This Monday (26 November) the East Midland’s premier netball team, Loughborough Lightning, took on its arch rival, Team Bath, in the Sir David Wallace Sports Hall at Loughborough University.
Going in to the match, the normally dominant Team Bath were desperate for a win after losing the past few matches and languishing in sixth place in Co-operative Netball Superleague.
In order to try and stop the rot they called Jo Binns, England wing attack and centre, back in to their squad, despite the fact that she had only been back in the UK for a week after the World Championships in New Zealand. Binns slotted back in to a Team Bath squad studded with other England U-21s but they couldn’t stand up to a focused Lightning performance.
The early parts of the game were error strewn, with both sides defending strongly and turning over opposition ball all over the court. As the first quarter progressed Lightning’s defensive pairing of Hannah Reid and Verona Tomlin stepped up the pressure and the Bath attack started to struggle. With Olivia Murphy starting to exert some control over a frenetic mid-court area, Lightning was able to edge the game, taking a 9-6 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter saw Lightning bring on Heather Clarke at GA and Natasha Hampshire at WA, creating more fluency as Lightning moved forwards. Team Bath started the quarter strongly but Lightning had found a better rhythm and began to extend their lead.
Astle was the key to Lightning’s attack, consistently finding space in the attacking circle and slotting in chances whenever they presented themselves. Murphy was gradually winning her battle with Binns at centre court and became increasingly influential in both attack and defence as the quarter wore on. Half time saw Lightning with a 9-goal lead: 21-12.
In the third quarter Bath rang the changes bringing on two players from the bench and changing Binns from C to WA and then back again during the quarter. At this point Lightning’s concentration slipped and their error count began to rise again. A few chances went begging at the attack end and Bath was able to eat in to the lead eventually taking the quarter 10-9.
The final quarter saw Lightning emerge with fresh focus, taking the game away from Bath. Reid and Tomlin stepped up their game again in the defensive circle and the Bath attack couldn’t find a way through. As Bath players began to tire Lightning started to open up a substantial lead. The quarter ended 11-5 in Lightning’s favour and Lightning had won comfortably 41-27.
Lightning player and full-time coach Olivia Murphy said, “It wasn’t a pretty game and in theory we should have won by a greater margin. Winning by 14 goals was good but doing it whilst shooting at only 57% accuracy means there is a lot of room for improvement. We will be working hard to develop as the season progresses but sitting second in the league as Christmas approaches is right where we want to be.”
The game will be replayed on Sky Sports 3 on Thursday night at 6:00pm.
This Thursday Lightning take on the under-19 South Africa team, that is currently on tour in the UK. Their next Superleague game is on 1st December, away to the Mavericks, who are hot contenders for the league title this year after coming runner up to Team Bath in both 2005 and 2006.
Lightning’s next home game is against Leeds Carnegie on 8th December. Leeds have shown much better form this season and with Lightning’s recent winning streak, this game promises to be a real nail biter!
Tickets are available in advance on the ticket hotline, Tel: 01509 226250, or through the website: www.loughboroughlightning.com or on the door at the Netball Centre. At £5 a ticket for adults and £3 for concessions, the game works out as a bargain priced night out for all.