Whitley Warriors endure a testing weekend

Whitley Warriors applying pressure to the Sheffield Spartans goal. Picture by Colin Edwards
Whitley Warriors applying pressure to the Sheffield Spartans goal. Picture by Colin Edwards
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For the first time this season Whitley Warriors had a two game weekend as they travelled north on Saturday to play a St Andrews Cup tie against Solway Sharks before taking on Sheffield Spartans in a league game on Sunday evening at home.

A youthful Warriors squad made the journey to Dumfries with teenage goaltender Mark Turnbull in nets and youngsters Craig Johnson, Liam Smedly, Callum Queenan, Ben Richards and Kyle Ross all getting significant ice time.

Whitley lost the cup game in Scotland 4-1 with Dean Holland grabbing their goal against the NIHL North champions.

Warriors had more experience in their squad for the Spartans game as Dan Harris, Paul Matthews and Martin Crammond all came back into the line-up.

They started the game positively and took the lead just five minutes in when Callum Watson netted on a powerplay after being set up precisely by Matthews and Josh Maddock.

Sheffield equalised under three minutes into the second period when Will Barron neatly finished.

Shortly afterwards Warriors went on another powerplay when Sheffield’s Ross Jordan was sent to the box for cross-checking and Whitley’s specialist team struck again as young winger Richards grabbed his second goal of the season to fire the home side back into the lead.

The second period was end to end as both sides created numerous offensive opportunities.

The visitors grabbed their second goal with 34 minutes played when Elliott Knell was able to shoot the puck past goaltender Richie Lawson.

Once again Whitley quickly re-established their lead when a powerful Holland slap-shot from just inside the blue line flew into the back of the net.

Sheffield were not behind for long, though, as Stuart Brittle tied the scores up before the end of the middle stanza when he found the back of the net from an extremely tight angle to the delight of the away bench and their supporters.

Both sides went into the last 20 minutes with everything to play for with the scores tied 3-3.

And three minutes in it was Spartans who went on front for the first time in the game when captain Ollie Barron bundled the puck home.

Warriors put the Spartans defence under pressure during the remainder of the game.

Whitley coach Simon Leach opted to pull goalie Lawson late on to enable his side to ice an extra skater and then called a late time-out to outline his side’s tactics.

However, Sheffield goaltender Brandon Stones was able to turn away all the shots that came his way which saw Spartans claim their first victory against Warriors on Tyneside for a number of years.

Warriors skipper Jamie Tinsley was chosen as their top performer for his all action display while Sheffield’s Nick Manning was selected as the visitors man of the match.

After the game, coach Leach said: “I must give credit to Sheffield as they came here to play and they did well.

“I do feel our lack of discipline has cost us, though, and there were some individual mistakes out there.

“I’m bitterly disappointed. We did play well in the first period but then we went flat in the second and let them back into the game, running into penalty trouble didn’t help either.”

In regards to injuries his side picked up over the course of the weekend, the coach added: “We lost Jordan Barnes to injury in the warm-up against Solway and he’ll be out of action for a significant period of time.

“Callum Queenan and Ben Richards also picked up injuries against Sheffield; we just seem to be picking up injuries in every game at the minute.”

Warriors are back in action on Sunday night (5pm face-off) in a home NIHL North league game when the Manchester Minotaurs travel from their Altrincham base in the north west of England.