Pride In Performance On The Road

Wirksworth Colts 1-5 Pride Park

By Boot Room (22/3/22)

Above: Eliot Sayavong shoots from the edge of the area for Pride Park at Wirksworth Colts on Sunday. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

Wirksworth’s pitch is a beautiful setting for a game of football, made all the better on Sunday by the Spring sunshine.

This fixture is one of the more unpredictable games in the Derbyshire Girls and Ladies League Division One, as although the sides are well-matched, games between them invariably feature goals and rarely end in a close score-line (although there was a bizarre 6-6 draw a few seasons ago!). It hasn’t been any different this season as both teams enjoyed wins in their respective home fixtures, 5-3 at Moorways in October, and 5-2 at Wirksworth in January. 

Pride Park were pleased to welcome back a number of players missing from last week’s game at Belper. 

In the early stages, Wirksworth settled better and were moving the ball well, although without really finding any clear openings. Both teams had a couple of sighters without testing the ‘keepers, before Wirksworth had a five-minute spell in which they threatened to open the scoring; Weaver clearing a corner off the line, a direct free-kick from the edge of the area clearing the crossbar, a shot that went wide of goal and another that ‘keeper Howell did well to get down and hold. 

Having weathered that period of pressure Pride Park responded, and after 20 minutes Bryan made a run down the left, got ahead of the defender, and hit the ball low across the face of goal for Laight to finish at the far post. 

Five minutes later, from an Allderidge corner, the ball was turned goalwards by Sayavong but was blocked and half cleared, only to fall for left-back Weaver to hit an unstoppable volley into the roof of the net from the edge of the area

The goals settled Pride Park who exercised a degree of control for the remainder of the half and almost extended their lead when Lewis-Wilson played Evans in, but her shot went wide of the post. However, there was a let-off for Pride Park with a minute to the interval, as with the defence turned and running towards goal, they attempted to play their way out and a Wirksworth striker latched on to the ball but hit her shot over, so at half time it was 2-0.

Above: Annie Laight (9) celebrates after scoring Pride Park’s opening goal. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

After the recent spell of wet and then dry weather the pitch was uneven, and the ball was not running true on the surface, the irregular bounce exacerbated by a ball that looked and sounded over-inflated. It meant that the first touch had to be perfect to keep the ball under control, and it was frequently bouncing away from the receiving player or bobbling when played on the floor. As a result, it was often frustrating the attempts of both teams to play the ball on the ground with good moves breaking down – and at the back, it demanded a safety-first approach when under pressure. 

Otty Baker had turned her ankle at the end of the first half, not seriously, but enough not to want to risk making it worse and didn’t come out for the second half. The second half opened with Wirksworth pushing in an attempt to pull a goal back, and they enjoyed a spell of good possession and pressure, during which they gradually got closer – with a shot off target, and a shot saved by Howell. Just before the hour, from a throw on the left, Wirksworth worked their way down the wing, before putting in a diagonal cross towards the near post with a Wirksworth player just getting a touch to divert the cross past Howell to get the home side back into the game at 1-2.

The goal gave Wirksworth encouragement and for a while, they enjoyed a good period of possession but without creating any further clear opportunities. Pride Park gradually reasserted themselves and responded with a series of good crosses, but were unable to fashion any clear chances from them.   

With twenty minutes to play, Pride Park’s Sophie Ayton came off with a tight hamstring, Laight dropping into the back four, and having started with three substitutes, Pride Park were now down to none. Fortunately, there were no further injuries and having rotated earlier, several players had benefitted from brief rests. 

Above: Summer Evans continued her impressive form on her return from injury and scored her 13th goal of the season. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

The Pride started to gain a degree of control again, and Kwiatek, Evans (twice), and Bryan were all foiled by the Wirksworth keeper. There was a half-chance when a Laight free-kick wasn’t held by the ‘keeper under pressure from Allderidge, but Bryan’s attempt was headed away.

Pride Park extended their lead with ten minutes left after good pressing and build-up play on the right, which resulted in Wirksworth being unable to get out or clear the ball, culminating in Sayavong winning the ball back just outside the area and hitting a shot that bounced in front of the keeper and kicked up wickedly, Bryan doing well to follow in and score from the rebound to re-establish the visitors two-goal lead at 3-1.

It was four only two minutes later, as Allderidge’s corner from the right was initially headed out but the clearance was met first time on the half-volley from the edge of the area by Weaver to send another unstoppable shot into the top corner for her second of the game.

The game was rounded off with two minutes to go with a fifth goal for Pride Park, as good patient build-up play down the right by Allderidge, Jones, Evans, Thompson, and Wilsoncroft finished with Bryan laying off for Evans to place a shot inside the post.

Above: Lottie Bryan closes in on goal for Pride Park at Wirksworth. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

It had been an enjoyable game played by two well-matched teams wanting to get the ball down and play attractive football, which they managed to do in spite of a surface that made it difficult. It was a good all-round team performance by Pride Park and although the scoreline may have been a little harsh on Wirksworth, it was another good display of efficient finishing, built on a solid defensive foundation, with the midfield providing the critical glue in the middle. 

The Pride Park squad displayed their versatility once again with enforced changes, meaning Annie Laight started the game upfront but finished at centre-back for the final twenty minutes. Left-back Rachel Weaver had an exceptional game, making countless well-timed interceptions to launch counterattacks and capped by two extremely well-taken goals. With a small squad, it’s a real bonus to have players that can contribute effectively at both ends of the pitch. 

Goalkeeper Howell continued her good form, once again showing good positioning, handling, and decision making – her recent confidence exemplified in the first half by coming out to collect a high lobbed ball into the box at the edge of her area to take the pressure off her defenders. 

There are no games in the Derbyshire Girls and Ladies League next week. Pride Park are back in action at home to League leaders Draycott Victoria at Moorways on Sunday 3rd April (1.30pm).  

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

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