After an exciting win against Surrey Storm on Saturday, the London side make the long journey up to Manchester to take on the 2022 NSL Champions. Pulse have never beaten this classy side before and, in round 4 of the season, they came away with a 51-58 loss. Pulse have the belief, but can they pull it off?
Sam Bird’s starting seven for London Pulse:
GS – Olivia Tchine (VC)
GA – Berri Neil
WA – Chelsea Pitman
C – Jade Clarke
WD – Zara Everitt (C)
GD – Funmi Fadoju
GK – Halimat Adio
Substitutions: Ashleigh Dekker, Linsday Keable, Sacha McDonald, Ellie Rattu and Alicia Scholes
Pulse take the first centre pass and the pressure is on already, as Clarke and Pitman are forced to play the ball back to the line multiples times before the ball can make its way into the shooting circle. Tchine takes the first shot and it rolls in. Everitt gets an early hand in around the circle edge, but it falls back into the hands of Thunder and they take it to goal. Pulse are sent straight back to defence as they make two unforced errors and Thunder capitalise to make it 1-4. However, Thunder’s flow is quickly halted as they give away an attacking contact in the circle, and Pulse make it 3-4 after taking their next centre pass to goal. Tensions are high and you can already see both teams putting their bodies on the line to take and challenge ball. The game continues in a goal-for-goal fashion, with both teams putting on a strong defensive effort which makes their attacking units have to play multiple phases before finding their shooters. Neil gets a deflection on the transverse line and Pulse take the lead for the first time in the game 10-9. Everitt gets another touch and this time it ends up in Pulse hands and then in the net. Thunder turn the ball over and it’s back to a goal-for-goal game, but Pulse make their final shot and go into the second quarter up by one (15-14).
Thunder make a change in the WD position with McKevitt coming off and Carter coming on. Each side continue to take their possession to goal, but both with difficulty. Fadoju gets her hand to ball but can’t manage to keep it in play and the same is said for the Thunder circle defenders. A Pulse missed shot is transitioned at speed by Thunder, but Neil comes charging down court, gets the tip and pushes it back into Pulse hands before she jumps out of court
to stay onside. Tchine secures the shot under the post and Pulse are still ahead by one (19-18). Pulse lose possession in the circle, but Fadoju comes out of nowhere for a flying interception and gives her team another chance to shoot. Pulse gain possession from another attacking contact in the circle, but the strong defensive structure from Thunder gets them the interception. Clarke responds on the next centre pass with the most impressive over the head pass to tip the ball back into court and steal possession away from Thunder. Tchine rewards her incredible athleticism, but Thunder are quick to take their next ball to goal with a feed from range. Pulse are still up 24-22, but each passage of play is crucial, and everyone can feel it. With just over 30 seconds to go, Pulse have the ball and both Pitman and Tchine finds themselves on the floor, but their dedication is rewarded, and they manage to add to the scoreboard and run the clock down so Thunder have only seconds to get their centre pass to goal. Thunder run out of time. Pulse go into the halftime break with their biggest lead in the game so far, 29-26.
The starting seven for Pulse take back to court to begin the final 30 minutes of what’s been a tough and intense match so far. As expected, the first five minutes are neck and neck and this time it’s Pulse who get an attacking contact, but it’s Everitt who comes in with a touch and it’s another goal on the board (36-30). Fadoju follows up with another tip and collection on the first phase of the centre pass and now Pulse are looking confident with an 8-goal lead (38-30). Smart positioning from Adio in the circle sets Fadoju up to pluck the ball out the air with ease and Pulse go up by 10. Thunder are forced to make some changes in defence, and they come on with a big challenge ahead of them. Pitman, Clarke and Neil are pinging the ball around the attacking third with more flow and Tchine is finding herself with more space to play with in the circle. However, Thunder are right back on their heels, challenging every ball and are having success disrupting Pulse’s flow. Thunder defenders are getting their hands to ball in the circle but can’t quite secure possession, and Pulse continue to slot the goals in taking it to 44-31. With only eight seconds to go, Pulse take the centre pass and Clarke sends it into Tchine from the centre third and they make the score line 49-35. What an impressive and important quarter for Pulse.
Still no changes for Pulse as they enter the final fifteen minutes of this fierce game. Thunder come out firing and they turnover Pulse’s first centre pass. The next few minutes of play see missed opportunities from both sides with tips not being secured and players losing the ball out of court (53-39). Another tip from Neil wins her team the ball and their quick transition to attack allows Clarke to find her undefended under the post. Down the other end, the box structure is working for Pulse and Adio comes out for a fly across the circle and takes a clean interception (56-41). Thunder win a backline and they take it to goal and there are five minutes left on the clock. With just over four and a half to go, Pulse empty their bench and make five substitutions (McDonald to GA, Scholes to WA, Dekker to C, Rattu to WD and Keable to GK). An attacking contact is called against Pulse, but Scholes gets a touch and Fadoju collects. Dekker finds McDonald on the baseline and she slots it in. Thunder are quick to take their possession to goal, but time is running out. Fadoju calls time with 56 seconds to go and Everitt replaces her in GD. Thunder end with the last goal but it’s Pulse who end with the historic win 59-49.
Congratulations to our captain Zara Everitt whose incredible tips and deflections throughout the game earned herself “Player of the match”. This second win in round 14 secures Pulse in
top position in the table and they get a well-earned rest with no game in round 15. They next face Strathclyde Sirens away in Glasgow on the 13th May.