PLYMOUTH Argyle Ladies manager Dave Leonard has made another impassioned plea for fans to turn out to support his team when they play Gillingham on Sunday at the Manadon Hub (2pm).
A baffled Leonard cannot understand why 800 fans can turn up at Home Park to watch the team play Watford, yet just 100 witnessed the match against league leaders Crawley. Then 150 came to Marjon to watch their Devon Cup match on a cold night yet just 38 fans turned up to see Argyle beat Stevenage to reach the semi-final of the National League Plate competition at Manadon last Sunday.
Leonard said: “I’m baffled how fans pay £8 to watch us at Home Park yet won’t pay £3 to watch us at Manadon. Not only that, but season ticket holders pay nothing. I really don’t know what to do. We get great press coverage yet we can’t seem to attract the fans.
“These girls play for nothing, they deserve the support – we are just a step away from semi-professional football and we have over a 100 girls in our system.”
It must come as no surprise that when matches are played at a club’s main ground the fans flock in. Just last Sunday, 4,510 turned up at St Mary’s to watch Southampton play Coventry in an FA cup match. Prior to that the Saints were averaging less than 300 in a league below Argyle.
Plymouth go into Sunday’s match against Gillingham looking to secure the double over them. They beat them 2-0 away for their first win of the season.
Argyle will be shorn of seven first team starters for this weekend’s game.
England under-20 international Jessica Jones left to take up a post abroad, he Leonard lost Amber Pollock, Kayley Lane and Becky Dandridge with serious injuries. Along with the unavailable Zoe Cunningham and Faye Ivall, Leonard will also be without Leah Burridge on Sunday as she is attending a UEFA B course.
Despite the loss of so many key players, Leonard remains optimistic. It means he will bring in more young players from the club’s development squad. He has added youngsters Nelinha Barros and Dee Newman, who came on against Stevenage, Libby Lawton, second team top striker Nicola Champion and Greece under-20 international defender Panagiota Papaioannou, who will be looking for her first appearance of the season.
“It is what it is,” said Leonard. “I was impressed with Gillingham when we played them up there and won 2-0. I think they are a very under-achieving side. It will be a massive big test for us.
“I am expecting a tough game. We are looking forward to it but we will tread carefully. We will give it a go and we know their strengths and their weaknesses.”
Gillingham have not had the best of seasons having won just three of their National League Southern Premier Division matches, but it did include a 2-2 draw with league leaders Crawley.
Arglye: Ben Kyle, Bow Jackson, Kate Middleton, Lydia Huntley, Mollie Taylor, Steph Beck, Ebony Dover, Beth Everson, Helen Bleazard, Natasha Knapman, Nelinha Barros, Dee Newman, Panagiota Papaioannou, Libby Lawton and Nicola Champion.
Meanwhile, Argyle’s development team’s League Cup tie against Bristol Ladies Union has been postponed due to the Manadon grass pitch being unfit.