Wirksworth Colts 0-3 Pride Park
by ‘Boot Room’
Pride Park travelled to Wirksworth the second placed side in the Derbyshire Ladies League Division One on Sunday. With the number of players unavailable through injury and changes in circumstances mounting to an alarming extent it was something of a relief to welcome three debutants to the line-up (one familiar and two new faces) providing much needed reinforcements and, as it turned out, just in the nick of time.
It was a sunny afternoon, but there was a deceptive chill to the breeze which Park were playing into in the first half. The opening exchanges, indeed most of the first half was quite patchy as both teams tried to get a grip of the game without really doing so. Although Wirksworth were a player short, there wasn’t really much to choose between the sides; although the breeze didn’t seem particularly strong it was acting as something of a leveller for Wirksworth.
That said, the visitors were tending to rush which combined with a dry, hard and bobbly surface and the hard work and pressing of Wirksworth, made for a lack of quality. There were momentary outbursts of good combination and individual play, however, and there were a few chances created, but we were unconvincing with our early shots on goal.
With only a quarter of an hour played, Izzy Wilsoncroft pulled up with a quad injury and had to be helped off and was unable play any further part in the game; we’re keeping everything crossed it’s not as bad as it looked. Fortunately, we were able to turn to the bench and resumed after a quick re-shuffle.
The best move, and scoring opportunity, of the first half came just as it was drawing to a close. After some good build up play down the left, involving Rachel Weaver, Izzy Ely and Jess Page, Maja Znamirowska hit her shot just wide, and a slightly disappointing first half ended goalless.
Pride Park started the second half much better; within a minute of the restart Znamirowska was clear beyond the last defender and cutting in from the left. She could possibly have taken a couple more steps before shooting, but she took her shot early and didn’t really get the connection she wanted, hitting her shot straight at the ‚keeper who was able to gather the shot in.
As it turned out, that was a just a rehearsal, as a couple of minutes later Znamirowska again found herself clear on the left after being played in by Rachel and this time made no mistake with a crisp left foot shot that gave the keeper no chance.
As the second half progressed we were creating more and better openings than in the first half, but Wirksworth’s defensive line was working really hard to deny us time and space. When we did get sights of goal they were very quick to close us down and several chances for Tash Allderidge, Annie Laight, Izzy Ely and Znamirowska were denied through shots being blocked or charged down.
Whereas the first half had been fairly even, the visitors were having the better of play in the second half but while it remained a single goal margin there was always an element of risk that Park could be caught out on the break. Wirksworth got forward a few times and started to look threatening, but we generally recovered our ground well and either snuffed the attack out, or limited any opportunities to half chances or shots from distance.
We did, however, need the insurance of a second goal and it came from the most unexpected of quarters. Sophie Ayton had been struggling for a while with a back injury, and came off just after the hour, Amy Snape coming back on at right back with Beth Thompson moving to centre back.
Nearly ten minutes later, and coming up to a quarter of an hour left to play, one of the visitors’ attacks was half cleared by a Wirksworth defender towards Snape, who ran on to the ball and hit a sweet first time shot from fully thirty metres out (if not more) which rose up and then dipped beyond the ‘keeper and under the crossbar. It was by any measure a superb strike, and a memorable way to mark a debut. Perhaps even more memorable was the look of surprise on the goalscorers’ face and her reaction when she realised she had scored!
Three minutes later and Beth Jones added a third: another eye catching strike, receiving the ball side on to goal, and hitting a fierce shot over the keeper from just outside the area, that went in off the underside of the crossbar – definitely one for the cameras!
Today’s game posed a very different challenge to that which we had faced last week, and after a slightly frustrating first half, we rose to the challenge in the second half and three memorable strikes – and a welcome clean sheet – secured the points.
With three debutants providing much needed reinforcements it was a pleasant change to have substitutes to call upon, and it was just as well, with the injuries suffered by Wilsoncroft and Ayton. Pride Park don’t play again until a week on Wednesday, so they will be hopeful this provides sufficient recovery time. It is beginning to look very much like the remainder of the season is going to be increasingly attritional.
If that proves to be the case, the versatility of the Park squad will be tested. Beth Thompson once again proving her versatility by covering four very different positions in this game, starting at left back, moving to right midfield, before dropping back to right back and finally moving into central defence, after playing a good proportion of the season in centre midfield.
Two of Pride Park’s three debutants were at different stages of returning to football, whilst the third is at a different stage of the football journey altogether. It was good to see Jess Page playing again after a break of around four years prompted by injury, and she was involved in some of our best moves. It is early days in Jess’ return to playing, but she showed she can still play, and there is more to come as her match fitness and confidence grows. Amy has had a shorter break from playing but had a debut to remember. She insists she rarely scores – and she will probably have to play for a very long time to score a better goal! Gosia is at an entirely different stage, and for her the objective was to get some playing time to try to gain some experience of match play.
Pride Park now have ten days until their next game, the return fixture against leaders Draycott Victoria at Moorways on Wednesday 5th May (kick off 7.15pm), during which time they will hope that some of their walking wounded are able to recover.