New-look Team Northumbria failed to maintain a lightning start to their Netball Superleague campaign after slipping to a 52-39 opening night defeat against Team Bath.
With defensive target Loreen Ngwira still stranded back home in Malawi, the hosts handed home debuts to Toni Anderson, Francine Hall, Paige Kindred and Ash Neal in a starting seven that also featured returning Scotland skipper Hayley Mulheron.
Tamsin Moala got the nod over Sophie Hankin in attack – partnering fellow Kiwi and England Under 21 star Chiara Semple in the shooting circle.
And a powerful and pacy TN took the game to Bath from the start to open up a 7-4 lead midway through the first quarter.
But the visitors boast a slew of experienced internationals and gradually trimmed the deficit before closing the period with a four-goal burst.
Keenan rang the changes ahead of the second quarter with Hankin, Emily Hollingworth and Iman Thomas introduced to the mix.
Neal moved to goal attack and Kindred partnered Mulheron at the back as the Sport Central side sought to get back on level terms.
The latter will represent her country at the Commonwealth Games later this year.
And after an injury-ravaged first spell with TN, Mulheron looked determined to make the most of her return to the North East as she engaged in a bruising battle under the net with Bath’s Chelsea Lewis.
Former Mavericks team-mates Neal and Hankin linked up well in attack with both players keen to make up for lost time following a frustrating 2017 with the Hertfordshire franchise.
And TN had the better of a pulsating period with Bath relieved to take a four-goal lead into the break.
Keenan had clearly seen enough to keep faith with the players who had finished the first half so positively but fatigue finally halted the home team’s progress.
An error-strewn third quarter handed Bath the initiative and the visitors capitalised on a slew of basic errors to take control of the season-opening clash.
TN trailed by 12 heading into the final period and Semple replaced Moala in a late bid to haul the hosts back into contention.
But Bath proved why they’ll be back in the playoff mix again this season by closing out an impressive away win and leaving Keenan with much to contemplate ahead of next Saturday’s visit of Loughborough Lightning.