The first game of the new year was against fourth-placed Linden (a West Midlands-based team) and so Falcons Black knew it was going to be a tough game. However, the East Midlands team also had a greater belief in themselves than at the beginning of the season and were looking for a good start to the game.
The first quarter was played at a fast pace and Falcons Black worked hard to turn the ball although they struggled to capitalise on their successful turn overs. At the defensive end of the court, Goal Keeper (GK) Jade Forbes-Whatley linked well with Dominique McKee who was playing out of position at Goal Defence (GD) and between them, the pair created at least five turn overs during the first fifteen minutes. Despite this Falcons Black finished the first quarter five goals down (7-12).
Unlike with other bad starts to games from earlier in the season, Falcons Black knew that this was a score they could pull back and the team remained the same for the second quarter.
Quarter 2 saw more of the same fast-paced netball, however this time Falcon Black’s attack really took control and punished any mistakes made by Linden. Katie Flaherty (Wing Attack, WA) and Kaylea McQuade (Centre, C) remained calm and safely delivered the ball to their shooters. Linden’s Goal Defence (GD) Lauren Massey (who also plays for the Loughborough Lightning franchise team), upped the pressure in the circle and created several turn overs for the away team. The fifteen minutes were played out with the ball continuously travelling up and down the court and it really was a test of patience and correct decision making that allowed Falcons Black to edge the quarter 11-9 and go in at half time with the score finely poised at 18-21.
Linden made some changes in the 3rd quarter including bringing on some fresh legs at Goal Attack (GA) and moving their Wing Defence (WD) to Centre (C). Falcons Black needed a few minutes to adjust to these changes and to get into the quarter but the players took the lessons they had learnt from the first fifteen minutes and began to play sensible netball. The team worked the ball down to the shooters, Christie Simpson (Goal Attack, GA) and Charlotte Roye (Goal Shooter, GS), who both maintained their high shooting percentages despite being put under huge amounts of pressure by the Linden Defence. After what felt like an incredibly long quarter the Falcons Black players had done themselves proud, scoring the most number of goals per quarter in the game so far to win it 12-10 and now only trail by one (30-31).
Falcons Black made some changes for the last quarter by bringing on Eleanor Durcan at Wing Attack (WA) and moving Katie Flaherty to Centre (C), with player-coach Kaylea McQuade dropping to the bench. The last 15 minutes were always going to be the toughest for the East Midlands team, both physically and mentally but the players started fantastically well, going up 5-0 in the first few minutes. Sofija Djukic worked tirelessly around the circle to add even more pressure to Linden’s Masego Motaung (another Loughborough Lightning player). Both teams went through playing patches of brilliant netball and then through making unnecessary mistakes but the Falcons Black players managed to sneak ahead by one goal with just 30 seconds to go. Linden came back though and scored with 20 seconds left on the clock. The game could have been anybody’s but as it turned out that was the last goal scored. The final whistle blew with the scores matched at Falcons Black 37-37 Linden.
After losing the first quarter by five goals the Falcons Black players had done exceptionally well to bring it back and remain in the game against one of the division’s high-flying teams. The team will next travel to bottom-of-the-table Kent, looking to push on from today’s successes.