Argyle suffered heartbreak in the FA Cup against Watford once more, but just as they did in 1984, they pushed their illustrious opponents all the way. In the end, it’s likely that the difference between the two sides was Premier League experience. That and a goalkeeper called Ben Foster. Ian Holloway made six changes to the side that drew at Hillsborough; Seip, Timar, Sawyer, Sinclair, Ebanks-Blake and Gallen all recalled with Aljofree, Doumbe, Capaldi, Halmosi, Djordjic and Fallon missing out.
The 20,652 spectators packed into Home Park witnessed a cagy opening, with the home side taking time to get into their stride. This season, the Pilgrims have had a tendency to start games slowly and Watford capitalised on their somewhat tentative start to the tie. With 21 minutes on the clock, the visitors took a short corner and Steve Kabba crossed into the box where Bouazza hammered home a left-footed shot to put the Hornets ahead. From that moment on, there was only one side in the game, but not the one a goal to the good. Following in the footsteps of their predecessors and roared on by the Green Army, memories of 84 coaxing the noise levels to a deafening crescendo, the hosts had a good chance to equalise when David Norris was set free by Kevin Gallen, but the popular Argyle man overran the ball when trying to round Foster when a shot may well have been a better option. Scott Sinclair, scorer of a wonder goal in the earlier round at Barnet saw his shot blocked by Shittu and Lilian Nalis volleyed over when well placed. The closest that the Pilgrims came to an equaliser in the first period was when Foster was forced into tipping Gallen’s long-distance free-kick around the post.
The second half saw Argyle dominate the away side. Sylvan Ebanks-Blake saw his angled shot saved by the Watford keeper and a superb cross from Paul Connolly evaded Gallen and Ebanks-Blake by the barest of margins as Home Park collectively held its breath. Norris shot over as Argyle pressed, desperately searching for an equaliser and Foster had to be at his absolute best as Lady Luck declined Ian Holloway’s pre-game request to wear green, the Watford stopper keeping out a shot that was deflected off his own defender, Francis. Foster saved his best for last, his late, late save to tip a header from Nalis over the bar will, I suspect, be long talked about when this game comes up in future conversations.
Determination, spirit and endeavour were in abundance but in a cup run full of omens, history was to repeat itself. Argyle may be out, but they exit the cup with heads held high.