Manchester Thunder secured a hard-fought win over a dogged Celtic Dragons at the Thunderdome.
The Black and Yellows dominated for large periods of the game but Dragons refused to stick to the script and a blistering performance from the visitors in the third quarter set-up a tasty closing to the game. But Thunder dug deep in front of their home fans who had packed out the Thunderdome for Pink Week in aid of Cancer Research UK, and coupled with some timely – and necessary – changes from coach Karen Greig, managed to see out the win.
​Greig was pleased with her side’s overall performance but was concerned by her players’ blip in concentration in that third quarter, which saw them surrender a seven-goal lead.  “Everything we do we look to build week in week out, looking for the players to learn from each game and I think they are doing that,” she said. “It was a rollercoaster game, a solid first half and solid overall but we had a blip again in third quarter, which is something that happened last week, so we need to address that moving forward at training. We probably looked at the score board and thought ‘we’re so many up’ and just let them back into the game and they’re not a team you can let back into the game they’re a very strong team. The changes that we made did make a huge impact. We needed to solidify and gabby back in the middle for some more control.”
It was a scrappy start to the second period with no real rhythm from either side. Just as Thunder tried to break away and get some momentum, Dragons were certainly in the mood to slay the Black and Yellows’ game-plan, as the visitors kept to within four goals of the hosts. A spectacular flying Gabriella Marshall intercept was a game-changer as Thunder started to assert some dominance in front of a loud Thunderdome crowd.
They finished the half six-goals to the good (32-26) knowing they had plenty of work still to do to see-off a stubborn Dragons side in the second half. Thunder had a nightmare five minutes midway through the third quarter, while Dragons punished them by producing their best netball of the game. Scoring six on the bounce, Dragons levelled the scores (36-all) and Greig had seen enough and shuffled her pack. She took off half time sub Amy Clinton, with Joyce Mvula, who had a strong first half, re-joining the party. And the changes made an instant difference, especially with Marshall moving back to centre, as she brought much-needed composure. Morgan, now at wing attack, looked far more comfortable and Thunder’s new defensive trio – with Bloomfield slotting in at wing defence in front of Dovey and player-of-the-match Skinglsey – were having more success in stopping any Dragons attacking rhythm. Thunder powered to an unassailable 10-goal lead with five minutes to go and the game petered out, with the Black and Yellows taking their second win of the season. Final Score: 62 v 53.
ADDED QUOTES From Karen:
Karen Greig on player of the match Bea Skingsley: “Bea is so versatile. We played her across three positions and she had impact in all them. She’s really good at challenging those lateral balls and getting turn overs when we need them she’s a good solid player and starting to gel with those around her. In the next few games she’ll only get better.”
Report by Denise Evans and Rebecca Longbottom :: Photo Credit to Mark Pritchard