PLYMOUTH Argyle Ladies were given a lesson in clinical finishing on Sunday by champions Coventry United, who won 5-2 at Bovey Tracey in the National League Southern Premier Division.
It was a tough result for the Pilgrims to take as they had as many chances as their title-winning opponents.
“Although they (Coventry) won the league and are champions I felt they weren’t that much better than us,” said Argyle joint manager Dave Leonard. “It’s just that they made less mistakes than we did which enabled them to win the game.”
The game could have gone either way midway through the second half but, Leonard added: “We conceded three goals with three mistakes. I can’t fault our hard work and commitment, we matched them – we were as good as them – but we made more mistakes than they did and their finishing was more clinical than ours.”
Argyle took a bit of time to get into their game and they were thankful for a last-ditch Ebony Dover tackle early on.
The hosts had a good chance when Helen Bleazard broke and found Kayley Lane, who, in turn, set free Amber Pollock, but she was hunted down by a defender. Jessica Jones then had an effort well saved.
Coventry had a great chance to take the lead when they were awarded a soft penalty in the 13th minute given away by Faye Ivall. But United’s Chenise Austin blasted her effort over the crossbar.
Argyle were coming under pressure and Coventry had a couple of good goal scoring opportunities.
But the Pilgrims responded and Jessica Jones had a shot well saved after good play from Blezard and Natasha Knapman.
The visitors then slammed the ball against the crossbar as the game became very open.
Jones had another shot blocked before Argyle went behind when the lively Amber Hughes came off the better in a tackle to smash the ball into the net.
Coventry then had a couple more chances before Ivall and Jones set free Pollock but she was well tackled. The ball did fall to Lane, who crossed to Knapman, but her shot was saved. Knapman just missed connecting with a Bleazard cross, while Mollie Taylor also had a shot saved.
The game continued to flow from end to end and Argyle, without the industrious Zoe Cunningham and Becky Dandridge, had Bleazard and Jones working their socks off.
The Pilgrims thought they had drawn level five minutes into first half injury-time when a great Ebony Dover free-kick went to Katie Middleton, who smacked the ball against a post straight to the onrushing Jones who tapped in only to see the raised flag for offside.
However, the breakthrough eventually followed when great work between Jones, Knapman and Bleazard saw the ball come to Jones, who was up ended by Austin for a penalty which Middleton coolly converted with the last kick of the first half.
The Greens did not have the best of starts to the second period as Amy Wathan volleyed in after Middleton had initially cleared off the goal line.
Argyle nearly hit back straight away when a great run and cross by Pollock found Bleazard, but her shot was blocked. Lane then set up Jones, who shot just inches over, and Knapman had an effort block
Another terrific run by Pollock ended with her being brought crashing to the ground but no penalty awarded.
But then a shot out of the blue by Coventry’s Josie Jeffries was pushed on to a post by Sarah Prior only for Hughes to follow up and make it 3-1.
Argyle were determined not to go down without a fight and in the 76th minute Lane found Knapman, who crossed to Bleazard and she smashed the ball low into the corner of the net.
Unfortunately for the Pilgrims, there was no stopping the lively Hughes, who raced down the wing before crossing to Rosie McDonnell and her thumping header found the back of the net.
Argyle responded but once again Jones was denied by the goalkeeper.
The Greens’ next attack saw Bleazard race on to the ball to cross to the unmarked Knapman, who unfortunately blasted the ball over the crossbar.
Plymouth continued to throw everything into attack with Knapman again denied by the goalkeeper and Jones then blasting over after good work by Lane.
Argyle’s luck was well and truly out when a Bleazard corner was flicked on by Middleton to Lane, who saw her effort go inches wide of a post.
With the Pilgrims on the attack they were open to a counter-attack and so it proved as Lois Jeffries raced down the right to cross to Hughes to complete hat-trick.
Argyle squad: Sarah Prior, Leah Burridge, Katie Middleton, Mollie Taylor, Faye Ivall (Panagiota Papaioannou), Ebony Dover (Steph Beck), Kayley Lane, Jessica Jones, Natasha Knapman, Helen Bleazard, Amber Pollock (Kelly Vinnicombe