Pride wounded by Wirksworth

Pride Park 3-4 Wirksworth Colts

by Doug Outt (26/4/23)

Above: Pride Park goalkeeper Jade Howell put in a great performance in her return between the sticks for the club. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

Pride Park were brought down from the buzz of a resounding win last week, to a feeling of disappointment after defeat to the current tier seven Derbyshire Ladies League Division One leaders Wirksworth Colts on Sunday. 

Withdrawals for a variety of reasons in addition to a lengthening injury list reduced the squad to 11 players, although Millie Holmes joined the team and was theoretically available in an emergency despite being severely under the weather, and Jade Howell was a welcome sight back in goal after a one-game suspension.   

As the game got underway a heavy downpour started and continued for much of the afternoon, making conditions challenging for the players. 

Pride were on the back foot for the opening period as Wirksworth moved the ball around well, passes found their targets, and space was made for shots – although at least some of the initiative was handed to the visitors, as Pride conceded a string of potentially avoidable throw-ins and corners. Wirksworth had three shots on target in the first five minutes, the best of which was heading inside the foot of the post but Howell did exceptionally well to get down, judge the bounce off the slick surface, and turn it around the post. 

The reprieve didn’t last long, however, as the hosts failed to deal with a long throw from their left, which was allowed to bounce in the six-yard box, and a sliced clearance went straight to a Wirksworth player on the edge of the area who accepted the invitation to hit a shot just inside the post.  

Pride’s first attack came after eight minutes when possession was regained in midfield and Steph Eadon played a pass ahead of Beth Jones – the covering defender and the goalkeeper reached the ball first and almost collided, the ball broke free but the goalkeeper recovered it just before Jones had a chance to get on it.

A minute later, Summer Evans drove down the left cutting in towards goal and crossing low – the just evaded Beth Jones and in a scramble on the edge of the six yards box, a defender’s clearance was blocked by Hannah Kwiatek and the ball fell to Evans – but her shot was deflected for a corner. 

The resulting corner was swung in Tash Allderidge and evaded everyone in the middle and drifted in at the far post to draw the teams level with 10 minutes played. 

A minute later, Pride were awarded a free kick midway inside the Wirksworth half. Annie Laight lofted the kick into the area and Impetus sponsored Ella Kew knocked the ball across goal, and in the scramble that followed a defender attempted a clearance but only managed to kick the ball against a teammate and the rebound nestled in the net to put the home side 2-1 up. 

Above: Eliot Sayavong (right) – impressive in defence and scorer of a goal in Sunday’s match. Photo: Peppercrewphotography.

There was an inevitable response from Wirksworth and they had four openings in the next five minutes, the best of which was a let-off for Pride. A pass was played forward to the striker but, with her back to goal, all the home defenders backed off without challenge, giving her time to pick out a pass into space for a teammate to run onto and her shot across Howell from the angle of the six yards box came back off the foot of the post. 

It had been a frenetic opening twenty minutes and the game finally settled down a little with no further chances for a while. On the half-hour Pride won a corner kick which was delivered low by Allderidge, there was a scramble in the six yards box, and Eliot Sayavong steered a left foot shot through a sea of legs to find the net and put Pride 3-1 ahead.

Three minutes later a pass across the back line by a defender nearly resulted in an interception by Beth Jones and a mix-up between defender and goalkeeper, but they just about got away with it as the ball broke to a defender rather than Jones. However, the clearance only went as far as Eadon and her shot from 30 yards was dropped by the goalkeeper – but there was nobody following in and so the possible opportunity was missed.

At this stage, there was a bit of an inquest going on amongst the Wirksworth players, who were clearly unsettled by the way the game was going at this stage. They were handed a lifeline after 39 minutes when they broke down their left and an attacker was allowed to run from just inside halfway to the edge of the six-yard box before cutting inside and slotting inside the post to pull a goal back and it was 3-2 to Pride Park at the break.

There was a slight reshuffle at half-time – it wasn’t tactical, nor ideal, but without substitutes on a pitch that was becoming heavy and energy sapping it was necessary to nurse a number of players that were returning from injury and still working back to full match fitness through the game.

Wirksworth started the second half as might be expected having pulled a goal back just before the interval and were level on 52 minutes. They won a corner on Pride’s left, which was initially cleared, but returned into the centre and laid off for a striker – Pride’s back line all stopped, presumably waiting for an offside flag – which didn’t come – and the striker had time to pick her spot from 12 yards. Was it offside? Maybe, it was certainly a close call, but defenders cannot stop in the hope of the flag going up and as the adage goes must play to the whistle. 

A quarter of an hour later there was a virtual replay, as a simple ball forward by Wirksworth found their striker in space as the hosts again didn’t anticipate the forward pass and were again hoping the assistant referee would save them – but the Wirksworth player timed her run well, was clearly onside and was allowed to run through unopposed to put her side ahead. 

Pride huffed and puffed in pursuit of an equaliser in the final twenty minutes but without really troubling the visitor’s keeper. The lack of substitutes undoubtedly told in the later stages as legs became heavy and fresh energy could have made all the difference. 

On the positive side, Pride Park scored three against the league leaders, who had previously conceded no more than two since the opening day of the season. It was evident why they are unbeaten and top of the league and proved just a little too strong, in every sense, for Pride on the day but, after losing 1-6 to Wirksworth in the cup earlier in the season, this result represents progress. 

In extremely difficult conditions for goalkeepers, Jade Howell was kept busy and did well on her return and Eliot Sayavong capped another fine defensive performance with a goal.

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