A Classic Game Of Two Halves

Amber Valley 3-5 Pride Park

by Boot Room (13/10/22)

Above: Pride Park’s two-goal hero Fran Critchley-Watson. Photo: Bleu Lewis-Wilson.

Pride Park, buoyed by a strong first half-performance, ran out winners at Amber Valley in the tier seven Derbyshire Ladies League Division One on Sunday.

After losing the toss and Pride Park being given the pronounced slope to play down in the first half, it was evident Amber Valley had elected to play against the elements in the first half to have a clear target and throw everything at the opposition in the second half.

With the benefit of the slope and breeze, The Pride largely controlled the first half, were impressive in possession, calm and composed, and built attacks through quick passing combinations.

Park received an early boost after winning a corner on the right and a superb delivery by Tash Allderidge was matched with a rare-headed goal by Fran Critchley-Watson after four minutes. Despite controlling the game and spending most of it camped in the Amber Valley half, the final ball was proving difficult down the slope with passes often running through to touch or to the keeper.

Pride extended their lead after 16 minutes with a peach of a goal as Rachel Weaver played a short pass into Fran Critchely-Watson who turned, drove forward a few steps, and unleashed a dipping shot from all of 30 yards that beat the keeper. Another good goal from distance was scored on the half-hour to make it 3-0 when Tash Allderidge shrugged off the challenge of an opponent and slotted a shot wide of the ‘keeper. Four minutes later Ella Kew added a fourth on her league debut from another Tash Allderidge corner.

Although there were a couple of counterattacks leading to shots by Amber Valley it was Pride Park making all the running and, knowing the tables would be turned in the second half they were keen to make the most of the conditions, so Beth Jones swapped roles with Annie Laight for the final fifteen minutes of the half. Jones proved a handful for the Amber Valley defenders and after a couple of sliced and overhit efforts was starting to get her range as the half ended.

Having started the second half poorly last week Pride wanted to start the second half well, particularly as they knew it was going to be much more challenging up the slope in the second half. Amber Valley kicked off and Beth Jones almost immediately won the ball through pressing the defender and was unfortunate to see her left foot shot beat the ‘keeper and only just clear the bar.

Within three minutes of the restart, however, Amber Valley pulled a goal back but Pride continued to create chances as Ella Kew, Beth Jones and Eliot Sayavong had attempts on goal, before Beth Jones restored the four-goal cushion when an attempted clearance by the ‘keeper rebounded off a defender and, despite being under considerable pressure from the ‘keeper, Jones won the race for the ball and found the net.

As the half wore on, Amber Valley’s more direct approach started to create chances but they found Jade Howell in the Pride Park goal in fine form, showing excellent positioning, reflexes, and handling. There was nothing Howell could do about the second goal for the hosts, however, as the centre-forward made a little space for herself on the right and hit a hammer of a shot past Howell into the far corner.

Amber Valley’s third goal came from a through ball which the Park goalkeeper came out for but, was always going to be second, and the winger lifted a shot up and over Howell and the recovering defenders to set up a potentially interesting final twenty minutes. Pride made their final changes, including switching Jones back into defence, anticipating the home team would increase the pressure on the Pride goal.

A quick corner on the left caught Pride asleep and from the cross, the Amber Valley centre-forward, unmarked and at close range put her header over the bar – a definite let-off – and goalkeeper Howell did exceptionally well to tip a close-range goal-bound shot around the post. Overall, though, despite a couple of lapses in concentration Pride weathered the Amber Valley attacks reasonably well whilst continuing to build attacks without really threatening the Amber Valley goal in the final twenty minutes.

It really was a classic game of two halves, dictated by a combination of the pronounced slope in the pitch and the breeze favouring the team playing down the slope. The two teams had contrasting styles and both, each in their own way, were effective – but Pride Park ultimately made better use of the advantage in the first half and just about held out in the second half for a first win of the season.

After a slick and eye-catching first half, it took a bit of grit and hard work in the second half, and there were solid performances all round. The players again demonstrated their adaptability and willingness to be flexible, as there were several switches of positions as Pride tried to make the best of who was available to compensate for absences in key positions and adapt to the demands of the game.

Next week Pride Park host Shirebrook Rangers in a Challenge Cup preliminary round tie at Moorways (ko 1.30 pm).

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

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