Manchester Thunder ready for Roses test in first away match of season

Manchester Thunder could not have started the season better.
They’ve won all three opening games against the trio of sides that finished below the defending champions last season.

They dispatched of Surrey Storm in a replay of the Superleague final, leading throughout, blew away Team Bath in a blistering second quarter display and edged out Hertfordshire Mavericks on Monday.

But still, coach Tracey Neville is not resting on her laurels, especially with Thunder yet to play away this season and there will be no better test than the bubbling hostile reception in Leeds awaiting them tonight, as they face Yorkshire Jets in what is always a tasty battle of the roses tie. 

“Yes, we have dealt well with pressure situations, at times a lot better than our opposition. I asked my players to win the game in one quarter, in the Bath game especially we did that but there have been plenty of errors and we have been vulnerable at times. But I am pleased with where we are at, after what has been a tough two weeks. Jets always step up when they play us. They have strengthened bringing Lottysha Cato in and it will be a test for our defence, to starve Cato of the ball” Neville told MEN Sport.
It is that defence that Neville believes has been the catalyst to Thunder’s solid start to retaining their title. Kerry Almond and Emma Dovey have been working with former Welsh international – and Thunder defender – Sara Hale, who joined Neville and Karen Greig in the coaching set-up.

Former England shooter Neville said: “Our defence has started the season well and I think they deserve more credit. They’ve been up against every possible England attacking combination in the first three games and have kept them quiet.”

The strength in depth of the Gorton-based squad set them apart from the rest in 2014, with Neville able to call up a player from the bench to come on and do a job for the team.

This has continued into 2015, even more so with Chelsea Pitman brining variety and experience and a different style of attacking play.

Neville added: “Some franchises may only be able to rely on seven players but our strength lies in the variety of the squad. There’s players like Beth Cobden, who has two of our main players (Sara Bayman and Pitman) in her positions but she has a good head, works hard in training and is intelligent so she will get her opportunity.”

Manchester Thunder play Yorkshire Jets at Headingley Arena in Leeds on 8pm 13 February