The powerful England squad achieved their aims of a slick victory over neighbours Scotland, and of getting all their players a solid half or more on court, but failed in making it through the match unscathed, with vital midcourter Serena Guthrie out early with an ankle injury. The Thistles were able to stick with the Roses for brief periods, but the experience, conditioning, skill, and versatility of Tracey Neville’s team saw them dominate throughout.
Preliminary Round, Day 1, Pool B, Gold Coast Commonwealth Games
GS Joanne Harten
GA Helen Housby
WA Chelsea Pitman
C Serena Guthrie
WD Jade Clarke
GD Ama Agbeze
GK Geva Mentor
GS Bethan Goodwin
GA Lynsey Gallagher
WA Nicola McCleery
C Claire Brownie
WD Samantha Murphy
GD Fiona Fowler (nee Themann)
GK Hayley Mulheron
England started their campaign for gold with their strongest line-up, but it only lasted a quarter as Serena Guthrie went down with an ankle injury before quarter-time.
Guthrie was treated on the bench throughout the second quarter and didn’t reappear from the change rooms after half time. England coach Tracey Neville talked down the severity of the injury and captain Ama Agbeze jokingly labelled Guthrie a ‘drama queen’.
“I don’t know exactly what she did, whether she rolled it or was stood on, but I think she’s fine. She didn’t come back to the bench after half-time, so that she could elevate it. There’s bigger games coming up that we need her for,” said Neville.
Both teams traded goals for the first four minutes, until a couple of Scottish turnovers were punished by near-perfect shooting from Jo Harten and Helen Housby.
Youngster Bethan Goodwin provided a good target for Scotland, out-manoeuvring Geva Mentor with good timing. But as the game progressed, Scotland found it harder to supply ball to their 18 year-old shooter.
The Australian-based defensive pairing of Fiona Fowler (nee Themann) and Hayley Mulheron switched well to hold Harten and Housby early in the game. However, Harten showed her class with patience and relentless re-offering until the right option became available. The Scottish defence was heavily penalised and England’s patience and accuracy gave the Roses an eight-goal lead at quarter-time.
The loss of Guthrie unsettled the English connections for the first few minutes of the second quarter. When Jade Clarke and Chelsea Pitman soon found a new rhythm, Pitman’s strength through the middle of the court and sublime feeding proved too hard to handle.
England threw on a zone defence several times, although Neville joked that it was simply her team getting tired and sagging off. The tactic made it hard for Scotland to break through and England pounced on lateral balls.
After England went on an eight-goal spree, Scotland made numerous changes, but couldn’t replicate their early defensive pressure. Tight English marking restricted Scotland to just 5 goals in the second quarter.
Natalie Haythornthwaite, Kadeen Corbin, Eboni Beckford-Chambers and Jodie Gibson entered the game in the second half. Corbin brought speed and creativity, but also forced the feeders to deliver riskier long balls to the baseline.
Corbin’s 360-degree spin move and no-look pass into Harten in the final quarter was contrasted moments later with a ball she sent sailing over the baseline. The change of style she brings gives England a valuable alternative in attack, but less-disciplined play will be punished by the top teams.
Despite the eventual 47-goal loss, Scottish captain Claire Brownie took heart from the fact that all 12 players had court time throughout the match against a team she considers to be a gold medal contender.
Neville singled out Harten and Haythornthwaite for praise but was happy with the performance of the entire team. For perhaps the first time, England appear to have legitimate options across the whole court with formidable depth on the bench.
Guthrie’s injury is a reminder that one fleeting moment in a game can have a huge impact on the outcome of a tournament. Her medical team will be working around the clock to ensure she is healthy at the business end of the Games.
England 75 defeated Scotland 28
England 74/82 90%
Jo Harten 40/43 93%
Helen Housby 17/21 81%
Kadeen Corbin 17/18 94%
Scotland 28/43 65%
Bethan Goodwin 15/19 79%
Lynsey Gallagher 64%
Niamh McCall 4/7 57%
Joanne Pettitt 2/6 33%
Tracey Neville, England Coach
“I don’t think it was a zone (the English defence), I think it was just them getting tired! (laughs) But yeah, let’s say it was a zone!”
“Really pleased with the whole team across the board, but obviously Jo Harten in goals was strong. I also thought Nat Haythornthwaite really came on strong.”
Claire Brownie, Scotland Captain
“England are going for gold, so it was always going to be tough. The positives came when we let the ball go to each other. It was good to finally get underway and get everyone out on court.”
Nicola McCleery, Scotland
“You look at the score, but the last time we played them it was 50 (goal margin). We weren’t playing for the scoreline, we were playing to get everyone out on court, to give people that experience and opportunity because later on that may not happen for us.”
Ama Agbeze, England Captain
“She (Jodie Gibson) is dogged so I wouldn’t want to be a WA playing on her. She can wear a player down and she reads the play well. She’s just mongrel.”