ARGYLE Ladies can look back on their season with great pride after finishing sixth in the FA Women’s National League Southern Premier Division – their highest ever position.
Argyle had secured great signings during the season in Welsh international Helen Bleazard, England under-20 international Jessica Jones, quality midfielder Leah Burridge and Greece under-20 international Panagiota Papaioannou.
During the season, Argyle gave first team debuts to youngsters Faye Ivall, Tamsin Medd-Gill, Kelly Vinnicombe, Nicola Champion, Sally Salter. Argyle had former Yeovil Town goalkeeper Lyndsay Rogers between the sticks until her departure meant bringing in Sarah Prior from the Development team.
The team, as always, was captained by experienced central defender Kate Middleton. Mollie Taylor has shown great improvement at the centre of the defence, while Kayley Lane continued to show her value to the team by taking up numerous different positions.
With the competition for midfield places strong, Burridge and Ivall had to settle for full back positions, which they occupied admiringly. It was a frustrating season for Darcey Hepworth who suffered a number of injuries.
Steph Beck has proved to be a valuable asset in the midfield after joining from Torquay United. It has also been a difficult time for central defender Ebony Dover, who suffered a number of injuries but proved her worth in a variety of positions.
Argyle’s engine room mainly consisted of the energetic trio of Zoe Cunningham, Becky Dandridge and Jessica Jones, while up front, Helen Bleazard proved influential and, on her day, the pacey Amber Pollock was a handful for any defender.
The Pilgrims lost manager Travis Rowland, who decided to stand down in the summer to be replaced by joint managers Dave Leonard and Trevor Rodd, and, along with coaches Marc Bonney and Jason Haswell and physio Hannah Robertson, the scene was set.
Unfortunately, preparations for pre-season were not the best but Argyle started the season on the front foot when Natasha Knapman scored all four goals in the 4-3 win at Milton Keynes. It was important for the team that Knapman, who had scored over a hundred goals in the previous two seasons, was to continue her good form.
Argyle came back to earth when going down 3-0 at home to Chichester City. Knapman then scored the opening goal in the 4-2 win over Milton Keynes in the league cup, only to be carried off with an ankle injury which kept her out of action for over six months.
Despite being without Knapman, Argyle won their next three league matches, as well as beating Bideford in the Devon Cup and Southampton in the League Cup. November, December and January was a bad time for the club. It started with a 4-0 home defeat against Loughborough followed by a narrow 2-1 defeat at Oxford United before beating local side Marine Academy Plymouth 2-0 in the Devon Cup.
November ended with a shock 9-1 defeat at Coventry United which prompted joint manager Dave Leonard to say: “We don't become a bad team overnight.” And so it proved, as a week later, they were very unlucky in exiting the FA Cup 2-1 at Coventry United.
Argyle then had a long wait to play their next match at the beginning of January when going down 2-1 at Chichester City. This was followed by a narrow 5-3 defeat against Crawley Wasps to exit the League Cup before beating Watford 3-2 for their first league win since the beginning of October.
The only match played in February saw them beat Queens Park Rangers 4-3. This started a great run of just one defeat in the next ten matches in all competitions. C&K Basildon were then beaten 2-0 before going down to a narrow 3-2 defeat against a Cardiff City outfit crammed full of Welsh internationals.
The next match saw the Lady Pilgrims entertain Portsmouth in the Dockyard derby in front of 846 fans at Home Park, where Knapman returned to action by coming off the bench to score the equalising goal in the 2-2 draw. The season ended with defeats at the hands of the league’s top two, Coventry and Cardiff, and against Watford.
With Coventry United taking promotion to the Championship and C&K Basildon being relegated, Argyle will be up against relegated Millwall, Crawley Wasps, the Division One South East winners, and Keynsham Town, Division One South West winners, which will cut down their travelling costs.
Fans will be pleased to note that Argyle will be playing their matches next season on the state-of-the-art 3G facilities at the Manadon Sports and Community Hub, while all training will be at the Marjons facility. Pre-season friendly games are almost complete and will be announced shortly.
Argyle Captain Katie Middleton said: “It’s been a pleasure to captain this team again and for our first season at this level, we certainly haven’t let ourselves down finishing in 6th.”
Joint managers Trevor Rodd and Dave Leonard also praised the team for their efforts. Rodd saying: “A very progressive first season at this level and a respectable finish. The club and coaching staff have gained a lot of experience to move forward into next season. A well-earned break for a few weeks and then back at it.
“As any manager will tell you, the season never really ends. A huge thank you to all our sponsors and supporters and I hope you have enjoyed the season as much as us.”
