Manchester Thunder suffered their first defeat of the season at the hands of a persistent Loughborough Lightning.
It was bound to be a tough evening for the Black and Yellows – the last time they met Lightning was in last season’s semi-final where Thunder fell to defeat to lose out on a sport in the grand final.
Both Thunder and Lightning faced a tough opening quarter as neither team were able to break the deadlock. Each side struggled to turn over the ball effectively resulting in a stalemate heading into the second quarter.
Thunder managed to edge a lead in the second quarter after some hard work and resilience in the face of a dogged Lightning. Natalie Panagarry posed a real threat to Thunder’s system at WD and Mary Nubas Cholhok was unstoppable under the post.
Former Lightning player Rebekah Airey started at GK and was put through her paces by Lightning’s shooters, Cholhok and Ella Clark, but managed to hold her own and partnered with Captain Emma Dovey well to fuel the Thunder attack.
Some impressive shooting was on display at Belle Vue but Mvula appeared frustrated as she struggled to find space in the D. Thunder managed to extend a four goal lead but Lightning were tenacious and brought it to within two before the buzzer sounded for half time.
The changes came thick and fast as the second half got underway, with Ellie Cardwell entering the mix at GA and Laura Malcolm coming in at WD. Head Coach Karen Greig brought in Paige Kindred for a brief spell and switched around the defence in an attempt to quell the waves of Lightning attack.
Lightning were able to establish a lead as the third quarter drew to a close, handing Thunder a difficult task in the final quarter. Lightning stuck to their guns and made no changes in the last quarter, whereas Greig opted to move the players around the positions and experiment with different combinations.
The changes didn’t quite have the desired effect but something needed to be done to find some rhythm and stall Lightning’s shooters.
It was a tough final quarter, both sides showed signs of frustration but also of determination. Thunder had opportunities to equal the score line as the last quarter played out but fell just shy of doing so. Lightning stuck to their game plan and as time ebbed away the chances of a Thunder comeback grew smaller and smaller.
Greig was disappointed with the performance but hopes the squad can learn from the loss:
“Over all the performance wasn’t good enough but, if you don’t lose you don’t learn, we can take a lot from that. Credit to Loughborough, they ran our attack and we didn’t adapt at times.
We had opportunities in the fourth to draw level and it was a bit of a sucker punch, ultimately, it wasn’t meant to be.”
On her changes:
“They were only two up and it was going goal for goal and it was a case of, something needs to change. We needed a more defensive line to turn over ball a bit earlier. Ultimately it didn’t work but sometimes that happens.”
Thunder’s next home game will be against Surrey Storm on Saturday 9th March. Tickets are now on sale here >>> http://bit.ly/thuvstorm
Thunder: Airey, Dovey, Carter, O’Hanlon, Leota, Turner, Mvula
Lightning: Keenan, Oyesola, Panagarry, Shaw, Joseph, Clark, Cholhok