Plymouth Argyle women hit for six by champions-elect Southampton

Plymouth Argyle Women fell to a heavy defeat away to champions-elect Southampton despite a performance full of character and endeavour from Ryan Perk’s young side. The Pilgrims were behind before a ball was kicked, with several players missing out through injury, leaving Argyle with only one substitute after Lucy Hack was added to Argyle’s ever-growing injury list.

It meant that 16-year-old Ruby Murphy came into the team to make her first start for the Pilgrims and Argyle were also able to hand a debut to new signing Charlotte Whitmore after she co-signed from St Austell two weeks ago. It was always going to be a tough afternoon away to the league leaders, but it was a quick start from the Saints, who could have taken the lead after six minutes.

A long-distance shot cannoned off the Argyle bar, but the backspin on the ball brought it back into Argyle’s six-yard box, and it took a combination of Jasmine Read and Giota Panagiota to deflect the ball clear before a Southampton player could get a touch on the ball. After weathering the early Southampton pressure, Argyle began to grow into the game, with debutant Whitmore impressing with her hold up play and combining well with pacy winger Amber Pollock.

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The pair nearly combined to great effect in the 23rd minute when Whitmore burst behind the Saints’ defence and cut the ball back to Pollock, whose shot on the spin cannoned off the inside of the post and the rebound was cleared by a Southampton defender. It would prove to be a decisive moment in the match as only three minutes later, Southampton took the lead.

Argyle pushed forward but lost the ball in transition, and The Saints hit them on the counter-attack. Sophia Pharoah slid Ciara Watling through on goal, and she finished into the bottom corner to give them the lead. Argyle looked to respond with a succession of corners, but it was Southampton who would get the next goal.

Ruby Murphy played a short back pass to Read, which was intercepted by Pharoah, who fired in to double the Saints’ leadand a third goal followed as Lucia Kendall found herself free from a corner, and she planted her header into the back of the net on the stroke of half-time. Argyle started the second half well and nearly found a way back into the game in the 46th minute.

Whitmore again showed good feet to skip past her marker before playing the ball to Pollock inside the area, but Kayla Rendell was quick off her line to smother her shot behind for a corner. It was encouragement for Argyle, but that encouragement was short-lived as Southampton added a fourth in the 52nd minute.

Georgie Freeland picked the ball up outside the Argyle box and arrowed a superb shot into the top left corner. Despite plenty of attacking endeavour from Argyle it was Southampton who scored the next goal in the 65th minute through Kendall.

It would have been easy for Argyle to give in after the fifth goal, but they continued trying to get back into the game and found a consolation goal in the 68th minute. Southampton cleared the ball to Zoe Cunningham on the left-hand side, and she sent a stunning right-footed volley beyond Rendell and into the top right-hand corner.

Argyle continued to push for another goal but, with the clock ticking away, Southampton added a sixth goal in stoppage time through Rafferty. It was a difficult result for Argyle, but with a crucial home match against basement side Hounslow next week, the Pilgrims will have the perfect chance to respond in their quest to stay in the division.

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