Tracey Neville demands improvement despite dominant win as Manchester Thunder near Superleague playoffs

By Paddy von Behr

Manchester Thunder need to find another gear, after overcoming a slow start to see off Team Northumbria, says head coach Tracey Neville.

The Thunder beat Northumbria 59-32 at the Thunderdome on Monday evening, thanks largely to an impressive performance from Rachel Henry at wing attack.

But Neville insisted her side started the match too slowly and will have to up their game when they visit Yorkshire Jets on Friday evening.

“We started very slowly today and in the tougher games we have coming up this is simply not acceptable,” said Neville.

“We are relying too heavily on our defence to keep retrieving the ball, which against tougher opposition will obviously become harder.”

Northumbria opened up with four unanswered goals and, despite getting a slight foothold in the game, Thunder found themselves 12-10 down at the end of the first quarter.

Neville’s side turned it around, taking a 28-15 lead into half time, before a flurry of goals from Janelle Lawson and Alice Travis in the third put the game beyond doubt.

The coach was able to rest a few big names for the final quarter, but Thunder continued to dominate proceedings and ran out comfortable winners.

Neville was pleased to see a number of players come good, despite the timid opening, and welcomed the return of Sara Bayman and Lawson.

“There were some outstanding performances,” she said. “Particularly from Alice Travis, Rachel Henry and Sam Holt – it was also a pleasure to get Sara and Janelle back onto court.”

Thunder travel to Leeds Metropolitan University on Friday for the season’s final phase two game, where they will face nearest challengers Yorkshire Jets.

Neville’s side are looking to make it six wins out of six in the phase, since narrowly missing out on a place in the Showdown League.

And they should top the league, thanks to a 72-goal advantage with goal difference, and go forward to face Hertfordshire Mavericks in their playoffs opener.

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