Team Northumbria welcomed Welsh side Celtic Dragons to their £30 million purpose built Sport Central Arena this week in a game that produced one of the shock results of the season so far. The home team’s captain, Samantha Holt, was delighted with her teammates after an impressive performance that saw Team Northumbria defeat the visiting favourites despite a last gasp resurgence from the Dragons in the final quarter.
It could be argued, however, that the Dragons would have won the game had they started with their full-strength attacking line-up. Starting GS, Chelsea Lewis, was ineffective against Holt who was playing her debut game at Sport Central. Team Northumbria’s attack was far more potent, with Toetsie Kambatuku and Darcie Worsdale enjoying scoring success throughout the game.
Holt was frank in her post-match analysis, and described Celtic Dragons coach Melissa Hyndman, as ‘cocky’ for her tactic of resting goal threat Lottysha Cato in the first quarter. “The goal shooter they started with wasn’t strong and the scoreline showed it was the wrong decision,” said Holt, when recounting the first period in which Team Northumbria dominated, and the Dragons failed to show any attacking initiative. Maybe she (Hyndman) thought they were that much better than us that she didn’t need to play her strongest team. Their coach’s tactics cost them the game. It was just cocky not to play Cato from the start,” she added.
Holt went on to explain how the absence of the six foot five inch Dragons Goal Shooter gave her team a psychological advantage that they took full advantage of in a blistering first quarter display from the home side. “Everyone’s confidence got a shot in the arm after that first quarter. Every player felt on top in their one-on-one, but if Cato had started then we might not have gained so much confidence and momentum early on,” she said.
But Dragons coach, Hyndman, refused to accept sole responsibility for committing a tactical error, and blamed her players for performing poorly as a team during the first period of the match. “She’s only one player, one player in any team doesn’t make a difference. She wasn’t the cause of the huge deficit in the first quarter” said Hyndman. The Celtic coach was obviously fuming with her side’s first quarter and went ot to admit “My girls did not turn up to play in the first quarter. You’re not going to win anything from 17-5. Those stats are ridiculous, no excuses. But that’s why we play sport. If I knew we were going to win every game, I wouldn’t be here.”
Team Northumbria built upon their early lead, and looked steady during the second and third quarters. It was only during the final period that their belief looked shaky, however, they managed to hold firm to record their first victory of the season. The home team captain observed that her teammates started feeling a weight of expectancy towards the end of the game, which may explain their slightly tentative approach to the fourth quarter. “The crowd was passionate and right behind us, but that created its own pressure. There was an expectancy that we had to deal with. I just have to hand it to Toetsie and Darcie at the end, to sink those shots in the face of so much pressure was unbelievable. Put it this way, nobody will be starting their second team against us now!” said Holt.
Hyndman was understandably upset about her team’s defeat, and made her feelings clear about her player’s performance. But she refused to let the defeat get in the way of her Superleague aspirations.
“The girls shouldn’t have that lost game so, hopefully they’re feeling low. I take a little bit of responsibility for the loss myself. Yes, I should have started with my top seven. I certainly wasn’t taking Northumbria lightly, I have confidence in all 15 of my players, but today that confidence wasn’t repaid. I don’t care that we lost; we will be in that top four. We are going to be a team to beat. Northumbria came out and they were lucky that they just kept the lead, but good on them, well done. Today they were the better team out there.”
Match Reaction Report: Tim Andrews, on behalf of England Netball