Pride’s unbeaten run ends

Sandiacre Town 5-3 Pride Park

by ‘Doug Outt’ (5/4/23)

Above: Pride Park’s Steph Eadon, who returned to outfield duties after a heroic spell in goal during recent weeks. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

Pride welcomed back Jade Howell (although distinctly under the weather) in goal after a two-game absence, and it was good to see Steph Eadon return to outfield after her knee injury for the trip to Sandiacre Town on Sunday.

Sandiacre made a fast start and had the first chance of the game after six minutes when there was a break through the middle. The striker appeared to be away and clear but was checked by an outstanding recovery tackle by Eliot Sayavong, although the ball broke for the striker to have a shot which was gathered by Jade Howell. 

Shortly afterwards, Sandiacre broke down the right and the cross into the centre found a striker on the edge of the area, her quick turn and shot rebounded off Howell, who also held the follow-up shot on the rebound.

Having weathered the early Sandiacre pressure, Pride started to grow into the game and almost went ahead after 11 minutes when Tash Allderidge won the ball in midfield and slid a pass to Summer Evans and her first-time pass around the corner put Beth Jones through on goal – and Jones’ shot from the edge of the area was tipped around the post by the ‘keeper. 

Above: Beth Jones, who put in another influential performance for Pride Park. Photo: Shaun Hardwick

There was nothing the goalkeeper could do after 19 minutes however when Evans again found Jones in space and in the clear and she clipped the ball over the advancing goalkeeper from the edge of the area and Pride Park went ahead. 

Sandiacre were, however, given a way back in after 26 minutes when Pride conceded an unnecessary corner which fell to a Sandiacre player inside the area, and her shot was diverted in by another attacker to level the score.

Jones made a run down the right flank and delivered a cross into the centre where Evans, Eadon, and Impetus sponsored Ella Kew had made ground – Eadon rose to glance a header just wide at full stretch. 

A couple of minutes later Evans was played in beyond the Sandiacre defence but the move was called back by an offside flag – which looked like a mistaken call. 

Two minutes before half-time Sandiacre attacked down the Pride right, a clearance was cut out and played straight back to a player on the flank who cut inside and her shot from 25 yards beat Howell so at the break, it was advantage Sandiacre.

Above: Rachel Weaver in action for Pride Park earlier this season. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

The first opportunity of the second half came seven minutes after the restart. A corner was sent into the centre and resulted in a scramble on the edge of Sandiacre’s six-yard box, before falling to Hannah Kwiatek who swivelled and hit a shot on the turn but it was wide of the goal.

An injury to Bleu Lewis-Wilson ended her game prematurely when she limped off – only ten minutes after coming on. It’s bad luck for Lewis-Wilson who has only recently returned from an injury that forced her to miss the first half of the season. 

Sandiacre extended their lead after 55’ when, after an attack down the right, the ball broke from a contested challenge to a player 25 yards out and she struck a shot beyond Howell to give Sandiacre a two-goal cushion.

Pride responded almost immediately; Allderidge won the ball in midfield, and played a pass out to Rachel Weaver, who hit the ball forward to Jones – her header on was blocked and fell to Kew, who played a pass into Jones’ path for her to clip a shot beyond the keeper. 

Just after the hour Allderidge and Evans combined to find Jones, who worked a yard of space and shot just wide. Sandiacre had a couple of attacks leading to shots, both off target before the game’s key moment came on 80 minutes. 

Above: Pride Park’s Bleu Lewis-Wilson, who suffered another injury on returning to action in the match. Photo: Shaun Hardwick

Jones ran down the left, beat one defender, and drove into the penalty area, a second defender came across and went to ground, appearing to clean Jones out. The angle of the defender’s approach and subsequent travel of the ball indicated it was a foul but the referee’s decision to give a corner kick was baffling.

It proved to be the game’s decisive moment. From the corner, Evans’ header was blocked on the line by a defender and collected by the ‘keeper. Pride, who had pushed players forward in search of an equaliser were then caught on the break as Sandiacre countered and extended their lead, and then added to it with a second goal in as many minutes. 

Despite this, Pride pulled one back straight from the kick-off. Eadon and Rachel Weaver combined before Weaver played a superb through ball for Jones to get across her marker and divert the ball past the keeper from the edge of the area for a sublime move and finish. It was the pick of the goals but was no more than a consolation, as Sandiacre saw the game out for a win.

It had been an evenly contested game between two committed teams playing differing styles. The defeat ended Pride’s nine-game unbeaten run (a new club record) – their last defeat being over five months ago. The challenge now will be to get over this setback quickly and start another run. 

There’s no game for Pride Park next Sunday (Easter Sunday) but they return to action with an evening game against Borrowash Victoria at Moorways on Wednesday 12th April (kick-off at 7pm).

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

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