Warriors made to work hard for the win

Dean Holland opens the Warriors scoring in the ninth minute. Picture by Colin Edwards.
Dean Holland opens the Warriors scoring in the ninth minute. Picture by Colin Edwards.

WHITLEY Warriors ended their regular season campaign at Hillheads with a win, but they were made to work hard for the victory by a Sheffield side looking to end their season with a bang.

It took until the ninth minute for Whitley to open the scoring through Dean Holland.

But once the goals started flowing they just did not stop.

Sheffield were level inside a minute when Jon Woolhouse caught the home defence cold with a long range effort, but the Warriors were back in front at 14.07 with a smart finish from Jamie Tinsley that was too good for the visiting keeper.

However, once again the home side were unable to hang onto their lead and Will Barron quickly drew the sides level.

The goals came so fast at the start of the second session that the announcer was having trouble keeping the crowd informed.

GB Under-18 international Harry Harley scored at 21.33 – lifting the puck high into the visitors goal with a tremendous back-hand shot – but a little over a minute later the Warriors found themselves behind for the only time in the game as Ollie Barron and Nathan Britton scored for Spartans.

But back came Whitley and looked to have seized the initiative as they hit the back of the net three times in 90 seconds.

DJ Good drew the game level at 4-4 with an effort at 23.12, and that was quickly followed by further strikes from Holland and Harley.

Sheffield then made use of the man advantage to reduce the arrears through Andrew Turner in the 28th minute, but Callum Watson then netted for the home side just two seconds before the end of an eventful middle period.

Incredibly Sheffield went on to level the game again at the start of the final session as Nick Manning (43.10) and Will Barron (48.26) brought the scores level at 7-7.

However, the Yorkshire side were ultimately to be denied a point when Callum Watson raced down the right wing and cut inside to beat the Sheffield keeper with just over 90 seconds of the game remaining to ensure Whitley at least ended the season with the best home record in the league.

Afterwards assistant player/coach Kevin Bucas – who was left in charge when Garry Dowd took ill during the game – said he was pleased with the victory, but felt they were guilty of some sloppy defending.

“At least we kept going till the end,” he said.

“But without taking anything away from the Sheffield performance, because they were up for the game all night, too many of their goals were defensive lapses on our behalf; and that is something we can’t afford to be doing with the play-offs around the corner.

“We gave Calvin [Khass] a game in goal, but too many times he was left with a man all alone in front of him and really we should have given him, or any goalie, much better protection than we did.

“We seemed to just want to play going one way, and that was forward, and while it is fine to be scoring some good goals, which we did, we have to do the dirty work at the other end of the ice as well.”

However, if there was one real positive out of the weekend – the Warriors also won 4-3 away to Trafford Metros on Saturday – it was the performance yet again of youngsters Christian Johnson and Harry Harley.

“They seem to be picking up the man of the match award on an almost regular basis away from home especially,” said Bucas.

“Christian took the award on Saturday and it was Harry who collected our man of the match against Sheffield after scoring two great goals; both are doing great things on the ice and are becoming important members of the team.”

The Warriors bring down the curtain on their league season away to already relegated Solihull Barons this Sunday, but still have their ENL Play-Off trophy to defend and will play Blackburn Hawks in the two legged semi-final on dates yet to be decided.