Team Northumbria showed just why they are riding high at the top of the Co-operative Netball Superleague table with a convincing 60-25 win over a young Northern Thunder side at Greenbank Sports Academy last night.
At times, Northern Thunder looked fraught and panicked as they tried to keep up with the speed and accuracy of the confident Northumbria unit, who led 21-5 at the end of the first period and never looked back.
Kiwi Megan Hutton's height was a problem for all the Thunder shooters, although new signing Ellie Gosling maintained her focus and confidence in the first half despite the pressure imposed by the giant New Zealander.
With Northumbria's captain Kelly Martin unavailable for this fixture, coach Denise Egan took the opportunity to give court time to some new faces, and both Jenny Montgomery (in the first half) and Vicky Rees (in the second) were effective and efficient at WD for the visitors. Meanwhile, Lara McLeod and Lisa Stanley kept up the shooting accuracy that has made them one of the most consistent pairings in the Co-operative Netball Superleague as the scoreboard moved on to 37-13 and then 52-20 at three quarter time.
Thunder's new young signings were not overawed by their highly rated opponents and continued to press right through to the final whistle. Manchester's Stephanie Wilson showed no sign of being intimidated by her more experienced opponents and combined well in defence with captain Lisa Ferneyhough to prove she will be a name to watch out for in seasons to come. Sarah Taylor had another excellent centre court game, showing that she can switch from her other sport, basketball, to netball with ease.
The final quarter was a closely fought and entertaining affair, with several new names brought onto court by both coaches. However, Team Northumbria took the advantage and with Lara McLeod continuing to score freely, now out at GA, they closed the quarter out 8-5 to take the match, and reinforce their second place in the league.
Check out all the action from the game on Thursday on Sky Sports Xtra at 5.00pm, as well as catching up with all the rest of the week's news and views from the Co-operative Netball Superleague.
There is one round of league action remaining before the Co-operative Netball Superleague play offs commence on 15 March 2008 at the Ponds Forge Sports Centre in Sheffield, when Team Northumbria will face Loughborough Lightning in the minor final. The winner of this game will go straight through to the Grand Final at the K2, Crawley on 05 April 08, while the loser will meet the winner of the second play off (either Mavericks or reigning champions TeamBath) on 29 March 2008 to contest the second spot in the Grand Final.
Starting line ups:
Northern Thunder: GS Gosling, GA de Shong, WA Gayle, C Taylor, WD Ghazizadeh, GD Ferneyhough, GK Szehofner
Changes/substitutions: 3rd Q: GS Rogers, WD Greenhough, GD Wilson, Ferneyhough to GK, 4th Q: de Shong to GS, Rogers to GA, Greenhough to WA, WD Dakin
Team Northumbria: GS L McLeod, GA Stanley, WA Burgess, C E Macleod, WD Montgomery, GD Connor, GK Hutton
Changes/substitutions: 3rd Q: C Lonsdale, WD Rees, 4th Q: GS Ireland, McLeod to GA, WA Lonsdale, Macleod to C, Hutton to GD, GK Quigley
Northern Thunder: De Shong 14/25, Gosling 7/12, Rogers 4/6
Team Northumbria: Ireland 1/3, McLeod 39/53, Stanley 20/28
Umpires: Judith Groves and Jo Kelly