ARGYLE Ladies got their season up and running thanks to this excellent victory at Gillingham in the FA Women’s National League Southern Division.
The Pilgrims went into the game on the back of defeats at Crawley Wasps 2-0 in the league and a shock 4-3 loss at Devon rivals Exeter City in the League Cup. This focussed the mind with the team travelling up the day before the match to ensure they had the best preparation and it proved to be right, as this was a very professional performance.
Argyle were surprised to see a handful of fans who came down from the Argyle London Supporters Branch and they weren’t disappointed with the display. After the match, they had a chat with the girls leaving manager Dave Leonard to say: “We were really grateful for these fans turning up and the girls really appreciated it.”
Argyle were given a blow before the kick-off when it was revealed that right-back Leah Burridge was taken ill the night before the match and also being without Helen Bleazard, who would have taken over that role, Leonard decided to pplay 16 year-old Beth Everson in at right back. “The youngster done really well,” said Leonard. “It was her full senior début and she was very good.”
The Greens started with Ebony Dover and Holly Cole on the bench, with Zoe Cunningham returning from injury slotting into the midfield and Mollie Taylor at the back with Natasha Knapman, who also missed the Exeter game, starting up front.
Argyle got just the start the needed when they came out of the blocks quickly and a flowing move ended with Becky Dandridge breaking clear before firing low into the corner of the net from the edge of the penalty area. This goal settled down Argyle who almost doubled their advantage when Mollie Taylor headed a corner inches over the crossbar.
A few minutes later and Jade Keogh fired over for the Gills. Argyle had a dramatic escape when two home efforts struck the woodwork. Keogh then fired a free-kick over the crossbar before Gillingham hit the woodwork for the third time through Alice Bussey.
The game began to settle down until two minutes before half time when Amber Pollock blazed her effort over the crossbar. Three minutes into the second half and teenager Everson had an effort blocked.
Three minutes later and Argyle doubled their lead, as predatory striker Knapman got her season up and running when she ran on to a through ball to shoot past the advancing goalkeeper Cara Davies into the far corner of the net.
Gillingham responded well and on the hour-mark Alice Bussey was denied by a superb save from galkeeper Becky Kyle. This save proved to be the turning point in the match as it gave the whole team the confidence to hold on for the win.
Argyle 's defence did come under pressure and Grace Harrison passed up two opportunities to reduce the deficit when she rounded Kyle but shot wide before dragging another effort inches wide of a post. Argyle brought on Holly Cole for Knapman in the 73rd minute and Ebony Dover replaced Amber Pollock with ten minutes remaining.
Argyle kept plugging away and with eight minutes remaining they almost increased their lead when Becky Dandrige intercepted a kick from Davies to set up Jessie Jones who shot wide, but it was still the Greens who returned to Devon with a well-earned three points.
“It would be unfair to pick out any individual,” said Leonard. “We had the basics right, the application and the desire. We stuck to our game plan and it came through. It was great to get some local support, which was greatly appreciated.”
Argyle squad: Becky Kyle, Faye Ivall, Katie Middleton, Kayley Lane, Zoe Cunningham, Becky Dandridge, Amber Polloock, Natasha Knapman, Beth Everson, Jessie Jones, Mollie Taylor, Ebony Dover, Holly Cole.