Pride Park Back At Last

Wirksworth Colts 5-2 Pride Park

By ‘Boot Room’ (18/1/22)

Neither team had played in a month before Sunday’s Derbyshire Ladies League Division One (tier seven) game – and Park’s last game in the first half of December was the only game we’d played since before the end of October.

After an overnight frost caused the pitch to freeze, the morning’s fixtures were postponed and although the pitch had thawed in time for the afternoon kick-off, the playing surface was very soft underfoot.

Wirksworth got the game underway and started well, with some good passing and movement. Pride were not quite clicking, as too many passes were hit short, or askew, and this was frustrating our efforts to build any real momentum.

Nevertheless, we had the earliest opportunities, as Summer Evans had a shot blocked, and Tash Allderidge and Maja Znamirowska had a couple of attempts – each with one off-target and one forcing the keeper to work, although Wirksworth also created a couple of openings in the opening fifteen minutes. We were just falling short in the final third, as our final pass was too often underhit, or misplaced and attacks broke down.

The game settled down with both teams more or less cancelling each other out up to just after the half-hour, when Wirksworth scored three goals in a six-minute spell, after 31, 34, and 37 minutes – all of which were poor goals to concede from the visitors’ point of view.

As the half drew to a close, Rachel Weaver read a pass and intercepted inside the Wirksworth half, advanced and hit a good shot, saved by the ‘keeper. The last action of the first half was a Wirksworth rising shot from the end of the area which Jade Howell parried, and did well to recover and smother the ball. At half-time it was 3-0 to the hosts.

Pride Park needed to shake things up in the second half, play with more intensity, and find their passing rhythm if they were to retrieve anything from the game. The visitors made a better start and began to look more threatening, forcing Wirksworth onto the back foot. Summer Evans had a couple of early attempts and this set the tone for a better second half, as Park started to find each other with their passes, and get into better positions. They couldn’t afford to neglect defensive duties, however, but a collective lapse of concentration in defence allowed a simple diagonal ball to catch them all standing and watching allowing Wirksworth to run through unchallenged to score.

Despite this, the Pride reacted well and from an attack down our right flank the ball was centred and broke from the crowd to Maja Znamirowska, and although she didn’t quite connect cleanly, her shot evaded the attempts of the ‘keeper and defender to keep it out. It’s unlikely to be a contender for goal of the season, perhaps, but they all count, and this one was particularly important – after having so many attacks frustrated, finally scoring put a different complexion on the game.

Within three minutes the deficit had been further reduced, as Beth Thompson laid the ball infield to an advancing Beth Jones who struck her shot from distance. The dynamic of the game had noticeably changed and with over twenty minutes still to play, a comeback wasn’t out of the question as Wirksworth was now finding it difficult to contain Pride Park’s attacks.

The visitors now at least had hope of a comeback, but (so the saying goes) it’s the hope that kills you – with twenty minutes left Summer Evans was played through on goal and she and the goalkeeper stretched for the ball and collided. Evans came off worst and although it initially looked worse than it was, she was in considerable pain and after lengthy treatment was unable to continue.

The injury took a little of the steam out of our resurgence and Park lost some of the momentum that they had built up as players noticeably tired on the heavy pitch. With Ward off, they had all 11 available players on the pitch, whilst Wirksworth was able to freshen up from a well-stocked bench.

The game was heading to its conclusion when Wirksworth countered and in a melee in the six-yard box a hand deflected the ball and a penalty was awarded. Although goalkeeper Jade Howell went the right way, she was unable to reach the shot and Wirksworth had a fifth goal with six minutes left. It was particularly hard on Howell who had made a number of good saves in tricky conditions for a ‘keeper.

Maja Znamirowska had a golden opportunity in stoppage time when through one-on-one with the keeper but she didn’t get enough height on her attempted lob and the keeper was able to gather the ball.

It had been a much improved second-half performance, but for the injury breaking up the play and depriving us of our leading scorer, the last twenty minutes could have been interesting. Disappointing as it was to lose the opening game of the New Year, it was something of a relief to get back to playing after such a long break, and the second half performance showed some promise, but there are plenty of things to work on in the weeks ahead.

The Pride are keeping their fingers crossed that at least some of our ill, isolating, and injured are able to at least return to training this week, and perhaps for Sunday when they host Borrowash Victoria at Moorways (1.30pm).

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