The hosts were 17 goals clear at half time, so it was very much to Grangetown’s credit that the deficit increased by only five goals over the subsequent 30 minutes.
The Oldham defence, marshalled by Kerry Almond, was tough and uncompromising; Taylor Cullen at wing defence possesses lightning pace and great anticipation; transition through the court was quick, incisive and at times thrilling to watch, with Maria McAndrew at the heart of so many flowing moves; and the attacking pairing of Kathryn Turner and Amy Clinton were simply superb and posed the sternest of tests for Grangetown’s defensive duo of Jenny Mrozik and Becks Thompson.
Oldham’s movement was tremendous; their squad has awareness, understanding, accuracy and pace in abundance; yet Grangetown refused to crumble when lesser teams could have been overwhelmed by such incessant pressure.
Grangetown were without the services of Katie Knox and Genevieve Slater, both of whom had been on international duty with Ireland at the Nations Cup in Singapore, as well as Tuaine Keenan; but Jenny and Becks did a sterling job in the defensive circle. Jenny’s athleticism and competitive spirit has been a feature of the squad for many years, but on only her second outing for the club, Becks had a really strong game (particularly at goal defence in the first three quarters) and was my choice as Grangetown’s Player of the Match.
In what was at times quite a physical encounter, Becks never backed down from the challenges posed by marking a player as talented as Kathryn Turner; and she looks to be a tremendous addition to the Grangetown squad.
The fixture was also memorable as it marked the first time in almost a decade that Ash Neal and her sister Kyra Jones had played on the same side. Over the recent years, the siblings had been regular Super League rivals, but when Kyra entered the fray as Grangetown centre at the start of the second quarter, their connection was immediately apparent and there were some sublime passages of attacking play involving Ash, Kyra and the ever-impressive Brie Grierson.
One of the main differences between the sides was the shooting accuracy, with Oldham taking full advantage of almost every opportunity. At times, Kathryn and Amy simply never looked like missing; confidence typified by Amy converting left-handed without even setting the shot on a number of occasions.
Oldham remain the standard against which other Prem 1 clubs are judged, a well-drilled, high-class outfit; but for Grangetown, this was another hugely encouraging afternoon. International commitments have meant that it has not been possible to send a full-strength squad out onto court so far this season, yet having already won two games and with performances continuing to improve, prospects for the remainder of the season certainly look very bright indeed.