It wasn’t a perfect start for Manchester Thunder, who were sporting pink instead of their usual Black and Yellow in support of Cancer Research, but a dominant performance in the second and third quarters was enough to see off sixth place Surrey Storm.
Thunder have faced the challenge of three consecutive away trips in the past two weeks, no doubt they were happy to be greeted by the home crowd at Belle Vue. A dream-like victory over Wasps earlier in the week provided the back drop for the atmosphere at the home tie.
It took Thunder around ten minutes of the first quarter to settle into the game, they allowed Storm to take a five goal lead early doors. But it was perhaps enough to frighten them into a performance, after a superb victory earlier in the week over top of the table Wasps, Thunder needed to keep the momentum high in front of the home crowd.
An injury for Storm’s Mikki Austin in the last minute of the first quarter was a blow to the visitors, but Thunder were determined to see out the quarter in front.
Thunder were glad to see the back of the first quarter, they managed to regain control of the game and take a one goal lead, but a telling off from Head Coach Karen Greig was inevitable and the second quarter was set to be interesting.
Thunder forced the mistakes out of Storm as the second quarter got underway, a welcome relief to the Thunder following who grew louder as Thunder’s confidence increased.
Thunder worked hard in defence to ensure South African shooter Sigi Berger was blocked out and Storm’s shooters found it difficult to get a handle on the game. Thunder had managed to establish a comfortable lead heading into half time and Greig will have been happy with the way Thunder had battled it out and capitalised on Storm’s errors.
The third quarter saw Thunder notch an impressive 20 goals, next to Storm’s disappointing eight. The Black and Yellows kept the tempo high and the mistakes from Storm just kept coming.
Moments of brilliance were evident, the link up play between the feeders and the shooters along with Kerry Almond’s diving interceptions made for excellent viewing.
Caroline O’Hanlon and Liana Leota’s communication seemed almost telepathic, with both players appearing to know exactly where the other would be in a given moment.
Amy Carter enjoyed a spell at WD in place of Laura Malcolm, but it was short lived as O’Hanlon had to come off due to injury, forcing Malcolm to come back on and Carter to move to C, a position she has previously relished in.
As the final quarter rolled around, it seemed that Thunder had done enough to see off the game. They took their foot off the gas as the final minutes played out, happy with their lead.
Storm had more opportunities in the last quarter but Thunder’s lead was too strong and Storm had set themselves an impossible task.
Thunder were able to consolidate their lead through signature long-bombs from Kathryn Turner and equally impressive shots from Ellie Cardwell. Joyce Mvula received Player of the Match from former Thunder star Lynsey Armitage for her imposing performance under the post.
Back to back wins for Karen Greig’s Thunder, who has previously discussed the team’s struggle with consistency. Another tough away trip to Saracens Mavericks greets Thunder in Round 10, the half way point in the Vitality Superleague.
That match takes place on the 16th March.
Tickets for Thunder’s next home game against Wasps are sold out but you can grab your tickets for the next one against Celtic Dragons on the 6th April here >> http://bit.ly/thuvcd
Thunder: Mvula, Turner, Leota, O’Hanlon, Malcolm, Dovey, Almond
Storm: Burger, Hodge-England, Parsons, Austin, Der Merwe, Hughes, Kowalewska
Player of the Match: Joyce Mvula
Photo Credit: Mark Pritchard