England defeat Barbados
05 July 2011
England frustrated their followers as they mixed world class netball with basic mistakes. The record book will reveal a 74 – 42 score in favour of Sue Hawkins’ team and two wins from their two matches, but an improvement in consistency is definitely required if England are to conquer these Championships.
England used their whole compliment of 12 players in the opening match against Malawi and they continued to freshen things up with changes to the starting seven today. Geva Mentor replaced Eboni Beckford-Chambers at GD to reform her partnership with Co-Captain Sonia Mkoloma in defence. Jade Clarke, Karen Atkinson and Tamsin Greenway made up an unchanged mid-court. Pamela Cookey was kept at GA, but on this occasion was partnered by Louisa Brownfield, leaving Joanne Harten as a replacement.
England set off to a lightning start and took a 9 – 1 lead after five minutes, Barbados were struggling to work any room and hopeful passes were missing their targets. Turnovers were flowing for the defence and a commanding lead was being built, for the second game in succession England had really burst out of the blocks. The mid-court and defence were playing fantastic, forcing turnovers at every opportunity, this allowed Greenway to work her magic around the circle and find some intricate feeds to the shooters. England were in complete control of the game but still showing fantastic work ethic, a big score and a convincing win were on the cards. End of the first quarter and England were leading 22 – 6.
A painfully slow start to the second quarter saw Barbados leading 5 – 3 at the midway stage as our mid-court started to lose battles with virtually no ball making it up to the duo of Cookey and Brownfield. This led to increased frustration which in turn led to penalties conceded from our defence. At one stage Mkoloma was given some choice words from the umpires as the GS for Barbados continued to cause problems. Amazingly Barbados managed to draw the second quarter 11 – 11 as the fluidity and composure of the opening fifteen minutes completely vanished from Hawkins’ side. The ball was suddenly stubbornly attached to the fingertips of the opponents and it was proving hard work to retrieve. A more refined end to the half meant that England were able to escape with some merit, the score reading 36 - 17.
The dressing room would no doubt have heard some harsh words as the two sides of England were showcased in one half of netball. From slick, stylish and superior to feeble, flawed and frustrated. The fans in attendance eagerly waited to see which England would appear for the second half. Hawkins turned to her bench for inspiration at the start of the second half as Rachel Dunn and Harten formed a new partnership in attack. Eboni Beckford-Chambers also took to the court to partner Stacey Francis. Once again all 12 players were given game time.
A tentative start ensued as England still struggled to find their rhythm and, much as in the first game, they were perhaps trying too much when in possession. Instead of keeping things simple and playing the obvious ball they were occasionally looking for spaces and passes that didn’t really exist. At the end of the third quarter England led 52 – 30 and were a far better side from the previous 15 minutes, but were still falling short of the impeccable standard they had set in the opening quarter. Barbados had grown into the game and were no doubt a better proposition than previously, but England shouldn’t have allowed them to be as close as they were.
The fourth quarter witnessed yet another turnaround as England reignited. Suddenly the tempo went through the roof as Serena Guthrie and Karen Atkinson once again started to dictate the play. In defence, Francis and Beckford-Chambers were smothering the Bajan attack and once England looked like a world class outfit. The big difference between the teams, and ultimately why the winning margin was as large as it shows, was the speed of transition when in possession. When in full flow, as England were in the first and final quarters, the ball made the journey from defensive turnover to goal in a matter of seconds.
Another sumptuous quarter ended 22 – 6 to England who had once again proved that when in the right frame of mind they can match the best in the world. Atkinson was deservedly awarded the player of the match award after yet another tireless performance in C and WA. The co-Captain certainly added some composure to the team after her second quarter break.
Another game, another win, another set of lessons to be learned. At times England were unstoppable today, playing some truly beautiful netball, at others they struggled to break free from frustration and lost momentum. Tomorrow they challenge Malaysia in their final group game to confirm top spot in Group D, we will see if the consistency and momentum sticks around this time.
All images courtesy of the WNC Facebook site.
ENGLAND v MALAWI, Sky Sports 4, Wednesday July 6th @ 5pm