FOOTBALL can be a very cruel game, especially when you’re at the bottom, and never was it more so than for Argyle Ladies on the away day at League leaders Brighton & Hove Albion.
With the festive season fast approaching, Argyle Ladies sit bottom of the League and facing the prospect of five consecutive away games either side of the Christmas break. They went into this game bereft of several key players leaving themselves with a bare 11, plus back-up keeper Rebecca Kyle as an emergency substitute.
From the first whistle, Brighton lay siege on the Argyle goal and, but for some resolute defending and a string of wonderful saves by Argyle’s Michaela Phillips, the home side would have been out of sight by half time.
It was testament to the ‘never say die’ efforts of the Argyle players, allied to some wayward finishing and great goalkeeping, that it took Brighton until the 41st minute to open their account with Sophie Perry setting up Charlotte Gurr for a close-range finish.
It was much the same in the second-half with the occasional break on the counter attack for Argyle with Ezme Wells and Amber Pollock both going close.
The longer the game went with only a 1-0 lead and with Argyle still defending for their lives and Michaela Phillips pulling off save after save, the home side began to get frustrated and one sensed that if the visitors could fashion a clear-cut chance on the break or from a set piece, then an unlikely result might be on the cards.
However, as the game went into injury time, Argyle’s resistance was finally broken as a poor goal-kick from Phillips was seized upon by Brighton substitute Lisa Fulgence, returning to the side after a year out with injury, and the lively forward shrugged off the challenge from Natalie Volpini before firing low into the bottom corner to double Brighton’s lead.
A close-range header from Fulgence for Brighton’s third on the final whistle was harsh on Argyle who had given their all against the best all-round side in the division and sees both sides retain their places at the top and bottom of table respectively.
Despite yet another defeat, manager Kevin Taylor was quick to praise his players for their effort, work rate and commitment. “Given the circumstances going into the game, I could not have asked for any more from my players,” he said.
“We came here on a hiding to nothing, so to keep the best team in the League at bay for 41 minutes and only concede the second and third goals in injury time says an awful lot about the fighting spirit of these players. I’m beginning to think that someone up there doesn’t like us.
“After the immensely difficult opening set of home games we had at the start of the season, to then have two or three winnable games postponed and now face five away games on the spin with players either injured or unavailable, it’s going to be a tough few weeks.”