PLYMOUTH Argyle Ladies eased into the quarter-finals of the National League Plate competition with a 3-1 victory over AFC Wimbledon at Plymouth Marjon University.
The Pilgrims dominated the first half and went 3-0 up but Wimbledon, who have made an unbeaten start in Division One East, came back in the second period but had to make do with just a penalty for their efforts as Argyle defended strongly.
Argyle were without Jessica Jones, who was away, and Kayley Lane, who was nursing a knee injury, while captain Kate Middleton donned the goalkeeping gloves again due to the injury of regular custodian Ben Kyle.
Development player Beth Everson came into the squad, while Steph Beck and Ebony Dover were handed starts.
Argyle started on the front foot by not allowing the visitors to play themselves out of defence. And their persistence was rewarded when in the 11th minute following a foul on Becky Dandridge, Helen Bleazard’s dangerous free-kick was parried by goalkeeper Charlotte Ferguson only for the alert Natasha Knapman to pounce from three yards out to score the opening goal.
The home team’s pressure quickly earned them a second goal seven minutes later when a Ferguson clearance went to Becky Dandridge, who rolled the ball to Knapman and without hesitation she let fly from 30 yards low into the corner of the net.
Two minutes later the elusive Dandridge was up ended in the penalty area but with the normal penalty taker Middleton in goal Zoe Cunningham stepped up to calmly slam the ball into the net.
Argyle were now threatening to overwhelm their visitors. Amber Pollock just failed to get on the end of a great Bleazard cross. Cunningham then worked her way into the penalty area only for Ferguson to pull off a fine save. The ball fell to Bleazard, who once again found Cunningham but her effort was blocked.
After Wimbledon fired a free-kick over the crossbar, Pollock found Knapman, who was crowded out. Knapman then just failed to make contact from another superb Bleazard cross.
The elusive Cunningham then fed Dandridge who shot inches wide. Argyle did have a scare when a mistake at the back let in Wimbledon, but the alert Middleton raced out to block.
Argyle continued on the attack and another mazy run by Cunningham led to Beck shooting over with the elusive Cunningham then setting up Pollock, who was tackled as she was about to shoot.
With the tie virtually won Argyle made a double substitution at half-time with Beck and Taylor being replaced by Faye Ivall and Lydia Huntley.
Unfortunately, the second half performance did not live up to the first half as Argyle failed to settle.
Despite this, a great ball from Ebony Dover saw Knapman just fail to make contact at the back post.
Argyle were then caught on the break when after a free-kick had been cleared Wimbledon’s Kate Syanley raced up the field to cross, but Middleton dived bravely at the feet of Georgia Heasman and sustained a head injury for her troubles.
The tackles were now flying in with Pollock producing two crunching tackles. Wimbledon were then given a lifeline when in the 65th minute Burridge and Dandridge were deemed to have fouled Stanley in the area and Heasman converted the spot-kick.
Cunningham then set up Burridge, who shot over but Argyle were now struggling to get their game together and Wimbledon headed wide.
The Pilgrims responded with Cunningham shooting wide before she set up Dandridge, who also shot narrowly wide of the post with the unmarked Knapman appealing for the ball to be played to her.
Cunningham and Pollock both had chances before Wimbledon were then denied when the Argyle defence cleared a corner off the goal-line after it hit the woodwork and in five minutes added-on time Cunningham was denied twice by Ferguson.
Reflecting on the match manager Leonard said: ‘It was the proverbial game of two halves – how different can two halves of football be.
“The girls went in at half-time knowing that they had won the game and took their foot off the pedal and I don’t know why.
“We saw a team looking to come into our league and they came down here confident, but I don’t think they played against a team that would put in such a press. We scored from three basic mistakes.”
He added: “I’m not angry just disappointed that we didn’t go on and put them to the sword and that’s the first time we have not done that this season. I’m trying to instil good standards and I don’t think we did that, we just dropped off it.”
Meanwhile, in the South West League Western Division, Argyle’s development team did put Exeter & Tedburn Rangers to the sword by winning 13-0 at home.
The Argyle team included seven 16-year-old players and four 17-year-olds for their first outing for four weeks.
The young squad started on the front foot with a Dani Wyatt effort cannoning off the crossbar. Isla Brumhead and Nicola Champion set up Hannah Brock who cleverly chipped the goalkeeper. Wyatt then knocked in the next four to make the half-time score 5-0.
The second half saw 16-year-old goalkeeper Maisie Frickleton making her debut in senior football and the impressive Beth Everson, who had come on as a late substitute for the first team.
And it was Everson who followed up a fierce Rachel Heron saved shot to set up Wyatt for her fifth goal with Nicola Champion making it 7-0.
Argyle’s relentless pressure continued with Kiara Robins firing in an unstoppable volley. Nelinha Barros scored the next, with Robins making it 10-0.
There was then a long delay as the visitors’ captain Abigail Burrows sustained an injury which resulted in an ambulance being called.
Beth Cowd added the next two with Champion completing the scoring.
Development squad: Maddie Walsh, Isla Brumhead, Rahei Javan, Rachel Heroin, Maddy Leppard, Nelinha Barros, Kiara Robins, Beth Cowd, Hannah Brock, Danni Wyatt, Nicola Champion, Beth Everson, Leah Johnson, Maisie Frickleton.