MATCH REPORT: Manchester Thunder firing on all cylinders at Celtic Dragons
It was a steady start to proceedings in Cardiff as Manchester Thunder and Celtic Dragons battled it out to break the other’s centre pass, but in the end it was Thunder who came out firmly on top to bounce back from last week’s defeat.
It took Thunder the first ten minutes of the opening quarter to find their rhythm and break the ‘to me – to you’ pattern the game had fallen into.
But as the clock ran down Thunder were able to pull away and ended the first quarter eight goals to the good thanks to the efforts of star shooters Joyce Mvula and Kathryn Turner.
An early lead for Thunder meant that Dragons would have to come up with a response if they were to have a chance of breaking Thunder’s early confidence and edging their way back into the game.
Dragons swapped Clare Elsley for Lucy Howells at WD and the change proved effective as Howells managed to placate some of Amy Carter and Liana Leota’s feeds to the shooters.
Thunder started the quarter as brightly as they ended the first and looked as though they were about to run away with it but Dragons chased them until the whistle. Thunder were leading overall but only one goal had separated the two sides in the second quarter.
Kerry Almond passed a last minute fitness test to make the starting line-up but Rebekah Airey stepped in at GK with three minutes of the second quarter left on the clock.
Head Coach Karen Greig made a few changes at the start of the third quarter with Ellie Cardwell replacing Turner at GA and Caroline O’Hanlon slotting in at C as Amy Carter moved down to WD in place of Laura Malcolm.
Thunder had managed to establish a solid ten goal lead by the third quarter and were relentless in attack. Mvula stood her ground against a physical Dee Bolakoro and Cardwell provided an effective cog in Thunder’s attacking machine.
But Thunder couldn’t quite stretch that ten goal lead and the opportunity was there to rack up the goals and put Thunder in a good position to progress as the season goes on.
By the final quarter, the goals were flying in and Thunder were firing on all cylinders. They played with determination and purpose allowing them to showcase their quality in all areas of the court.
Turner returned to GA and demonstrated her talent for long-range shots while Mvula was impeccable under the post. Mvula shot at an impressive 92%, enough to earn her player of the match.
The speed from O’Hanlon and her link up play with Leota in centre court left Dragons clueless at times. Mvula was often left to her own devices in the D as the defenders were left stunned, unable to return to the circle in time to prevent the shot.
Thunder racked up a massive 25 goals in the last quarter, highlighting their dominance in attack and the success of the team overall when every player is able to show off their strengths.
Karen Greig was pleased with the team’s overall performance:
“A really good bounce back, we had a great first quarter. We scored 25 goals in the final quarter which shows what we’ve got in our locker in terms of the changes that we can make.
Joyce was unbelievable tonight, it was a really good performance from her under pressure in the circle so it was great to give her the nod for player of the match.”
Thunder face another tough away trip in the face of Team Bath on Friday 1st March.
Thunder: Almond, Dovey, Malcolm, Carter, Leota, Turner, Mvula
Dragons: Facey, Bolakoro, Elsley, Jones, Drane, McCollin, Lewis