Tracey Neville will be delighted to have started her coaching tenure with three solid performances and also to have capitalised on the opportunity to rotate her squad. Neville said after the match: “I’m really pleased as I asked the girls to improve throughout the series and I think they’ve done that. We got 12 players out on court tonight and they all did a job. I was much more nervous tonight, probably because it’s in the north west. It’s really weird because I feel like I’ve come home (as England coach). I just really love netball and I feel like I can get into it quickly and I can do my best for England netball. The three Manchester Thunder players deserved to get into this squad but I am mindful that there are other players out their fighting for their positions. Each one of these players will get a fair shot in the six games we have left before the world cup. The players have taken my coaching on the chin more than me. They’ve demanded a lot of themselves, they are quality players, coming from great Superleague teams. We won’t win this world cup with seven players. The players need to learn and adapt. You will see combinations on court that you haven’t seen from England before.”
It was first blood to England in the opening few seconds as Kadeen Corbin settled any early nerves with a shot under the post and the red and whites didn’t look back. Excellent pressure from Laura Malcolm forced Trinidad and Tobago into a held ball and her efforts were rewarded with some tidy work in the shooting circle. Helen Housby was relishing the added space at goal attack and gave England more energy in the attacking third.
Despite England’s dominance, sporadic sloppy passing and miscommunication in the centre and shooting thirds gave the Calypso Girls a sliver of hope that they could claw the now six-goal lead back. But scoring two on the bounce was the best they could muster and England’s defensive duo of Bath’s Stacey Francis, who was back from injury after missing the final stages of the Superleague season – and Sonia Mkoloma were doing a solid, efficient job.
England came out with renewed purpose after the break, with Manchester Thunder Captain Sara Bayman, buoyed by wingers staring to dominate the centre court pay. Kadeen Corbin landed awkwardly on her ankle and would play no further part in the match, a blow for the Hertfordshire Mavericks shooter, who was feeling her way into the game.
Surrey shooter Rachel Dunn replaced Corbin and England started to crank up the pressure in attack, with Bayman, Malcolm and Cookey once again the catalyst for some slick through court movement to a waiting Housby. A loose pass from Francis sailed past Cookey and England’s momentum was lost.
Trinidad’s centre Candice Guerero, who had proven a real handful for England, suffered a heavy fall at the end of the half and was initially fine to continue but a similar blow minutes into the third quarter ended her game.
England went into the interval leading 31-19 but interim coach Neville will have had plenty to say about a stop-start half. Her words must have still been ringing in her players’ ears right up until the final phases as they were powerful and utterly dominant in the second half.
Neville moved a tireless Bayman, who was player of the match, to the bench and replaced her with Sasha Corbin, a move which will have raised a few eyebrows but once again cemented the coach’s determination to test her squad combination on the international stage.
Yorkshire Jets’ Natalie Haythornthwaite entered the fray at wing attack, and continued her own player of the match form from the previous test. Centurion Cookey seemed much more comfortable at goal attack and instantly clicked with Corbin and regular Surrey shooting partner Dunn in attack.
Haythornthwaite was finding space at will and the Calypso Girls’ heads started to drop. Francis’ super tip to steal possession should have been rewarded better but was ruined by Corbin’s inexplicable pass straight to the thankful Trinidad and Tobago keeper. But the Mavericks captain recovered well.
But England started to over-power the visitors, who are ranked ninth in the world, especially in defence. Bath defender Francis showed no signs of her knee injury with a flying intercept and Dunn made no mistake at the other end. Francis switched to wing defence as a new-look defensive circle of Sam Cook and Laila Guscoth picked up where their predecessors left off.
England’s opposition was now limping towards the final whistle, despite still seven minutes still to play but if they expected the home side to ease up, they were very much mistaken.
The red and white’s continued to suffocate their opposition and then to find space out of nowhere to work the ball into the shooters, who were trying – and scoring – long shots for fun.
England finished at a canter and skipper Cookey, who was named player of the series, lifted the trophy as her side ran out comfortable series winners.
England now head to Belfast for the Netball Europe tournament, with Tamsin Greenway and Sally Butters replacing Sasha Corbin and Natalie Haythornthwaite in the squad.
It will be the last chance for Neville to see her players before name who will make the trip to Australia in August.
England starting 7: GS – K.Corbin, GA – Housby, WA – Cookey, C – Bayman, WD – Malcolm, GD – Francis, GK – Mkoloma
Trinidad & Tobago starting 7: GS – Wallace, GA – Cooper, WA – Jack, C – Guerero, WD – Connelly, GD – Duncan, GK – Swift