Despite a poor third quarter, the Black and Yellows dominated for large periods of the game and ran out 51-65 winners. With an unassailable lead secured in the fourth, coach Dan Ryan opted to hand 18-year-old shooter Amy Clinton her Superleague debut. The Oldham star is the second player in a week to be handed her first chance in the Thunder dress, following wing attack Beccy Hoult’s bow against Jets last time out.
Thunder started at a blistering pace and powered into an early five-goal lead, bringing some impressive fluidity to their attacking play, showing their intent from the outset. Eleanor Cardwell was once again relishing her time on court and looked assured and confident in the circle, nailing some difficult shots and refusing to be bullied off the ball by an organised Team Northumbria defence. The Tameside shooter linked up well with Natalie Haythornthwaite who showed her range of passing and utilised her speed and movement through court to flummox Northumbria. It was a game littered with patches of scrappy play, which lead to several umpire cautions handed to players from both sides. However this wasn’t a true reflection of the game, as Thunder have withstood far more physical challenges in other Superleague fixtures this season.That said, TN were no push over and gave themselves a real chance of snatching victory in the third quarter when they pulled the scores back to within four, after the goal cushion had gone up to double figures.
Their Jamaican imports Shanice Beckford and Nicole Dixon, dictated play and were a real handful for Thunder’s defence. It was an interesting dual between the opposing Sunshine Girls in Thunder’s Mally Kelly and Beckford, especially. England duo Sara Bayman and Laura Malcolm were assured in front of the defence and Housby, who drifted in and out of the game and sat out the third quarter, was more than adequate support for in-form Cardwell. Thunder were in no mood to suffer a repeat of the nervy finale in their previous match against Yorkshire Jets, and stretched their lead in the final quarter. They were coasting and it enabled teenager Clinton to take to court and make her Superleague debut.
Thunder coach, Dan Ryan said “I was pleased with the way we finished the game to come away with a 14 goal win against a tough side. But we were forced to really respond after letting them back into the game in the third quarter. We can’t afford to have those lapses so we need to tidy up on that. I though our attack was far slicker this week. Our speed and timing was much better and Ellie Cardwell was an absolute scoring machine for us at shooter. She’s put together two very impressive games for us now and is really showing us what she’s capable of. The defensive unit did some great things out there and provided plenty of scoring opportunities. We just want to be a little bit more clinical and not drop quarters like we have been. It was great to see Amy Clinton hit the court for her her Superleague debut. It was only 5 minutes of action but she nailed all 4 shots and she has really earned the opportunity to be out there. We were all very proud of her, she’s an exciting talent.”
Report by Denise Evans