This was the penultimate round of matches before the Christmas break so over this and the following week teams would be looking to sign off in style.
Leaders Oldham who suffered defeat for the first time last week were on the road again with a trip to Turnford who had enjoyed an upturn in fortune of late with two consecutive wins under their belt. A tight opening five minutes saw the scores level at 5-5 before Turnford took a 10-8 lead, maintaining that two point advantage to lead at the end of the quarter 13-11. Oldham made a change at GA for the second and began to find their gears as they stormed into a 33-24 half time lead. Turnford fought back to win the third period and as the teams went into the final fifteen Oldham led 42-36. It was a close final quarter which Turnford just edged 14-13 but it wasn’t enough to turn the match result around as Oldham came away with a 55-50 win.
Second placed New Cambell played hosts to Leeds Athletic who, although sitting in eighth spot in the table had won their last three matches. The home team were too strong on the day after that fantastic win over Oldham the previous round and they ran out comfortable 60-35 winners against a Leeds side who fought hard throughout. Academy sat in fourth before play started as they made the short trip to ninth placed Cumberland. The match went with recent form as Academy took the points home with a 59-44 victory. Hucclecote made their way to the North West to face a Tameside team that had hit a bad spell in losing their last four matches. Hucclecote on the other hand had won three of the last four. Tameside welcomed back into their starting line-up Amy Carter and Ella Standring and that, added to a POM winning performance from Emma Magee resulted in what their opponents described as a strong and clinical Tameside performance to take a high scoring match 76-52. Much needed for the hosts but that defeat means Academy go above Hucclecote who slip to fourth, their lowest placing in their first season back in the top league.
The final match saw fifth placed Grangetown welcome bottom placed Weston Park Blades to the North East. The hosts have hit a bumpy patch in recent weeks recording just the one win out of their last four. Blades form was identical to that of Grangetown but it was the home side that took the advantage in the first quarter, 16-11. A determined fight back from Blades saw them take the second and at half time it was level, 30-30. The third period, so often the definitive spell in a match, was tight but Grangetown grinded out a three point lead to go into the final fifteen minutes leading 49-46. Blades tried as hard as they could to find a way to close the gap but it was the hosts who took the quarter by two points and in doing so took the match 65-60. A huge match awaits Blades next week as they host ninth placed Cumberland. The defeated team in that match could well find themselves beginning to get cut adrift.
League leaders YWCA Bury travelled down to the West Country to face Team Bath Toucans. Bury were fielding their youngest starting seven of the season with an average age of 19, the oldest player just 21. Youth is certainly paying dividends for them too as they stormed into a 21-8 first quarter lead. By half time they had extended that to 39-20. The pattern continued throughout the second half and it saw Bury take a remarkable 75-44 win to maintain their 100% record. I have remarked on it before but I make no apology for singing their praises. It has been a remarkable season and a half for this club, they have taken the Premier League by the scruff of the neck and with a 12 point gap between them and third place at this, the half way mark, it is going to take a major blow up in form for them not to be playing Premier League 1 Netball next season.
Second placed Linden are the other team who look a very good bet for promotion. They went into this round with just the one defeat, against Bury, as they played host to bottom side Premier Romans. The one thing you always guarantee from Romans is plenty of effort and there was no lack of it again. Although Linden took the match, probably as expected, it was a high scoring affair with Romans more than playing their part as it finished 68-54. Next week Romans entertain Sussex Thunder, a must win for both.
Third placed Ryland having won their last two matches had a derby on their hands as they played host to near neighbours Worcester Reds. The visitors had lost three of their last four in what they openly admit is a transition season for them. But with a local derby the form book can go out the window. It didn’t on this occasion however as Ryland managed to pull away in the final quarter of the match to take it 61-38, a result that leaves Reds seventh.
Oaksway bounced back to winning ways last week after a couple of defeats and they remain in fourth place after a home win over ninth placed Sussex Thunder by 54-35. In the final match fifth placed Telstars played host to The Downs. Despite a one point defeat in the last round, The Downs have been on a good run of late but Telstars have had some great results so what looked a close game on paper turned out to be the same on court. Despite being pushed all the way by the visitors it was Telstars who just got their noses in front at the death to take a pulsating match 49-48.
The game of the day saw leaders Charnwood travel to Norfolk to face second placed Thoroughbreds. Could the visitors open up a significant lead in the table or could Thoroughbreds rein them in and indeed overtake them. As to be expected it was a close match although at one point Thoroughbreds held an eight point lead that must have had them believing it was going to be their day. But Charnwood aren’t top without reason and they battled back superbly not only wiping off the deficit but, in the final minutes, getting their noses in front to take the match 46-44. That result opens a nine point gap between the two sides.
Norfolk United have slipped into second, pending confirmation from England Netball, as their opponents, Essex Open conceded the match and in doing so handed the five points to Norfolk. It was not the way Norfolk United would have wanted to gain that second spot and it is sad that Essex Open had to do this. I wish them well and hope that everything is ok with their club and we see them back on court in the next round of matches.
Third placed Leyton travelled to eighth in the table BSV Billericay. The hosts have won one and drawn two of their last four games so were starting to move away from the bottom two in the table. Leyton had lost their last two away from home and that run continued as Billericay recorded a fantastic 51-39 victory with Phoebe Wickham their POM. Exeter meanwhile were playing host to Eclipse in a match that saw these two mid table teams looking for the points to push them nearer the promotion spots. Exeter came into the game having won three in a row whilst Eclipse lost last time out to table toppers Charnwood. It was a tight, closely contested match which saw3 Exeter eventually come out on top with a two point win, 50-48. The victory sees them go above Eclipse and sit just five points off Norfolk in second place.
The final match pitted TFC Leicester up against Clan. The visitors were five points ahead of TFC before the game but both knew with the league so tight that a win would close the gap on those above. It was Clan who held the advantage at the end of the third quarter, leading by ten, 47-37 and they kept hold of that advantage to take the match 64-52. The gap between second and eighth place is just eight points. The second half of the season is set up superbly……
Until next time….