PLYMOUTH Argyle Ladies produced a battling performance to overcome struggling Hounslow 2-1 at Manadon on Sunday in the National League Southern Premier Division.
With so many first choice players unavailable the Pilgrims had to include five 16-year-olds in their squad for the visit of the Londoners.
Argyle, who have been struggling since Christmas with injuries, were dealt a further blow for this game with Panagiota Papaioannou, Faye Ivall, Natasha Knapman and Bow Jackson unavailable and then losing goalkeeper Ben Kyle with a chest infection and Steph Beck with a hamstring injury late on.
It meant manager Dave Leonard started with development team second choice teenage goalkeeper Maisie Frickleton between the sticks and coach Vicky Fannon.
Argyle lined up with a back four of Mollie Taylor, Kate Middleton, Lydia Huntley and Leah Burridge with Helen Bleazard, Vicky Fannon and Ebony Dover in midfield with Lucy Solloway leading the line and Nelinha Barros and Libby Lawton on the flanks. Beth Everson, Rosie Shipp and Steph Beck were substitutes.
With such inexperience among the starting line up it was no surprise that Argyle took a little time to get into their stride.
The first real movement came when both Bleazard and Barros just failed to latch on to a Dover ball over the top of the defence which was cut out by the Hounslow goalkeeper. A free-kick for a foul on Lawton then came to nothing.
Terrific link up play between Dover and Bleazard saw her through ball to the on rushing Barros and Solloway being cut out by a last second interception.
Then a long through ball from Middleton came to nothing before a terrific run by Solloway ended with Taylor’s cross being cut out.
Argyle kept pushing and a strong Huntley run ended with her firing wide and some excellent possession ended with her cross to Bleazard being headed behind for a corner.
With Argyle in control a goal had to come and in the 32nd minute it did when a low corner from Bleazard to Dover saw her lay it off to Huntley, who slammed it into the net for her first goal for the club.
With time running out in the first half, Bleazard found the onrushing Dover, who scored with a clinical finish to make it 2-0 at half-time.
been so much on top in the first half Argyle were stunned when 20 seconds into the second period the defence were caught out by a long ball out to the left wing which Argyle failed to pick up the cross and Hounslow fired the ball past Frickelton.
This goal kicked Argyle into action but they were unable to take advantage through disciplined defending.
Middleton then found Dover, whose lob was headed on to the bar for a corner and a foul on Dover saw Bleazard’s free-kick headed on to the crossbar by Lawton.
Argyle kept pushing and a great ball from Burridge to Barros ended with her shot going wide.
Another superb Bleazard corner found the on rushing Middleton, who was caught by surprise and she steers the ball narrowly wide. Argyle kept pushing but to no avail and safely came through what could have been a potential banana skin.
“It was the club that won,” said Argyle manager Leonard afterwards. “We had five 16 year-olds on show and that shows the progression the club has made.
Leonard explained his decision to promote 16-year-old Maisie Frickleton, who had only made two substitute appearances for the development team, to first team goalkeeping dutie. He said: “If we used Kate (Middleton) then we would have lost a leader in defence, so we decided to give Maisie her chance.”
Leonard also praised the contribution of coach Fannon. He said: “She put in a good shift and it was good for her to see what she is trying to get the players to do in training on the field.”
Leonard also had good words to say about the youngsters Lawton, Barros, Shipp, Everson and Solloway who he said all showed promise and deserved to be given their chance.
Argyle: Maisie Frickleton, Leah Burridge, Lydia Huntley, Katie Middleton, Mollie Taylor, Vicki Fannon (Rosie Shipp), Ebony Dover, Helen Bleazard, Milan Barros (Beth Everson), Libby Lawton, Lucy Solloway, unused substitute Steph Beck.
A badley depleted Argyle development team were brushed aside by a ruthless Bristol Ladies Union side 12-1 in the Bristol Soccerworld League Cup quarter-final.
This was always going to be a difficult task for the youngsters whose average age of starting line up was just 18 years of age.
This was the biggest test of the youngsters season and they certainly were given a harsh lesson with a powerful performance by the visitors from Bristol.
The young Pilgrims, shorn of a number of quality players drafted into the first team, were put on the back foot from the first whistle as Bristol raced into a two-goal lead within the first five minutes.
The development side replied within a couple of minutes when a Rachel Heron through ball found Nicola Champion, who netted her 19th goal of the season.
But the joy was short lived as Bristol soon had the young Greens under pressure again.
Maddie Walsh in the Argyle goal had to be on her toes as she was called upon on several occasions to make some vital saves.
But Bristol’s third goal was not far away, which was soon followed by the fourth.
The Argyle team thought their task was going to be made easier when Champion was through on goal and the Bristol goalkeeper handled outside the area. But the referee deemed it only a yellow card offence and an indirect free-kick.
Just before half-time Bristol added a fifth and five minutes into the second period a sixth came.
This seemed to be the goal that knocked the stuffing out of the young Argyle team and Bristol ran in a further six goals.
The scoreline could have been a lot worse if it wasn’t for the Argyle keeper Maddie Walsh and some sterling work from defender Isla Brumhead.
Henna Butcher and Sheila Gandee-Morgan both scored hat-tricks for Bristol, who also had Hannah Price, Madison Price and Sophie Price bagging two apiece.
Argyle development manager Rob Bonney said: “We take the good times as a team, so we take the bad times as a team. Nothing more needs to be said about this, we just move on to next week.”
Argyle Development: Maddie Walsh, Maddy Leppard (Rachel Javan), Leah Johnson, Isla Brumhead, Beth Cowd, Rachel Heron, Dee Newman (Jodie Randall), Kiara Robins (Dani Wyatt), Maisie Williams, Hannah Brock, Nicola Champion.