Leonard added: “It's been a fantastic season finishing sixth in the third tier of English Ladies football. I am extremely proud of their achievement and also their personal dedication to make this happen.”
The combative Zoe Cunningham picked up 11 yellow cards with Jessica Jones (5) and Kayley Lane (3).
Despite only making nine starting appearances, Knapman still managed 12 goals, the same as Jessica Jones with Helen Bleazard on 11. Argyle were well served by experienced captain Kate Middleton, who played in all the 29 games. She was followed closely by Mollie Taylor 26, Kayley Lane 24 and Zoe Cunningham 23.
Starting Appearances: Katie Middleton 29, Mollie Taylor 26, Kayley Lane 24, Zoe Cunningham 23, Helen Bleazard 22, Amber Pollock 21, Jessica Jones 21, Becky Dandridge 20, Ebony Dover 18, Steph Beck 18, Lindsay Rogers 17, Leah Burridge 15, Faye Ivall 14, Darcey Hepworth 13, Sarah Prior 12, Becca Wakely 10, Natasha Knapman 9, Panagiota Papaioannou 4, Tamsin Medd-Gill 2, Nicola Champion 1, Rachel Heron 1
Goals: Natasha Knapman 12, Zoe Cunningham 12, Jessica Jones 12, Helen Bleazard 11, Kayley Lane 7, Kate Middleton 6, Mollie Taylor 3, Becky Dandridge 3, Faye Ivall 3, Leah Burridge 2, Tamsin Medd-Gill 2, Amber Pollock 2, Ebony Dover 1, Panagiota Papaioannou 1.
It has been a remarkable season for Argyle’s Development team, who, after finishing runners up the previous season, eventually won the South West League Western Division title.
In a season where they had to field six different goalkeepers and with a large number of players suffering injury, it was a major boost to manager Rob Bonney and his coaching staff of Simon Parnell, Vicki Fannon, Dan Tecza and physio Natasha Rogers for the team of experienced and youth players to win the title.
The team introduced several promising youngsters into their squad at the start of the season. After a tough pre-season, the team were set for the campaign. After winning their opening game, they suffered a set back in their second game, going down 3-2 against Plymouth rivals Plympton.
Despite this, the team went on an unbeaten run to set up a title challenge. It wasn't all plain sailing, as the team suffered more than their fair share of injuries. This gave the youngsters a chance to step up and show their worth and they certainly did.
Along with the invaluable experienced players, the team had more than enough to see them over line and become league champions. There were some very impressive performances during the season and it did not go unnoticed by the first team coaches.
Added to the success of not only winning the league, was the pleasing fact that five players were called upon for first-team duty. This was the third season for the Development side and, with the latest influx of players, the future is looking bright.
It shows the system is working with girls coming through the Advanced Development Centre into the Development set up. The team will evolve again this year with girls coming through the ADC and the open invitation of players attending the pre-season trials.
The players that come to us will benefit from the first-class facilities that they have at their disposal and also the excellent coaching they will receive to help them improve and become even better players.
The Development coaching staff realise that every season they face a massive challenge with nurturing the youngsters bringing them through but then having the pleasure of seeing them promoted to the first-team. This season will be no different and they are already looking forward to the challenges that season 2019/20 will bring.
The young team were led by the experienced Gabi Alphous (17) and Becky Parkyn and captain Alex Hugh (16 each). Alphous once again led the scoring with 20 goals with young Cornish teenager Nicola Champion weighing in with 12.
Starts: Gabi Alphous 17, Becky Parkyn 16, Alex Hugh 16, Nicola Chapman 14, Kelly Vinnicombe 14, Jodie Randall 13, Sally Salter 12, Rachel Javan 11, Vicki Fannon 10, Amy Darnley 9, Maya Ridge 8, Kiara-Jade Robins 8, Tamsin Medd-Gill 7, Hannah Brock 6, Shania Fenlon 5, Lucy Solloway 4, Sarah Prior 3, Lindsay Rogers 2, Rachel Heron 2, Panagiota Papaiannon 2, Charlie Rollerson 2, Faye Ivall 2, Dani Salt 2, Claire Squires 1, Michaela Phillips 1,Kayleigh Brown 1.
Goals: Gabi Alphous 20, Nicola Champion 12, Alex Hugh 8, Maya Ridge 7, Tamsin Medd-Gill 5, Shania Fenlon 5, Kiara-Jade Robins 4, Faye Ivall 3, Lucy Solloway 2, Hannah Brock 2, Kelly Vinnicombe 2, Sarah Prior 1, Rachel Javan 1, Jodie Randall 1, Sally Salter 1.