Improbable comeback sees Brum progress
Dec 2 2011 | Written by Raphael SheridanBirmingham were 37-25 down after the third quarter

Birmingham 1sts        42
Loughborough 2nds   39

Picture: Tom Flathers.

Two minutes before the final whistle, Birmingham’s Laura Brocklebank had the most pressurising shot of the match. The entire contest had come to this singular point and the match, on a knife-edge, would be decided by her shot. Steadying herself and with the crowd going wild around her, she lifted the ball above her head and let it sail.
Up to that point, Loughborough had looked superior in every aspect. Their focus was evident 45 minutes before play began. ‘It will have to be literally no more than a minute,’ said captain Natalie Ekweogwu when asked for an interview. That was before the home team had even arrived and they meant business.
Ten minutes later, Birmingham’s injured captain Laura Price explained why, ‘They played here last week in the league and we beat them by six.’ Loughborough had a score to settle, but what would win, explained Birmingham coach Joan Hunter, would be ‘fitness and mental toughness. Both teams play quickly. The team that can keep their head in the middle of the storm will win.’
They were to be prophetic words. The pace of play was rapid, yet after a tightly fought first quarter which saw the hosts lead 12-10, Loughborough rapidly gained the momentum and started to run away with the contest. ‘We were almost complacent’ said Birmingham’s Hannah Kennedy after the game, ‘we wanted to keep it settled but we almost did too much in that regard.’
The combination of brilliant defensive work (courtesy of Ekweogwu) and near flawless shooting from Charlotte Roye and Helen Hancock saw the away side leading 17-24 after the second quarter and 27-35 in the third quarter.
During the interval, as Birmingham found themselves eight goals down, the situation looked bleak. The home side’s continuity between defence and attack had disappeared, and both Hunter and Price found themselves with the gargantuan task of keeping the team in the cup.
Their efforts in the third quarter had largely failed, with Loughborough merely extending the lead. ‘The girls seemed dejected’ said Price, ‘We had stopped talking to each other and not helping each other out, but I said to them that last week we’d come back from a seven goal deficit. Never say never.’
Those words resonated throughout the team, and as play re-started something extraordinary happened. In four minutes, Birmingham scored seven goals without reply, taking the score to 34-36. The crowd, sensing a remarkable comeback, went wild. Everything was Birmingham’s from that point in. Joan Hunter’s pre-match words were coming true, and with two minutes to go the scores were level at 37 apiece. Then Brocklebank found herself, ball in hand, with that shot. With everyone watching the ball sailed straight through the hoop. The home side, improbably, impossibly, were ahead.
And with that, Loughborough’s fate was sealed. At 42-39, the referee blew the whistle. As the crowd celebrated this most unlikely of victories, the away team burst into tears and the hosts were overjoyed. ‘I don’t think any of us ever doubted it,’ said Kennedy before Brocklebank added, ‘we wanted to win it for Laura.’
So a lesson for their opponents in the next round: write this team off at your peril, for when the going gets tough, the tough get going.


Brum ensure Notts pay the Price
Feb 10 2012 | Written by Redbrick

Birmingham 1sts 49

Nottingham Trent 1sts 17

Birmingham’s netball firsts enjoyed a comfortable but well-earned win over bottom of the table Nottingham Trent to extend their unbeaten season to seven victories in all seven games played. The hosts went into this game off the back of a narrow win over Loughborough in the cup competition and confidence was evidently sky-high as they displayed some fabulous attacking flair at times and were ruthless in their shooting throughout. Although the visitors had their fair share of possession they lacked the finesse of their opponents, but nonetheless made Birmingham work extremely hard for the ball – a nod to the fitness levels of both teams.

