Pulse showcase defensive options with Surrey Storm win

By Paul Prenderville

A defensive change-up on Saturday proved crucial as London Pulse claimed a first victory of the 2024 Netball Superleague season, with Funmi Fadoju continuing her own impressive start to the campaign.

After a dominant first half, where head coach Sam Bird got the reaction she wanted, Pulse had surged 14 goals clear. Surrey Storm responded by bringing Proscovia Peace into the game for her first action since returning from pregnancy.

As you would expect from one of the world’s most prolific shooters, the impact was almost instant as Storm – inspired by Peace – opened with a 13-7 run to close the gap to within eight goals.

With the defensive options at her disposal, Bird shifted Fadoju to Goal Keeper, with Zara Everitt shuffling to Goal Defence and Izzi Phillips coming back on at Wing Defence.

The result was almost instant as Pulse wrestled back control of the game and regained their double digit advantage. 

Fadoju took Player of the Match honours, adding 15 more deflections to go with the same number she returned against Thunder.

It means after two rounds of netball the England defender’s total of 30 deflections leads her closest challenger by a remarkable 17, and she also has a joint league-leading 15 gains to go with five interceptions.

Ahead of the season Fadoju told us she was ‘still learning’ and felt that every game she played in another position added a little bit more to her skillset, and that was evident as her moved to Goal Keeper managed to keep a resurgent Peace and Storm at bay.

“Peace is such a tough opponent, she is so tall, so strong and her holds are so on it,” Fadoju said after the game.

“We had worked on playing a tall Goal Shooter. We thought it would be Frankie Wells, but we knew that Peace might come on and I felt prepared for it. In training this week we worked on getting around the body and trying to come around to get interceptions or tips and I was so glad to be able to do that.

“It was about working on connections as well, and our through court attack which is getting there. Offering for each other, getting some depth down the court which we got a lot with a lot of long balls. I was so proud of us.”

Last season Pulse boasted the best defensive record in the league, and despite the retirement of Lindsay Keable, those options have only been bolstered.

Jeresia McEachrane added more game time with another appearance from the bench, while Darcie Everitt became the latest Pathway athlete to make her debut for the club.

For her part, head coach Bird is delighted with the variety of options at her disposal, especially with the number of different attacking styles on display in the Superleague.

“Storm brought Peace on, and it was her first game back since having a baby and that was exciting for them and they started to find her with a longer feed,” she said.

“We decided to change it up by putting Funmi in there and a slightly different defence out front to pressure the ball and that worked really well.

“It’s really good to know we’ve got more than one strategy to cope with holding shooters, and rotational shooters.”

Sam Bird

Across the board it was a cleaner performance from Pulse, who made just five unforced errors as a team – in comparison to 16 against Manchester Thunder.

Victory was testament to a week of hard work on and off the training court that left the head coach more than satisfied as attention switches to a first home game of the season.

“We took what we had practised in training onto the court,” said Bird.

“A good focused start to the game where our timing was better, we had clear options to the ball – and the trust was there that was missing last week.

“We will go away and look at the positives from today, then look at Lightning who I think will probably try to shut us down a bit more like Thunder did. But it’s about trusting our moves, trusting our structures.”