Posted 24th Feb 2023

Team Bath fans raise the roof as Blue & Gold hold off Strathclyde Sirens comeback to record first win of 2023 Super League season

Team Bath Netball held off a fierce comeback from Strathclyde Sirens to record their first victory of the 2023 Super League season in dramatic style at a buzzing Team Bath Arena on Friday.

The Haines Watts-sponsored Blue & Gold fed off the energy of a near 1,500-strong crowd to produce some excellent netball right across the court and build an 11-goal lead early in the third quarter, only for Sirens to crank up the pressure and draw level.

The hosts managed to edge ahead again during a tense final period before Sirens once again cut the gap to one. They were camped in their shooting circle for the final 30 seconds but Team Bath were determined to get the win on the board and tenacious defending, inspired by a deafening roar from the fans, saw them hold on for a 49-48 victory.

Head Coach Asha Francis said: “We asked the fans to bring the noise tonight and they certainly did that, it was a phenomenal atmosphere. I was trying to talk to the players and I couldn’t get their attention because they couldn’t hear me!

Lily-May Catling roars with delight as the final buzzer goes. PICTURES: Ryan Hiscott / Fever Pitch

“We’re really pleased to come away with the win. We didn’t go off-task in defence in those closing stages, we just kept pushing and pushing, forced them into mistakes and wound down the clock nicely.

“We started so well and were playing with such a nice flow but when the pressure came on we stopped seeing what we had been when we were relaxed. All of this is good learning about what we do and how we respond, though, and every time we play we get more information about the squad.”

Imogen Allison, named as Most Valuable Player, added: “We really put on a show for the home crowd tonight, they were super loud and it was pretty incredible in here. We put out a really good first half, which is something we’ve been looking to do, and the second half will help us keep learning as a team.”

Most Valuable Player Imogen Allison (centre) receives her flowers from Team Bath great Jess Thirlby, Billy Bowers, Clare Elsley and Pamela Cookey
Ali Wilshier, on her home debut, is closed down by former Team Bath player Claire Maxwell

A revamped pre-match lightshow got the four-figure crowd in good voice from the off and they were given even more reason to cheer as Team Bath flew out of the traps, racing into a 4-0 lead. Sirens started to settle, closing the gap to 7-5 midway through the first quarter, but Team Bath were looking slick and confident in attack as they capitalised on some brilliant turnovers from Jayda Pechova, Lily-May Catling and Allison.

Bethan Dyke and Ali Wilshier provided some fantastic feeds to Betsy Creak and Sophie Kelly, whose excellent movement and clinical finishing secured a six-goal burst that put Team Bath 14-6 up with four minutes of the quarter remaining. Sirens replied with five quickfire goals of their own but the hosts were well worth their 15-11 lead going into the break.

Team Bath introduced goal-shooter Hannah Passmore and goal-keeper Summer Artman for the second quarter and both had an immediate impact, Artman forcing a turnover and Passmore netting the first two goals of the period.

Sirens were more than playing their part in an entertaining encounter but Team Bath were able to continue edging further clear, with Kadeen Corbin coming on to help them move 24-18 clear.

A heavy fall for Sirens wing-attack Beth Dix led to her limping off court and slowed the momentum of both teams, with a scrappy three minutes seeing a number of turnovers come to nothing as possession was handed back and forward. Eventually the match settled and an exchange of goals in the closing stages meant Team Bath’s lead remained at six at half-time.

Hannah Passmore defends from the front

That was soon stretched to 34-23 as the Blue & Gold made a strong start to the third quarter. However, mistakes began to creep into Team Bath’s play and Sirens ruthlessly took advantage, with shooter Bethan Goodwin netting 11 of the next 13 goals to put the match right back in the balance.

With captain Catling back on at goal-defence and Pechova reverting to goal-keeper, Team Bath were able to put the brakes on Sirens’ comeback charge but their lead was reduced to 39-36 going into the final quarter.

It wasn’t long before Sirens drew level at 40-40 as the tension levels rose in the Team Bath Arena but a brilliant tip from Pechova allowed the hosts to regain a two-goal cushion. That was how it remained for the next eight minutes as the sides exchanged goals but when tenacious pressure from Wilshier forced a Sirens mistake and Team Bath went 49-46 up the game finally looked to be in the bag.

However, two turnovers went unconverted allowing Sirens to cut the gap to one goal with 40 seconds remaining. They spent most of that time in and around the shooting circle but magnificent defending – inspired by a deafening noise from the home crowd – meant Team Bath were see out the win, with the buzzer being greeted by a huge roar.

Next up for Team Bath is a West Country derby against Severn Stars at the University of Worcester Arena on Saturday 4th March (7pm centre-pass). They are then back in action at the Team Bath Arena on Friday 10th March against Surrey Storm (7.30pm centre-pass) – tickets for that match, and all Team Bath home fixtures, are available now at netball.teambath.com/tickets.

Team Bath Netball is supported by its Principal and Pathway Partner, chartered accountants Haines WattsBath Building Society and Rengen Developments, who are overall Team Bath Partners; Centurion Chartered Financial PlannersEcus Ltd, our environment partner; and PDS Coaching, who provide performance mentoring. Team Bath’s suppliers include O’Neills2XU and Pulseroll.

Match stats

Team Bath Netball starting combination: GS Betsy Creak, GA Sophie Kelly, WA Bethan Dyke, C Ali Wilshier, WD Imogen Allison, GD Lily-May Catling, GK Jayda Pechova. Impact players: Summer Artman, Annie O’Rourke, Kirsty Harris, Kadeen Corbin, Hannah Passmore.

Strathclyde Sirens starting combination: GS Bethan Goodwin, GA Niamh McCall, WA Beth Dix, C Kelly Boyle, WD Claire Maxwell, GD Emily Nicholl, GK Towera Vinkhumbo. Impact players: Emma Barrie, Natalie Bright, Stella Oyella, Abi Robson, Abby Tyrrell.

Quarter scores (Team Bath first): Q1 15-11. Q2 28-22 (13-11). Q3 39-36 (11-14). Q4 49-48 (10-12).

Most Valuable Player: Imogen Allison.

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