Pride Park’s Resilience Rewarded

Ilkeston Town Development 1-3 Pride Park

by Boot Room

Long term injury absences, the attritional nature of this season and their third game in seven days meant that Pride Park lined up with just eleven players for yesterday’s game at Ilkeston Town Development at Cotmanhay Playing Fields.

Park found themselves playing into a fairly stiff breeze in the first half but started well. With barely a minute played, Hannah Kwiatek broke clear on the right and her shot was not far wide of the near post. We gradually imposed ourselves on the game, Beth Thompson and Tash Allderidge taking a degree of control in central midfield early on and together with Jess Page and Hannah Kwiatek on either flank created a string of opportunities.

Annie Laight and Izzy Ely were combining well and their runs were causing the hosts’ defence considerable problems. Izzy had a couple of early chances – one just wide and another just over, and both players were also only just beaten to the ball by the ‘keeper on a couple of occasions. Considering Park’s approach play, and the opportunities created, it took quite a while to make the breakthrough but the visitors remained patient. They were finally rewarded just after the half-hour when Laight broke through and, as the ‘keeper came out to narrow the angle, slipped the ball to the side for Ely to side foot home.

Ilkeston’s keeper made a vital interception, coming out to dive and just do enough to divert a low cross that was waiting to be turned in by Laight at the far post.

Goal-kicks were slightly challenging as the ball held up in the wind, and it didn’t take Ilkeston long to be aware of Pride Park’s attempts to play out from goal-kicks and close them down. On a couple of occasions they were nearly exposed as attempts to play out broke down, but the visitors recovered well. Nevertheless, they did try to vary it from goal-kicks and driven kicks from the hand, however, were reaching well beyond half-way despite the wind, on what must be the most compact pitch Park have played on at open age, and a couple of them proved problematic for Ilkeston’s back line as they were forced to turn and face towards their own goal.

Ilkeston looked threatening from a corner, but the visiting keeper did well to come into the crowd and punch clear confidently. Park weren’t able to convert any further opportunities and at half-time it was 1-0.

With the breeze behind the visitors in the second half many through balls goal kicks were running through to the Ilkeston keeper early on, but once Park had adjusted for the wind they started to create opportunities again. Ely had an early shot that was just off target within a few minutes of the restart, but Pride Park extended our lead on 50 minutes, as Ely set up Laight for a finish, lifting the ball up and helping it over the ‘keeper with a first time effort from side-on.

Ilkeston started to come into the game more and posed more questions in the second half, as the midfield battle was more even. It meant that Pride Park’s keeper was starting to be a little more involved and approaching the hour was brought into action, collecting a shot, and racing out to clear well from outside her area. Just after the hour, Ilkeston pulled a goal back. They worked the ball down the right, and as the ball arrived on the right, Park looked well set at the back, but the wide player beat the challenge and her low cross evaded everyone and was turned in at the far post. It was a well worked goal but one that the visitors would have felt that they could have defended better.

Conversely, they were finding it harder to play with the wind at their backs, or this could have been because Ilkeston had improved since the break. It may also have been a factor that the assorted knocks, strains, and fatigue, were starting to take their toll as Beth Jones, Sophie Ayton and Amy Snape required running repairs and it was apparent as the game entered the latter stages that a number of players were running on fumes.

Fortunately, Annie Laight had restored our two goal advantage by then, sweeping Allderidge’s square ball up and over the ‘keeper from the edge of the area. Beth Jones had a shot from distance saved by the ‘keeper, who was unable to hold on to it, and with a little more anticipation we might have had an opportunity – but the ‘keeper recovered well to gather the ball just ahead of Laight and Allderidge saw an opportunistic effort go over the bar. Ilkeston had a sight of goal as the clock ran down but the shot was hit wide.

In the end, it was a win that Pride Park had to work for. Several players were clearly digging into reserves at the end as fatigue from the recent schedule and accumulated knocks and strains started to have an effect. It’s probably fair to say Jess Page won’t have anticipated playing as many minutes in her first three games after four years out, but kept going even when the gauge read ‘empty’!

Amy Snape took a painful (accidental) kick to the ankle with fifteen minutes still to play but soldiered on, and is growing into her role – this was probably her best game for Pride Park to date.

The number of injured and otherwise unavailable players has meant scant opportunity for resting players during games, and there is no let up – this Wednesday is the last of our midweek fixtures when Park play Mercia at Moorways.

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