Manchester Thunder 61 v 51 Loughborough Lightning
The Black and Yellows’ 10-goal victory keeps their hopes alive of finishing at the summit of the Superleague table at the end of the regular season, and with it a favourable home semi final tie. It was a scrappy game in parts but generally, Thunder dominated, especially in defence, with Jodie Gibson colossal at keeper and later goal defence.
Coach Dan Ryan was content with his team’s overall performance, with his side much more conformable against Lightning than last time out where they sneaked a tight, tense win. “It was a tough match. We knew Loughborough would come out hard,” he said. “We looked at what they did against us in that first game and did a lot of work in training to counteract that. Defensively our game across the board was really strong and that’s what set us up for a 10-goal win.”
On Gibson’s player of the match performance, the Australian added: “She stuck to task really well. I thought she was great in the air and the ground. She’s a hard working player, who really does wear down her opponent and I think she had the better of all her opponents today.” The young England defender was delighted with her showing against Lightning. She said post-match: “I’m really happy to play like that, especially against Peace who is one of the best shooters in the Superleague. I felt up for this as I knew they would be. They needed to be as they had to win to make top four and we wanted to win to finish top and get home advantage.”
Thunder upped their intensity in the second quarter and stretched a small lead at various stages, each time the catalyst was an intercept from the defence, where Laura Malcolm at was also doing a sterling job at wing defence. The attacking trio of Natalie Haythornthwaite and shooters Helen Housby and Eleanor Cardwell also started to clic more fluidly in the second period.
The third quarter was the scrappiest of the lot, with loose passes flying out of court and players called for footwork and held balls more often than anyone would like. Lighting came back to within two but Thunder were able to regain control and stretch their lead. With a couple of minutes to go in the third, coach Ryan brought on Kerry Almond at keeper, for her first appearance of the season, to the delight of a packed Thunder crowd.
The experienced defender slotted straight into the game and produced a number of timely intercepts. The introduction of Kadeen Corbin at goal attack for the visitors wasn’t enough to claw the deficit back and Thunder ran out relatively comfortable winners.
Thunder starting 7 v Loughborough Lightning : GK Gibson, GD Dovey, WD Malcolm, C Bayman, WA Haythornthwaite, GA Housby, GS Cardwell
Report by Denise Evans