The second instalment of this double header and the final game of the season was initially a slow burner as far as Pride were concerned. Although taking the lead after 12 minutes when Ella Kew’s perfectly weighted pass put Steph Eadon in the clear on the left, before she cut in and finished at the near post [1-0] - the lead only lasted two minutes before Normanton equalised [1-1].
A minute later Steph Eadon collected a loose ball in midfield and put Beth Jones through on goal and she rounded the ‘keeper to restore Pride’s lead [2-1]. Despite this, Pride were not playing at the level or at the tempo they had shown in the first game, and were not as effective either with or without the ball. This gave Normanton the opportunity to get forward more and shortly after going behind again they worked their way in behind Pride’s defence a little too easily, but the shot was saved by Jade Howell.
There were a couple more attempts on goal for Pride but without reaching the performance level of the first game it remained 2-1 and delicately poised at half-time.
Pride were a very different proposition from the start of the second half, Summer Evans making it 3-1 within two minutes of the restart. There was then a brief respite of ten minutes for Normanton, during which there was a lengthy stoppage for an injury to Annie Laight who was unable to continue, after jarring her knee, before Pride unleashed a veritable blitz, scoring 5 goals in a 12 minute spell.
Beth Jones got things rolling on 42 minutes [4-1]. Three minutes later Steph Eadon’s cross was met with a firm header by Tash Allderidge, turned aside by a fine save by the goalkeeper - Hannah Kwiatek anticipated well and was on hand to finish from close range [5-1].
A minute later Ella Kew was unfortunate to see her header come back off the crossbar from Tash Allderidge’s corner, but it was 6-1 after 48 minutes when Beth Jones came out on top from a three-way tussle for the ball with a defender and the goalkeeper, to slot home.
It was Beth Jones again four minutes later, this time latching on to Jade Howell’s kick, running behind the defence and shooting across the ‘keeper to finish inside the far post [7-1].
Steph Eadon advanced down the right before turning and playing the back to Izzy Wilsoncroft - her ball into the box was headed home by Summer Evans to make it 8-1 after 54 minutes.
Summer Evans added a ninth two minutes later, collecting Sophie Ayton’s through ball and rounding the keeper to score [9-1] and complete her hat-trick. In the fifth minute of time added on, Beth Jones scored her fifth of the game and her 47th of a remarkable season when she was played in by Millie Holmes to round off the win [10-1] for Pride.
After a slightly sluggish first half, Pride burst into life in the second period and - as in a similar spell in the first game - were absolutely clinical in front of goal.
Scorers: Jones (5), Evans (3), Eadon, Kwiatek
Against an opponent playing a very high defensive line and attempting to play the offside trap, several of the goals in the two games came, inevitably, from vertical balls played into the channels, but there was considerable variety with goals coming from set pieces and others from crosses. Variety came also in the form of five different players getting on the scoresheet.
Whilst the score lines will inevitably attract attention, these were complete team performances with the work out of possession just as impressive as what was done with the ball - it will be particularly pleasing to Pride to sign off the season at home with a clean sheet in the first game of the double header.
On a warm day and with 120 minutes to be played, it was as well that Pride had a full bench for the only time this season. Although it can be difficult to manage so many rolling substitutions without disrupting the team’s playing rhythm, it enables players to be rotated and rested within the game - particularly important with a number of players returning from injury. All of the outfield players were rotated at some stage and it was testament to them that they handled the rotations, and switches of position, very well and without any apparent disruption to the performance.
Going into the double header, Pride knew that two wins would secure third place in the League. Having won the first game so convincingly, there was an additional mental challenge going into the second game and, although it took a little while to get going, the test was passed with flying colours, demonstrating the growing maturity of the team, as two emphatic wins ensure at least a third place finish for Pride who finish the season with a run of five consecutive wins.
The team will now take a well earned break before returning for pre-season. Match highlights, images from the game and a review of the season to follow.