ARGYLE Ladies head to Sussex to play their opening game in the National League Southern Premier Division against Crawley Wasps tomorrow.
The Pilgrims have enjoyed a successful pre-season but they know that Crawley will be no easy task. The Wasps beat Argyle after extra time last season in the league cup, so they know how tough it is and the hosts have also recruited well by signing four new players.
Argyle will have top striker Natsha Knapman fit and raring to go, having spent much of last season out injured. She has looked sharp in pre-season and Argyle will look to her to get the campaign up and running.
The other good news is that it is virtually an unchanged squad from last year and they have gelled well. Having a regular goalkeeper was also a problem last season but this has been resolved with the acquisition of Becky Kyle between the sticks and she has shown her ability is well up to the standard required at this level.
The evergreen Katie Middleton is at the heart of the defence, alongside the impressive Mollie Taylor with Leah Burridge and Faye Ivall occupying the flanks. Argyle have one of the best midfields in the league in Zoe Cunningham, Becky Dandridge, Kayley Lane and Jessie Jones. Having the experience of Welsh International Helen Bleazard on the right wing is a huge bonus, as she could be the main provider for Knapman, while the flying Amber Pollock is always a danger.
Also Included in the squad is utility player Ebony Dover who can play anywhere in midfield and defence. While players have been away, new signing Ellie Bishop has taken her chance and impressed in midfield, while the emergence of flying winger Beth Emerson has been a revelation from someone so young at 16 years.
Manager Dave Leonard said: “We welcome back Jessie Jones who has been on holiday, while Ellie Bishop and teenager Beth Everson have been named in the squad.
“This will be one of our toughest away game this season and I will be honest, we are not going to win or lose the league on our very first game. One thing it will do is give us a really good yard stick of what I believe will be one of the top three teams in the league this year.
“We played them last year, they are going to be stronger but we are stronger. We are going there to give them every bit of respect they deserve, they were champions of their league last year and come up to our league.
They are a very, professional outfit and it is going to be one tough game. We are taking the game so serious that we are going up overnight, as it does not get any harder than playing Crawley Wasps. We've got to be on it, we've got to be right, we have to be prepared, let’s just see how we get on.'
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
The young Argyle Development team face another stern test in their latest friendly when they travel to Callington tomorrow. Once more, they will have a very youthful look about them, by including nine sixteen/seventeen year-olds in their squad. In each of their games they have been put to the test by playing teams from a higher division.
Manager Rob Bonney commented: “It is a big step up for these girls, as Callington must be one of the favourites to win their league this season. I know the girls will rise to the challenge. It is exciting times coaching and watching these youngsters perform. As long as they learn and take something away from every game and every coaching session that is all the staff can ask for.”