The latest from the Prem with Courtside Comments.
Round 12 – 12 January 2020
A three week break follows this round of matches which, given some of the results, is a pity as tension and excitement needs to be put on hold at a time when it really could do without that. An added ingredient this week was on top of the NPL players having limited quarter time restrictions placed on them, a number of clubs had Super League players competing in friendly matches for their franchises therefore making them available for key Premier League games.
Table toppers Oldham headed off to the West Country to face fourth placed Hucclecote who had suffered three defeats in a row, by far their worst run of the season. Instead of dreading this fixture the Hucclecote girls rose to the occasion and a goal for goal first quarter saw then edge two ahead as the period came to a close but Oldham won a turnover and levelled the quarter 10-10. The second period saw the visitors open up a four point lead mid way through but Hucclecote battled back well and only a goal on the buzzer saw Oldham take a 20-19 lead into half time. A big third quarter saw Oldham edge themselves five points ahead at one stage but Hucclecote never let that lead become un-manageable and going into the final fifteen minutes they trailed the league leaders by four, 31-27. A virtual goal for goal start to the final quarter meant Oldham maintained their advantage but a turnover saw Hucclecote fight back to within a point, Oldham edged further ahead but yet again Hucclecote reigned them back in. A tense and exciting edge saw the game floe from end to end and at the final whistle they couldn’t be separated, a 41-41 tie. Great fighting spirit from Hucclecote against a team who never give an inch and three points each.
New Cambell, whilst not aware of the Oldham score, had the chance to close the gap with a home tie against bottom side Cumberland. It turned out to be a close, high scoring affair with Cumberland never giving up and pushing New Cambell all the way. In the end the hosts triumphed 66-58, much closer than they would have liked. That win puts them just six points behind Oldham now…..and just in case you are wondering Oldham play host to New Cambell on 8 March. Two wins on the bounce had seen Weston Park Blades stage something of revival in their season and edge themselves clear of the bottom two. They made the short visit to West London to face an Academy side that had been well beaten at Oldham in the last round but before that had been on a strong run. It was back to winning ways for the Academy girls however as they recorded a very convincing 72-48 win. That result keeps them third, six points behind New Cambell but crucially they have a game in hand on the top two so cannot be ruled out of the running by any means. Blades stay in 7th.
Tameside sat in fifth place as they welcomed Turnford to Manchester. The visitors had lost their last three games which, with other results not going their way, had seen them slide into ninth place so a win, soon, is becoming imperative for the Hertfordshire based club. It didn’t come today though as despite a battling performance Tameside just had too much for them and earned their 50-38 victory. The final match in League 1 saw eighth placed Leeds Athletic travel not too far to face Grangetown, the nearest thing the North East club have to a local derby. Grangetown were able to field a strong side but despite that Leeds twice led by three goals during a first quarter that the hosts eventually took 14-13. That lead grew in the second period and at half time things were looking good for Grangetown who held a 29-18 lead. Leeds battled extremely well and took the third quarter by a point to trail 43-33 going into the last fifteen minutes but that last quarter was all Grangetown as they emerged with a strong 58-39 victory. That win keeps them in sixth, eight points ahead of Blades in seventh and just one point behind Hucclecote in fourth. Leeds stay in 8th, one point better off than Turnford. You can read a full match report from Richard Kirby here https://www.richardkirby.org/grangetown-reports/grangetown-vs-leeds-athletic2990290
Table toppers YWCA Bury played host to fourth placed Oaksway where they were looking to not only maintain their 100% record but more importantly to edge themselves even closer to League 1. A competitive match saw Bury take the first quarter 19-8 and by half time that lead was 35-17. With NPL players on restricted quarter time it was a full squad performance from the hosts that saw them run out 63-39 winners with WD Jenny Cross being awarded POM. Just three more wins will see Bury home now although the next match will be a big test against third placed Ryland.
Second placed Linden, still only four points adrift of Bury made the awkward looking trip to face Telstars who although they sit in seventh place have enjoyed some fine wins this season. Linden held a lead for much of the game but Telstars battled well to level things up in the third quarter. Linden are an excellent team however and they dug in well to secure a hard fought 43-38 win that sees them maintain an eleven point lead over third place. That would be Ryland then who maintained their recent fine form with a 52-43 win over a battling The Downs side that have now slipped to the foot of the league due to other results.
That main “other result” was Sussex Thunder who haven’t had much going their way of late. The last two matches ended in agonising one point defeats and this one was pretty close too but this time it went their way as they travelled to face Team Bath Toucans. This is never an easy away day for anyone but full credit to Thunder who dug in and earned an excellent 59-56 win to take them off the foot of the table and just one point behind safety in eighth.
The final match saw Worcester Reds play host to Premier Romans who were full of confidence after two wins in a row, the last a particularly fine result away to Oaksway. Reds had won by a point against Sussex Thunder in the last round to end a bad run so this game had all the ingredients of being a close, tight encounter. And that’s how it worked out with Reds finally taking a well contested match 55-51 to see them climb up into fifth. Romans stay a point clear of the relegation spots and face a local derby with Bath Toucans next time out.
Charnwood, leading the table comfortably and looking hot favourites for promotion, played host to Exeter in the league’s game of the day. Since defeat in the final week of October Exeter have won five and drawn one of their past six matches. Charnwood had not tasted defeat since the opening round of the season. This was a close, tight and tense match which saw the Devon side claim a fantastic 46-43 victory which puts them within two points of automatic promotion. It’s been a fantastic ride for an Exeter side that started life in Premier League Netball slowly but they have blossomed into one of the form teams in this league. That’s something they share with fellow promoted Eclipse who took on Clan in a home fixture that saw them keep the pressure on the top places with a fine 57-42 win. That puts Eclipse just one point behind Thoroughbreds who comfortably held onto second place with a convincing 58-39 win away to TFC Leicester.
Positions second to fifth are separated by just three points. That berth is currently occupied by Norfolk United who welcomed Leyton to East Anglia. Leyton have had a dip of late which has seen them slip away from the promotion chasing pack and that run continued today as Norfolk took the match 62-54. The story of the match for United was the Premier league debut of Eleanor Pringle who a year ago was injured and facing a long road back to fitness. A fine reward for hard work and fighting her way back to the Netball court.
BSV Billericay lies in sixth place and are by no means out of the shake up with a third of the season still to play. They kept their hopes alive with a convincing 60-36 win at bottom club Essex Open.
With most of the top five or six still having to face each other this promotion race won’t be settled for some time yet.