Pride Park 2-0 Draycott Victoria
By Doug Outt (5/4/22)
Above: Beth Jones wheels away after opening the scoring for Pride Park. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.
It was top versus second at Moorways on Sunday. Despite occasional sunshine there was a chill in the wind, which was blowing down the length of the pitch.
With four missing through long term injuries, illness, and two further late withdrawals – life gets in the way of football sometimes – the Pride were left with just 11 at kick off, plus one late arrival still on the way. It was a problem faced by both teams as Draycott were also missing players. It wasn’t ideal coming into a top of the table meeting between first and second but you have to play with the cards you’re dealt.
The games marked milestones for three Pride Park players, as Summer Evans made her 50th appearance in League and Cup, Tash Allderidge clocked up a century of League appearances, and it was the sixth anniversary of Maja Znamirowska making her debut.
Draycott are runaway leaders of the Derbyshire Ladies League Division One, unbeaten and with 12 wins in 13 coming into this game. Pride Park were disappointed to lose the opening game of the season to them after taking a two-goal first-half lead, but could take encouragement from that game and recent form.
Pride made a bright start, having much of the early possession, but without creating any clear openings. The first real chance fell to Draycott just after 10 mins, as their player was put through down the left but keeper Howell came out to narrow the angle and the shot was hit into the side netting.
Pride Park’s build-up play in the first half was good and looked threatening on a number of occasions, but their attacks were tending to break down as the goal came into range.
The home side’s first opportunity came after 17 minutes after Allderidge was fouled in Pride’s defensive third. From the resultant free-kick Laight put Znamirowska through but under pressure from a defender, she shot wide.
Both Evans and Znamirowska were on the receiving end of a number of challenges that resulted in free kicks, and could, arguably, have had more. From one of these, after Evans was felled on the corner of the box just before half-time, Allderidge’s kick was headed away from a crowded six yard box.
The Pride were awarded another free kick from a similar position with very little time left in the first half. The set-piece was whipped in by Laight, the goalkeeper got to the ball, but could only parry to Znamirowska whose shot was blocked, the ball then ricocheted around a ruck of players inside the six-yard box, but the finishing touch couldn’t be found and the ball was cleared.
It had been a very even first half of few chances, with the majority of the play concentrated in the middle third of the pitch. Pride Park’s aim in the second half, therefore, was to turn their attacking play into clearer opportunities and to get more attempts on goal.
They made a good start, as from a free-kick Znamirowska laid the ball back to Ayton but her shot was wide. Five minutes after the restart, however, Pride were a goal up. Centre-back Beth Jones intercepted a through ball inside the Park half and laid the ball off to Baker, who threaded a ball through to Znamirowska down the left. Znamirowska took the ball forward a few paces before squaring it across the six-yard box – where Jones, having continued her run, met the cross for a calm left-foot finish to steer the ball wide of the keeper.
Pride were close to doubling their lead less than ten minutes later; Allderidge nicked the ball off Draycott in midfield, played a pass up to Evans who headed into Bryan’s path on the right. Bryan played a neat exchange with Evans which put Bryan behind the defence and her cross found Znamirowska in the centre but her glancing header went just wide of the far post.
Two minutes later Znamirowska had another chance but her shot went wide. After 15 mins there was almost a chance for Draycott as an attempted clearance rebounded but Howell was out quickly ahead of the striker to dive on and smother the ball.
Pride were awarded a free-kick inside the Draycott half, almost 40 yards from goal. Laight took the kick and sent the ball up in an arc to glance in off the crossbar to put Pride two up with just under a quarter of an hour to play.
It was now about game management, not taking chances, and keeping secure at the back. With four minutes to play the referee awarded a puzzling and soft free-kick to Draycott, apparently for a handball, but Howell had her angles right and collected the shot without having to move.
Draycott had a couple of efforts in the dying minutes, both from distance and perhaps more in hope than expectation, but both were safely collected by Howell as Pride were able to see the game out for the win and hand the league leaders their first defeat of the season thanks to a very mature performance and a goal for each of the centre-backs.
It was a hard-working and thoroughly deserved win. A second clean sheet of the season for Howell is a reward for extra training and reflects solid defending by the back four, but also all-round team effort to defend from the front out of possession.
In possession, Pride Park built up well and probably had the better opportunities aside from the goals, but it is the centre-backs that get the headlines, as an excellent goal apiece for Beth Jones and Annie Laight, together with a clean sheet, secure the win.
It is but a minor blip for Draycott, who remain 12 points clear and Champions elect. The teams do it all again next week, same time, same place, as Draycott return to Moorways next Sunday for the teams’ third and final meeting of the season.