A GOAL in each half put paid to any chance of Argyle Ladies getting something out of the opening game in the FA Women’s National League Southern Division, despite manager Dave Leonard’s pride in their performance.
Crawley started well with Faye Robson striking the crossbar before debutant goalkeeper Rebekah Kyle saved well from Megan Stow from the resultant corner.
Argyle had to wait until eight minutes to have their first chance when Jessie Jones took advantage of a defensive mix-up but curled her effort just over the crossbar. Charlotte Owen then fired wide for Crawley. Argyle were hit in the 26th minute when good work from Tash Stephens ended with Sam Pittuck curling a superb shot into the top corner of the net.
The Pilgrims gradually grew into the game, with Crawley goalkeeper Frankie Gibbs twice saving well. Defender Leah Burridge was cautioned for bringing down Faye Robson but Kyle saved well from Charlotte Owen.
Argyle had a scare early in the second half when Pittuck beat Kyle to the ball but a strong challenge made the final effort strike the outside of a post. Helen Bleazard then passed up a great opportunity to make it 1-1.
Three minutes later, Pittuck had better luck when good work between her and Owen ended with Tash Stephens curling in another great strike to make it 2-0. Argyle responded with a good shot from distance from Kayley Lane.
The Greens were looking much the stronger in the last 20 minutes and brought on 16 year-old Beth Everson for her senior debut, replacing Amber Pollock, and with 17 minutes to go, striker Natasha Knapman was denied when Gibbs blocked her effort. The Crawley custodian made another good save when diving low to deny Jessica Jones.
Argyle were given a lifeline seven minutes from time when Stow was shown a straight red for stamping on Faye Ivall. Two minutes later, Ivall was replaced by Ellie Bishop, who was making her début. Argyle kept pushing forward but to no avail.
Leonard said: “I think Crawley will be in the top three. They scored two goals from outside the penalty box which were superb. The biggest disappointment is we neglected runners which gave them the opportunity to shoot from outside our box.
“We were better organised and fitter than them, despite them throwing everything at us in the opening half an hour. We weathered the storm only for Crawley to score a wonder goal.
“I was delighted at the way we played in the second half, the way we pressed them, we pushed and pushed but to no avail. We had chances but they had two half-chances and scored. From a longevity point of view, I feel frustrated we didn’t get anything out of the game but I also feel proud in how organised we were and how our fitness in the last 25 minutes led us to dominate the game.”
Argyle squad: Becky Kyle, Leah Burridge, Katie Middleton, Mollie Taylor, Faye Ivall, Zoe Cunningham, Ellie Bishop, Becky Dandridge, Kayley Lane, Helen Bleazard, Natasha Knapman, Ebony Dover, Amber Pollock, Beth Everson, Jessie Jones.
A very young Plymouth Argyle Development side went down 9-0 at Callington Town in their latest pre-season friendly.