A BRAVE Argyle Ladies went out of the National League Plate competition at the semi-final stage against cup-holders West Bromwich Albion. They were just five minutes away from a penalty shoot-out when Nicole Nymoen struck to end their dreams.
It has been said before but any team will suffer when you lose seven players through injury and then, just before the match goalkeeper Ben Kyle wet down with the flu. Add to that, the Greens also lost the experienced Bow Jackson whose rib injury took her to hospital.
What it does show is that the squad is deep and with the help of three players from the Development team, Argyle continue to battle.
Argyle had teenagers Libby Lawton and Beth Everson, along with Greece Under-20 international Panagiota Papaioannou on the bench. Their troubles started when just before kick-off, Kyle contacted the club to say she had gone down with the flu. This meant the ever-reliable captain Kate Middleton being given the gloves.
The back four became Bow Jackson, Lydia Huntley, Mollie Taylor and the returning Faye Ivall after six weeks out. Ebony Dover, Steph Beck and Leah Burridge occupied the midfield with Helen Bleazard, Natasha Knapman and Development team player Lucy Solloway the front three.
Despite this Argyle, were quick off the mark and in the fourth minute, some good play in the midfield saw Knapman race on a to a ball over the defence but her run was cut out and the loose ball went to Bleazard. Unfortunately, she had a heavy touch before shooting wide.
More good play followed three minutes later when Bleazard sent in a low hard cross but there were no takers. Argyle continued to look good and after a flowing move involving the midfield three Ebony Dover shot wide.
Two minutes later, a long ball up field from Middleton deflected into the path of Bleazard who fired against a post. Soon after, they lost Jackson and she was replaced by Papaioannou. Argyle continued to create chances – the next two from corners. The first one went out for another corner which came to Bleazard whose effort struck a post.
The visitors responded when Middleton had to deal with a difficult free kick. Argyle then gained another corner, which Knapman headed wide.
As often happens, West Brom responded three minutes later when the defence failed to deal with an attack and Natalie Murray scored. Murray went on a surging run down the wing before her cross floated towards the back post and evaded Middleton to nestle into the Argyle net.
Two minutes before half time Bleazard was brought down in the penalty area by Hannah George but with regular spot kick taker Middleton in goal, Bleazard took the penalty only for her effort to be saved low by goalkeeper Vanessa Kinnerley. Undaunted, Bleazard made amends two minutes later when her shot from the edge of the penalty area flew low into the corner of the net to level the scores.
The second half was end to end with both teams missing chances. Just after the hour-mark, the hard-working Steph Beck was replaced by teenager Libby Lawton. Argyle were now coming under pressure but they responded with fast breaks. With just two minutes remaining, Middleton once again distinguished herself from another free-kick from outside the penalty area.
It was on to extra time and game continued to stretch with both teams knowing that the next goal would decide the match and a Jade Arber strike rattled the Argyle crossbar.
With just five minutes remaining and penalty kicks looming, the Pilgrims failed to clear and a shot from George rattled the crossbar with Nicole Nymoen reacting the quickest to score what proved to be the winner.
Bitterly disappointed manager Dave Leonard said: “What can you say. We lost Ben (Kyle) just before the match as she had gone down with flu and put Katie Middleton in goal.
“Very disapointed but I can't ask for anymore than what the girls are giving us. We've got seven first-team players missing and I am trying to find every week to put square pegs in round holes and as much as I've asked the girls to play various positions, it does come at a cost.
“They are giving it their all and I can't ask for no more. It’s just the facts at the moment with the injuries we got - it is key players in key areas. It’s a great opportunity, there was nothing between the two sides and it was probably only going to be a lucky strike.
“Where do we go from now, I will have to have a roll-call of players. I’ve just brought three up from the Development team, so we will have to see what we have got and hopefully we will have some back from injuries.”
The good news is that Jackson has been released from hospital. She is in a lot of pain with a rib injury. No x-rays were taken as there was no sign of the injury pressing on any organs. Either way, she faces a few weeks out of action.
South West League Western Division
Argyle Development 5 Alphington 3
Argyle Development played only their third game in the last 13 weeks but it was worth the wait as they remain top of the South West League Western Division after beating Alphington 5-3.
Alphington travelled to Plymouth with a severely depleted side and put up a performance their manager should be proud of. The Development team started the quicker but couldn't create a clear-cut opportunity.
In fact, it was the visitors who nearly took the lead when Maddie Walsh had to be quick off the line to smother at the feet of Helen Kukor. The Development Team were really struggling to get any pattern of play going but they managed to eventually put a move together which saw top scorer Nicola Champion give the Pilgrims the lead.
Within 20 minutes, they lost influential midfielder Ellie Bishop who was replaced by 16 year-old debutant Rosie Shipp. It was going to be a dream debut, when a cross-field ball from Jodie Randall found the youngster who had a great first touch to a hit a terrific near post shot past Brown in the Alphington goal.
Despite being two goals to the good, the youngsters continued to struggle to get a decent foothold in the game and always looked vulnerable when Alphington attacked. Hannah Brock almost increased their lead when she met a corner, but her header flew just over the crossbar.
Shortly after, a Kiara Robins through-ball found Champion who added her second and Argyle’s third just before half time.
The second half didn't get off to the best of starts when a short free kick left Kukor with a clear run at goal. Despite a valiant attempt from substitute goalkeeper Massie Frickleton, the ball squeezed into the net.
Within three minutes, Champion grabbed her third goal of the game when she turned in a through ball from Shipp. Two minutes later, a corner from Rachel Heron was headed in by Hannah Brock to put the Greens 5-1 in front. This was probably the Development’s sides purple patch as they looked for further goals to increase their lead with efforts from Champion, Beth Cowd, Shipp,and Dee Newman.
In the second half, it was Alphington who struck next when a defensive mix-up allowed Laura Burwood to score. The visitors reduced the arrears further when they scored a deserved third through Kukor.
Manager Rob Bonney commented: “I can't praise our opponents enough with the application and effort they put in, they are a credit to their club. Not taking anything away from them but our performance gave them all the encouragement they needed. We were poor in so many areas and the girls know it.
“One of our players actually commented that if Alphington had eleven players they would have turned us over. As a manager you can only admire their honesty as players.”
Coach Ryan Lawton added: “We lost all our shape when we were 5-1 up. The naivety of the players showed with players charging forward and all wanting to score. Hopefully, the youngsters will learn from this".
Bonney added: “The positives are we played a lot of the second half with eight 16 year-olds and two 17 year-olds and they managed to see the game through. It's all experience for them, we managed to get three points but we were certainly nowhere near our best, we learn from it and we move on.”
Argyle Development: Maddie Walsh (Massie Frickleton), Rachel Heron, Rachel Javan (Maddy Leppard), Leah Johnson, Jodie Randall (Isla Brumhead), Hannah Brock (Dee Newman), Kiara Robins, Milan Barros, Ellie Bishop (Rosie Shipp), Nicola Champion, Beth Cowd.