WHITLEY Warriors went into their home game with Blackburn Hawks looking to beat the Lancashire outfit for the first time this season.
The Warriors had lost 4-1 to the same side the previous night, and 3-2 when the Hawks visited Hillheads for a Northern Cup fixture earlier in the campaign.
Before the game got under way, players from Whitley Bay FC paraded the FA Vase around the ice and after receiving a standing ovation, took their seats in the stands to watch the Warriors’ best performance of the season so far.
Right from the off they tore into the Blackburn defence and it seemed only a matter of time before they took the lead, that ‘goal’ coming when Mark Good shot across the Hawks keeper, but while the celebrations were in full swing; protests from the visitors that it had only hit the post, saw the referee disallow the goal.
Whitley continued on the offensive, but the only goal of the opening period came at 18.44 when Blackburn forward Sean Day tipped in from close range.
The Warriors continued where they had left off at the start of the second session and bombarded the Hawks goal, pinning the opposition in their own half for long spell.
Eventually a goal had to come and it was Callum Watson who managed to squeeze the puck home at 31.06.
Right from the face-off Whitley were back in front of the visitors goal and this time it was Shaun Kippin who scored to put them in front, just 21 seconds later.
But Whitley were not finished and they made it three goals in just 63 seconds when Dean Holland reacted quickest to steer the puck home and force a shell-shocked Blackburn Hawks to call a time-out.
The referee deserves special praise for allowing the game to flow the way he did, although three late penalties against Whitley saw them have to defend well to stop the visitors forcing their way back into the game.
However, once they did that, the game was made safe when man of the match Shaun Kippin grabbed his second at 55.38, meaning a last minute strike from Hawks Gary Dixon was little more than consolation.
Coach Garry Dowd, who confirmed afterwards that they are close to completing another signing, was delighted with the performance of his side.
“I felt we had a big point to prove after the defeat the previous night,” he said, “and I was very pleased with the way the whole squad responded.
“We were very unlucky to be a goal behind at the end of the first period, especially as we had a perfectly good effort by Mark Good ruled out, and you feared it could be another one of those games; but we had that spell in the middle of the second session and there was really no way back for Blackburn after that.”
Holland scored on his home debut and the coach was very pleased with his contribution: “There is a lot of pressure on Dean because of where he has come from.
“Some people expect him to make a difference straightaway, but he played very well and after training with us for the last month, I can see that his partnership with Martin Crammond and Jamie Tinsley could be a very good one.”
But Dowd was pleased with the way everyone played and could find no real fault with his side on the night.
“Perhaps their last goal was a little sloppy from our point of view, but the game as won by then,” he said, “but from Calvin Khass in goal right through to the forwards, everyone did a good job.
“The defence was tight and the forwards played really well; and on this form we would be good enough to take on anyone.
“The previous night we had been second best to everything, but this time we won all the 50/50s and even some of the times when things might have been 20/80 in Blackburn’s favour, we were coming away with the puck.”
Dowd has also announced that former Newcastle Vipers netminder Ritchie Lawson has signed for Whitley, after training with the team for the last month.
“David (Lawrence) and Calvin (Khass) have done a fantastic job for us so far this season and I have sat them both down and told them that,” he said, “but we need competition for places all over the ice and with three keepers we have just that.
“I now have a squad of around 25, which means not everyone can play each week, so that will keep the players hungry and ensure we bring out the best in everyone.
“Ritchie is an excellent keeper, with a good pedigree of doing a job for Newcastle in the Elite League, and gives us another dimension.”
Lawson could make his debut this Sunday when the Warriors travel to take on Nottingham Lions and the coach knows it is another one of those potentially difficult games for his side.
“They don’t make it easy for you, especially with a 7.30pm face-off on a Sunday night,” he said, “but we just have to get on with it and with the squad we now have, we should be capable of taking the points.”