicks in dangerous areas, but were unable to convert. Another neat piece of skill by Young allowed him to sting Wilks’ palms, while Bencherif struck a post from a free kick - but it was all to no avail.
Watford will now progress to play Swansea City in round two.
Argyle (3-5-2): 1 Jake Cole; 2 Ben Purrington, 10 Hamza Bencherif, 4 Jamie Richards; 17 Kieran Asumadu-Sakyi (16 Mason Hughes, 72), 11 Dominic Blizzard, 8 Luke Young, 3 Andre Blackman,; 14 Callum Hall (5 Sol Wheatley HT), 7 Isaac Vassell, 9 Tyler Harvey.
Booked: Vassell (17)
Substitutes: 23 Andrew Hannah, 6 Nathan Summers, 18 Josh Hutchinson
Watford (4-4-2): 1 Daniel Wills, 2 Jazzi Barnum-Bobb, 3 Josh Docherty, 4 Ryan Hope, 5 Nyron Nosworthy (14 Alfie Young, 61), 6 Luke O'Nien, 7 Bernard Mensah (12 Alfred Bawling, 84), 8 George Byers, 9 Alex Jakubiak (17 Ogo Obi, 90), 10 Connor Smith (c), 11 Mahlondo Martin.
Substitutes: 15 Harry Kyprianou, 16 Kurtis Cumberbatch.
Referee: Steven Annis