Pride at Park’s heroic point at Draycott

Draycott Victoria 1-1 Pride Park

by ‘Doug Outt’ (23/3/23)

Above: Beth Jones, who scored Pride Park’s late leveller, seen here in action in a previous match against Castle Donington. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

Pride Park were away at current leaders and Derbyshire Ladies League Division One (tier seven) champions for the last two seasons Draycott Victoria on Sunday. Pride were forced to field an emergency backup ‘keeper Steph Eadon (usually an outfield player) for the second game in succession which, perhaps in combination with a strong wind behind them, resulted in a very direct approach from Draycott in the first half.

Pride made a tentative start – perhaps understandable in the circumstances and against the league’s leading scorers and most miserly defence – conceding only four goals in 12 games – but gradually grew into the match. The pattern of play was set in the first minute when Draycott won possession on halfway, the ball was played square infield and a shot was taken from just outside the centre circle, but held comfortably by Steph Eadon. 

Goal kicks and clearances were not getting very far upfield in the wind, so most of the play was in Pride’s defensive third and the centre of the pitch but it was, nevertheless, a fairly balanced half in which Draycott were limited in the main to shots from distance – their best chance not coming until the 43rd minute, when a cross from the right was met on the edge of the area with a first time shot that cleared the crossbar.

The wind had dropped to little more than a gentle breeze, so Pride didn’t have that advantage in the second half but, nevertheless, enjoyed the better of possession and territory with the majority of play in Draycott’s half. The home side were finding it difficult to get out and became visibly frustrated. However, despite good possession and territory, clear sights of goal for Pride were few and far between.

Pride’s best chances fell to Beth Jones, who was only just over with a header from a Tash Allderidge corner on the hour and had a couple of efforts off target after working space inside the box. 

There was a late challenge by a Draycott defender on Allderidge, who took studs across the ankle – the defender was fortunate to escape with a talking to and, after treatment, Allderidge was able to continue. 

Above: Pride Park’s Steph Eadon, seen here in her usual outfield position against Underwood Villa earlier in the season, produced yet another superb performance as stand-in goalkeeper for her side. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

Pride’s best chance came on 67 minutes – a free kick from near the corner on the right was headed on by Beth Jones but beyond the far post. Otty Baker did extremely well to not only keep it in but deliver a looping cross to the back post but Jones headed over with the goal at her mercy. Undeterred, she had another close effort five minutes later after Rachel Weaver’s clearance was headed on by Hannah Kwiatek into Jones’ path, she cut inside and unleashed a fierce shot that just cleared the bar.

With nine minutes to play, Draycott made the breakthrough against the run of play. Having already got behind the Pride defence with a diagonal ball, but caught offside, this time Draycott timed it right, and the pass was met with a shot from just outside the area that cleared Eadon – who got a hand to it but couldn’t keep it out, to give Draycott a 1-0 lead. 

Pride were forced to take more chances in search of an equaliser and in the 89th minute were almost caught out, but a superb double save by stand-in ‘keeper Eadon kept Pride in the game – a Draycott cross from the left to the far side of the area could only be cleared back into the centre. The striker’s first-time shot was saved by Eadon low to her right and she somehow recovered sufficiently to immediately spring to her left to collect the striker’s point-blank shot on the rebound.

As play went into the 92nd minute Eadon’s kick upfield was glanced on by a Draycott midfielder and collected by Jones with her back to goal, who took one touch to get the ball out of her feet before turning and unleashing a shot up over the goalkeeper and in off crossbar from 25 yards. It was by some distance her most difficult chance of the game but she saved the best to last – to cue up wild celebrations. There was only enough time left for the whistle to go immediately on the restart – the equaliser had, literally, been the last kick of the game. 

The wind and a difficult surface meant it wasn’t a day for expansive attractive play – a more pragmatic approach being the order of the day. It was, however, an enthralling and competitive game between two closely matched teams with a desire to win. The draw will feel like a win for Pride and whilst it was the latest possible moment for the equaliser, was the very least they deserved in the circumstances. 

Summer Evans worked tirelessly for little reward and Beth Jones did what Beth Jones does to score her 21st league goal of the season. The defensive unit of goalkeeper and the five that played in the back four were outstanding considering the conditions and circumstances, particularly in the first half, but the whole team stood up well to the physical challenge posed by a strong and experienced Draycott side – and most notably Ella Kew in the central midfield battleground in her first season at open age.

Pride Park are back at Moorways next Sunday when they host Borrowash Victoria (kick off 1.30pm).

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

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