Grangetown played host to Team Jets in Sunday’s Premier League Division 2 fixture. The visitors made the 900 mile round trip from their base in Jersey lying fifth in the table, with six wins and forty points from ten fixtures; three places and nine points ahead of Grangetown.
Team Jets had been in excellent form since before Christmas, winning four and drawing one of their five previous fixtures; their most recent outing being a thrilling single goal victory over a very useful Worcester Reds side. In contrast, the home side’s last game had ended in a narrow defeat at Telstars, despite Grangetown having held a nine-goal lead at half-time.
Grangetown were able to welcome Scottish internationals Gemma Sole and Jo Pettitt, both players having been unused members of the Team Northumbria squad that had lost its Super League opener to Manchester Thunder the previous evening—interestingly, the Thunder’s starting seven included Tameside’s Ellie Cardwell, who had been so impressive against Grangetown earlier in the season.
The home side started strongly, with captain Vicky Rees producing a superb interception to help set up Jo Pettitt for the second of her opening three goals. The Jets’ goal keeper soon picked off a speculative Marie Ewing pass to earn possession from which the visitors opened their account; the St Helier-based side then produced some excellent interplay on the edge of the circle and although Katie Walton was able to knock the ball out of court, the Jets netted from the restart.
The game was being played at a furious pace, and it was Grangetown who were able to make the most of a number of Jets’ errors and missed shots to open up a six-goal advantage. The attacking combination of Jo Pettitt and Gemma Sole was working particularly well, and at the opposite end of the court, both Jenny Mrozik and Katie Walton were making life hard for the Jets’ shooters.
From 10-4 however, the visitors seized the initiative and scored four goals without reply. Lynsey Pitman scored with a fine looping shot following a swift exchange of passes with centre Jacy Brown. Without the ball, the Jets pressed the player in possession and forced an error from which the deficit was narrowed to two. An offside call against Grangetown centre Ria Small offered the Jets another chance, but the resulting shot was missed and Jenny Mrozik gratefully collected the rebound.
It was a decisive moment, as Grangetown scored the quarter’s final three goals; the last coming right on the hooter to make the score 13-8.
The home side quickly added to their advantage at the start of the second period, although one goal came following a well-defended centre pass that seemed to have been delayed beyond three seconds. No question mark over the next goal though, which was created by some great movement and passing by Marie Ewing. Ria Small then showed sublime handling skills to feed Jo Pettitt, whose floated pass to Gemma Sole enabled her fellow Scottish Thistle to maintain the seven-goal margin.
The Jets rallied once again, and Lynsey Pitman remained at the heart of most of the visitors’ best attacking moves. By no means the tallest goal attack in the division, Lynsey’s speed of thought and movement were superb to watch; and her shooting accuracy was impressive throughout.
The brief revival then sparked a spell of flowing netball from Grangetown that was as good as anything the squad had produced all season. Ria Small was having a magnificent game at centre, and the host’s international shooters kept converting. Some of Grangetown’s approach play was irresistible, and it says much for the quality in the Jets’ side that the quarter ended with their own best play of the first thirty minutes; some wonderful movement drawing both defenders away from Team Jets’ goal shooter who scored unchallenged from right under the post.
With the scoreboard reading 29-18, Grangetown coach Linzi Filiata made a couple of changes during the half time interval, Lesley Mouat being introduced at wing defence; and Jenny Mrozik and Vicky Rees forming the new defensive pairing.
The eleven goal advantage was quickly extended to eighteen, with Ria Small continuing to be instrumental in much of Grangetown’s best work. To their credit, the Jets never stopped pressing and a Jacy Brown interception was the catalyst for a five-goal burst that was interrupted by a solitary response from Jo Pettitt. Grangetown needed a moment of inspiration of their own, and it came courtesy of an outstanding turnover claimed by Lesley Mouat, with Jo Pettitt subsequently converting Ria Small’s looped pass.
Lesley made two more telling interceptions in the final quarter, and Katie Walton produced one amazing shot block; and as the teams traded goals, Linzi Filiata was able to give court time and invaluable experience to Tasha Grylls and Hannah Raine, both of whom are just sixteen years of age. Team Jets narrowed the gap significantly in the closing minutes, but the two biggest cheers of the day from the home spectators were reserved for Hannah’s athletic interception and pass whilst heading out of court and Tasha’s goal, which completed the scoring and a richly-deserved 50-40 victory for Grangetown.
For Jo Pettitt and Gemma Sole, it had been a busy twenty-four hours, having both been in Birmingham with the Team Northumbria squad the previous evening: “The atmosphere was electric,” Jo smiled.” It was unbelievable to be there in front of eight thousand people—so exciting. We know everyone’s always going to be fighting to be in the starting seven, but even to be part of the squad is an honour.
“As for today, I thought it was a really good game. The intensity was good, we stuck to our structures well, and the girls are pleased to get the win.
“Personally I was happy with how things went. Gemma and I play together all the time, and it’s great when you know how the other shooter will react to what you’re doing, and I thought that Ria was fantastic; she was looking into the circle early and using fakes to create space for us, which makes such a difference.”
And from the Team Jets perspective: “We didn’t start very well,” conceded club captain, Lauren Devine. “Grangetown came out and brought the game to us, which was credit to them. We started to claw it back later in the first quarter—we got the gap down to two at one stage—but trailed by five at the break.
“We really lost the game in the second quarter, I think. We dug in deep, but it was too little too late. Grangetown punished us when we made errors, but we weren’t able to do the same when they made mistakes. Their shooting accuracy was very good and they put on a lot of pressure through the court so it wasn’t easy for us to bring the court down and penetrate through the middle.
“I think we should be proud of how we finished the game, but we need to go back to the drawing board about the start....
“Overall though, this season has been a wonderful experience. It’s been a bit up and down; obviously we didn’t start very well, but we’ve been really pleased with our recent performances. I’ve probably enjoyed this season more than the last, even though we’ve lost more games. We’ve been challenged and pushed; we’ve come up against internationals, Super League players... you can’t get better unless you meet people like that; and we’ve certainly learned a lot from Grangetown today.”
Sunday’s result may not have gone the Jets’ way, but there is certainly a lot to admire about the progress the club is making both on and off court, as Lauren explained: “On Thursday, we were named ‘Team of the Year’ in the Channel Islands for the second year in a row, which obviously gets us a lot of publicity. The papers and the radio are very good to us, as are our sponsors and the crowd. The support has grown so much over the past couple of years; it can be a bit daunting at times at home where we might be playing in front of five hundred spectators, but it’s amazing and we’re so proud to be part of it.”
Jo Pettitt 27
Gemma Sole 22
Tasha Grylls 1
Official Player of the Match: Gemma Sole
My Players of the Match: Ria Small (Grangetown) and Lynsey Pitman (Jets)