PLYMOUTH Argyle Ladies were left frustrated after conceding a goal in injury-time in a 1-1 home draw with Gillingham on Sunday in the National League Southern Premier Division.
The Pilgrims had looked on course for a hard-earned victory in the game that had to be moved to Bovey Tracey due to pitch availability issues.
Argyle started on the front foot and a good run by Zoe Cunningham was blocked. It soon became clear, however, that both teams were struggling on a difficult surface.
Amber Pollock did come close to opening the scoring after a great run but she was bravely denied by visiting goalkeeper Shona Shanley, who then also saved Kayley Lane’s follow up effort.
Argyle were nearly caught out by a dangerous Gillingham break which was cut out by the impressive Mollie Taylor.
The hosts responded with Cunningham getting on the end of a Leah Burridge cross, but again Shanley was there to thwart Argyle.
However, the Pilgrims’ continued pressure was eventually rewarded when, in the 19th minute, Lane took a quick throw to Jessica Jones, who laid the ball off to Cunningham and she cut across the edge of the penalty area before letting fly into the roof of the net.
Argyle went searching for that second goal with Dandridge having a shot saved before Pollock raced clear to blaze the ball inches over the crossbar. Kate Middleton then found Lane racing on to her pin-point 40-yard through ball and she forced her way into the penalty area only to see the assistant referee’s flag surprisingly raised for offside.
The hosts were dealing well with the odd Gillingham foray through Faye Ivall inan unaccustomed left-back position and Burridge on the right.
But Argyle did have a huge scare when the defence got caught out by a ball over the top which was initially blocked by Middleton only for the ball to run to a Gillingham player, who blazed her effort wide.
Chances did keep coming for Argyle, though, with Cunningham setting up Pollock before Jones was denied by another Shanley save.
In the second half they were denied by what looked like a cast iron penalty when a crude challenge brought down Cunningham. After receiving extensive treatment she was surprisingly shown a yellow card for simulation.
Argyle kept plugging away and a great cross by Dandridge ended with Pollock missing her footing to shoot wide. Jones then twice had efforts blocked.
In the last 10 minutes Jones made a great run and crossed to Dandridge, who had the simple task of firing the ball into the net, only for it to bobble and she fired it over the crossbar.
With the game going in to added-on time Argyle were hit with a sucker punch when Milly Waud lofted the ball into the top corner of the net to earn a draw.
“I really feel for the girls,” said Argyle joint manager Dave Leonard afterwards. “We had enough chances to win the game but it was literally one of those days and it felt like a defeat.
“We huffed and puffed and had great work-rate but on a heavy pitch we only occasionally showed glimpses of what we can do.”
Argyle squad: Sarah Prior, Leah Burridge, Kate Middleton, Mollie Taylor, Faye Ivall, Steph Beck, Becky Dandridge, Amber Pollock, Kayley Lane, Zoe Cunningham (Natasha Knapman), Jessica Jones. Unused substitute Panagiota Papaioannou.
An Alex Hugh double ensured Plymouth Argyle’s development team got the point they needed on Sunday to clinch the South West League Western Division title.
The young Pilgrims drew 2-2 away at St Agnes to add another piece of silverware to the club’s trophy cabinet.
Argyle started positively and were passing the ball around confidently but were finding it hard to make any in-roads into the St Agnes defence.
Hannah Brock was the first to test the home goalkeeper with Nicola Champion then setting up Kelly Vinnicombe.
As expected St Agnes grew into the game and it was the Argyle goalkeeper Amy Darnley who had to make the game’s first real save.
The contest moved from end-to-end, but it was not until the 40th minute when Argyle took the lead when a Vinnicombe corner was only half cleared to Sally Salter, who tried her luck from outside the penalty and the ball fell to Alex Hugh, who made no mistake from close range.
The home team started the second half the quicker and within almost immediately they had struck the Argyle crossbar. And a minute later they got an equaliser when a ball struck Hugh and bounced into the unguarded net.
The Pilgrims continued to struggle and within ten minutes they fell behind when St Agnes’ Debbie Duncan scored from close range.
However, the visitors, knowing they needed a point for the title, responded in the right manner. After St Agnes failed to clear their lines, a strike from Dani Salt hit the hands of a defender for a penalty. Hugh stepped up and made no mistake in firing home the spot-kick.
The game became midfield battle and, as the game moved into its final moments, it was Kiara Robins who nearly grabbed the winner when she shot from outside the penalty area only to see her effort hit the crossbar and then fumbled onto the post.
Manager Rob Bonney was delighted at clinching the league title but felt his team looked very nervous after the first 20 minutes.
He said: “We started really well but nerves seem to creep in and the enormity of the occasion seemed to affect our normal game. What we need to remember that a lot of these players were in girls’ football last season and this probably was the biggest game of their very short careers so far.”
Argyle development squad: Amy Darnley, Hannah Brock (Maya Ridge), Rachel Javan, Becky Parkyn, Sally Salter, Kiara Robins, Dani Salt, Alex Hugh, Gabi Alphous (Tamsin Medd-Gill), Nicola Champion (Shania Fenlon), Kelly Vinnicombe, Substitutes not used: Lucy Solloway, Vicki Fannon.