The scores were locked at 58-all at the end of regular time after a game which saw Thunder fight their way back into the game following a poor first half. Six goals down going into the final quarter, the Black and Yellows, who were playing their second game in 48 hours, showed resilience and composure under pressure to force extra time.
Coach Karen Greig was disappointed with her team’s slow start but delighted with how they bounced back to win by 10.
“It’s been a really tough weekend for us with that fixture against Storm just two days ago and then we had a long coach journey” she said “So it took us a couple of minutes to get out of the blocks. Once we started playing our own game and sticking to gameplan, we played some good stuff. There was elements of class out there but we just didn’t start quick enough.”
With a mountain to climb at the end of the third quarter, Greig had some choice words for her charge, which seemed to do the trick as they scored the first five goals of the fourth. Greig said: “(At the end of quarter three) I said we’re six goals down, we are still in this and if we look after our own then there is no way we are getting back on that bus losing the game. In extra time we had the momentum and I just told them to make sure we go on and win. We had the control after winning the fourth quarter by six. 58-all was a really good effort and they were on the back foot and we had to make sure we kept turning the screw on them. This result shows that we have a really good team unit and a never say die attitude. We’re going to need that to get us through to the end of the season.”
Sirens started out the hungrier side as Thunder were sluggish to get out of the blocks. The Glasgow-based side were having particular success in the shooting circle, with Carla Borrego scoring the majority of their goals under the post. The Scottish outfit took a slender one-goal lead into the first break but with Thunder not yet out of first gear, the second quarter was primed to be a different affair if the Black and Yellows could hit their stride. But it wasn’t to be, with Thunder appearing to be still sitting on the bus on the M6, with laboured build-up play, while Sirens continued to pierce Thunder’s defence with their direct attacking play.
Liana Leota’s experience began to show as she started to dictate Thunder’s attack with some clever no-look passes that bamboozled Sirens’ defence. But is wasn’t until Greig rang the changes (Morgan on at centre and Marshall switching to wing defence) with the Black and Yellows trailing by six, that Thunder started to click through the gears. Morgan’s injection of pace was much-needed and made an instant impact.
Thunder’s confidence started to build and they finished the half just two goals adrift, trailing 32-30. Any momentum Thunder had gained at the end of the second quarter had evaporated after the break as despite bringing the scores back level, they fell back into their poor habits from the opening period. While Sirens were working wonders in attack and O’Hanlan was having a particularly good game for the hosts, Thunder grew frustrated at being unable to penetrate Sirens’ solid defence. Greig must have had some choice words for her charge at the three-quarter-time break as they came out with renewed aggression and hunger in the final period. She also reverted back to her starting seven line-up. Thunder gradually chipped away at Sirens’ attack, keeper Kerry Almond was colossal as they forced errors and turnovers and they started to have much more joy in their own shooting circle. Clawing back a seven-goal deficit didn’t look possible the way they were playing in the first half but true grit and determination brought Thunder. The sides traded blows in a tense ending in normal time to leave the scores level after 60 minutes of battle. It meant we were treated to the first extra time of the Superleague season, with seven minutes played each way. And it was the Black and Yellows who had the momentum now, scoring the first four goals of extra time to alleviate any nerves and cool the pressure. Incredibly, goal attack Kathryn Turner only missed one goal all game, and that was in the first period of extra time. Her maturity and composure is a real asset to Thunder when they are up against the ropes and she is a reliable partner to Joyce Mvula and her circle feeders. Thunder continued to retain control in the second period of extra time as Sirens ran out of ideas – and energy. Thunder even had time to produce some showboating moments, including Emma Dovey feeding directly into the shooting circle from the beyond the centre circle marking.
In the end Thunder won it at a canter but Sirens will be disappointed to come away with nothing after such a spirited and professional display in the first half.
Thunder starting 7: GK Almond, GD Dovey, WD Skingsley, C Marshall, WA Leota, GA Turner, GS Mvula
Report by Denise Evans