Grangetown’s Premier League netball squad faced a crucial clash against Leyton this afternoon.
The hosts lay seventh in the Premier League 2 table, having won just one of their five previous starts. Ninth-placed Leyton made the 500-mile round trip to Teesside having won just twice all season, although the second of those victories had come in their most recent game, a vital win over the division’s bottom club Hertford Hornets.
Grangetown’s preparations had been boosted by Lindsay Filiata, Netball New Zealand’s highly-regarded Coach Development Officer, who had spent the previous week passing on some of her experience and knowledge to members of the club. In the build up to the game, Grangetown captain Vicky Rees commented: “Having Lindsay at the club for the past week has really lifted the whole squad; it’s been great to get to know her and we've been learning different drills and new sessions. We’ve been working on bringing the ball through the court and I’m confident we can transfer that knowledge into the match. We will be going all out for a win today!”
The importance of the game was apparent in a fiery opening quarter, in which Grangetown quickly opened up a four-goal advantage. Play was halted for a couple of minutes after a stray arm caught Ria Small in the throat, but when the game restarted, it was the home side who continued to dominate, extending their lead to 14-8 at the end of the opening period.
Back in her preferred position of Centre, Marie Ewing was dictating play, and the pressure on the player in possession was superb from the whole Grangetown team, resulting in a number of forced passes and turnovers.
The second quarter started with the hosts scoring five unanswered goals, including one superb long-range shot following a contact penalty against the Leyton Goal Defence. The visitors rallied, but were unable to make significant inroads into Grangetown’s lead and the scoreline read 24-15 at half time.
It had been an extremely physical thirty minutes, and during the break, the match umpire spoke with both captains regarding the number of fouls and off-the-ball incidents.
Grangetown started the third quarter well, once again enjoying a spell of five unanswered goals. At this point, Leyton noticeably increased the tempo and began to force a few mistakes. However, the defence stayed resolute, and Lesley Mouat’s three third-quarter interceptions typified the whole team’s determination.
The pace of the game was relentless and the movement of the Grangetown players through the court was tremendous. The shooters did everything that was asked of them, and with just one period left to play, the 35-22 lead looked decisive.
However in a final period that was reminiscent of the recent home victory over Viper 10 Blades, nerves seemed to creep in. Leyton suddenly came to life and reduced the deficit to just seven goals at one stage. There were some signs of frustration, but three Grangetown goals in less than a minute broke Leyton’s momentum and effectively settled the match.
It was an impressive fightback from the visitors, but with the result finally beyond doubt, the Grangetown players relaxed and finished the game with yet another five-goal burst to secure a much-needed and thoroughly deserved 45-33 victory.
Man of the Match: Marie Ewing