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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

UPDATED: Valiant GB Go Down Against Iceland

GREAT Britain Women's handball team went down fighting to Iceland in the 2010 European Championship clash at Crystal Palace on Wednesday night, losing out 16-27 to the visitors.

Iceland's right-winger Hanna Stefansdottir was influential throughout, top-scoring with just under half of her team's goals - 13, whilst Kelsi Fairbrother top-scored for GB with five, which included three penalties.

Afterwards, GB captain Lynn McCafferty said: “We’ve got to look at the positives and see what we did, we are all a bit disappointed at the scoreline, and we’re all tired.
"They’re big shooters, they’re big women and they’re really, really physical – we know we can compete with them physically and in defence but not in attack.

“It’s so much better when you are on court feeling the players rather than watching them on DVD, it’s better for your brain to take in.

“We need to up our level to make them a little bit more tired and so we can run a bit more, their number 15 was really fast so we will have to do something about her.”

And Head Coach Jesper Holmris added: “We had a bad start, we were a little unlucky to begin with and couldn’t handle the power of the Iceland players.

“When it was 20-16 with 55 minutes gone that was an amazing result, but then they scored four quick goals. But our players did a fantastic job - they have a fantastic team spirit but they are up against women and some of our athletes are just girls.

“We have to improve our attack. We have proved that we can compete against Iceland and Austria 6 against 6, we were OK against France who were one of the top teams.

“The defence is on the right track, but we need to improve our attack – we have 6, 7, 8 potential players to add to our squad who were not here today and they will make a big impact on our attack especially.”

“The crowd were amazing - they helped us achieve this result. It was really nice to see - it was even better than last time.

Off the court it’s been very good to have the media here, the board members and the guests and interested handball people here.

“We delivered on court - we had a perfect team spirit; fighting until the very end. It was a good performance with the right attitude and the right spirit and if we continue to show this we will get more people interested in British Handball.”

Iceland started off the brighter of the two teams, opening the scoring through Anna Ursula Gudmundsdottir on 52 secs. Her opening strike was swiftly followed by three unanswered goals from the visitors as GB squandered three possessions without scoring before Lynn McCafferty finally opened the GB account on 7:05 to rapturous applause from the home crowd.

Kelsi Fairbrother then converted on 10:26 from a penalty following a foul on Amodine Webb. A fastbreak goal from Kathryn Fudge following her own interception brought the score within two and then Holly Lam-Moores further narrowed the defecit to just one goal, smashing home on 14:25 following a quick release from GB 'keeper Sarah Hargreaves - but this was to be the closest the home side saw themselves come to their guests in the match.

Stefansdottir quickly scored with a penalty before GB captain Lynn McCafferty saw the first of her two first half two-minute warnings take effect with Stefansdottir following up the foul by converting from the subsequent penalty to make it 7-4 to Iceland.

Fairbrother again took the initiative with a goal in GB's next attack as the home side, spurred on by the passionate crowd, found a way around the tight Icelandic defence. Both sides exchanged scores to take it to the first time out with the Icelanders up 9-6.

Following the time out Iceland came out refreshed and scored six unanswered goals in a eight-minute period which saw McCafferty serve her second two-minute warning on 24:37.

Stefansdottir scored soon after and following an Icelandic timeout and missed penalty, Icelandic right-back Sunna Jonsdottir used her physical presence to score two quick goals to make it 15-6.

Kelsi Fairbrother scored the hosts first goal for nearly 10 minutes from the penalty following a foul by Icelandic pivot Anna Ursula Gudmundsdottir which saw her serve a two-minute warning.

To compound the half-time score Louise Jukes was served with her first two-minute penalty moments before the break.

The second half started with Hanna Stefansdottir scoring for the visitors just 20 seconds in but GB came out fighting and began finding ways through the physical Icelandic defence with the sheer will and power of captain Lynn McCafferty and the skill and pace of Holly Lam-Moores who both made their mark on the scoresheet.

Sarah Hargreaves in the GB goal kept up her fine form with a string of fine saves which saw the score kept close.

Britt Goodwin and Kelsi Fairbrother scored three between them from the penalty spot, but Stefansdottir continued her fine form supported by her team mates which saw the physically impressive Icelanders increase their lead which never looked in doubt.

The result saw them move to second in Group E, with the other match in the group - Austria v France - currently being played.

Next up for GB is the tough return trip to the island of Iceland and it's captial Rejykavik this Saturday for the return match, throw-off at 2pm.

Report: Andrew McSteen.
Picture: Michele Davison.

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