WHITLEY Warriors’ 38-game unbeaten run in the ENL North division one – stretching back to January 2010 – finally came to an end away to Telford Titans.
The home side dominated the first period and were ahead on six minutes when Paul Rigby scored the first of his three on the night, with Slovakian Karol Jets adding a second before the end of the period.
Whitley did begin the second session in more typical fashion and soon pulled one back when Shaun Kippin netted at 23.45; and the scores were level by the mid-point of the game courtesy of a Nathan Ryder strike.
However, Jets restored the lead at 33.50 when he was given too much space to score on a short-handed play, but once again Whitley responded and DJ Good made it 3-3 just a minute later.
But disaster would strike from the face-off as Rigby scored without any assistance from his team-mates and the two-goal advantage would return just before the second interval when Ryan Stanton made use of the powerplay.
David Lawrence took over in goal for the third period and the Warriors did put themselves back in the game at 46.43 with a powerplay goal from Martin Crammond, but that would be as close as they got.
The home side upped the tempo again as the game reached its conclusion and they surged further ahead at 48.15 through Dan Taylor, before Rigby completed the scoring – and his hat-trick – with six minutes left on the clock.
“It was a bit of a shock to the system after such a long time and everyone was quite down in the dressing room afterwards,” said skipper Rob Wilson.
“But the good thing was we knew where we had gone wrong and were able to talk it through before getting back on the bus to go home.
“Now we have to put that behind us and concentrate on the next game, because that becomes crucial, and make sure we are ready for the visit of Coventry to Hillheads on Sunday night.”
Wilson felt the long bus journey to Shropshire had played a part in the defeat.
“It’s our longest trip and we were held up in traffic, which resulted in us arriving later than normal,” he said.
“That meant we didn’t have our usual warm-up and personally I felt a little under-prepared for the game as a result – and I know some of the other lads did too.
“We were also behind quickly and it was difficult to get back into the match after that, although we did recover to 2-2 at one point.
“But with so many changes to the side over the summer, we aren’t really firing on all cylinders as yet and perhaps didn’t respond to the situation as the Warriors normally do.”
Wilson also found himself pressed into service as a forward for the game as Whitley were without Bryan Dunn and Callum Pattison, and had an extra defender, but the captain admitted it was not an experience he enjoyed.
“Obviously as a player you do what you can for the team,” he said, “but even though I would consider
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myself as an offensive defender, playing up there on a full-time basis was totally different situation and not something I would like to do too often.”
The Warriors have a chance to get back to winning ways on Sunday night when Coventry ENL Blaze are the visitors to Hillheads and Wilson feels the players will be relishing the opportunity.
“We should be back to something like full strength again with Bryan Dunn returning to the side after missing the Telford game, while Callum Pattison has now completed his two-game suspension,” said the captain.
“Callum is such a big physical presence and that could be vital against a side that has the experience Coventry do, while Bryan is such a huge presence in the dressing room and always brings confidence, so both will be welcome additions.
“We owe it to ourselves – and the fans – to perform much better this weekend and we are all looking forward to the chance to put things right against Coventry.”
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.