TeAroha Keenan is convinced Team Northumbria can break their Superleague duck at Celtic Dragons on Saturday – despite criticising her side’s lack of composure.
The Kiwi playcaller was fuming after the hosts allowed Severn Stars to clinch a 47-43 road win at Sport Central.
But Keenan paid tribute to the tireless defensive effort that could – and should – have laid the foundations for a first win of the season.
“Defensively we were excellent and in the final quarter we won enough ball and did enough to disrupt Stars to win the game,” she added.
“If I was one of our defenders I’d feel frustrated that we didn’t do enough with that possession to go on and win the game.
“It came down to a lack of composure in the attacking third. We didn’t shoot the ball well enough and too many key passes went astray.
“But I saw enough in the Stars game – just as I have done in previous games – to suggest we can win a match in the Superleague.
“We are quite clearly good enough to go to the Dragons and win just as long as we make more of the right decisions.”
On the back of a heroic defensive effort down the stretch TN pulled back a seven-goal deficit to just a single goal with four and a half minutes remaining.
But any momentum waned as the hosts lost their way in the attacking third and allowed Stars to snatch a fortunate win.
TN remain rooted to the foot of the table as the only Superleague side without a win this season.
And time is running out to turn around an increasingly frustrating campaign.
Of the three TN players returning from the Commonwealth Games only Hayley Mulheron made the starting seven.
The veteran Scot partnered Aussie rookie Toni Anderson in defence with Malawi’s Loreen Ngwira on the bench.
And Northern Ireland shooter Lisa Bowman was held in reserve as TeAroha Keenan went with the all Kiwi attack that started the season.
Chiara Semple and Tamsin Moala have experienced a mixed campaign in the shooting circle but the New Zealand duo initially looked back to their best against the Stars.
And it was the former’s five goal burst that saw the hosts take a 13-12 first quarter lead after trailing 12-8.
It was no surprise to see Keenan stick with the same seven who started a must-win clash for the Sport Central club.
And it looked like a smart move as TN opened up a four-goal lead within the first two minutes of the second quarter.
Moala suddenly came to the fore with a flurry of coolly taken goals in the face of some physical Stars defence.
But it was Semple who kept TN in touch towards the end of the half – only for the visitors to take a two-goal lead into the break.
With plenty of fresh legs to shake things up, Keenan opted to shuffle her pack at the outset of the third period with Semple moving to goal attack and player of the match Anderson switching to wing defence.
Ngwira slotted in at goal keeper and Bowman provided TN with a physical presence up front.
But it was Stars who started the second half the brighter with goal shooter Ellie Cardwell a constant – and consistent - threat.
The visitors opened up their largest lead of the match at 35-29 with six minutes of the third period to play.
And not for the first time this season TN had it all to do as they trailed 41-34 heading into the final quarter.
Keenan made wholesale changes in a bid to save the game with Paige Kindred and Iman Thomas both given an opportunity to impress.
The influential Anderson – enjoying one of her best games of the season – moved back to goal defence and Moala returned to the attack.
But Stars stayed strong in the face of sustained late pressure to close out a second win of 2018 and heap the pressure on TN ahead of Saturday’s trip to Cardiff.