Pride Park 1-6 Wirksworth Colts
by ‘Doug Outt’ (18/1/23)
Pride Park exited the Challenge Cup in a disappointing defeat to Wirksworth Colts at Moorways on Sunday.
Despite heavy rain resulting in many games being called off, the Moorways pitch was in good condition, although soft underfoot. After a lengthy lay-off through injury, Pride welcomed Maja Znamirowska back for her first game of the season.
Pride made a good start and had the visitors on the back foot in the early stages, and were rewarded with an early breakthrough after good build-up play down the left culminated in a cross from Ella Kew, headed out by a defender under pressure from Fran Critchley-Watson. The clearance fell to Eliot Sayavong and from 30 yards out she hit a dipping shot over the keeper to give Pride an early lead.
Wirksworth responded well and gradually built up some attacking momentum, although this wasn’t translating into attempts on goal – until an under-hit back pass was picked up by a striker who rounded home goalkeeper Jade Howell to square to her strike partner for a tap-in after 19 minutes.
After conceding, Pride were struggling to regain the fluidity of the opening fifteen minutes with too many passes just hopeful but went close after winning an indirect free-kick just inside the penalty area, around 10 minutes before half-time. Annie Laight’s strike flew just wide.
Wirksworth had mounted a number of threatening attacks and took the lead after 38 minutes. Pride were exposed with defenders caught out of position and a driving run down the right to the touchline and a pullback found a striker unmarked in the centre of goal for another tap-in.
Pride compounded their troubles with a minute to go to the interval, allowing Wirksworth to win the ball back in Pride’s defensive third and Jade Howell was beaten with a lob from the edge of the box.
It had been a relatively close first half, but three goals gifted to Wirksworth left Pride chasing the game.
The second half started pretty much as the first half ended – with another goal gifted to Wirksworth after Pride gave away possession cheaply on the edge of their own area.
The fluidity of the opening quarter hour seemed like a distant memory, but there were still brief flashes of good play in possession – ten minutes into the second half Maja Znamirowska did well to get to the bye line on the left and her cross evaded the goalkeeper and was scrambled away by a defender under pressure from Summer Evans for a corner. From the corner Summer’s diving header was blocked and cleared.
Tash Allderidge also saw an attempt go just wide of the post after a good run down the right and cross by Summer Evans. As had been the case in the first half, there were a handful of promising attacks which didn’t quite come off; the ball just running through to the keeper with one of the Pride strikers almost – but not quite – getting to it. However, sloppy play in possession once again presented Wirksworth with an opportunity on the hour, but Jade Howell held on to the shot.
A few minutes later Rachel Weaver cleared off the line from a corner, but just after the hour Wirksworth extended their lead. A Wirksworth corner was cleared initially, but the Pride defence failed to anticipate the return of a clearance and a through ball put the striker clean through – her shot came back off the crossbar and another Wirksworth player was first to the rebound.
There were a couple of chances for Pride to pull a goal back; Tash Allderidge putting Beth Jones through and as the goalkeeper went to ground Beth clipped the ball over her but her shot went just wide of the post. A few minutes later Summer Evans headed on a pass from Fran Critchley-Watson to put Maja Znamirowska clear, but she also shot wide.
Wirksworth wrapped up the scoring with a curling shot into the top corner with 8 minutes to play.
Pride started well, and had some bright moments but it was an otherwise below-par performance, characterised by poor decision-making and sloppy play in possession with too many “hit and hope” balls giving away possession cheaply. Wirksworth took their chances well – albeit with several ‘assists’ from Pride – and were the better team on the day, and can look forward to a semi-final against either Castle Donington or Sandiacre Town who play their quarter-final next weekend.
Pride Park return to league action next week and face another challenging test when they host current league champions Draycott Victoria at Moorways (1.30pm).