Rob Marsden: Failure to clip Newcastle Eagles’ wings hurts now but steels Leeds Force in the long run

Jermaine Sanders scored 31 points in the loss to Newcastle Eagles (Picture: Kieron Nevison)
Jermaine Sanders scored 31 points in the loss to Newcastle Eagles (Picture: Kieron Nevison)
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Newcastle Eagles were on the ropes on Sunday.

One of the most revered teams in British basketball history, certainly one of the most decorated, had no answer to Leeds Force for three quarters, as – inspired by Jermaine Sanders – we built a 12-point lead.

Rob Marsden scored 11 points for the Force against Newcastle Eagles.

Rob Marsden scored 11 points for the Force against Newcastle Eagles.

Then experience took over. Their answer to Sanders, who hit 31 points for us and had a real hot hand in that second half, was Rahmon Fletcher, who came back into the game after a head injury.

He was very comfortable on the ball and comfortable in that kind of situation. He got his team over that hurdle.

I’m not saying he was a one-man show, but he was hard to guard which then freed up his team-mates, and it made it look like they were handling the pressure while we were crumbling under it and caving in to it. Newcastle’s Fletcher looked like he was thriving on it.

That’s something for us to take away from Sunday – handling pressure. It’s not something you can teach, not something you can practice, but moving forward we’ve now got the experience of recent weeks when in losing to Glasgow and Newcastle, we’ve at least shown we can run these teams close and it’s all going to go into our experience bank, so the next time we are in a tight situation we know we have been there and we can come away with a win.

To have led and been so close to victory on Sunday afternoon, naturally it was disappointing.

We thought we’d put in a good performance, and were disappointed with the 91-86 reverse.

The immediate reaction was that we’d let a big opportunity slip, everyone was hanging their heads in disappointment but coach Matt Newby reiterated that there’s no point being so down; Newcastle have done this year in and year out, they’ve been at the top for ages and are a group of guys who have been together for a long time, whereas we are just forming the semblance of a team.

We’ve just got to focus on the next game and continue the momentum we’re building.

And looking back on it now it was quite a tall ask in the first place. Newcastle are the most successful team in British basketball so we’re quite happy we maintained that momentum and we’re happy with where we are at this stage of the season.

Performance-wise, we feel as though we’re competing with the top teams in the league and that’s a good marker for us.

If we’re competing now, maybe we can start turning teams over in the run-up to Christmas and the second half of the season.

The atmosphere in the Carnegie Sports Arena on Sunday was wild.

Jermaine was great to watch, even for us players who just kept feeding him the ball. From a fans’ perspective, he got them into the game and they in turn really helped us.

Down the stretch when we made our run it was hard for us to hear our leaders calling plays because the fans were so loud, we were struggling to communicate – and that’s great, that’s what we want.

It was a great atmosphere and really fun to play in.

From a personal point of view, again I still wasn’t pleased.

My head was hung lower than anyone’s because I feel I can do better that.

I feel fit, but again it’s about sharpness. I’m still not sharp, although I have noticed a gradual improvement.

The run-up to Christmas is huge for me going into second half of the season, and it’s massive for the team as well.

This week we have a double-header, Worcester Wolves at home on Friday night (7.30pm, Carnegie Sports Arena) and Manchester Giants away, (Sunday at 5pm).

On paper, Worcester look to be struggling so we should be licking our lips at their situation right now. We’re going to treat this game as a must-win for us.

Coupled with Manchester on Sunday, it’s two teams we should be beating and that’s the attitude we’ve taken into practice; yes we’ve had some tough results but these upcoming games are the ones we should be looking to win.

We are Force!

Andrew Hambleton.

Andrew Hambleton joins Leeds Force ahead of new season