By Pete Lindsay
Supernova turned up to Royal Russell on the coldest day so far, hoping to repeat the Thirds victory in their top of the table battle. The teams laid out with Rich, Abbey, Louise and Tom in attack, with Mark, Bobby, Jules and Leanne in defence. Game on!
Croydon got off to a great start with a nicely worked goal, but Richard came straight back with one of his trade mark runners to level the score at 1-1. Bobby worked himself some space, received the ball 4 metres out and put one up that goes off the rim, and then Jules wrong footed her player and speeds past for the running in shot – Penalty! Mark stepped up to the line, and the ball falls in to take it to 1-2. The ball went down the other end, Louise threw an absolute rocket pass – straight to a Croydon player. No matter, Croydon were still struggling to get the ball flowing in their section, but their speed and experience finally delivered another goal to take the lead again to 3-2. Richard wrestled the ball off a small child – roundly booed by the watching SN3 supporters. A bit of a lull in the goals developed. The drought finally broke when Louise was body checked by her opponent. Richard stepped up to the free throw line, and produced the perfect result – back to level at 3-3. But with the final minutes of the first half ticking down, Croydon suddenly found their form, and a couple of quick goals create the first gap in their game– Croydon took their two goal lead at 5-3 into the half time break.
Coach Kempston gave the team a few pointers, and then it was all go again, with Stu joining the fray for Tom, and Cat T for Louise. Their first attack produced nothing, but Jules won the collect in defense, and got the ball straight back. Richard had obviously not been paying any attention to Neil’s advice on playing in the large hall, and lines up a shot from way down-town – BOOM – 5-4. With the scores close again, both teams really started to lift their energy levels, Bobby interrupting Croydons flow, and Stu doing a neat balancing act to avoid stepping out of play. Croydon though were still showing their class, and executed a lovely worked free pass for a drop off shot that was unlucky not to fall. Bobby showed great positional awareness to pick off yet another diagonal ball, and down the other end Abbey and Cat threw up a couple of cheeky shots near the post. Stu tried to get in on the act too when he caught his player off guard, but the resulting travel probably needed an Oyster card. Stu steps out to receive the ball when his defender switched for a text-book drop off! It’s 5-All, and the game was turning into a nail-biter.
With the ends switched, the ball was worked back, and Bobby took a feed in front of the post – Jules seized the moment, and got straight past past her player, Bobby passed the ball which she slotted home, and Nova took the lead for the first time in the game – 5-6 ! Cat was now really closing down her player, but a Croydon boy took another long shot, and it was all square again at 6-6.
There was absolutely no let up in the pressure at this point – Croydon almost got another close range shot, but Leanne was applying maximum pressure, and snatched the collect, and when the ball went down the other end, it was that man Richard again with another long range effort – Nova back in the lead at 6-7 ! Stu showed his pace round the player, but didn’t receive the feed. Abbey did though when she does the same, and won a Penalty for her efforts. Once more it was on Richard at the line, and he didn’t miss this time to take Nova to a two goal lead for the first time, at 6-8!
Croydon though were not about to give up on the game, and a quick move by Croydon speed-merchant Mark Wright won the another runner to take it to 7-8. There was then a flurry of Croydon attacks that Nova did well to hold out against, Abbey going after collects and loose balls, but eventually their luck ran out – Cat switched onto a runner, but it wasn’t quite enough, and the game was all evens once more at 8-8.
With the clock ticking down, the game was anyone’s, and both teams were trying everything they can. Cat did another great interception as Croydon tried to pass the ball out from defence, but they couldn’t convert the opportunity. Croydon were playing at a very high pace, but Leanne was defending well, and Bobby managed to force the ball out of play to slow them down. And then it happened – a simple pass, Richard was free four metres out, the ball was in the air, and in it dropped – 8-9 to Nova! There were still three minutes to play though, and the shots continued – another short one from Richard was just off the rim, but it was back down the Croydon end again. Their shot went up, it missed and Mark reeled it in. Their next attack came to nothing, and it was Mark again with another great collect, just as the final whistle blew – victory to Supernova! Final score 9-8.
A really tense and exciting game to watch, and an outstanding effort put in by all ten players to keep their heads and keep plugging on. Richard’s six goals were the standout and a result of some great team-work and support – he’ll be in a right lather for not getting ten though, given the number that bounced off the korf. And good to see everyone putting their shots up at (mostly) the right time, and playing in all the different roles.