Argyle Ladies v Watford Match Report
Bleazard 21, Jackson 24, Cunningham 39, Dandridge 62
Rolandsen 25, 51, Ward 29, Beckett 42, Carid 76
THE historic opening game in front of the new-look multi-million-pound Mayflower Grandstand could not have provided a better spectacle to showcase the now and future of the PIlgrims.
On and off the pitch.
Technically the match was a test event for the New Year's Day Sky Bet League Two game against Swindon - when the 21st century Theatre of Greens will be fully functioning for the first time - allowing the Pilgrims to assess seating, hospitality, access and the 101 other things that go to contributing to the match-day experience.
It was also a test of the talent and ambitions of Plymouth Argyle Ladies who, after winning promotion to the FA Women's National League South - the third tier of the women's game - are on course, under the astute management of Dave Leonard, to take the huge leap up to the next level.
Argyle started brilliantly, going two goals up through Helen Bleazard's 25-yard free-kick and Bow Jackson's 20-yard drive. Ocean Rolandsen and Helen Ward levelled things up, before a goal apiece from Zoe Cunningham and Emma Beckett brought a scintillating first-half to a close at 3-3.
Rolandsen's free-kick early in the second-half gave the Hornets the lead for the first time, before Dandridge struck back just after the hour.
The game looked as though it had lurched in Argyle's favour when Ryah Vyse was sin-binned with 20 minutes to go, but somehow Watford found a way, with one fewer player on the pitch, to snatch a winner on 76 minutes through Andrea Carid.
Sunday's contest was a top-of-the-table one, with the visitors arriving at Home Park at the head of the division, four points ahead of the Pilgrims, who have played two games fewer.
They looked the part, too, and Argyle goalkeeper Katie Middleton was initially the busier of the two goalkeepers.
However, her counterpart, Nina Wilson, twice had to retrieve the ball from her net after being beaten by scorching kong-range efforts. Bleazard's free-kick put the Pilgrims one up midway through the half before Jackson's low drive made it two just three minutes later.
Within five minutes, though, Watford were level. Another effort from distance, by Rolandsen, cut the Pilgrims' margin almost immediately before Ward restored parity.
Kat Huggins cleared off the Watford line but Cunningham put Argyle ahead again six minutes before the interval, firing home a low drive.
Watford responded straight away again as Beckett squared the game at the break - when everyone could finally draw breath after an exhilirating 45 minutes.
With set-plays the dominant feature of the first-half, both sides created opportunities on the opening exchanges of the second period. First, Bleazard's right-wing corner was clawed away by Wilson, before the Hornets took the lead for the first time on 51 minutes.
Having won a free-kick on the left flank, Rolandsen stepped up to curl a looping set-play over Middleton and into the far corner of the goal from the best part of 35 yards.
Unperturbed, Argyle hit back again. Rebecca Dandridge received the ball on the edge of the area and fired a venomous strike into the top corner to restore parity.
Pegged back, Watford's task was made more challenging when Ryah Vyse was handed a 20-minute sin-bin penalty for dissent on 70 minutes. Nevertheless, it was the numerically disadvantaged visitors who struck what proved to be the winner on the counter-attack, with Andrea Carid's diving header converting Adekite Fatuga-Dada's superb deep cross.
A winning goal befitting an outstanding game.
Argyle (4-3-3): 1 Katie Middleton; 2 Bow Jackson, 25 Lydia Huntley, 19 Mollie Taylor, 6 Leah Burridge (12 Bethany Everson 88); 4 Ebony Dover, (18 Jessie Jones 56) 8 Kayley Lane, 9 Zoe Cunningham (11 Amber Pollock 77); 7 Helen Bleazard, 13 Natasha Knapman, 10 Rebecca Dandridge. Substitutes (not used): 3 Faye Ivall, 14 Steph Beck.
Watford (3-4-3): 1 Nina Wilson; 4 Emily Hill, 13 Emma Beckett, 3 Katherine Huggins; 6 Ocean Rolandsen, 19 Jennifer Kikomeko (14 Katie O'Leary 72), 11 Adekite Fatuga-Dada, 17 Megan Chandler, (8 Alysha Stojko-Down 56) 2 Ryah Vyse; 15 Andrea Carid, 10 Helen Ward (capt). Substitutes (not used): 18 Danielle Scanlon, 22 Ellie Richards, 23 Chrissie Wiggins (gk).