PLYMOUTH Argyle head to Sussex on Sunday for their opening National League Southern Premier Division match against Crawley Wasps.
Argyle have enjoyed a successful pre-season but they know that Crawley will be a tough task.
The Sussex club beat Argyle after extra-time last season in the League Cup and they have also recruited four new players.
One good thing is the Pilgrims will have top striker Natsha Knapman fit and raring to go having spent much of last season out injured. She has looked sharp in pre-season and Argyle will look to her to get the season up and running.
The other good news is that that Argyle have virtually an unchanged squad from last year and they have gelled well.
Having a regular goalkeeper was a problem last season but this has been resolved with the acquisition of Becky Kyle, who has shown her ability is well up to the standard required at this level.
The evergreen Katie Middleton is at the heart of the defence alongside the impressive Mollie Taylor, with Leah Burridge and Faye Ivall occupying the flanks.
Argyle have one of the best midfields in the league in Zoe Cunningham, Becky Dandridge, Kayley Lane and Jessie Jones. Having the experience of Welsh international Helen Bleazard on the right wing is a huge bonus as she could be the main provider for Knapman, while the flying Amber Pollock is always a danger.
Also Included in the squad is utility player Ebony Dover, who can play anywhere in midfield and defence.
While players have been away during pre-season, new signing Ellie Bishop has taken her chance and impressed in midfield, while the emergence of flying winger Beth Emerson has been a revelation from someone who is just 16 years-old.
“This will be one of our toughest away games this season and I will be honest, we are not going to win or lose the league on our very first game. One thing it will do is give us a really good yard stick of what I believe will be one of the top three teams in the league this year.
“We played them last year and they are going to be stronger but we are stronger.
“We are going there to give them every bit of respect they deserve; they were champions of their league last year and come up to our league. They are a very, professional outfit and, let’s make no bones about it, this is going to be one hell of a tough game.
“We are taking the game so serious that we are going up overnight as it does not get any harder than playing Crawley Wasps.
“We’ve got to be on it, we’ve got to be right and we have to be prepared.”
Argyle: Becky Kyle, Leah Burridge, Katie Middleton, Mollie Taylor, Faye Ivall, Zoe Cunningham, Ellie Bishop, Becky Dandridge, Kayley Lane, Helen Bleazard, Natasha Knapman, Ebony Dover, Amber Pollock, Beth Everson, Jessie Jones
Meanwhile, Argyle’s young development team will face another stern test in their latest pre-season friendly when they travel to Callington on Sunday.
They will have a very youthful look about them with nine 16 or 17-year-olds in their squad.
In each of their games they have been put to the test by playing teams from a higher division.
Manager Rob Bonney said: “It is a big step up for these girls as Callington must be one of the favourites to win their league this season. But I know the girls will rise to the challenge.
“It is exciting times coaching and watching these youngsters perform. As long as they learn and take something away from every game and every coaching session that is all the staff can ask for.”