We said it at the courts and I would normally leave it 'til the end but I thought it was an extremely competent performance by the three D teamers who played tonight. All three playing in positions they don't normally play for their own team. And all three played like they've been playing there for years. It bodes well for the future of the club that the average age of these three was about 12.
Positives from the game:
- Defensive play: I thought the defence + Elli did a great job tonight and I'll mention this a bit more lower down as well. Hannah made some great interceptions and both her and Elli at times switched off their own player and onto the GA to block her out. In the circle we had two outstanding performances from Chloe and Emma against a very nippy GA. Marking, blocking, intercepting and rebounding - all visible from both of them and in Judith we had a hugely solid performer with some incredible leans and rebounds and some great interceptions on the lob passes as well. Added to that, Judith was vocal throughout and talking to the less experienced defenders throughout the game - it must make it much easier for them to play and take all the plaudits when they've got someone communicating so effectively throughout.
- Adjusting our game: Again, evident throughout the game by loads of you. I'm hoping I don't miss anything out here but I'm sure I'll fail but... Hannah stopped giving penalties away after we discussed it at the end of the second quarter, Judith started to keep her GS out at the edge and stopped trying to preempt the in-and-out which occasionally gave her shooter a shot closer to the goal and in the fourth quarter after when Laura told me she was being blocked out (which I couldn't see from the other end of the court) we talked about what to do and Elli and Sally duly worked the ball between the two of them and Laura bided her time and got herself in. All I would say with all of that, and Shirley goes on about this quite a bit, is how much are we thinking about this during the game and making those changes and adaptations intra-quarter? Being aware of what's happening is the first step so, for example, Laura knew she was being blocked out of the circle. The next step is coming up with an alternative or, if you can't think what to do, have a quick word with one of the more experienced players nearby (to carry on with that example she could have gone to Chris or Sally and said she was being blocked out) and then the final stage is implementing whatever strategy you've decided to adopt. But overall the fact is that as a team, a number of you adapted your play to react to what was happening in the game and that is a good skill to have.
- Starting deep and driving forward: Sally, you might be a better judge of this than me from on-court, but it definitely doesn't feel like we get the ball stuck in defence as much anymore. Elli seemed to be starting much further forward and it feels like you're able to stay up nearer to the attacking third - have I got that right? From off court it seems like we are spacing ourselves out much better than at the start of the season and the centre's usually able to take the ball further up.
- Shooting: this was something of an odd one - pretty consistent by both of you throughout the night but some weird misses and then, made up for, by some even weirder goals that you actually scored. Some of the long-range shooting was excellent and I was there on the sidelines thinking "I know that's gone in but I'm sure the right thing to do would have been to work an in-and-out to get closer"! Still, if they go in then who cares what I think?
To improve on:
- Not forcing the ball in: as I've said all season to both the Cs and the Ds - if it's not on then work it round the circle edge, whenever we do that we seem to feed the circle much more effectively. We did do that by the end of the game really well but we could do with thinking about that from the start.
- Keeping possession: Tied in with that, we're doing well when it comes to not throwing the ball away when we make interceptions which is something that I think we've historically been a bit poor with. But what we're also doing is rushing sometimes and throwing the ball before we've got our feet sorted. That often leads to a weak pass which can then be intercepted. It's good to play quickly when we can but not at the expense of bad passes.
- Knowing where your space is: I'm convinced that Chris and Emma suffer the same problem from a GS point of view. Chris makes some lovely little darts and holds her player and then just pops out to the side to receive a pass sometimes and Emma often does a similar thing in the Ds which is great and quite effective but I'm sure most of the time it's unnecessary. Both of you hold your defenders really well and get into good positions and I'm sure all you need to do is put your hand up and keep holding them and not move too early and the feeders will see your hand up, will thrown the ball high and if you don't move too early you'll either get the ball in the space behind or get contacted. I think you don't believe the space is there when it is. Also, I think, when you've got the hold on a player your hand should be up whether you want the ball or not. It tells your team where you are and then if they think it would better to throw it into Laura or round the circle edge because they're not happy with the angle of the pass or something then it's up to them but if you don't put your hand up then they could end up throwing it because they can't see another option but making a bad pass because your hand wasn't up to guide them. Just because it's up doesn't mean your players have to use you. But if you put it up, it gives them a chance to.
- Warming up: I've just had a rant to the Ds and I'm going to have the same rant now. I've praised you earlier in the season for how well you guys always turn up and get warmed up without any prompting from me and that makes my life a bit easier because it means I can think about who to play where if we're missing people etc. Today, however, none of you had even started stretching and warming up until 18:45 and then when I looked up you'd started an old-wives conference in a circle without even any real stretching going on. Neither was there a ball involved until I rolled one down to you and I'm not sure it got used anyway. By the time you'd warmed up and got yourselves on court there was no time for any half-court. I think that's the first game all season where that's been the case and I would definitely have liked to have worked on backline passes before the game with the change in personnel. At the start of the game we turned over their centre pass but then lost it again and then didn't score on our own centre pass until they'd intecepted and we'd won it back again. I wonder whether, if we'd started more clinically, whether we'd have sneaked a win? I really wanted to beat Whitnash after the first game we had against them and while I'm pleased with the performance and the result, I'm sure we could have sneaked a win. I'm sure they're thinking the same as well though.
Laura, I think for the game on Saturday I'd like you to really think about your positioning when you're marking an opposition backline pass because when you got your positioning right and could see both the ball and the player, you got an interception on one occasion and forced the GK to pass to the double-marked WD on the other occasion. There are 'steals' to be had doing this I reckon.
Chris, although I think you do this most of the time I definitely saw 1 or 2 shots that you didn't follow (in a game where I think I saw your follow most of them). I only noticed them because they were ones which I'm pretty sure you'd have got if you had followed - they popped out quite far but you were too far away to go for them when they popped out. It must be hard though to train yourself to follow your shots when you're so used to watching them drop in without even touching the rim all the way from the edge of the circle!
Overall, I thought it was a really good performance with a makeshift team and the fact it was a low-scoring game shows how well both defences played.
Hannah, Chloe and Emma, thanks for playing for us and Julie, thanks for coming to reserve as well.
Good luck for the games while I'm away. This Saturday you're playing Synergy who you beat by five earlier in the season so let's aim to win by 10 or more.
See you all at the end of March, sorry I'm missing so many games.