The start of the 2023 fixture list saw our senior team head down to the south coast to face Plymouth Argyle in the FAWNL Cup. Our opponents play in Tier 3, in the division above, and so this game presented an opportunity to see how we compared against a Tier 3 side. We had already beaten Bridgwater from the same division in the FA Cup, so the task was not an impossible one.

The occasion was made all the bigger when it was announced that the match would be played at Home Park – the home stadium for Plymouth Argyle’s men’s side.

The team arrived at the stadium and were welcomed into the dressing room, and the stands began to fill with those who’d bought tickets while we warmed up.

The game started very slowly, with neither side creating clear cut chances for much of the half. Our defence seemed a little nervous, and while solid our midfield struggled to link in with Cori Williams and Kerry Bartlett in attack. As a result the game was played in the middle of the pitch. When Chloe Lloyd stayed down following a challenge, manager Jamie Phillip called the team in to deliver a message while our number 8 received treatment. Whatever JP said worked, and we began to play with increased vigour and tempo, with better link-up play and a style of football that was more similar to how the Dragons usually play.

The score at half time remained 0-0, with the hosts having the best chance of the game so far, which Kelly Isaac cleared off the line.

The second half produced a very different display from both sides. Each team came out of the changing rooms with increased focus, and the game was far more end-to-end. Cardiff had the best of the first 10 minutes of the second half, threatening the goal and keeping Plymouth pinned into their own half. The tides turned, however, and Plymouth threatened with an attack, only to be brought down in the box. Penalty to the hosts. This was converted by Zoe Cunningham, and Plymouth led 1-0 with 55 minutes played.

The response from Cardiff was immediate. Emily Poole, who had been making her presence very much felt on the right wing, scored with a first time effort that curled into the top right hand corner just two minutes later.

Pooley was gifted another chance just a few minutes later, but this went high. Following their goals, both teams now had confidence, and with the clock ticking down the remaining half an hour, the pressure was on to avoid extra time. The game stretched, Charlotte Whitmore for Plymouth tore down the left wing, and after some fancy footwork teased a ball across the box. Lily Greenslade slid in to stick out a foot, and converted the opportunity just inside the far post, far beyond the reach of Laura O’Sullivan.

From this point on, Plymouth kept pushing for a third and Cardiff searched for another equaliser. With 15 minutes to go, however, the Dragons looked tired and the chances were fewer and further between. In the dying minutes, an opportunity arose but was saved by the Argyle keeper, Jasmine Read.  

With the final score at 2-1, Argyle were ardently celebrating while Cardiff hung their heads, defeated for the first time this season. Players and manager alike congratulated the opponents but if they are to progress to Tier 3 next season, this was a wake-up call, since Plymouth sit only second from bottom.

When asked whether the loss could be a blessing in disguise, as the Dragons’ season is already overloaded by league and FA Cup games, Jamie Phillip responded ‘No. We want to win every game, regardless of competition – league, cup, FA cup – we want to win them all’

We look forward to welcoming Moneyfields to Cardiff on Sunday 15th January. 
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