Belper Town 1-2 Pride Park
By Boot Room
Above: Eliot Sayavong (14, centre) slots home the winner for Pride Park. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.
The teams fought out an extremely close and competitive game at Moorways only two weeks ago, with Belper coming away with the points thanks to a late penalty in a 3-2 win. Therefore, another close fought and competitive game was expected.
Under a grey, overcast sky the game was played on a pitch that was soft underfoot and would cut up during the game, causing some players to have difficulty staying on their feet, particularly after a heavy rain shower mid-way through the game.
Pride Park welcomed Eliot Sayavong back after missing the last three games, as well as Rachel Weaver and Hannah Roberts who missed last week’s game against Wirksworth.
Park came flying out of the blocks from the start, winning possession from Belper’s kick-off, and building up down the right. It wasn’t clear who crossed, but the ball was switched across the Belper area and found Jess Page in space, with time to take a touch and hit a shot on target, but it was diverted away by Emma Varnam in the Belper goal.
It was an early warning for Belper, which was double underlined within a few seconds as Bleu Lewis-Wilson beat her defender and crossed from the left, for Summer Evans to head wide of the ‘keeper to give Pride Park the lead within a minute of kick-off.
Although Belper responded to going behind with a couple of shots, Jade Howell saving the first of these a couple of minutes after the goal and seeing another go wide after ten minutes, it was Pride Park making most of the running in the early stages. However, despite having good possession and stretching Belper’s defence at times, they defended well and the visitors only created three clear chances, none of which troubled the Belper goalkeeper.
Park were playing some really good football at this stage and were keeping Belper penned back, but a counter-attack from the hosts after 26 minutes proved the old adage that you have to score when on top, as they broke clear to equalise. It looked offside when the ball was headed on for Alice Faulding to race clear and steer the ball wide of Jade Howell. After a brief consultation between the referee and assistant – suggesting the referee had his doubts – the goal was nevertheless given; it was disappointing for Pride Park, but the officials can only give what they see and as they see it.
The goal gave Belper fresh impetus and they had the better of the second quarter of the game. It was now Park’s turn to get goal side, chase, defend and block as they now struggled to get hold of and retain the ball, although not aided by defending too deep at times, which was almost inviting the pressure. It was almost a mirror image of the first quarter of the game, though, as real chances remained at a premium and the hosts limited Belper to two shots, both off target, and made a couple of excellent blocks.
During this period, Belper won a corner on the right and the ball was delivered plum into the danger area in the centre of the goal, just on the edge of the six yards box. Jade Howell took command to come out bravely and strongly into the crowd and punch the ball clear under considerable pressure – just what was needed – and excellent goalkeeping at an important stage of the game.
Underlining how finely balanced the game was, the visitors finished the half with a chance to score, but Summer Evans’ shot was saved by the Belper ‘keeper, so at half-time, it remained all square at 1-1.
Both teams more or less cancelled each other out in the early stages of the second half, although Belper had a couple of good opportunities – both kept out again with excellent saves from Jade Howell.
At the other end, Summer Evans went close a couple of times, but as the game entered the final quarter it felt like Park stepped up a gear, and started to enjoy more possession in the Belper half, picking up second balls and pinning the hosts back. The Pride seemed to have had a lot of corners throughout the game, which with excellent deliveries from Tash Allderidge were always a threat. A series of corners was capped off with a quarter of an hour to play by another excellent delivery by Tash falling to Eliot Sayavong who steered the ball through the crowd with her left foot for her first goal for Pride Park.
Inevitably, Belper responded and saw one shot go wide and another hit the foot of the post, but otherwise Park managed the game out well for a very satisfying and welcome three points.
It was yet another extremely finely balanced and competitive game. It perhaps wasn’t quite as entertaining as the game a couple of weeks ago, being something of a battle in more challenging conditions, but was nevertheless another enthralling contest that could have gone either way.
Next Sunday the Ladies travel to Wirksworth (KO 1.30pm)