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Grangetown captain Vicky Rees, who had suffered a dead leg during training earlier in the week, was withdrawn after fifteen minutes, with Katie Walton coming on to partner Jenny Mrozik in defence.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.”
Just four games into the new season, Grangetown Netball Club’s Premier League squad took on Bristol-based Premier Romans in a crucial match at Middlesbrough Sports Village on Sunday afternoon.
Defeat at Team Jets in Jersey the previous weekend had seen Grangetown drop to the foot of National Division 2 with just one win from their opening matches. Premier Romans were one of four other sides to have recorded a single victory, and the winner was almost guaranteed to climb several places up the table.
Having travelled to the Channel Islands with only seven fit players, Grangetown were able to pick from a full strength squad, which included Scotland shooter Gemma Sole and influential centre Jill Reah, who had recovered from a foot injury. In addition, head coach Gel Williams handed debuts to defender Genevieve Slater and shooter Jan Hynes, both of whom are regular fixtures in the Republic of Ireland’s national side.
There was little to choose between the teams as the game got underway, with the first nineteen goals all going with centre pass. With Ria Small prominent, Kate Williams and Faye Summerhill had shown assurance and excellent understanding in the circle in an opening quarter where almost every shooting opportunity was converted by both teams, but momentum swung the way of the Romans after a footwork penalty was awarded against the home side and the visitors scored twice in quick succession.
Grangetown worked hard to create two turnovers in the next few minutes, but lost possession on both occasions, errors which allowed Premier Romans to extend their lead to four goals by the end of the first quarter.
Genevieve Slater, Marie Ewing and Gemma Sole were all introduced at the start of the second period. The teams again traded goals in the opening minutes before a dubious “held ball” penalty was awarded against Jill Reah. The Romans took full advantage with shooter Charlie Mead continuing to find the net from all parts of the circle.
Trailing by six goals, Grangetown suddenly found their best form, and netted five goals without reply. Jill Reah forced an interception and a series of great passes and quick movement gave Gemma Sole the opportunity to score from what had been the best move of the match.
Unfortunately the ball was immediately turned over from the resulting centre pass and although Jenny Mrozik and Gen Slater combined to complete another interception, the hosts relinquished possession once again. Grangetown seemed to be rushing certain aspects of their play, and their mistakes enabled the Romans to assume control once again. They put pressure on the ball, especially in Grangetown’s defensive third, passed well and retained their impressive shooting accuracy. It looked like the visitors would take a four-goal lead into half time, but Gemma Sole scored right on the hooter to keep Premier Romans within touching distance.
Having produced an outstanding third quarter against Team Jets in their previous game, Grangetown again produced some excellent netball after the interval. With Ireland’s Jan Hynes joining Gemma Sole, the international shooting partnership made the most of defensive interceptions by Vicky Rees and Gen Slater, and with Jill Reah and Marie Ewing directing proceedings in the middle of the court, Grangetown brought the scores level at 31-31.
An off-the-ball penalty from the restart allowed the visitors to retake the lead, but cheered on by an increasingly vocal crowd, the home side levelled again, before a misplaced pass again handed Premier Romans possession. As the quarter drew to a close, the Romans were on the wrong end of a couple of harsh calls from the umpires, but Grangetown were unable to capitalise, and the visitors showed admirable composure to soak up so much pressure and ease back into a three-goal lead at the three-quarter stage.
Gel Williams made five changes for the final fifteen minutes; with Lesley Mouat being withdrawn after a strong performance at Wing Defence, and Katie Walton taking over at Goal Keeper. The Bristol side soon extended their advantage by a further two goals and, at that point, chances of a home win looked very unlikely indeed. However a long speculative pass from Marie Ewing was brilliantly claimed and converted by Jan Hynes. The Dublin-based shooter then scored the next three goals to tie the game at 42-42.
A controversial moment followed as the two officials spotted an infringement but gave opposite decisions. Possession was awarded to Premier Romans, but the resulting goal was quickly cancelled out; Grangetown then regained the ball and had a throw in from the Romans’ back line when an injury time out was called.
After the enforced break, and with the game almost over, Grangetown had a wonderful opportunity to take the lead for what would actually have been the first time in the match, but they were unable to create a clear opening from the restart, possession was lost, and the visitors took full advantage by moving down the court and scoring what turned out to be the decisive goal.
There were times during the match when Grangetown’s play was almost irresistible, and the players will surely reflect on this as a game they should have won. For their part, Premier Romans’ Wing Attack Becky Green was at the heart of much of the visitors’ best work; and shooter Charlie Mead was outstanding and certainly would not have deserved to be on a losing side.
Grangetown are back in action at Middlesbrough Sports Village next Sunday, when they face the unbeaten league leaders Tameside. It will be another difficult game for Gel Williams’ squad, but if they can build on the positive aspects of their performance against the Romans and eliminate some of the errors that cost so much possession, they can certainly go into the game with genuine confidence.
Player of the Match: Faye Summerhill