Shirebrook Rangers 1-9 Pride Park
by ‘Doug Outt’ (2/11/22).
Above: Pride Park’s pair of hat-trick heroes Beth Jones and Summer Evans. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.
The Pride only had 11 players available for Sunday’s Challenge Cup Preliminary Round Replay – one of which, striker Summer Evans, wasn’t ready for a full 90 minutes after four months out, but it was a welcome sight to see her back on the pitch. Pride also welcomed back ‘keeper Jade Howell, Sophie Ayton, and Beth Jones, who had all missed the original game two weeks ago.
The Pride had the kick-off and found themselves playing into a stiff wind but immediately set the tone for the game as Jones played the ball back to Annie Laight, who played a pass upfield to Evans who played it round the corner to Jones, and she helped it on behind the full-back for Tash Allderidge to run onto. Allderidge took a touch and shot across the ‘keeper, who saved, but after a brief scramble in which Evans and Jones had efforts blocked, Allderidge stroked the ball home for a 1-0 lead after only 16 seconds.
Shirebrook tried to respond and apply pressure to the Pride back line, but the team defended well from the front throughout the game and the defence read the hosts’ attempts to get behind them very well – limiting them to a few speculative shots from distance, before the dark clouds that had been threatening burst and the heavens opened with quarter of an hour played.
The conditions rapidly became extremely difficult, with rain coming in horizontal and the wind so strong that at one point, an attempted clearance by the Pride’s Sophie Ayton went 20 metres upfield, only to return on the wind to her for another go.
Inevitably, this gave Shirebrook an advantage but Pride managed the conditions well, the defence in particular stood up to the challenge and despite the conditions kept Shirebrook away from goal – limiting them to one shot on target, safely held by Howell, and three shots off target – whilst continuing to mount regular attacks, looking particularly dangerous on the break. The wind gradually abated (becoming merely strong) and the rain eased off a little, and two further goals – both scored by Evans on her return, gave Pride a 3-0 lead at the break.
The sun was out, the rain had stopped, and although the wind had eased off the Pride still had the benefit of a tailwind as the second half got underway. The playing surface was now slick and cutting up, making the conditions particularly difficult for the goalkeepers. Jones, Evans (for a hat-trick), and Allderidge direct from a free kick added to the score in the first quarter of an hour of the second half, at which point Evans was withdrawn with Pride 6-0 to the good, continuing with ten players.
There was no real let-up for Shirebrook, however, as Jones scored her second – Shirebrook pulling one back from their only shot of the half, before completing her first hat-trick at open age, and Rachel Weaver completed the scoring, latching on to an Allderidge ball across the penalty area that the keeper could only parry for a simple finish.
It was an impressive performance under very difficult conditions. The players’ attitude, quality on the ball, and work ethic in and out of possession was first class from front to back and the defence and ‘keeper Jade Howell stood up extremely well to deal with Shirebrook’s attacks – to avoid conceding in the first half gale and downpour was exceptional, as was limiting the opposition to five shots over the course of the game.
Overall, the team managed the conditions really well and there were a number of eye-catching pairings – not just up front with Evans and Jones bagging six goals between them, but Allderidge and Eliot Sayavong forming a formidable barrier in midfield, breaking up attacks and driving Pride forward, Ella Key and Rachel Weaver combining really well down the left, while Sophie Roberts and Millie Holmes did the same on the right, and in the centre of defence Sophie Ayton and Annie Laight were like sponges, soaking up Shirebrook attacks – and in the worst possible conditions for a goalkeeper, Howell displayed good handling and anticipation, and showcased her kicking to good effect.
The Pride now progress to the First Round in which they will host Amber Valley at Moorways on 13th November, but first, they return to league action next week with a road trip to Stanton Ilkeston (kick off 1.30pm)