Grangetown hosted Manchester-based Dominoes in a crucial Premier League 2 encounter this afternoon. Dominoes had emerged with a victory from the reverse fixture in November, but although Grangetown captain Vicky Rees was well aware that Dominoes would provide tough opposition, she was confident that her side could complete a third successive win for the first time this season.
Having only had seven players for the game in Manchester, Grangetown were boosted by the availability of Scottish internationals Jo Pettitt and Nicola McCleery (who was making her home debut) in a strong-looking squad.
The two internationals took their place in the starting line-up, but the early exchanges were littered with mistakes from both sides, with a string of penalties adding to what was scrappy opening quarter.
Grangetown led 10-6 after fifteen minutes, with the best move of the quarter involving both Scottish Thistles; Nicola McCleery’s quick pass finding Jo Pettitt, who scored at the second attempt.
The home side were still below their best in the second period, but maintained their four goal advantage until the last couple of minutes of the half. Faye Summerhill had unselfishly set up Jo Pettitt early in the quarter, before then managing to retrieve a loose ball to loop a pass to her attacking partner under the net.
Jennifer Mrozik collected a couple of important rebounds, but Dominoes rallied with the clock ticking down, and scored three unanswered goals to trail by just one at the interval.
During the break, Grangetown coach Gel Williams made six changes – three personnel and three positional – but the visitors scored the first two goals to take the lead for the first time since the early stages of the opening quarter.
A three second violation, a Katie Walton rebound, and an intercepted Dominoes centre pass then seemed to spark the home side – and the crowd – into life. Ria Small, who is also a member of the Team Northumbria Super League squad, produced some great interplay with Jo Pettitt; and Vicky Rees later held onto a wonderful interception, that eventually led to a goal for the recently-introduced Kate Williams.
In fact the Pettitt-Williams partnership missed just two shots between them during the entire quarter. The pressure finally began to tell on an uncompromising Dominoes defence; and the scoreboard read 33-30 in favour of Grangetown with just the final fifteen minutes remaining.
Jennifer Mrozik managed two rebounds and an interception in the first two minutes of the fourth period, but Grangetown were unable to retain possession. The passing and movement of the Dominoes players was arguably quicker and better than the home side, but after the game was halted for an injury to the visiting centre, Grangetown suddenly found the fluidity that had been such a feature of their recent victories. There were more rebounds for Grangetown’s defensive duo and, at the other end of the court, the shooting percentages remained high, and by the end of proceedings, Grangetown’s winning margin was six goals: the final scoreline being 45-39.
Overall it was probably not Grangetown’s strongest performance of the season, but Dominoes provided a stern test, which the home side did very well to overcome. The man of the match was a difficult choice between Jo Pettitt, who scored 34 of the 46 Grangetown goals, and Jennifer Mrozik, whose rebounds and interceptions made such a difference – with my vote going to the former.
GK: Jennifer Mrozik
GD: Vicky Rees
WD: Lesley Mouat
C: Nicola McCleery
WA: Ria Small
GA: Jo Pettitt
GS: Faye Summerhill
C: Jill Reah, WA: Nicola McCleery
GK: Katie Walton, GD: Jennifer Mrozik, WD: Vicky Rees, C: Ria Small, GA: Kate Williams
GS: Jo Pettitt
C: Nicola McCleery, WA: Ria Small
Jo Pettitt 34/44 (77%), Kate Williams 9/11 (82%), Faye Summerhill 2/4 (50%)
Man of the Match: Jo Pettitt