Grangetown Netball Club’s Premier League squad faced an in-form Tameside at Middlesbrough Sport Village on Sunday. The home side had actually climbed one place to ninth courtesy of the bonus point gained from last week’s single-goal defeat to Premier Romans, but in contrast Tameside travelled over from Manchester as Prem 2 leaders, with a one hundred per cent record from their five games.
The hosts went into the fixture without the services of an international trio—Gemma Sole, Jan Hynes and Genevieve Slater—but into the squad came the Scottish World Cup shooter Jo Pettitt and her compatriot, the Scotland under-21 captain Nicola McCleery, who was making her seasonal bow for Grangetown.
Tameside got off to a great start; they put pressure on Grangetown right from the opening whistle and secured a number of turnovers in the first quarter. Although Ria Small set up Grangetown shooter Faye Summerhill to convert a couple of early chances, the league leaders took full advantage of their hard-earned possession and quickly raced into a six goal lead; one of the goals coming from a wonderful piece of skill by Eleanor Cardwell, who held on to an overthrown pass and, despite being off balance, still managed to score before putting a foot out of play.
The respective centres, Jill Reah and Beccy Hoult, were at the heart of the action, and both produced some telling attacking passes as well as coming into contact on more than one occasion. All four shooters were finding the target, but the deserved five-goal advantage that Tameside held at the end of the first period was due in no small part to their effort in defence, which had forced several crucial mistakes.
Grangetown captain Vicky Rees, who had suffered a dead leg during training earlier in the week, was withdrawn after fifteen minutes, with Katie Walton coming on to partner Jenny Mrozik in defence. Having scored the final two goals of the first period, Grangetown scored three of the first four in the second quarter, reducing Tameside’s advantage to just three. The teams then traded goals, with Jo Pettitt finding the net from the second of two penalties called after Jill Reah had been unceremoniously knocked to the floor.
Katie Walton was having a fine quarter, forcing a turnover and then completing an interception, and wing defence Lesley Mouat’s non-stop running was rewarded with a couple of timely interventions as Grangetown battled to stay in touch with the league leaders. Grangetown again ended the quarter in the ascendency, scoring the final four goals to leave the game well-balanced at 21-25.
Nicola McCleery was introduced at half-time, but Grangetown contrived to concede seven goals without reply; the four-goal deficit had increased to eleven in a matter of minutes and the result was effectively never in doubt from that point.
The main feature of the third period was the performance of the two goal keepers. Grangetown’s Katie Walton continued to make life difficult for the Tameside shooters and at the other end of the court, Paige Kindred was responsible for turning over possession on at least three occasions.
Although Tameside were dominating proceedings, Grangetown still produced some excellent play of their own; Nicola McCleery and Faye Summerhill combined nicely for one goal, before Jo Pettitt scored from a superb move straight from a Grangetown centre pass. In between those two goals, Lesley Mouat produced arguably the quarter’s most memorable moment. After having a pass intercepted, Lesley showed great athleticism and commitment to race back and regain possession with an interception of her own.
By the end of the quarter, Grangetown trailed 29-43, and although the home side continued to battle, Tameside were relentless. The Grangetown squad is renowned for its fitness, but they were more than matched by the visitors, who controlled most of the closing period and ended the game with a comfortable twenty-goal winning margin: the final score being 40-60.
Grangetown’s player of the match was Jo Pettitt; and for an excellent Tameside squad, the outstanding player was Paige Kindred, who was one of the four Tameside players on view who are members of the Manchester Thunder Super League long squad recently announced by coach Dan Ryan (the other three being Eleanor Cardwell, Lucy Harris and Beccy Hoult).
This is how Paige viewed her team’s sixth successive victory: “I thought it was a really good team effort. We do play attacking netball, but we’re all defenders when the ball is turned over and we work hard to try and regain possession.
“I managed a few interceptions today, but really it’s the players around me—the goal defence, wing defence and centre—who have done all the hard work. They put pressure on the ball and the closer you can get to the three seconds, the more chance that the pass might be rushed and less accurate; and sometimes that will give me a chance to come out and make an interception.
“We’re playing with a lot of confidence at the moment; we’re enjoying our netball and having a really good time out on court....
“This was a new venue for us today. It’s a really good court, and it was also nice to have a bit of a crowd watching the game.
“I thought Grangetown played well. They play the game fairly, they certainly kept fighting right to the end; and there were a couple of periods during the game when they capitalised on our mistakes and scored three or four goals in a row. We really had to dig our heels in, and we’re delighted to have come away with a win.”