Bright moments but a defeat to high flying Oldham
The game was never going to be an easy one as Oldham had won all three of their previous league games and fielded a strong line up of their young talent as well as former Super League star Krista Enziano.
Ribble were without Defender Kate Asbridge, still nursing the effects of her rib injury, but were able to welcome back Jemma Holden and Elisha Preistley, who both started the game.
The Lancashire side would have been encouraged by the start too as Oldham didn’t settle as quickly as they might have liked, and a series of turnovers gave Ribble opportunities off Oldham centres but in a frenetic start they were unable to capitalise. Enziano showed her class under the posts, as did her young GA partner, England pathway prospect Grace Rimmer and as opportunities for Ribble came and went, Oldham started to show their talent, with slick moves and interceptions leading to easy chances for Enziano to finish. She rarely missed an opportunity with Ribble going from 2-1 up to 2-8 down in what felt the blink of an eye.
Towards the end of the first quarter, Ribble found a little bit of momentum, a highlight being from Freya McDermott-Dean who brilliantly managed to keep the ball in play and put in a fine shot, but it had been very much the visitors on top.
Despite being 17-7 down after the first quarter, Ribble came out firing.
A change brought Anja Haworth on at centre, moving Jordan Balazs to Wing Defence, who once again showed her consistency and talent to play in a number of positions, and Priestley back to GD where, despite not having height on her side against the tall Oldham pairing, she performed brilliantly in a role she played as a junior.
Ribble scored twice early on but Oldham hit back with a couple of their own as the game became a far more even contest. An inspired bit of defending from Jorgensen, now at GK, saw her tip a feed intended for Enziano and then manage to keep the ball in play, starting an attack of her own. Ribble took the ball to goal where Hannah Fletcher finished, sparking Ribble into life for three goals on the bounce.
Ribble were still trailing 31-21 at the half time break but a drawn second quarter certainly restored some hope.
The third quarter started well for Ribble and they continued to slug it out goal for goal until mid way, reducing the arrears to 9 but this was the turning point and where the talent of Oldham showed. They were simply more clinical than Ribble, who despite great energy in defence, were ultimately outmatched on the day. Injury woes again beset the East Lancashire girls as Fletcher began to suffer with an existing back injury but when she called time her replacement Maya Nelson lasted only a few minutes before a finger injury forced her off too. Oldham had restored Thunder U21 centre court starlet Ebbie Danson-Chappel for the start of Q3 and she made a commanding return after 15 minutes rest and by the end of Q3 the lead stood at 43-28.
The Greater Manchester side continued their performance into the last quarter and at one point had scored 14 goals on the spin .
However, it was to Ribble’s enormous credit that they never once let their heads drop and ended with a late flourish. Balazs, Haworth and Sophie Layfield found reserves of energy to ensure any worry of Ribble not achieving a point for half score were ended and McDermott-Dean, moved to GA, dropped a series of mid-range goals to ease the nerves. When Fletchers injury finally became unmanageable Beth Tomlinson came on at GS to contribute goals of her own.
The final score was 62-37 to Oldham but Ribble shouldn’t be too disheartened by how they performed in spells. In patches, the young side matched one of the best sides in the league and plenty of positives could be taken from a hard fought but cleanly contested game.