Loughborough Lightning v Northern Thunder
In the final league game before the play-offs, Lightning signed off in front of home fans with an emphatic victory over Northern Thunder. This game never ‘hit the heights’ in terms of flowing netball but the power and pace of Lightning’s game was too much for the visitors. Thunder worked hard throughout to try and give their retiring coach, Marion Lofthouse, a win to finish on but it was never to be.
The game started at great pace with both sides forcing errors all over the court. Inside the shooting circles action was fierce and competitive. Thunder’s Becky Douglas hounded Lightning’s shooters and the home team struggled to find any rhythm. The same was true at the other end of the court where Agbeze and Reid made life difficult for Thunder. It was nip and tuck all the way through this period with neither side able to create any kind of lead and it finished with the slenderest of leads for Lightning (10-9).
Rose Port then made two critical player switches. Olivia Murphy and Charlotte O’Neill were swapped to WA and C respectively with James and Clarke changing places in the shooting circle. This suddenly opened up the court for Lightning and the game looked totally different. Lightning were able to put more pace on the ball and started to make some fluent attacking moves. They quickly surged into a five-goal lead and never looked. James shot 12 out of 14 for the quarter and Thunder, despite working hard, couldn’t keep in touch. With a nine-goal cushion at half time Lightning could breath easy (26-17).
In the third quarter, Port changed her shooting combination again. Astle came off the bench to replace James but Lightning’s attack didn’t falter. Another strong shooting display saw Lightning bag another 15 goals for the quarter and extend their lead further. This was also down to the pressure that the Lightning mid-court were putting on Thunder’s ball. Unable to settle to any kind of pattern, Thunder turned the ball over too often to keep up with Lightning.
The final quarter followed exactly the same pattern. Port played her fourth different shooting combination of the night, and Lightning scored another 14. Thunder gave a spirited display but if truth be told, were outplayed everywhere on court. This was a solid Lightning performance and Port was happy to have given so many players court time in the last game before play-offs. However there were moments, particularly in the first quarter, where it didn’t quite ‘gel’.
A final league placing of fourth isn’t where Lightning would have wanted to be, but with only one point separating 2nd, 3rd and 4th, any top four team can make it to the final.
26th May – Brunel Hurricanes v Loughborough Lightning @ Guildford Spectrum, Surrey (Live on Sky Sports)
Rick Barrow at Perfect Motion on 0115 9258777/ 07809 657766, or email [email protected]
For tickets, please contact the helpline on 01509 226250