Grangetown’s Premier League netball squad produced a superb performance to defeat league leaders Viper 10 Blades this afternoon.
The Premier League 2 pacesetters made the 280 mile journey from Hampshire boasting a perfect record from their eight league fixtures; they were the division’s highest scorers, as well as having the meanest defence. For their part, Grangetown were returning to action two weeks after a single-goal defeat at the Norfolk-based Thoroughbreds, but the squad had been in good form throughout October and November, and the stage looked set for a competitive encounter.
Grangetown were penalised a number of times in the game’s opening minutes, but worked hard to force mistakes and regain possession. Great hands from the Scottish international Hayley Mulheron gave her compatriot Jo Pettitt the chance to extend the home side’s early lead; Wing Attack Ria Small helped to set up a number of other opportunities, and the hosts held a 13-9 advantage after the first quarter.
A frenetic first quarter was littered with interceptions, as the visitors tried to force passes. The pace did not relent in the second quarter, apart from a brief time-out when the opposing Goal Shooter was accidentally hit in the face, but Grangetown had increased their lead to 23-15 by half time. In an increasingly physical encounter, the home side looked to be on the receiving end of a number of tough calls from the officials, but marshalled by Marie Ewing at Centre and captain Vicky Rees, who was outstanding in the first half, Grangetown remained composed and fully deserved their lead.
Early in the third quarter, the Blades’ Goal Attack was admonished by the referee for petulantly kicking the ball against the back wall; the first sign that Grangetown’s high-intensity play was starting to affect the opposition. Despite the Blades scoring four unanswered goals towards the end of the quarter, Grangetown’s took an eleven goal advantage into the final period, with the highlight being a brilliant piece of skill from Faye Summerhill who deflected a long pass to Jo Pettitt rather than catching the ball, allowing her shooting partner to score unopposed from right under the net.
The defence had put the normally free-scoring Blades under intense pressure throughout the game, and Jennifer Mrozik was replaced by Katie Walton for the final quarter, after having had a superb game alongside Hayley Mulheron.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the pace dropped and there were a few signs of nerves during the closing minutes. Although the visitors did manage to close the gap, the home side never looked like being denied and eventually won by a comfortable six-goal margin; the final score being 43-37.
This was a memorable team effort, culminating in a result that may shock other sides in the league, but will surely not have come as a surprise to the Grangetown players and coaching staff. The squad may have taken a few games to acclimatise to life in Premier League 2, but they are now proving they are a match for any other team in the division. It is always difficult to single out one player from such an outstanding collective display, but Ria Small provided a constant attacking impetus, and a high-energy performance that earns her my vote as man of the match.
Following last weekend’s excellent away victory over the Telstars, Grangetown’s Premier League squad faced a crucial home game against Hertford Hornets this afternoon, with the visitors lying eighth in Premier League Two, just one place below Grangetown.
Both teams sported almost identical black dresses with orange trim, and the colour clash may have been partly responsible for some wayward passing from both sides during a first period that ended with the scores tied at 12-12. The Hornets had scored four goals without reply to take an 11-9 lead, before Grangetown responded with three quick goals, including a brilliant interception and pass from Vicky Rees which allowed an unopposed Faye Summerhill to equalise right at the end of the quarter.
Grangetown had eased into a 28-23 lead by half-time, with Goal Keeper Katie Walton securing two rebounds during the second period, and the whole team seemed to gain confidence from the girls’ increasing defensive dominance.
By the end of the third quarter however, the result had been put beyond doubt, as Grangetown extended their advantage to fourteen goals. It was another commanding period of play for Katie and Vicky, as the Hornets managed just seven goals in fifteen minutes and, having moved to Wing Defence, Lesley Mouat did a great job of defending against the visitor’s Wing Attack, who was arguably the Hornet’s best player on the day.
Grangetown produced some sparkling attacking play, virtually all of which was rewarded, as by this stage, the shooting combination of Faye and Jo Pettitt never really looked like missing. As often happens when one side is in the ascendancy, the bounce of the ball also started to go Grangetown’s way, but in truth, the 42-30 scoreline simply reflected the host’s overall supremacy.
The Hornets never gave up, but as they tired, so more passes went astray in the final quarter. The Grangetown squad’s superior fitness was evident as they kept a high tempo right through to the end of the game. The mid-court movement was superb, and the handling was, at times, exceptional; typified by a bullet pass from Faye Summerhill that was caught under the net by Jo Pettitt despite being tightly marked by two opposing defenders. The shooting percentages remained impressive and the final score was 61-37 in favour of the home side.
Overall this was a fine all-round team performance, and a thoroughly deserved second victory in the space of just eight days. Katie and Vicky’s sterling work laid the foundation, but the way that Faye and Jo finished off so much of the excellent approach play was the reason why the margin of victory was ultimately so conclusive.
Man of the Match: Jo Pettitt