Belper Town 3-5 Pride Park
Above: Maja Znamirowska completes the scoring for Pride Park with her fourth goal of the afternoon at Belper Town. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.
By Doug Outt (15/3/22).
Pride Park overcame the odds to end a run of five games without a win with victory at Belper Town on Sunday in the tier seven Derbyshire Ladies League Division One.
After another break of four weeks without a game, the Pride returned to action at Alton Manor. The two previous games between the sides this season were very close and entertaining encounters with honours shared at a win apiece. Another closely fought game was expected.
Park were missing several players through injury or unavailablity, leaving them a little short of the ideal matchday squad overall and in defence in particular – striker Annie Laight had to drop in at centre-back. Pride were therefore pleased to welcome another striker, Summer Evans, back for her first game in two months following injury, as well as Otty Baker and Izzy Wilsoncroft (making her 50th appearance) for their first games in three and two months respectively.
The game was typical of the games between the sides this season, with both teams intent on attacking, resulting in an end-to-end game, with both Belper and Pride Park having brief periods where they appeared to be edging it, without ever being comfortable.
It was tit-for-tat throughout the first half. Summer Evans opened the scoring for The Pride, meeting a cross from Tash Allderidge with an acrobatic scissor kick after nine minutes. This was followed by a period of Belper enjoying good possession, and having a couple of glimpses of goal, both foiled by Jade Howell, before they equalised after 21 minutes.
It looked like Evans had restored Park’s lead five minutes later, until Belper’s keeper got down to turn a goal-bound shot around the post, but after 27 minutes the visitors were back in front, when good build up play by Beth Thompson and Evans allowed Hannah Kwiatek to put Maja Znamirowska through to score.
Belper equalized again ten minutes later, but were only level for a minute this time, as Evans was first to a Belper goal kick and laid off a pass for Znamirowska for a first time right foot finish to make it 3-2.
There were still eight minutes to half time, but Belper only needed two minutes to draw level again. It was almost a surprise there were no further goals and at half-time it was all square at 3-3.
Park made a couple of minor adjustments to their approach for the second half which seemed to work to an extent, as they enjoyed much better possession. Belper were proving difficult to break down, however, and the visitors had to remain wary of the threat on the counter-attack, but although Belper had slightly more sights of goal, it was The Pride who made theirs count, with a further two goals scored by Znamirowska – within two minutes of coming back on after being rotated off for a brief rest – with assists from Lottie Bryan and Evans respectively.
Although Belper attempted to recover, Park defended well and limited them to a couple of chances, a shot from distance saved by Howell and a shot that went wide.
Laight grew into her central defensive role as the game progressed, not only defensively solid but composed on the ball when in possession, forming an encouraging partnership with Sophie Ayton.
Aside from a couple of occasions when shots had to be blocked, Howell had good protection but when called upon, did exceptionally well with a number of shots, showing good reactions, agility and handling.
The work of the whole team out of possession has to be recognized as every player put in a shift and defended from the front when the visitors didn’t have the ball; the role of Eliot Sayavong – particularly in the second half – being a key factor as she screened the back four well, and together with Allderidge, made important blocks and interceptions to break up Belper attacks and The Pride’s counter-attacks.
Znamirowska and Evans were clinical with their chances with six shots between them, all on target, and five resulting in goals.
It was, once again, a closely fought and enjoyable game and Pride Park were pleased to come out on top. As always, there’s things that could be improved on but, overall, and in the circumstances, this was a good performance and result, particularly as it was the team’s first game in a month and with so many players returning from long layoffs. Next week Pride Park are at Wirksworth (kick-off 1.30pm).