Plymouth (A) 18/19
Coventry United Ladies fought through a stubborn Plymouth Argyle side to secure another three points in Devon.
The FA Womens’ National League Southern Premier Division champions were in action for the first time since wrapping up the title, and were greeted with a guard of honour by the officials and the Plymouth players on route to the pitch. A Saturday night stop over ensured the girls were well rested ahead of the fixture at Bovey Tracey FC. Jay Bradford celebrated her 100thmatch in charge of Coventry United Ladies, and the gaffer made 2 changes from the Cardiff win 2 weeks prior, with Tash Merritt and Helen Dermody rested ahead of Tuesday’s County Cup final. Erin Riden and Jenna Roberts were drafted in. Merritt and Dermody would not have much of a rest, with both required to make an appearance in the first half due to injuries to Roberts and Beth Merrick, both believed to be impact related.
United started promisingly, before the Pilgrims began to put the visitors under pressure for a 10 minute spell. As the Red and Green Girls wrestled control back, they were given the chance to take control of the scoreline, as Merrick was bundled over from behind by Faye Ivall in the box. The usually invincible Chenise Austin, who scored 7 penalties from 7 this season prior to this one, marched to the spot to the take the penalty, but surprised all by firing over the woodwork. It wouldn’t be the only penalty nightmare Austin would suffer that day. But the lead wasn’t far away, as Amber Hughes finished off an outstanding run through the Pilgrims defence by slicing her finish across keeper Sarah Prior for the opening goal of the game in the 34thminute. Coventry held Plymouth back for the remainder of the first half, until the final kick of the opening period, as Plymouth captain Kate Middleton converted from the spot, after a lunge in from Chenise Austin left a last impression on Jessica Jones. 1-1 at half time.
Jay’s half time wisdom seemed to do the trick, as the Red and Green Girls returned to the pitch more determined than ever. 4 minutes after the break, top scorer Amy Wathan restored United’s lead with a stab into the far top corner after Nikki Miles’ initial header from a corner was cleared from the line. Hughes found the net with ease 20 minutes later. A long range effort from Lois Jefferies smacked off the post and rebounded to Hughes, and with Prior still on the ground, it took a simple tap in to make it 3-1. Plymouth didn’t let their heads drop, and 5 inutes after Hughes’ second, the Pilgrims cut the deficit with Natasha Knapman squaring to Helen Bleazard, the winger placing the ball into the bottom corner . This would prove to be one of the final pieces of play United goalkeeper Sue Wood would be involved in, as the skipper was replaced by Vicky Thomas in an attempt to rest the Red and Greens number 1, and give Thomas the chance to impress. The armband would be handed to vice-captain Jade Formaston. Immediatley after the switch, Coventry extended their advantage once more, with Rosie McDonnell’s header making it 4. And there was still time for Amber Hughes to secure her hat-trick, and she did so in injury time, sliding Lois Jefferies’ low cross over Prior to cap off the afternoon and send the fans and players on the long journey home with smiles on their faces.
The perfect way to prepare for the County Cup final with West Brom on Tuesday