WHITLEY Warriors suffered a 3-1 home defeat to Sutton Sting in a Northern Cup encounter on Sunday.
The Hillheads outfit went into the game with player/coach Garry Dowd in their line-up, but first choice netminder Richie Lawson and Jamie Tinsley were both ruled out through injury while Callum Pattison and Nathan Ryder were unavailable due to suspension.
Dowd’s men got the game off to a superb start when Dean Holland put Warriors into the lead with under two minutes on the clock after some nice build up play from Alex Lawson.
This was Sutton’s first ever visit to Hillheads in a senior fixture and they were far from overawed as they were able to match the home side for the majority of the first session.
Shortly into the second period Sutton levelled the contest up when Craig Thurston beat Warriors’s in-form netminder Liam McAllister.
Seconds after the equalising goal, Warriors were put under further pressure as Sting had a powerplay opportunity after Whitley defenceman Simon Hehir picked up a two-minute penalty for hooking.
Warriors managed to kill off the penalty, however, the visitors created several genuine chances during the middle period of action.
The third session was a tight affair until the 52-minute mark when Warriors centre DJ Good picked up a minor penalty for slashing.
The visitors sensed an opportunity and immediately called a time out, and from the resulting play Sutton’s Shaun Ashton scored to the delight of the away bench and the small contingent of Sting fans who had travelled to the north east from the midlands.
Warriors gave everything in the final minutes and almost scored on a powerplay opportunity of their own late in the game when Dean Holland hit the bar with a great strike from the blue line.
Whitley pulled their netminder with under a minute to play, however, it was the visitors who found the back of the net when Ritchie Oliver shot into the unguarded net with only ten seconds left on the clock.
Warriors goalscorer Holland felt his side just did not get the breaks in front of goal.
“We are a bit disappointed with the result, we were hoping to get two points out of that game but we just couldn’t find the back of the net,” he said.
“We hit the bar and the post, we had so many chances but we couldn’t just get the goals.”
Holland said the team now need to look forward to this weekend’s home clash with the Solway Sharks
“We’ll clear our heads after tonight’s loss, skate hard in practicand just make sure we are at our very best next weekend,” he added.
“We’ll hopefully have Nazzy (Nathan Ryder) and Patto (Callum Pattison) back next week.
“Patto is just a workhorse and if he can keep his temper under control he can be the best player on the team as he makes so much space for everyone else out on the ice as he’s so big and strong.”
Sunday’s game against Solway (face-off 5pm) promises to be a superb match between two of the top sides in division one north.
The Sharks have won four out of their opening five league games of the campaign while Warriors are yet to suffer defeat in league action this term.