Coach pressed into emergency service
TRAVELLING Saffery Panthers had a tough start to 2019 as their run of form could not hold up to the still-unbeaten Sussex NRG Pumas.
Losing 52-38 left the Guernsey side relinquishing their five-match win streak, although they retain third place in the Division Three South table.
The odds were stacked against Panthers from the start, given a run of illness over the Christmas break that left them with a reduced roster, but they managed to give the promotion-seekers a decent challenge.
Panthers’ harmonious attacking core of GS Jemma Green and GA Abbie Greening continued to impress, the latter eventually adding to her long list of opposition player of the match nominations, while sturdy defensive play stopped the Pumas from getting too far ahead.
Pumas’ modest 21-27 lead at half-time already showed a less one-sided picture than their season opener, which the Sarnians lost with a 35-goal deficit, and a turnaround still looked possible.
Zola Saunders took to the bench due to lingering illness, leaving Panthers to make the surprise move of handing team coach and local league star Verona Tomlin a court debut to fill the gap at the back.
Tomlin performed well alongside Ella Staples but Pumas’ excellent shooting proved their undoing and there was no coming back from there.
While GA Mimi Stubbs secured the best player nomination for the winners, Panthers captain Nena Copperwaite has much to reflect upon.
‘It was a much more positive performance against Pumas than the last time we met,’ she said.
‘We knew what we needed to do tactically this time around against this team, who are very tall and shut down space on the court well.
‘It was pleasing to see that the areas we had worked on during training worked when put into practice against them.
‘Despite turning over a lot of possession from the other team, we were unfortunately a little guilty of a few sloppy balls and not capitalising on shots. Court play-wise we were definitely evenly matched and I’d like to think that with a fully fit team and shooting at our best we would’ve most definitely pushed this team right to the wire.’
Panthers hope to return to winning ways at home to Weston Park Blades Two on Sunday week.