Match report: Manchester Thunder 56 Loughborough Lightning 62
Thunder slipped to a disappointing 56-62 defeat to Loughborough Lightning at Belle Vue.
It was a frustrating performance from Thunder, who were out-thought by Lightning in key moments and wasted turnover opportunities in the rare occasions they came
They now have a chance to put things right on Saturday in Newcastle against Team Northumbria.
Head coach Karen Greig said: “We just didn’t look after ball enough.
“There was opportunity to turnover ball but we beat ourselves at times today.
“Ultimately Loughborough are a great team and they don’t make many mistakes and when they do, we need to make sure we capitalise.
“Not one person did an overly bad job, I just think the team effort wasn’t good enough.
“The conditions were tough but that is no excuse.”
Just like the temperature outside, the game started at a blistering pace, with both sides hustling for the ball at every opportunity.
It went goal for goal for the majority of the opening exchanges, but it was Lighting who forced the best chances to pull away, and they finished the quarter the stronger side, with a three-goal cushion.
Liana Leota and Beth Cobden were locked in an intriguing battle throughout the first half but it was the former Black and Yellow player who will have been happier at quarter-time.
Lightning really turned on the gas in the second period just as Thunder’s attack started to wilt under the heat and the visitors steamed into a nine-goal lead midway through quarter two.
Thunder just could not contain Lightning’s organised and bullish attack, forcing a number of changes from coach Karen Greig.
The switch-ups breathed life back into Thunder, with Emma Dovey switched to keeper, Amy Carter to wing defence and Caroline O’Hanlon (who had been replaced by Carter) at centre.
Relations between Shamera Sterling and Joyce Mvula were getting tasty, with the Jamaican defender frustrating the Thunder shooter and it started to show in her play.
That continued into the second half, with Mvula taking a hit to her eye (which eventually ended her involvement in the game).
Lightning’s tenacity suffocated Thunder’s attack, and despite being roared on by their fans, the home side just couldn’t close the deficit, with Lightning offering very little turnover opportunities.
Despite trailing for most of the game, Thunder kept on pushing and didn’t give up hope they could overhaul the score.
Although fractious as a team, there were some stand-out individual performances for Thunder.
Kathryn Turner was excellent, shooting from distance at will and Emma Dovey was deserving of the player of the match award.
They did offer genuine glimpses of a comeback, but as quickly as they won turnovers, Lightning wrestled them back and moved out to a 10-goal lead at three-quarter time, leaving Thunder with a mountain to climb.
Thunder probed for the turnovers they needed, but Lighting stood firm and that late surge, coupled with the introduction of an effective Amy Clinton for the injured Mvula, was just too little, too late.
Images: Mark Pritchard
POTM: Emma Dovey
Thunder starting 7: GK Almond, GD Dovey, WD Skingsley, C O’Hanlon, WA Leota, GA Turner, GS Mvula
Lightning starting 7: GK Sterling, GD Oyesola, WD Cobden, C Panagarry, WA Joseph, GA Clark, GS Proscovia