In the first Fiat Superleague match of a double header weekend, on? Saturday 26 April, Loughborough Lightning travelled to play-of contenders Northern Thunder.
However, after impressing in front of the Sky cameras on Monday against Glasgow Wildcats, Lightning failed to find the consistency player-coach Olivia Murphy says her team have? been missing, as they slumped to a 63-46 defeat.
In a game Lightning were always going to find tough, Murphy shuffled her squad around in an attempt to thwart Thunder.
Lianne Badmin was a rare inclusion in the squad, however thanks to an impressive second? half showing from captain Jo Harten and Becky James against Wildcats, she failed to make the starting seven.
Masego Motaung also started at wing attack in the hope the energy which had proved so vital on Monday would ignite Lightning’s attack.
Talissa Haynes, after not featuring on Monday, started at wing defence, alongside Emma Bliss and Afrika Morris in the circle respectively Lightning have combated their ‘dreaded’ first quarter woes as of late, and this game was no different. Lightning pressed well in the centrecourt, with Murphy excelling, taking four intercepts in the first quarter alone.
They were patient in attack, and finding Harten and James well. With three minutes of the quarter remaining, the scores were locked at11-11.
However, Thunder showed why they are aspiring title contenders, as they overturned Lightning’s final centre pass, to take the quarter14-12.The second quarter, however, proved to be the decisive quarter of the game.
Thunder tightened up their pressure throughout the court, and began to find their accurate captain Karen Greig well.
A culmination of Lightning starting to struggle with their pace in attack, and Greig scoring 17 out of her 20 shots in this quarter, meant that Lightning found themselves on the wrong end of a 34-23 deficit at half time.
In an attempt to combat the threat of Jade Clarke, Murphy moved from centre to wing attack for the start of the second quarter, with Moutang moving to wing defence replacing Haynes.
Alex Sinclair was also introduced at goalkeeper, in the hope that she could silence the ever impressive Greig. Thunder also made changes in an attempt to protect their lead, with Jess Langman, sister of New Zealand international Laura, coming on at wing attack.
Despite a poor showing in the previous quarter, Lightning came out at the start of the second half showing that they could match any team in the league when they are playing well.
The attack flowed smoothly with the half time substitutions proving inspired, as Motaung prevented the previously unstoppable Thunder centre court players getting to the circle edge, Sinclair closing down their options in the shooting circle. Lightning grew in stature as the quarter progressed, culminating in the scoring of five unanswered goals.
However, at the end of the third quarter, they still found themselves 48-35 down. James made way for Harten to move out to goal attack at the start ofbthe third quarter, as Badmin came on at goal shooter.
In a quarter characterised by Harten’s tireless work and amazing long distance shooting, Lightning again kept up the fast pace Thunder set.
However, as the time on the clock wore down, ex Lightning player and England international Jade Clarke proved to be the key difference between the teams, as she drove through the court strongly, bringing the ball to the circle edge for the Thunder shooters.
Thunder proved to have what Lightning were missing; consistency throughout the court, as they edged the final quarter and took the game 63-46.The defeat left Murphy rueing her teams’ errors in the second quarter.
“The second quarter cost us dearly. We didn’t adapt when the pressure came on from thunder and gave Greig too many easy opportunities.
“Again I was pleased with the way we competed in patches, but it is not enough.
“We have to finish off a tough weekend with Bath coming in Sunday, but there are definitely things we can take forward to that game. We are still searching for that magical consistency.”