Pride Park 2-3 Borrowash Victoria
By ‘Boot Room’ (25/1/22).
There can’t be a report on this match that avoids the ‘elephant in the room’, so let’s deal with that so we can file it away and move on to the match.
Technically this was our first game against Borrowash Victoria, although only technically, as this group of players started the season as Woodlands and were playing in the Regional League, two leagues above us, before being ‘parachuted into the Derbyshire Ladies League Division One, somewhat controversially – in November – as a result of difficulties with fielding a team due to player availability.
Contrary to some reports, however, the controversy only centred around the way the switch was handled by the FA and League, but despite their earlier difficulties, Borrowash Victoria retains a core of players with, at least, Regional Premier League experience.
With a number of players out through long term injury and rehabilitation, recovering after COVID, and Summer Evans recovering from a nasty injury sustained in last week’s game at Wirksworth, Pride Park were hoping to see some players return and although some weren’t ready to return to play, they were pleased to welcome back Amy Snape and Izzy Wilsoncroft.
After last week’s ‘rust removing’ exercise, The Pride were looking to pick up where they left off, make better use of the ball and, after conceding 11 in their last two games (although over a month apart), be more compact defensively as a team.
After kicking off, Vics made the early running and had a couple of early sights of goal; one shot was hit wide and in the other Jade Howell did well to smother the ball at the feet of the attacker, before the attack was brought back for an offside.
Park’s first attack broke down a little over halfway inside the Vics’ half, and one-touch and a long ball put striker, Jody Scott, through on goal as Pride Park’s back four were caught napping, and Scott side-stepped Jade Howell to slot home to give Vics an early lead after only three minutes.
The Pride responded well, and were starting to build attacks, although initially, these were mostly breaking down in the final third. Nevertheless, Park started to move the ball around with more confidence, were challenging well for second balls, and after the early setback, their back four were working well together and marshalling the Vics’ strikers well as the home side gradually grew into the game.
Tash Allderidge won the ball in midfield and made a driving run to the right before crossing, Eliot Sayavong almost connecting with a header six yards out. Maja Znamirowska had a shot saved, and from Beth Jones’ free-kick, Allderidge won the second ball but her shot was saved, while at the other end Vics saw a shot rebound off the post and into Jade’s arms.
Just after the half-hour, good build-up play between Hannah Roberts, Sayavong, Allderidge, and Znamirowska put the latter through on goal, before she was tripped from behind just outside the penalty area. The Referee decided no sanction other than a free-kick was called for, even though Znamirowska was through one-on-one with the ‘keeper and it looked like a goal scoring opportunity had been denied – but the referee was closer to the action than our position and there were no obvious complaints on the pitch.
Allderidge took the kick and her shot beat the wall but was blocked by a defender behind the wall, the ball ricocheted around before falling to Sayavong but her crisp shot was tipped over the crossbar by Jamie Kingham in the Vics’ goal.
As halftime approached, Vics won a corner on the right and the kick was delivered into the six-yard box. Howell called for and came for the ball, but was unable to collect or clear and the loose ball fell to Lauren Bennett and she steered the ball home from about eight yards out to put the visitors two up.
In the final minutes of the half Vics had a few more attacks but were restricted to shots from distance, none of which troubled Howell, so at half time the visitors had a 2-0 advantage.
After Pride Park’s recent travails and but for the early lapse in concentration, they considered the first half to be good a reasonably solid performance and, despite conceding the second goal just before the interval, something they felt could be built on.
Vics had an early opportunity within the opening minutes of the half, as the ball broke from a melee in the box, but the shot was high and wide.
Just before the hour, Znamirowska had a header blocked from a corner, and the half-clearance broke to Allderidge who took a touch inside before being brought down on the edge of the penalty area, level with the edge of the six-yard box.
The resultant free-kick was therefore about 19/20 yards out, to the side of goal. Allderidge ran up but instead of crossing or shooting, squared the ball for Annie in the centre, and she played a pass into the crowded centre where Znamirowska deftly back-heeled the ball beyond the ‘keeper to pull a goal back. It looked like a well-drilled free-kick routine but was, in truth, a clever piece of innovation.
Znamirowska’s cross was deflected upwards and under the crossbar, Sayaving challenged for the ball but after a scramble, the ball was cleared off the line. Almost immediately afterward, Vics restored their two-goal advantage when a clearance was collected by Kelsey Burton-Evans and from inside the centre circle she hit a lofted shot that had Howell back-pedalling but, ultimately, unable to keep the shot out. Sometimes, you just have to stand back and appreciate good play – it was clearly intended and was a strike of high quality from around 40 yards.
Vics threatened to add to their lead when they broke down our left, and a close-range shot was hit hard and low to Howell’s right from close range, but she got down very quickly to not only stop the shot with her outstretched hands but hold on to it as the strikers closed in for any rebounds.
75 minutes had been played when Howell, whose kicks from her hands had been excellent throughout the game, became a creator when a kick downfield cleared the half-way line, eluded the centre-backs, and put Znamirowska through on goal, and she finished comfortably after rounding the ‘keeper for an almost replica finish to the opening goal of the game.
There were still fifteen minutes to play and hopes of a grandstand finish grew, however, Vics using their experience, managed the game and finally pulled everyone behind the ball to see out the remaining period, limiting The Pride to a shot in the final minutes as Rachel Weaver collected from a throw-in on the right and showed excellent technique to get her knee over a high ball to keep her side volley down, but the shot flew just past the post.
It had been an absorbing and competitive contest, with both teams displaying some good football. Vics had the best of the first half, in terms of chances created, but it was a much more evenly balanced second half. After a slow start Park grew into the game and competed well and, on another day, might have come away with a point.
Aside from the result, the home side set themselves a number of key aims for the game focused on performance and this was a significant all-round improvement on last week, not all of which can be put down to having played and shaken off the rust a week ago, and gives them something to build on in the weeks ahead.
Every player played their part in making that improvement, but Eliot Sayavong had her best game for the club yet, and Maja Znamirowska was justly rewarded with two goals for a full ninety minutes of running.
Pride Park are at home again on Sunday, when Sandiacre Town are the visitors to Moorlands. (1.30pm).