Whitley Warriors secure narrow win over Sheffield Spartans

Whitley Warriors' Ben Richards. Picture by Colin Edwards
Whitley Warriors' Ben Richards. Picture by Colin Edwards

Whitley Warriors edged a narrow win on Sunday away to Sheffield Spartans.

After falling behind midway through the contest, the visitors overcame the deficit to take the points with goals from Dean Holland and Ben Richards.

Warriors were without several senior players due to injury and illness, which saw player-coach David Longstaff fully utilise his large roster of players.

Forward Martin Crammond moved back into defence as a number of Whitley’s blue liners such as Joe Stamp, Andre Payette, Scott Cooper and youngsters Liam Smeldey and Craig Johnson were all unable to take part.

Neither side were able to get on the scoresheet in the opening period, despite both having powerplay opportunities as the officials called three minor and four major penalties during the first 20 minutes of action.

Warriors’ Longstaff and Shaun Kippin were both sent to the sin bin by referee Paul Staniforth.

The home side took the lead on 32 minutes when Spartans d-man David Pyatt fired past Warriors netminder Richie Lawson.

But Whitley were not behind for long as Holland grabbed the equaliser under two minutes later when he netted on a powerplay assisted by the hard-working Shaun Kippin.

The visitors had another poweprlay opportunity late in the second period but the Spartans defence was able to see off the threat on that occasion.

Whitley edged ahead with 48 minutes on the clock through youngster Richards after he had been nicely set up by the experienced Adam Reynolds.

With under three minutes remaining, a cross-checking penalty was called on Spartans defenceman Dougie Jordan, but bizarrely there was no further play in the contest with the reasons behind the officials’ decision to end the match early unknown.

Teenage forward Kyle Ross picked up the man of the match award for Warriors as reward for his energetic display, while Spartans goaltender Andy Bagshaw, who saved 39 out of the 41 shots that came his way, was chosen as the home side’s best player on the night.

Ross’ award is the youngster’s second in successive games as he was also chosen as Warriors’ top performer in the previous Sunday’s home victory over Sutton Sting.

After the win, Warriors’ Shaun Kippin said: “Sheffield are a good, hard-working team and we out worked them tonight.

“Their goalie has kept score close but we dug deep at 1-0 down and found a way to win.

“I thought Martin Crammond had a great game on defence for the first time in his career, and Dean Holland has scored again for us this week. Overall it was good team performance, which is what we need in the run up to the play-offs.”

Warriors are back in action on home ice on Sunday, February 21, when Sheffield Senators visit Tyneside for a NIHL North Division 1 encounter that gets under way at Hillheads at 5pm.

Whitley hope to have a larger squad of players available as players return from both illness and injury during the next seven days.