A decimated Plymouth Argyle Ladies team return to league action on Sunday when they host Hounslow in a National League Southern Premier Division match at the Manadon Hub (2pm).
Argyle won the away game 8-0, with Natasha Knapman hitting five. Knapman, however, who has not scored in her last four games, is unavailable for this weekend’s fixture. She is one of four first choice players missing.
In a season that looked so promising until just before Christmas, Argyle have suffered the loss of seven front line players.
Manager Dave Leonard and his staff of Marc Bonney, Vicki Fannon and Jason Haswell, along with director of football Trevor Rodd and physio Hannah Robertson, have worked miracles in just fielding a side on a Sunday.
Leonard said: “Every week I have to find square pegs to put into round holes, but despite this, the girls give their all every week when wearing the green of Argyle. Their team spirit and togetherness has been outstanding and it is to their credit that they continue to wear the shirt with honour.”
Leonard added: “I have never seen anything like it – not only have we not got Tash (Knapman) but also unavailable is Panagiota Papaioannou, Faye Ivall and the injured Bow Jackson, who is suffering from a rib injury. We will also be giving a late fitness test to Steph Beck.”
Having already lost seven players through various reasons Leonard is left scratching his head as to naming a squad this week.
He said: “I can’t name a squad yet as I will have to have a roll call on to see who is fit and available. Thank goodness we have a development squad. It is bad news for the club but it is a great opportunity for the youngsters to show what they can do.”
Argyle are at home for the whole of March with Portsmouth, MK Dons and Oxford United their next opponents so a victory is imperative.
It is worrying times for the development team as manager Rob Bonney does not know who he will lose to the first team.
This could prove to be a devastating blow to the young team, who are playing a League Cup quarter final tie against Bristol Ladies Union at Manadon (12 noon).
Bristol are having an excellent season having lost just one in the Northern Division and even with a full squad available, Argyle would find it difficult. However, they are hoping they can cause a surprise.
Bonney said: “A big improvement is needed, we cannot expect to put in a lack lustre performance as we did last week and expect to get a result this Sunday.
“It was a scruffy win (last week), but we will take it and move on. It will be a test for the youngsters as they pit their wits against a team from a higher division.
“The rebuilt development side has a freshness and a youthful bounce about them. Despite setbacks in their first three games, they have put together a good run of results both in the league and cup competitions.
“Once more the squad will be dictated by first team call-ups and a couple of fitness tests. I know what this team is capable of when they are on it. They are capable of beating anyone and despite being a big test, it is one that they can overcome.”
Argyle development: Maddie Walsh, Jodie Randall, Maddy Leppard, Beth Cowd, Leah Johnson, Kiara Robins, Nicola Champion, Ellie Bishop, Hannah Brock, Dee Newman, Rachel Javan, Maisie Frickleton, Dani Wyatt, Rachel Heron, Maisie Williams, Isla Brumhead.