PLYMOUTH Argyle Ladies had to work hard to secure a 4-3 win over struggling Queens Park Rangers in the National League Southern Premier Division on Sunday at Coach Road, Newton Abbot.
Argyle showed good determination on their return to action after a five-week break to recover from going 2-1 down on a bumpy Devon FA pitch.
The Pilgrims were without Ebony Dover, who had been suffering from a viral infection, which meant Panagiota Papaioannou partnered captain Kate Middleton at the heart of the defence.
Argyle had a good early chance with Helen Bleazard setting up Jessica Jones, who fired into the side netting.
And the hosts took the lead in the 12th minute when Jones and Becky Dandridge combined to set up Zoe Cunningham, who volleyed in from eight yards.
Jones then had a shot saved but they were then dealt a double whammy when two minutes later a dreadful mix up in midfield ended with Rangers’ Jo Wilson racing clear to fire past Lyndsay Rogers.
Argyle responded with Cunningham setting up the impressive Kayley Lane whose fierce drive was superbly saved.
The Greens continued to press and in the 30th minute they got their reward when Bleazard laid the ball off to Jones, who fired in a great 25-yard left-foot drive into the corner of the net.
Argyle pressed hard and Dandridge and Cunningham both had good chance before Leah Burridge made a last-ditch tackle on Wilson to deny the QPR player another run on goal.
Further chances fell for Jones, Middleton and Bleazard before the break but they had to wait until after the break to go back in front.
Their third goal came in the 56th minute when Jones took a short free-kick to Cunningham, who fired in a stunner from 25 yards.
Jones and Bleazard then worked a move which ended with the onrushing Lane having an effort blocked on the goal line.
Argyle were creating plenty of chances their efforts were eventually rewarded six minutes from time when defender Mollie Taylor picked up a poor clearance and headed straight for the visitors defence before slamming the ball in to the net.
However, there was still time for QPR to pull a goal back when Wilson fired a free-kick into the roof of the net to complete her hat-trick.
Joint manager Dave Leonard said afterwards: “I can’t blame the pitch. QPR set up to stop our free flowing football and it worked. What was good is that the girls dug deep and showed a lot of resistance. We now know how to win and at the beginning of the season we wouldn’t have done that.”
He added: “I thought Kayley Lane was outstanding and I would be surprised if she was not voted player of the match. She is technically very good and does things that are often overlooked.”
Argyle: Lyndsay Rogers, Mollie Taylor, Kate Middleton, Panagiota Papaioannou, Darcey Hepworth, Jessica Jones (Steph Beck), Kayley Lane, Leah Burridge, Becky Dandridge , Helen Bleazard (Steph Beck), Zoe Cunningham. Unused substitute Faye Ivall
Argyle’s development team returned to the top of the South West League Western Division with a 12-0 away with at Exeter & Tedburn Rangers.
Top scorer Gabi Alphous took her season’s tally to 20 with a four goal haul, which was also achieved by fellow striker Nicola Champion.
Argyle were dealt a pre-match blow when they lost the services of goalkeeper Claire Squires and midfielder Danni Salt. However, they were fortunate to obtain the services of former first team goalkeeper Michaela Phillips, who has not played a competitive game since clinching promotion with the senior squad last season.
Argyle took the game to their hosts and within five minutes they went in front when captain for the day Kelly Vinnicombe found Maya Ridge, whose pinpoint cross was met with a fierce right-foot drive by Kiara Robins.
Two minutes later a Vinnicombe corner was scrambled in by Alphous.
In the 10th minute another Vinnicombe corner was headed in by Alphous.
And the striker completed a remarkable 11th-minute hat-trick when Robins found Vinnicombe, whose shot was deflected into the path of Alphous.
Hannah Brock became the provider for the next goal when her cross was controlled by Champion, who turned sharply to open her account.
The goals kept coming and a mazy Sally Salter run and pass to Vinnicombe set up Tamsin Medd-Gill, who fired a blistering shot from outside the penalty area into the roof of the net.
It became 7-0 on 38 minutes when a Vinnicombe shot was spilled by the Exeter goalkeeper and Champion reacted the quickest to score.
The devastating first half was made complete when, with three minutes to go, Champion competed her hat-trick when she left four players trailing in her wake before providing a clinical finish.
The second half understandably was not as frenetic as the first and Becky Parkyn and Vicki Fannon had to be on their toes to fend off some early pressure.
In the 57th minute, Abbie Scurr and Shania Fenlon combined to set up Alphous for her fourth goal.
Two minutes later Alphous returned the favour when she squared the ball to Fenlon to make it 10-0.
Alphous then set up the tireless Medd-Gill. The final goal arrived in the 87th minute when a Salter through ball found Champion who tucked the ball away her fourth goal.
Manager Rob Bonney and coach Si Parnell were more than happy with the team’s performance considering the long break they have just endured.
Bonney said: “We played really well in spells. We were confident on the ball and we really looked good when we passed it around and the way we switched play. The only problem we gave ourselves was when we took too many touches and held on to the ball too long. We addressed this at half-time and we moved the ball around a lot quicker in the second half.
“The coaching staff would like to praise our opponents who were struggling to field a team but managed to fulfil the fixture.”
Development squad: Michaela Phillips, Sally Salter, Becky Parkyn, Vicki Fannon, Hannah Brock (Abbie Scurr), Maya Ridge ( Shania Fenlon), Tamsin Medd-Gill, Kelly Vinnicombe, Kiara Robins, Gabi Alphous, Nicola Champion.