Yesterday’s Derbyshire County FA Women’s Plate quarter-final against University of Derby (UOD), was designated as our #FvH23 game; Pride Park FC fully support the Football v Homophobia (FvH) month of action to tackle LGBTIQ+ discrimination in football.
It was extremely frustrating to be left with only ten players available for the game - 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 us extremely depleted. The scheduling „faux pas” is completed with the semi-finals scheduled to be played on Mothers 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 then Otty Baker pulled up with a groin strain in the warm up. Ideally, she wouldn’t have played but, knowing we 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”.
Steph Eadon 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.
A prime example of this was after a Tash Allderidge corner, Steph 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 [1-0].
The lead was extended just after the half-hour when Tash Allderidge scored direct from a corner kick [2-0]. Pride were unfortunate not to add to their score, Steph 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 Tash Allderidge and Eliot Sayavong.
It was inevitable that with a numerical advantage UOD would find openings, but Jade Howell 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 Steph Eadon, enabling Otty to continue to half-time but she was unable to resume for the second half. Nevertheless, Pride were in control at Half-Time [2-0].
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 9 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.
The balance of the game changed after 70 minutes, however, when Steph Eadon sustained a serious looking knee injury. Play was stopped for a lengthy period before the game resumed and with Pride now down to 8 players (although Otty 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 6 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 the striker 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 in space and - although out of the „hit and hope” category - the 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; we wish them luck in the next round and for the rest of the season.
In the absence of the FA appointed Referee, our thanks to Jamie Robinson for stepping in and doing a sterling job. We’re keeping everything crossed and await news of Steph’s injury in the hope it isn’t as serious as first feared.
Pride return to League action next Sunday as Amber Valley come to Moorways (kick off 1.30pm).