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Southampton Women 2 Plymouth Argyle 2
The top two teams in the FAWPL South West Division One met for the second successive week and this time it was honours even at Alton FC as Southampton Women and Plymouth Argyle shared four goals.
After Argyle's crushing win in Devon, Southampton restored pride with a strong, committed display and were ahead with fifteen minutes to go, only to be pegged back by a superb Zoe Cunningham equaliser.
Argyle started with the confidence which their excellent season creates, moving the ball with pace and penning the hosts in their own half. Natasha Knapman hit the bar with an early effort then Cunningham was denied by fine defending from Natasha Angel. It was 11 minutes before Southampton had an effort on goal by Manu Naprta, held by Michaela Phillips. Argyle defender Mollie Taylor then had to be alert to clear a fine cross from Paris Payne but the visitors were always dangerous.
Cunningham missed a good opportunity to open the scoring, blazing over from ten yards but Argyle took the lead with a low shot from Becky Dandridge which beat Emily Paines at her near post midway through the half.
Cunningham was soon foiled by a fine save from Paines and shortly after Southampton were level on 36 minutes, Laura Vokes hitting a perfect cross-shot from a tight angle wide on the left which flew over Phillips before dropping in at the far post.
Plymouth upped the tempo on the restart and Paines was forced into good saves from Kayley Lane and then Dandridge. Southampton were always competitive however and took the lead with a fine Payne through ball beautifully finished by Philippa Holden past the advancing keeper.
Faced with a possible first league defeat, Plymouth responded with urgency. Becky Atkins fired a shot just over, then Paines was alert to grab a loose ball in a goalmouth scramble.
The equaliser was a moment of real quality from Cunningham, weaving her way through two challenges before curling a low shot home from ten yards on 75 minutes.
The outstanding Cunningham crashed another effort against the angle of post and bar whilst Southampton sub Sheree Bell-Jack turned well in the area before firing just wide as both teams went for the vital winner. In the end, a match of high quality and commitment finished level. with every player having contributed to a fine spectacle.
Southampton Women, in their first season at this level have had an outstanding campaign. However, Plymouth have two games in hand and a superior goal difference so will feel confident of making up the three point gap which currently separates the two title challengers.
Emily Paines, Manuela Naprta, Sophie Solloway, Kirsty Whitton, Natasha Angel, Kellie Warren, Philippa Holden, Natalie Bavister, Lavinia Nkomo, Paris Payne, Laura Vokes. Subs: Sheree Bell-Jack, Amie Barnett, Cassie Thorpe, Millie Peake.
Michaela Phillips, Darcey Hepworth, Mollie Taylor, Ebony Dover, Katie Middleton, Dani Barr, Becky Atkins, Kayley Lane, Natasha Knapman, Becky Dandridge, Zoe Cunningham. Subs: Tamsin Medd-Gill, Kayleigh Brown, Phoebe Baker.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Emily Paines clears under pressure from Natasha Knapman
(middle) Paris Payne tries to get in a cross past Ebony Dover
(bottom) Kirsty Whitton clears away from Zoe Cunningham
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