ANOTHER poor first half performance ultimately led to defeat as Argyle Ladies ended 2015 firmly rooted to the bottom of the FA Women’s Premier league and facing a massive fight to avoid relegation in the New Year.

In their last game before Christmas, Argyle Ladies took the season of goodwill a little too literally by presenting West Ham with four gifted goals and three points, when, with a bit more composure in front of goal, they would have won comfortably.

Having left Plymouth to travel to the game at 6.45am, Argyle started like their heads were still on the mini bus and fell behind in the 11th minute in controversial circumstances when, from a West Ham corner, Shirvae Edwards collided with Argyle’s Becky Atkins and went to ground. To everyone’s astonishment, the ref gave a penalty for a push, which was coolly despatched by Romina Pinna.

Argyle were struggling to get their passing game together and it was no surprise that West Ham increased their lead in the 27th minute when some slack marking allowed Pinna to nip in behind the Argyle defence and slot the ball past Michaela Phillips for her second goal of the afternoon.

Shocked into a response, Argyle slowly got themselves a foothold in the game and they should have reduced the arrears in the 32nd minute when they were awarded a penalty of their own for a foul on Dani Salt, but the usually reliable Katie Middleton dragged her spot-pick wide of the mark.

Seven minutes later and Middleton redeemed herself by scoring from an acute angle, but despite dominating the closing stages of the half Argyle, went in 2-1 down at the break.

In very similar fashion to the home game between the two teams, Argyle came out a different side in the second half and with the introduction of Mollie Taylor they lay siege on the West Ham goal.

It seemed only a matter of time before Argyle would equalise, but, as the half wore on, chances came and went and several good opportunities were either wasted or well saved by West Ham’s Aditi Chauhan.

For 35 minutes or so, West Ham had hardly been in the Argyle half, but in the 81st minute disaster struck when Argyle lost possession from a poor throw-in and one ball over the top sent Pinna racing clear before rounding Phillips to complete her hat-trick.

Argyle fought back and a minute later Mollie Taylor played in Phoebe Baker who beat her marker before slipping the ball under the onrushing Chauhan.

Any hopes of a late comeback were immediately dashed when almost straight from the kick off, Argyle’s defence left Edwards free on the edge of the penalty area and the West Ham striker, despite looking offside, did not need a second invitation to make the game safe for the home side.

With several minutes of injury time added on, Argyle still had chances and they were denied a second penalty when Phoebe Baker appeared to have been fouled by Chauhan but, as the referee waved play-on, the ball was cleared and West Ham hung on for the three points.

At the final whistle, Argyle manager Kevin Taylor could not hide his disappointment: “After the encouraging performance in defeat to League leaders Brighton last week, we should have been looking to pick up something here,” he said.

“However, regardless of the opposition, we cannot afford to start as poorly as we did today and at 2-0 down we’ve given ourselves a mountain to climb. I still felt that once we had pulled a goal back that the game was there for the taking, but missing chances at one end and making mistakes at the other is a recipe for disaster, and so it proved.

“We’re sure making life difficult for ourselves in our bid to avoid the drop and it may mean having to go to the likes of Coventry or Tottenham and get something, but we’ll enjoy the Christmas festivities as best we can and come back fighting in the New Year.”

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