PLYMOUTH Argyle Ladies will head to Oxford United on Sunday in the FA Cup hoping to move another step closer to meeting one of the country’s top sides.
This weekend’s game is a second round tie, with the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal entering the competition at the fourth round stage.
As well as the incentive of trying to progress to earn the chance to play once of the big teams, Argyle could also pocket themselves £1,000 if they win on Sunday.
Argyle are on a remarkable run of 10 straight league and cup wins having beaten AFC Wimbledon last week to reach the quarter-final of the National League Plate competition.
But the fixture has been unkind to Argyle as Sunday will be their 10 league and cup game away from home in this their 13th match of the season.
The Pilgrims have yet to play Oxford this season but they shared the honours in last season’s campaign – Oxford won their home game 2-1 and Argyle triumphed 1-0 in Devon.
This weekend’s tie will see flying winger Amber Pollock move to within one game of playing 100 games for the club. She has scored 28 goals in her 98 games so far.
Also looking to improve on her tally this season is top striker Natasha Knapman, whose double against Wimbledon last week took her tally for the campaign to 19.
Argyle are still without midfielder Jessica Jones, who is on holiday but have added Greece international defender Panagiota Papaioannou to their squad. She has yet to make an appearance this season.
Manager Dave Leonard knows how important this tie is. He said: “It’s the FA Cup and another away game. Oxford are a strong outfit and we have had reports about them and what they can bring so we know what they have got and how we are going to play.”
He added: “It will be good to have Kayley (Lane) vying for a spot as she trained this week and Panagiota Papaioannou, who also trained so she will be looking to add her name to the squad.
“It would be nice to go to Oxford and get a win and keep the bandwagon going as our season could be defined in the next four games (Oxford (A), Watford (H), Oxford (A) and Crawley (H)).
“We are taking one game at a time and let’s see where it takes us. It would be nice to get a good cup run going – maybe eventually getting a big team down here so we will go there trying to get a result.”
Oxford manager Liam Gilbert said: “Plymouth are a very physical team in a good run of form, but we’re prepared for a battle. The FA Cup is a special competition for many fans, and it is no different for us.
“Argyle Argyle we’ll try to execute our game-plan, but in order to get the result we need to go above and beyond our most recent performance.”
Argyle squad: Kate Middleton, Bow Jackson, Faye Ivall, Ebony Dover, Leah Burridge, Helen Bleazard, Zoe Cunningham, Amber Pollock, Kayley Lane, Natasha Knapman, Steph Beck, Lydia Huntley, Mollie Taylor, Becky Dandridge, Kayley Lane, Vicki Fannon.
Meanwhile, Argyle’s development team will also look to continue their impressive recent form of six straight league and cup victories.
The South West League Western Division leaders are visiting Alphington in the second round of the Bristol Soccerworld League Cup on Sunday.
The young Pilgrims were beaten 3-2 away at Alphington in the opening league game of the season but won the return fixture 6-1 to start their recent winning run.
The development team will be without central defender Leah Johnson but could welcome back Maisie Williams, who missed last week due to a virus. Other than that the team will be relying on their young prospects to take them into the next round.
Manager Rob Bonney is happy with the way the squad is developing but he keeps the emphasis on improving and learning from every game.
He said: “We are far from the finished article but we are building and gaining experience from every game we play. When this team is on it they are exciting to watch.
“It is a case of maintaining a certain level of consistency and concentration throughout 90 minutes and eventually that will come with time.”
Argyle development squad: Maddie Walsh, Rachel Heron, Isla Brumhead, Rachel Javan, Maisie Williams, Maddy Leppard, Dani Wyatt, Hannah Brock, Beth Everson, Nicola Champion, Kiara Robins, Nelinha Barros, Dee Newman, Beth Cowd, Ellie Bishop, Lucy Solloway.