Manchester Thunder stepped up their pre-season preparations with a neat 84-65 win over Team Northumbria.
It was a game which saw head coach Karen Greig use her whole squad, apart from Gabriella Marshall and Amy Clinton, who are away on England u21 duty in South Africa.
New Malawian signing Joyce Mvula also got her first taste of playing in front of a home crowd, as she put in an assured and comfortable performance at shooter.
The game was played out over six ‘quarters’, four of them the regular 15-minute, while the final two were 10 minutes each.
This was to allow coaches from both Superleague sides to give each of their players a solid run out ahead of the new season, which starts in two weeks’ time.
It was a fairly even first quarter with the teams going toe-to-toe, but it was Thunder’s defence that started to be the difference from midway through the second period.
The only blemish in a competitive opening was the loss of Thunder’s Kiwi centre Liana Leota within the first few minutes with a slight niggle. She was taken off as a precaution with the 2017 season fast-approaching.
Captain Emma Dovey, who was deservedly named player of the match, and her defensive partner Kerry Almond showed all of their experience in shutting down the Northumbria attack.
Thunder’s own attacking play lacked composure and penetration at certain periods in the game but new signing Dani Bloomfield injected much-needed pazzazz when she came on at centre.
However, Thunder were patient in their build up when they needed to be and refused to be bullied off the ball by an imposing Team Northumbria defence.
Young training parter players Leia Griffin and Ellie Smith will benefit from their time on court and learning from Mvula, who impressed with her movement and shooting accuracy.
Kathryn Turner at goal attack found herself in good positions throughout the game and her reliability and experience will be needed once the season starts.
The game went through disjointed phases due to the frequent player changes but Thunder managed to keep their shape and intensity, especially in the second half when legs were starting to tire.
But Greig was happy with her team’s overall showing and will get another chance to see her players in a match environment in a behind-closed-doors game against league newcomers the Scottish Sirens at Belle Vue on February 11.
She said: “I’m really pleased with what the girls have done today.
“On the whole we put on a really good performance but there were times where we got tired and had to change the combinations.
“We stuck to gameplan but we just need to tidy up our basic skills.
“Our decision making needs to improve. This game has cemented the thoughts I have of the team, which is good and we have another friendly against Sirens (and New zealand on Tuesday), which will give me more reassurance on where the team is at and what I’m trying to achieve.”
Thunder starting 7: GK – Almond, GD – Dovey, WD – Skingsley, C – Leota, WA – Hoult, GA – Turner, GS – Mvula.