WHITLEY Warriors finally put their away day blues behind them with a gritty 4-2 win away to newly promoted Solihull Barons last Sunday.
And the win, which moved them up to fourth in the English National League table, was achieved despite finding themselves with only three regular defencemen.
With Ally Brummitt, Kevin Bucas, Phil Pritchard, Steven Pritchard, who may need an knee operation, and Rob Wilson all missing, Nathan Ryder returned to the side and found himself playing on the blue line.
Senior defender David Barrett was outstanding and earned the man of the match award.
Warriors made a blistering start to the game with DJ Good putting them ahead on four minutes, and the lead was doubled when Josh Maddock netted his first of the season – a powerplay goal – at 5.27.
Whitley continued on the offensive in the opening ten minutes and were rewarded when Callum Pattison finished off a great move to score a third for them at 8.55; this time while the visitors were a man down.
However, Rob Perks pulled one back for the Barons before the end of the first period to make it 3-1 and, despite the best efforts of both sides in the middle session, the score remained the same after 40 minutes.
With such a small squad available, the Warriors naturally began to tire in the third and Erik Bakalar gave the home fans some hope when he pulled a goal back with a little under ten minutes remaining.
Whitley then picked up a minor penalty with five minutes left on the clock to give Solihull a great scoring opportunity, but the tired visitors defence played superbly to deny any real goalscoring chances.
And that brought its reward when Callum Watson grabbed a fourth in the last minute to secure the win.
Coach Garry Dowd knew a good start to the game was vital and he was delighted to see his team take control from the off and score those three early goals to set up the win.
“Because we were so short-handed and were obviously going to tire as the night went on, we needed an explosive start, and that’s exactly what we got,” he said.
“It was so important we began well, and that was shown as the game progressed, because Solihull came into it more as time went on.
“But we always had that cushion of the early lead to defend.
“And we defended superbly all night, not just the D-men – who were outstanding the whole game – but everyone in the side did their job and they all worked hard for each other from start to finish.
“Calvin (Khass) played well in goal – facing 56 shots – while David Barrett was a real rock for us at the back, he was our senior defender and his experience was vital, because he helped the other players through the game, and thoroughly deserved his man of the match award at the end.”
It was the Warriors’ first away win of the season and Dowd is now looking for his side to build on last night’s success.
He said: “We have finally got that monkey off our back, and we can now go into Saturday’s trip to Telford with a lot more confidence and look to get a much better result than on our last visit.”
Brummitt and Wilson look set to return for the trip to Telford, while the Warriors also have some home action this weekend when Coventry are the visitors to Hillheads.
Tickets are available on the night, priced at adults £7.50, under 16s and concessions £5.50, while a family ticket is available for £22.
The game gets under way at 5pm with the doors open 30 minutes before face-off.