Lancaster win crunch derby to go top

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In a top of the table clash, a clinical Lancaster side went above UCLan on goal difference after defeating them 41-24 to go top of the Northern Women’s Conference. For the most part, Lancaster dominated the game, despite making life difficult for themselves in small periods.

It was first versus second as Lancaster looked to leapfrog their local rivals, sitting three points behind them, albeit with a game in hand. From start to finish, Lancaster looked the more hungry, energetic and efficient of the two sides.

Goal Attack Holly Archer got them off to the perfect start, scoring the first five goals as Lancaster went 5-1 ahead. Archer kept finding space and linked up well with Goal Shooter Zoe Wren throughout the match.

Wren overtook the scoring responsibilities, always having a supplier in the form of Centre and playmaker Sarah Prescott, whose contribution was the core source of Lancaster’s goals.

Lancaster Captain and Wing Attack Grace Biggins worked well with Prescott in the Centre Third and made good movement off the ball, like Prescott making a critical all-round impact.

Much of the first quarter was broken up by the kind of major infringements expected in a derby with both teams needing to win.

That said, UCLan showed glimpses of a team in first position going into the game, always playing with a fast tempo when they had possession and moving the ball acutely. They managed to get themselves back into the game at 13-5 going into the second quarter.

Lancaster came back out at took hold of the game at the start of the quarter. An incisive diagonal ball from Prescott found Wren to increase Lancaster’s lead.

This impressive attack was followed by another soon after, when Prescott and Biggins passed right through UCLan’s defense and fed Archer who made it 18-7.

Biggins continued her dynamic movement across the court, winning challenges and finding inch perfect passes. The winning margin increased to 22-8 midway through the quarter.

Whenever UCLan threatened, Wing Defence Sarah Sullivan was there to mop it up for Lancaster. She did a solid job in defence, intercepting most things which came her way.

These glittering individual performances saw Lancaster finish the quarter leading 26-9. In spite of stumbling slightly towards the end of the second quarter, the lucrative win which would take them top of the table was well within sight.

The third quarter did not prove to be as plain sailing for Lancaster. Some brilliant interplay between Biggins and Wren was the highlight of the early exchanges.

However, this was undone by some sloppy mistakes from the home side, who gave the ball away and invited unnecessary pressure. There was suddenly a series of frustrating moments involving misunderstanding between players. This brought the score back from 29-11 to 29-15.

Anxious at seeing their team lose grip on the decisive match, Prescott and Biggins called to the sidelines for encouragement, asking them to rally the team on.

The away side were reinvigorated, and Biggins’ vocal request that the team keep hold off the ball better was granted as Lancaster widened the gap between the two rivals to 34-16.

Lancaster put the game to bed and settled the eventual outcome of the game in the final period. Good long range passing was key to most of their offensive play, and they certainly lost much more adept at retaining possession than in the previous stages.

Goalkeeper Rachael McCoubrie was solid at the back and kept the visitors at bay in heroic fashion, snuffing out the threat of the Goal Attack Robinson from UCLan with some outstanding last-ditch defending.

Prescott’s fine form knew no bounds as she was in the faces of UCLan’s players at every opportunity, always closing down, always in the right position to block.

With the ever-prolific scoring of Archer, who killed off UCLan almost every time she received the ball in the goal third, Lancaster soared into a 38-18 lead.

They will be disappointed to have allowed UCLan to creep back into the game in the closing stages with the final score 41-24, but the damage had already been done and Lancaster emerged from this intense local derby victorious. And, for the most part, did so in impressive style.

Biggins said afterwards that the victory was down to the trust within the team due to the success so far this season, and was confident that Lancaster’s “awesome team” would go on to win the league this season. “Awesome” it most certainly looked in this game, and “awesome” will hopefully be the word to describe Lancaster’s fortunes come the end of the season.

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