So much Pride in defeat

Pride Park 2-2 University of Derby

University of Derby win 3-2 on penalties

Above: Steph Eadon breaks through for Pride Park earlier this season. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

by ‘Doug Outt’ (22/2/23)

Pride Park battled bravely with only ten players and later went down to eight for their Derbyshire County FA Women’s Plate quarter-final tie and took a 2-0 lead before the University of Derby (UOD) hit back in the dying minutes to equalise and to win on penalties.

The scheduling of the game could certainly have been more female-friendly to coin The FA’s own term; rather than pick (at relatively short notice) the first weekend of the schools’ half term – and with seven out with medium to long term injuries it left Pride extremely depleted. The scheduling faux pas is completed with the semi-finals scheduled to be played on Mother’s Day – a blank weekend in the County League. 

To compound matters, the appointed match Official was forced to withdraw with an injury on the morning of the game, and midfielder Otty Baker pulled up with a groin strain in the warm-up. Ideally, she wouldn’t have played but, knowing Pride were already up against it, insisted on starting. 

Despite all that, Pride started the game well and had the best of the first half. Steph Eadon had the ball in the net after a mazy dribble and shot on 11 minutes, but the goal was ruled out for an offside flag which, being extremely generous, was a tight call. 

Eadon then saw her controlled free kick from the angle of the penalty box come back off the crossbar on 15 minutes and was a thorn in the side of the University defence, providing Pride with a target, holding the ball up, and combining with the players around her. It was a formula that worked well and, despite the numerical disadvantage, Pride were creating opportunities.

Above: Rachel Weaver (left) who scored Pride Park’s opening goal against the University of Derby. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

A prime example of this was after a Tash Allderidge corner, from which Eadon laid the ball back for Rachel Weaver to hit a right-footed shot through the crowd and beyond the keeper from the edge of the penalty area to give Pride the lead after 23 minutes.

The lead was extended just after the half-hour when Allderidge scored direct from a corner kick. Pride were unfortunate not to add to their score, Eadon hitting the crossbar again with a powerful controlled drive, stung the ‚keeper’s hands with another and she went close with several more efforts, as did Allderidge and Eliot Sayavong. 

It was inevitable that with a numerical advantage, UOD would find openings, but Jade Howell in the Pride goal was only called into action twice – tipping a shot over the crossbar after a corner on 20 minutes, and comfortably collecting a shot at the near post as the half ended.

With Otty Baker struggling for mobility, she swapped positions with Eadon, enabling Baker to continue to half-time but she was unable to resume for the second half. Nevertheless, Pride were in control at half-time.

By contrast, the cavalry arrived for University of Derby in the form of two late arrivals as additional substitutes for the start of the second half. There was, inevitably, a less adventurous outlook to Pride’s play, now they were down to nine players, as they looked to contain UOD and manage the game. Attacks were more sporadic, and limited in scope due to the difficulty of getting players to provide support as might be expected, but, overall, Pride were managing the game well and still creating opportunities, but without being able to add to the score. 

Above: Tash Allderidge, who doubled Pride Park’s lead on Sunday. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

The balance of the game changed after 70 minutes, however, when Eadon sustained a serious looking knee injury. Play was stopped for a lengthy period before the game resumed and with Pride now down to eight players (although Baker came back on her injury limited her mobility significantly) it was a case of all hands to the pumps as UOD started to enjoy more possession and inevitably started to get openings, but for the most part the few shots they had were hit wide or saved relatively comfortably by Jade Howell. 

However, with six minutes of normal time left, an attack by UOD appeared to have been broken up but was diverted back into the centre after a challenge, the ball broke to Jodie Hill and her first-time shot looped up and over Jade Howell. The goal gave UOD added impetus and they pushed forward looking for an equaliser. Seven minutes into time added on and with only a minute left, UOD took a throw-in from the edge of the Pride area, received by Aimee Holstren in space and – although out of the „hit and hope” category – her shot from 25 metres out had goal all over it from the moment it left the boot. 

After 98 minutes of play, therefore it ended all square at 2-2 and penalties were required to decide a winner. Although Pride edged ahead initially, UOD scored the decisive sudden death penalty to advance to the semi-final.

Pride were on course to go through until being effectively reduced to eight players with twenty minutes to play, but in such challenging circumstances to be a minute away from winning the game was nothing short of a herculean effort by the players that represented Pride Park so well yesterday. It is, however, the University of Derby who advance to the semi-final, to play one of Draycott Victoria, Wirksworth Colts, or Belper Town.

Pride return to League action at Moorways next Sunday against Amber Valley (kick-off 1.30pm).

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

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