Blaze extinguished

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HAVING avenged an early season defeat in Telford by winning 3-2 in Shropshire on Saturday, the Warriors were looking to claim a second home victory of the season against the Blaze; having also lost at the Coventry Skydome recently.

Whitley thought they had scored inside three minutes through Mark Good, but instead the referee awarded an interference penalty against Callum Pattison.

However, the opening goal was not long in coming as Whitley made their visitors pay for a trip to the penalty box when DJ Good netted at 9.26, and when the Blaze picked up a couple of minors soon after, it was Shaun Kippin who extended the lead at 12.48.

Coventry pulled a goal back less than two minutes later.

Neither side could find the net in the middle session, but with Whitley racking up 41 minutes in penalties – compared to none for Coventry – the away side certainly had plenty of opportunity.

As it was, Whitley probably came closest to scoring as both Nathan Ryder and Callum Watson were denied by the visitors netminder.

Whitley finally made the game safe when Jordan Barnes added a third in the 48th minute, although Kieran Papps did pull one back at 52.12 and Coventry were denied the opportunity of pulling their netminder until the last few seconds of the game because of some superb fore-checking by Whitley that kept the visitors pinned in their own end of the ice.

Two wins for Warriors over the weekend keeps them in fourth place in the English National League North, but they have now moved closer to the leading three and also have games in hand over Trafford Metros and Telford Titans.

Telford were beaten 3-2 on their own ice, despite leading twice, while Coventry lost by an identical score and Warriors coach Garry Dowd believes his side is now running into form.

“With so many changes to the side in the summer, we were bound to struggle a little at first,” he said, “but all the players are getting used to each other and you can see our on-ice performance improve.

“The Telford game certainly wasn’t a classic by any means, but we dug in and got the job done against a side that are very feisty in their own rink especially.

“However, that result would have counted for little if we hadn’t been able to beat Coventry, and once again I was impressed with the resilience we showed; especially when we took all those penalties.”

DJ Good netted markers each side of the second interval to seal the win at Telford and was also instrumental in the victory over Coventry.

“I’m often loath to pick out individuals for praise,” said Dowd, “but DJ was outstanding this weekend and thoroughly deserved to pick up both man of the match awards.”

The coach also thought the Warriors penalty killing had been exceptional against Coventry.

“Once again we took too many penalties, but we dealt with each situation superbly and that must have been frustrating for Blaze,” he added.

“We are a little short on defence at the moment with injuries and unavailability, so it has been all hands to the pump, with players like Nathan Ryder – who has done a great job – moved from the forward line and we have been a difficult side to break down.”

Injuries rule out Bryan Dunn (groin), Steve Pritchard (ankle) and Phil Pritchard (groin) this weekend for a double header against Blackburn Hawks, while Rob Wilson will be suspended for the Saturday game.

However, Dean Holland should make his Warriors debut and Kevin Bucas will be available for the defence.

“They will be two tough games,” admitted Dowd, “Blackburn are a good side, but we have three victories in a row now; so we will hopefully have a little momentum,” he concluded.

Four times FA Vase winners Whitley Bay FC are the Warriors special guests at the Blackburn game on Sunday when they will be showing off the trophy they have won for the last three seasons and tickets are available on the night, priced adults £7.50, under 16s and concessions £5.50, while a family ticket is available for £22. The action gets under way at 5pm, with the doors open 30 minutes before face-off.