Jets share points in Premier League opener
A LATE flurry from Leyton NC left new Team Jets captain Jacy Brown cutting a dejected figure after her side reluctantly settled for an opening draw in Premier League 3.
A stuttery first quarter was followed by two periods of dominance for the home team at Fort Regent, but a healthy seven-goal lead was then blown in a disappointing final 15 minutes characterised by mass changes from the bench.
The result can still be viewed with great positivity, though, given the two defeats inflicted by the same opponents last season.
‘As a first game of the season … I’m over the moon that we’ve contested well and proved we can compete against the best in this league,’ said Brown.
‘But I think we’ve got to learn maybe not to bring our young ones on all at once, because there’s too much pressure on them. I’m not too happy in that sense.
‘We are looking to build a squad now, and the girls shouldn’t be too disheartened because it was still an excellent first performance. It’s one of 18 games and there will be plenty of opportunities for everyone to show their skills.’
Neither side were poor in the opening quarter, but both did struggle to shake off the summer rust and stamp any considerable authority on the game. However, Leyton were afforded a narrow lead for the duration of the opening stint, and nudged the margin up to 12-8 before the first interval.
The visitors’ shooting duo of Natasha Khatib and Sophie O’Kane were reliable, but their good work was undermined by widespread frailties in the second period.
Leyton did their best to throw away any hope of a comfortable run into half-time, and whatever coach Linda Andrews said during the first break seemed to pay off immediately. Five consecutive goals catapulted the hosts in front for the first time at 13-12, with that 13th score being the first from Tallula Norman, following a formidable start from Jets’ goal shooter Emily Green.
Leyton looked like a completely different team. Confidence was lost and passes went astray across the court. They found themselves three down at 17-14, and although a bold tactical change steered them back in front – all seven players swapped bibs in a mid-quarter time-out – they again played themselves into trouble in Q3.
Jets were buoyant while Leyton were all but absent. Green and Norman’s efforts propelled the Islanders seven up before the final break, and the London club could barely buy a goal, managing just two to Jets’ ten in 15 minutes for 28-21.
Andrews would have been confident of holding on for an opening victory from there, and hinted as such through three substitutions for Q4. Libby Rothwell, Abbie Le Marquand and Leah Griffin were introduced in defence, mid-court and attack respectively, but the changes just did not work.
Fluidity was lost and Leyton quickly smelled blood – shifting momentum in their favour once more to close the gap to three.
Andrews recognised the danger and hastily replaced two of the three she had just sent on, but victory could not be saved.
Leyton moved one behind at 35-34 on the turnover, before running the clock down and equalising with less than three seconds remaining.
‘There were a lot of things which we should have capitalised on,’ said Andrews. ‘But I was really pleased with everybody.
‘Some of the girls are young but we have to give them the exposure at this level. We’ve just got to build on it.
‘We were nowhere near Leyton last year … we are in a good place.’