PLYMOUTH Argyle Ladies are on the road again on Sunday when they make the 460-mile round trip to play Milton Keynes in the National League Southern Premier Division.
The Pilgrims go into the game on the back of an impressive four-match winning run scoring 21 goals and conceding just two.
Like against Gillingham, Argyle will be travelling up on the Saturday and the other good news is that for the second year running they will be playing on the impressive Stadium MK pitch.
The Dons are offering free admission to the match and so are expecting a big crowd.
Argyle beat Milton Keynes 4-3 in the opening game of last season with top striker Natasha Knapman scoring all her sides goals. Two weeks later she opened the scoring in the 4-2 win against MK in the National League Cup. Unfortunately five minutes later she left the field with a serious foot injury.
Argyle missed her goals for the remainder of the season until she re-surfaced to come off the substitutes’ bench 28 weeks later to score within five minutes in the 2-2 draw at Home Park with Portsmouth.
Knapman still managed to score 12 goals from her 11 matches played last term and to date she has knocked in 11 goals from just five games this season, including a five-goal haul at Hounslow last week. She leads the National League Southern Premier Division goalscorers.
It would be easy to say that Argyle depend on her strike-rate but she has been ably backed up by goals from Becky Dandridge (4), Jessica Jones (3) and Amber Pollock (2). Not only that, but the squad has been greatly improved by the inclusion of recent new signings Bow Jackson and Lydia Huntley.
Also available is all-action midfielder Jessica Jones, who missed last week’s game due to work. This has given manager Dave Leonard a selection headache.
Milton Keynes started the season with impressive wins at Chichester City (3-0) and Keynsham Town (2-1), as well as beating Swindon Town (4-0) in the League Cup. Since then they lost 4-2 at Gillingham, drew 1-1 with Hounslow before narrowly going down 1-0 at Cardiff City last week.
Leonard said: “We go into the weekend confident. Training was good and was in a good tempo and we worked on what I felt we were weak last Sunday.
“The good think about going to Milton Keynes is we know we are going to be playing on a good pitch.
“I’ve probably got a strong fully fit squad to choose from. I’ve been yearning for this headache for months but it’s something that has given me some sleepless nights.”
He added: “I sensed it in training the competition for places has meant they don’t know who is travelling, who is playing and that’s a good thing to have healthy competition. It will be a strong squad whichever one we go with.”
Argyle: Rebekah Kyle, Bow Jackson, Faye Ivall, Katie Middleton, Leah Burridge, Helen Bleazard, Kayley Lane, Zoe Cunningham, Rebecca Danridge, Amber Pollock, Natasha Knapman, Jessie Jones, Mollie Taylor, Lydia Huntley
Plymouth Argyle’s development side will once again try to get their season up and running when they entertain Alphington at Plymstock School (2pm).
Argyle narrowly lost their opening game at Alphington 3-2 which was followed by defeats against Plympton (2-1) and St Agnes (3-1).
They feel they have not had the rub of the Green and will be up against in-form striker Helen Kukor, who has knocked in nine goals in just two games.
The young Greens will go into this game hoping to carry on from their much-improved second half performance last week.
They welcome Sally Salter back into the squad for the first time this season and could have a couple of more players back in contention.
Manager Rob Bonney said: “If we can keep everyone fit and players are available, there will be tough competition for places within the squad. This is how we want it by keeping players on their toes and looking over their shoulders.”
Development squad: Nelinha Barros, Steph Beck, Hannah Brock, Nicola Champion, Bethany Cowd, Ebony Dover, Beth Everson, Rachel Heron, Jodie Randall, Kiara-Jade Robins, Sally Salter, Lucy Solloway, Maddie Walsh, Maisie Williams, Danni Wyatt.
Papaioannou, 20, has represented her native country at under-17, under-19, and under-20 level, and has finally made the breakthrough to the senior squad, having impressed for both club and country when given the opportunity.
Greece qualified for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup but face a stiff challenge in qualifying for the EURO 2021 championships. The encounter against World Cup quarter-finalists Germany is their first in the qualifying campaign so far, although their opponents have already played two games, winning both.
Only one automatic qualification place is assured, with the second-place team potentially securing qualification as a ‘best-placed’ runner-up. If this is not the case, the second-placed team will compete in a winner-takes-all play-off to qualify for the finals, which take place in England. The qualifying group also contains Ireland, Ukraine and Montenegro.
Papaioannou, who is a physiotherapy student at the University of Plymouth, will join up with her team-mates ahead of the clash with Germany in early October.