NETBALL REPORT: Hartlepool Oaksway 53 Team Bath Toucans 44

ON THE ATTACK: Debbie Percy takes Oaksway forward. Picture by JOE SPENCE
ON THE ATTACK: Debbie Percy takes Oaksway forward. Picture by JOE SPENCE

OAKSWAY have made a vital step towards Premier League netball safety – but they need to do it again this weekend.

The Hartlepool side clinched a crucial 53-44 victory over Team Bath Toucans at Brierton Community Sports Centre to establish a five-point gap over the bottom three.

With just four matches to go, coach Jill Foreman admits Sunday’s visit of third-placed New Cambell is paramount.

“It was a great result against Team Bath,” she told SportMail.

“But not much changed in the league – the Downs won at New Cambell so unfortunately we did not move up.

“We have four games to go, two at home and two away, and we know we are not safe yet.

“It’s a really competitive league, we are five points off the relegation area but only four from fourth.

“We’re going to try to get something from every match and while New Cambell will be a hard test, we’ll certainly be going for the win.”

Oaksway will go into the contest at Brierton (start 12.30pm) full of confidence.

The side has been shorn of some of its best young talent through injury but boss Barbara Brown has been able to strengthen the squad with some key experienced players.

Debbie Percy has returned to the team in 2015 and was superb at wing attack while she was able to bring Melissa Sweeney and Natalie Connor off the bench.

With Kayleigh Moss returning from injury it further adds to the head coach’s options.

“There is a good blend in our team,” said Foreman. “Team Bath had a young and athletic squad and they kept pushing all the way.

“But our experience shone through.

“Debbie played an absolutely vital role for us in the attacking third and Toetsie [Kambatuku] had a good game at goal shooter.

“Overall, it was just a good team performance and one we can take forward into our last four matches.”

Oaksway established a three-goal lead at the end of the first quarter.

Despite a fine effort from Bath, it was an advantage the home side extended and never looked like losing.

Nicole Styles impressed at wing defence while Rebecca Neil put in a fine performance following her return from Australia, taking the centre spot vacated by player of the season candidate Natasha Hamphire.

Oaksway: Leah Kennedy, Nicole Styles, Hattie Grant, Rebecca Neil, Vicky Burgess, Debbie Percy, Toetsie Kambatuku. Subs: Danniele Smith, Melissa Sweeney, Natalie Connor, Kayleigh Moss, Alex Rhodes