Birmingham stormed into an early lead, going 3-0 up inside the first two minutes, and though Trent tried to force their way back into the game, a crucial early miss coupled with them being repeatedly penalised seemed to set the tone for a frustrating afternoon for the team who prop up the Midlands 1A division. The home side capitalised, extending their lead to 5-0 and scrapping hard for every loose ball in an overall feisty encounter. By the end of the first quarter they led 12-3 and were determined to extend the gap further. After a stoppage for an injury to one of the Trent players, Birmingham’s second quarter performance shifted up a gear – highlighted by a sublime ten-pass counter-attack dictated by Centre Ellie Townsend to make it 17. Townsend was switched from Wing Defence after the first quarter and her neat stringing together of passes meant Birmingham more than doubled their advantage to 25-8 going into the second half. Scorers Hannah Kennedy and Laura Brocklebank combined excellently and took advantage of several defensive lapses to put clear daylight between the sides. At the same time, Trent were unable to consistently find an attacking outlet when they had possession. Birmingham dominated the third quarter with a range of quick passing and movement, and while their counterparts kept fighting, they struggled to cope with the quality in front of them. One particular highlight of the third period was a clever dummy and shot from the edge of the scoring zone by Kennedy that dropped wonderfully through the net. By full time, the league leaders’ superiority shone through in a 49-17 triumph. Coach Carl Hallbrook was content post-match, ‘they’re progressing as I’d have hoped’, he said. On his position as a recent addition to the setup, he added, ‘hopefully what I’ve brought to them is some discipline and changing the style of play. Each week has got better and better, so I’m expecting good things next week.’

 Netball girls jumpstart season with win over Nottingham

21st Oct 2010 - Written by Dave Rudge

Birmingham 1st Vs Nottingham 1st

54 - 40

After the disappointment of losing out to the Loughborough 2nds in last season’s BUCS Trophy final, the netball 1sts were determined to bounce back in their opening league fixture of the season, and they bounced back in style. Opponents Nottingham presented a laudable test, but goals from Hannah Kennedy and the prolific Laura Brockle­bank propelled Birmingham to victory in a game they never looked like losing.

The game began in pulsating fashion, with the Birmingham girls spurred on by an electric home support. But it was the visitors who drew first blood with two early goals from Taryn Belcher-Brow chas­tening the Brum faithful. Birmingham were soon back in it though. After a couple of misses, Kennedy found her range to level the scores and the crowd rediscovered their voice.

The nervous tension affecting the players prevented both teams from gaining the ascendancy. Nottingham goal-attack Georgia Rule strug­gled to make an impact, missing a series of easy chances, allowing Birming ham to nudge ahead. But Rule eventually broke her duck in the fifth minute to tie it up at 4–4.

The pattern of the game changed on seven minutes. Birmingham found another gear, and for the remainder of the quarter, Nottingham couldn’t get out of their half. Brocklebank scored a hatful in quick suc­cession to open up a 9–5 lead. The hosts’ goal keeper Lucia Karonias had the Nottingham forwards in her pocket, and a plethora of athletic interceptions provided her team with the confidence to extend their lead to 15–6 by the end of the first quarter.

During the interval, Nottingham captain Emily Staite questioned her team’s desire to win the game, asking “do you really want this?” At first her words did not appear to have the desired effect, with the home side pick ing up right where they left off: harrying their oppo­nents all over the court, and stretching their lead to 20–7, courtesy of the magnificent Kennedy. Nottingham were in danger of being embar­rassed, but remarkably they managed to conjure some resistance.

Nottingham’s Rule overcame her early nerves with a string of goals to reduce the deficit to 28–17, and although Birmingham went in at half-time still with a sizeable lead, their plucky opponents arguably shaded the second quarter.

Neither side was able to get the upper hand at the start of the third.  Sloppy passing from both sides caused the scoring to slack, but it didn’t take Birmingham too long to reassert their dominance; a feint pass by Robyn Smith allowing Brocklebank to make it 31–19 on 34 minutes. Nottingham needed some of their earlier inspiration but couldn’t threaten the irrepressible hosts. Brocklebank really began to stamp her authority on the game, extending the lead to 36–21, and at the other end some clinical shooting by Belcher-Brow only just man aged to keep the score line respectable. However, Nottingham refused to lie down, scoring six goals in the final five minutes of the third to pull it back to 38–29 and the hosts were met with muted applause as they left the court.

But their fears were soon allayed as a rampant Birmingham came back out for the fourth. Captain Kate Roberts, revital ized from a rest on the bench, made a real difference, linking up well with Brocklebank to make it 39–29 in the first attack of the quarter. The crowd responded, greeting every tackle like a goal. Brocklebank and Kennedy were unerring in their shoot ing as they put their team out of sight at 50–39. Belcher-Brow battled on bravely but after hitting the rim three times in a row, her expression said it all and Birmingham ran out easy win­ners. After the game Roberts said her team had ‘gelled really well’ and spoke glowingly of Hannah Kennedy: “She hardly missed a shot all game. She was brilliant.” Next up for the girls is a visit to the strong­hold of Loughborough.

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