Agonising defeat for Ribble in performance of the season
Ribble led for the much of the first half, but Bury’s clinical shooting in the last quarter meant a harsh defeat in a game neither side really deserved to lose reports Nathan Bailey.
The East Lancashire side were encouraged by the return of Kate Asbridge after injury and also welcomed back Leeds Rhino’s Jade Myers whose appearances over the last two seasons have been severely restricted due to serious knee injuries but who returned from university to bolster the squad.
There was also a place for 17 year-old Anna Johnson, making her first premier league appearance of the season.
Ribble started the game very well from defence all the way through to attack, with a lot of the play running through Myers at centre, some smart shooting from Freya McDermott-Dean and excellent positional play from Jemma Holden at GA.
24 year old Holden was impressive throughout, moving from her normal defensive position to the attacking circle as injury kept Hannah Fletcher out. Every squad needs a Jemma Holden and her performance spoke volumes for her attitude and commitment to the team, a particular highlight being her somehow keeping a rebound in play from a seemingly impossible position and still finding partner McDermott-Dean to finish.
Bury had slick attacks of their own but as they tried to break into Ribble’s defensive circle, Asbridge and Eleanor Jorgenson stopped them in their tracks on a number of occasions.
WD Elisha Priestley was as lively as ever, quick to close down any Bury attack, creating intercepts and bringing the ball through court effectively as the visiting East Lancs side built a 10-3 lead. Just as it looked like they might get away however, the talented young Bury side dug deep and at the end of the first quarter, Ribble’s lead was cut to 14-10.
The second quarter saw Bury, who were never going to just roll over, come more and more into the game. After a series of scores traded on centre, Bury broke the sequence with a crucial turnover and scored three times on the bounce. Asbridge was having another commanding game for Ribble but despite being pushed to the edge of the circle quite a lot of the time, the Bury shooters were impressive and took their shots well from all ranges. Ribble’s lead was chipped away until Bury drew level for the first time shortly before half time with a chance to go ahead from a penalty shot after the whistle. The surprise that greeted Bury’s Kim Meadows missing it being a measure of her otherwise near faultless shooting exhibition.
A tactical change at half time saw Manchester Thunder prospect Anja Haworth move into Centre from Wing Attack, and the 15 year-old was quick to show just why she is rated so highly. After a couple of decisions went against her she picked herself up and performed valiantly both offensively and defensively in an incredible quarter that ebbed and flowed.
First Bury forged ahead for the first time in the game. With the excellent Taylor De-Klerk pulling the strings in the centre for the home team and Lizzie Nyhill using her pace to cause different problems for Asbridge and Jorgensen, Bury scored the first three goals. Haworth and skipper Sophie Layfield roared back, taking turn over ball from their defenders to goal where McDermott-Dean and her new partner Johnson scored the next three. There was a lot of pressure on teenager Johnson, on for the hard working Holden, and she kept her head to score two lovely goals from tricky distance.
Back came Bury again, scoring three more of their own but neither team seemed to know when it was beaten and from 27-30 down Ribble scored 5 without reply to go back ahead.
Could Ribble shake Bury off now? Not a bit of it. Back came YW with another treble and at the end of a breathless 15 minutes the two sides still couldn't be separated at 36 all.
McDermott-Dean was unbelievable throughout. Many would have forgiven her for feeling the pressure with Fletcher ruled out but you would never have known. She took on all responsibility and was clinical throughout, even with Bury’s national prem defender Tyrene Karim introduced at GK in an attempt to put a lid on her.
Both teams were matching each other in every respect, but so much credit should go to the Ribble defence who made interception after interception.
A nail-biting conclusion loomed.
And that it was, both sides unsurprisingly looked as though they were feeling the nerves as there were end to end turnovers, the Ribble defence proving tough to get past for the fourth quarter on the spin.
Bury edged ahead at 39-37 but back came Ribble to lead 39-40. With Myers back in at centre and Holden back at GA after a breather the visitors were hoping the fresh legs would do the trick. But it was Bury who began to finish the stronger. For the first time Ribble began to wobble and an ultimately decisive run of four goals with around five minutes left tipped the game Burys way.
Still the East Lancs girls would not give in, storming back from four down to get it back to 44-45 but with ball in hand they coughed up a crucial turnover and the moment seemed to be lost. Meadows and Thunder U19 shooter Caitlin Sharkey sank some excellent pressure shots for the Greater Manchester side and the final whistle came at 47-45 to Bury. much to the frustration of a distraught Ribble side.
It was without doubt the performance of the season from the side that has been coached by Nat Haythornthwaite for the past month and should performances stay like that, results will no doubt improve.
Ribble head coach Jane Moodie said after the game “I was very proud of all the girls, they stepped up and played as a squad with all nine girls playing their part. That squad attitude is what will hopefully bring us the results their effort deserves”.
Ribble host Tameside in their next game this Saturday, a 12.30 start at Oakhill. Having played all of the leagues top four in their first five games they will now be looking to kick on and climb the table, currently sitting 10th of 12.