Last Sunday’s outstanding victory away to Hucclecote was Grangetown’s seventh success of the season; no club has been relegated from the top flight with that many wins, but whilst coach Gel Williams and her players will be battling for every available point, the squad has done a great job in consolidating their top-flight status after last year’s outstanding fourth-place finish.
For any side with top-five aspirations, the 18 Prem 1 fixtures will comprise some relatively comfortable wins, a number of intense contests, which will be decided by no more than two or three goals; and one or two fairly heavy defeats.
The game against Oldham fell into the last of those categories, as the visitors secured a 38-70 victory before heading off to contend with a particularly breezy M62.
Oldham were not at full strength, but their squad was full of talented athletes, including Laura Malcolm, who was part of Jess Thirlby’s England Roses side that took part in the recent Quad Series; and it was no surprise that Laura had a significant impact on the game.
And how exciting for one of Grangetown’s three teenage debutantes Lucy Whiting, that her first taste of Prem 1 netball should be directly opposite such a fine player.
Tamsin Canham and Maria Chambers both entered the fray in the final quarter, with goal shooter Maria showing admirable temperament and technique to net seven from eight attempts; and Cathy Hewitt’s appearance in the third period meant that no less than four youngsters had enjoyed court time against the strongest club in the country.
Grangetown played some really good netball in the opening 15 minutes, yet found themselves trailing 9-24 when the hooter sounded. Brie Grierson produced a stunning long pass to find Ash Neal in the circle; the subsequent goal levelling the score early in the quarter. At the opposite end of the court, Amy Clinton somehow plucked a great feed from Laura Malcolm out of the air with the home defenders seeming certain the ball was heading out of play.
Brie, Ash and Vicky Rees all combined to set up Abbie Le Brocq for a fine goal, but Oldham’s defensive pressure brought three held ball calls from the umpires in the opening ten minutes; and with Amy Clinton once again in imperious form under the net, the visitors quickly opened up a decisive lead.
Grangetown scored three goals without reply at the start of the second quarter. Jenny Mrozik and Becks Thompson combining well to claim possession for an important goal against the Oldham centre pass. After Brie cleverly drew the Oldham defenders, Ria Small fed Abbie to score; before the Grangetown defence secured another turnover. Unfortunately, the subsequent goal against the centre pass was immediately cancelled out following a penalty from the restart.
A flowing moved resulted in Ciara Crosbie netting for Oldham before an amazing passage of play saw possession change hands nine times before Amy Clinton’s long-range effort found the net.
One of the turnovers was claimed by Taylor Cullen, who made a difficult airborne interception look ridiculously easy. Taylor, who has signed for Strathclyde Sirens for the upcoming Super League campaign, is without doubt one of the finest athletes in the competition, and it was fascinating to see her playing opposite Grangetown’s Brie Grierson, an outstanding athlete in her own right.
15-37 to the good at half-time, Oldham quickly extended their lead after the interval, with the highlight being yet another Amy Clinton goal, this time from a brilliant defence-splitting pass from the Oldham wing attack Amelia Hall.
Lucy Whiting’s lovely bounce pass to Brie rounded off a fine Grangetown move, but Oldham were relentless and reached their half century with the home side well adrift on 19 goals.
Susie Armstrong produced a perfectly-timed leap to deflect a Grangetown shot as the game entered the final 15 minutes, and Taylor Cullen made yet another interception. Sandwiched between these two great pieces of defensive work was Maria Chambers’ first Prem 1 goal, which was followed by a total of six more, as the youngster showed admirable composure to finish off chances created by the ever-threatening Grierson-Neal combination.
Despite having been outplayed, it was to Grangetown’s credit that they produced a stirring finish to claim the bonus point for recording more than half of the victor’s score – there is always a chance that point could prove significant at the end of the season.
Choosing a Grangetown Player of the Match was no easy task. Collectively, the defence (Janny, Becks, Vicky and Ria) had work tirelessly to try and disrupt a free-flowing Oldham attack, but it was Maria Chambers, who earned the award for her impressive display in the closing period. For Oldham, there were fine performances right across the court, but it is hard not to single out Amy Clinton, whose shooting was almost faultless.