Hucclecote Premier have had an uphill battle all week with Premiership Players being out with injuries and illness, and just as they thought they had it covered, Neala Brennan sustained an injury putting her on out of todays game due to being on crutches and Lauren Brooks was taken ill 24 hours before the game. This left them with 7 players and a half - Sammi Perry who due to injury was only allowed to play half a game but none the less they fought on valiantly.
Hucclecote never give up without a fight, and it was a spirited effort by all who travelled, even though the odds were stacked against them and they lost in a well fought high scoring game to Oldham by 57-44 being only their second loss of the season.
Travelling away to play Oldham (virtually Northern Thunder minus Sarah Bayman) always proves to be a tough encounter, and ‘Cote’ knew this was going to be no exception particularly with England changing the rules allowing experienced International Star Jade Clarke (49 caps) to play Centre for this game to give her the experience she needs to learn a new position. Hucclecote did challenge this as felt it was unfair for this to take place when Oldham would not be playing the other two top contenders in the Premiership but sadly received no correspondence back from the governing body. Clarke who had already played the day before was however restricted to half a game and her presence made the impact Oldham needed to win the game.
Hucclecote under the Captaincy of Becky Vaughan started positively and their control and great decision making put them into an early lead. Vaughan particularly had a storming start feeding in accurate and well timed feeds to Allison. With Sarah Adams working hard through mid court, and turning ball, Oldham could do little against the patient ‘Cote’ attack and a Rosie Allison who was on top form netting 14/16 attempts.
Defensively, Liv Beveridge found herself in a new and unusual position at GD partnering up with Rosie Barrett who has come on hugely throughout the past two seasons. Both turned ball although Karen Greg at GS shot well and was the key to the Oldham attack. Quarter score saw Hucclecote 15-10 up.
The second quarter saw moments of great play with Allison using a variety of movements to mix up and confuse her defence. With a shooting consistency of 85% Oldham had little ammunition to put against her and had to work hard to break it down before it reached ‘Cote’s circle. With Vaughan playing one of her best games for some time, it was disappointing to lose her from court following a pulled muscle although she did manage to stay on for this quarter with restricted movement. In addition Sarah Adams took a knock in the ribs and time had to be called. With no option on the bench and no substitute to take the court, Hucclecote fought on valiantly until the half time whistle blew. This in itself was under contention as the timer called time from the score table and the umpire who was at the other end of court clearly did not hear this taking the score to 25 goals each.
The third quarter saw Oldham bring on international star Jade Clarke, as well as moving Greg to GA pairing with shooter Krista Enziano. In defence Kerry Almond also took the court replacing her Northern Thunder team mate Emma Dovey . The half time change made an impact both physically and mentally, and Hucclecote for the first time in the game lost their confidence. Sammi Perry who was allowed to play half a game took time to settle with Barrett initially whilst they worked out an effective strategy. When Hucdclecote did put defensive pressure on it was disappointing to see held ball for 3 seconds on several occasions without either umpire blowing this infringement. In fact it was unusual that not one 3 second hold was blown during the whole game. During this period Oldham stormed into a 13 goal lead leaving Hucclecote a little shocked at the difference.
With Sarah Adams struggling with her rib injury , Hucclecote switched Iffil to Centre, and also changed Barret to GD and Perry to GK. This defensive unit made a real impact and suddenly with Perry’s experience in directing play from GK position, the back trio pulled out a different performance taking some great steals and stopping the flow from the Oldham attack.
With Gray not feeling well, another switch saw Beveridge move to GA making this her third move in this game, and Gemma Gray to WA , Hucclecote found more space and with Iffil placing some great feeds to Allison Hucclecote began to match Oldham Goal for Goal . Allison’s composure and awesome shooting helped Hucclecote to draw the final 15 and gain her the Player of the Match . But sadly it was the third quarter that had sealed their fate and lose them the game with a final score of 57-44 in Oldhams favour.
Although this was a loss, Hucclecote did themselves proud for ¾ of the game and travelling away with a limited squad , some of whom were carrying injury showed true grit and determination. This still also leaves them at the top of the Premiership although they must continue their winning ways and win the final 4 games to take the Premiership title - which will be a great insentive to this strong squad.
With the added injuries sustained today, Hucclecote Premier now have been given a week off allowing Vaughan to rest her quad injury, Adams to rest her rib injury, Barrett to sort out her blisters, Perry to rest her hip injury, Iffil to rest her tendonitis in her achilles, after which we hope that these players along with the injured/ill players already missing will be back to full fitness ready for the challenge with Academy.
Academy and Hucclecote are the hot contenders for the title and these two will play each other at Bentham in two weeks time so all supporters are needed.
Well done to a great squad of athletes who really did give it their best shot. The title is still there for the taking !
Squad:- R. Allison, G. Gray, R. Vaughan (Capt), S. Adams, M. Iffil, L. Beveridge, S. Perry (Vice), R. Barrett.
Bench: Gilly Salter , Sue Wainwright & Barb Warburton
Player of the Match: Rosie Allison