The Black and Yellows put in a controlled and determined performance to take a deserved eight-goal win 56-64 at Surrey Sports Park. Coach Dan Ryan was pleased with his side’s measured and patient showing, especially as his players keep cool heads throughout, especially in defence, when their opposition began to lose theirs. “The player stuck to task really well in defence and attack even when they were challenged at various times in the game by a very good Storm team,” he said. “We really kept our heads no attack. This time we were prepared to work the ball around and have the confidence to know that the opportunities would open up if we did what we needed to do. Mally (Kelly) had a job to do and got Rachel Dunn into a pretty awkward position so I had the luxury of bringing on Kerry Almond in the final quarter”
Thunder’s composure in the mid-court was instrumented by Sara Bayman and Laura Malcolm, with the former named player of the match. The Australian boss added: “It was a real captain’s performance. She was measured on both defence and attack – she was tenacious on defence and she very much controlled our tempo on the front line and she put in some great balls when the opportunity was there. She’s in great form at the moment.“
Thunder edged a tense first quarter, with plenty of the ball bobbling around the centre court as both sides felt their way into the game. The second quarter was the start of a feisty battle between Thunder defender Mally Kelly and Storm shooter Rachel Dunn. They are unlikely to be on each other’s Christmas card list this year, with Kelly winning the battle and Dunn visibly unhappy about it. Following several altercations between the pair, Storm’s animated bench were ordered to calm down by the umpires, with a sold-out hostile crowd turning up the tension tenfold.
Thunder headed into half time six goals to the good, after controlling the pace of the second quarter and sticking firmly to their game-plan, despite Strom’s attempt to derail them. Thunder put out some of their most fluid attacking play of the season, with the front three of Eleanor Cardwell , Helen Housby and Natalie Haythornthwaite now a real force for any defence in the Vitality Netball league. Cardwell again displayed how much her game has improved under Ryan’s guidance, with the young shooter recording an impressive 95 per cent shooting average against one of the tightest and most experienced defences in the league. Despite a ten-goal lead, Thunder did not step off the gas in the second half, keeping up their intensity and not offering a sniff of a comeback opportunity for Storm’s forward line. Storm would not give up though, and forced a number of turnovers, but Thunder would then earn one of their own, to extinguish any chance of a clawing back the lead.
Thunder remained patient and calm in the final phases of the game as a restless crowd – and an increasingly desperate Storm – realised the game was lost.
A huge game now awaits Thunder at the Manchester Arena on Monday as they face a revitalised Yorkshire Jets, who recorded their first win of the season against Celtic Dragons on Saturday.
Report by Denise Evans :: Photo Credit to Steve Porter