Manchester Thunder escaped a scare to beat Team Northumbria and remain in the hunt for a play-off place.
Thunder needed to call on what little was left in the tank in the closing minutes to see out the win, after a stubborn Team Northumbria refused to give up.
It may not have been pretty, but winning ugly and taking three points back to Manchester will have to be enough heading into next week’s home tie over in-form Severn Stars.
“It was a tough win against a determined Northumbria team”, said Director of Netball Karen Greig.
“We started with intent and purpose but took our foot of the gas when we should have turned up a gear.
“Northumbria made crucial changes that we didn’t adjust quick enough to.
“We never managed to push on after turn over and Northumbria made us work had for ball in both attack and defence.”
Greig, who chose Bea Skingsley as her player of the match, added: “I thought Bea came on at half time and made a great impact.
“We had to really dig deep in the final quarter and we started to look after ball and frustrate them.
“This saw us start pulling out a lead to get the win. Our shooters again did a fab job shooting at 88%.”
Thunder started with real intent, catching their hosts cold with a rapid tempo spear-headed by Liana Leota and Caroline O’Hanlon. Playing high up the court and suffocating every Northumbria pass, they charged into a five-goal lead by the first break (8-13).
Their performance suggested they would continue to extend it, but that was far from the story of the game.
Northumbria grew into the game and they restricted Thunder’s through court play, wrestling possession back as soon as they lost it.
Thunder had threatened to take control at various points in the first quarter but Northumbria hustled and refused to read the script.
The Black and Yellows made hard work of things in the second, slowing the pace and hesitant in attack, playing into Northumbria’s hands.
Their confidence grew just as Thunder’s faded, and, as quickly as it had appeared, Thunder’s lead evaporated leaving coach Karen Greig with some choice words for her players at the break.
Back to within a single goal, Northumbria’s belief continued into the second half and they levelled the score for the first time in the game mid-way though the third, to make it 29-28.
The sides traded goals for a while until an Emma Dovey turnover relieved some pressure and Thunder had a three-goal cushion.
But Northumbria once again punished some careless Thunder play and were winning the battle of the centre court.
The introduction of Joyce Mvula in the second half brought a much-needed calmness to Thunder’s attack, and Greig’s numerous changes worked well in patches – but Thunder just couldn’t find their mojo.
The final quarter was a classic nail-biter as the crowd roared their side on to what would have been a famous victory.
But, in key moments, Thunder’s experience under pressure told, notably from a wonderful Skingsley intercept. The defender, who was assured and tidy from the second she came on, read the pass perfectly and snatched the ball out of the air to give Thunder the catalyst to force an unassailable lead.
Thunder starting 7: GK Almond, GD Dovey, WD Carter, C O’Hanlon, WA Leota, GA Turner, GS Clinton
Shooting stats: Amy Clinton:- 8/8 100% , Kathryn Turner 28/34 82%, Joyce Mvula 22/24 92%