Pride Park Ladies’ 9th season in the DGLL at open age proved to be the most challenging and competitive season to date and in many respects the team’s best season yet.
The season started slowly and the team looked ring rusty after a patchy pre-season and then a postponement meant the first game of the season wasn’t until the beginning of October. Injuries to Maja Znamirowska and Summer Evans (who played 8 and 20 games respectively out of 27) also meant there were no recognised strikers for the first few games, leading to experimentation and a variety of adaptations in player positions and formations to try to compensate.
Previously a centre-back, Beth Jones grew and then thrived in a new role up front, forming a formidable partnership with Summer Evans when the latter returned from injury. Eliot Sayavong switched from midfield to centre back with considerable success, and Steph Eadon proved a very good emergency goalkeeper on several occasions. Virtually every player in the squad switched position at some stage as we attempted to adapt to cover injuries, absences and to ensure playing time for everyone but what started as a problem became a virtue, as players showed considerable adaptability.
However, we struggled to field a team a few times - most notably in the County Plate quarter-final when injuries, holidays and other reasons left us with just 10 players available, of which one was injured in the warm-up. Nevertheless, despite going down to 8 players through injury with twenty minutes to play the team were within a minute of making the semi-final, but a late equaliser took the game to penalties, and the team exited the cup after losing the shoot-out.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, however, and despite all these challenges the team grew as the season progressed and went on a run of eight wins, and nine consecutive games unbeaten, which was ended in a loss at Sandiacre. We were unfortunate to lose the following game against Borrowash to a goal eight minutes from time despite playing just over half the game with only 10 players.
The team bounced back from those defeats with a resounding win against reigning champions Draycott, before losing by the odd goal to Wirksworth. There followed a run of five wins to end the season on a high, including resounding wins against Sandiacre and Champions elect Wirksworth – becoming the only team to inflict defeat on them (albeit at the time of writing they have one game left to play).
The biggest disappointments were the injuries and the occasions when we struggled to field a team. It was, however, a hugely enjoyable season and there are a host of positives to take from it - most notably the development of the players and the team over the course of the season. The adaptability, resilience and character shown by the players should all give reasonable cause for optimism for next season if the progress can be continued.
Everyone will have their own pick of highlights, but it’s likely Beth Jones’ dramatic last gasp equaliser against Draycott will feature in everyone’s choices that witnessed it, although there were several memorable performances.
Although having finished as runners-up on two previous occasions, the statistics bear out the sense that the whole squad contributed to the team’s best season in terms of results as well as performances. There were important contributions throughout the season from young debutants Sophie Roberts, Millie Holmes and Ella Kew, who were all experiencing open age football for the first time.
Statistically, there were a number of “best returns” recorded for a league season. At the start of the season nobody would have anticipated Beth Jones finishing the season as top scorer with a remarkable 41 goals (beating the previous record for the team of 28 league goals). There were best returns for a season also for Summer Evans – despite missing 1/4 of the season, and for Tash Allderidge, both also contributing heavily with their best number of assists.
Also notable, is Tash Allderidge’s run of consecutive appearances, which now stretches to a remarkable 92 games since January 2019.
Steph Eadon joined us at the end of November and 2 goals on her debut gave us a foretaste of what a valuable asset she would be, but playing as an emergency goalkeeper in 5 games and keeping 2 clean sheets was a definite bonus!
Jade Howell also kept 3 clean sheets in the League and 4 overall making a total for the team of 5 in the league and 6 including the cups. That’s also the best return for a season and testament to the defensive unit and goalkeeper, but also the work done to try to defend more as a team and contributed to an improved average of less than 2 goals per game conceded. Combined with goals scored this equated to the team’s best goal difference of an average of 2.75 per game as the team recorded highest wins and points totals (and best points/game) for a season. There’s detailed stats for the season HERE
In the end, Pride came up just short of finishing in the top two but by any measure the season can nevertheless be considered a success.
The Ladies are now enjoying a little break and will return to training in June commencing with open training sessions on Tuesdays 13th, 20th and 27th June – if you are looking for a competitive team, with an emphasis on development in a fun and friendly environment, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.