Speedway: Lemon Named New Belle Vue Boss

Mark Lemon wearing the Aces colours
Back in 2012

This past Monday saw Belle Vue announce the arrival of a former Aces rider and the current Australian Team Manager in the shape of Mark Lemon being newly installed as the man to take over in the at Kirkmanshulme Lane hot seat, with the Aussie replacing outgoing Jason Attwood as the new boss at Belle Vue for the upcoming season. The Aces will hope that change in management will help kick start a new era going forward for the club, as they look to start making plans for their final year at their current home of 26 years at the Belle Vue greyhound stadium, with them hope to finally move into their brand new £11m state of the art National Speedway Stadium which is hoped to be ready in time for the start of the 2016 Elite league season.


The Appointment of Lemon sees the Aces having their fifth Team Manager in seven years at ‘Kirky Lane’ with the Bairnsdale-native taking on the new role, after talks last month between himself and the Belle Vue promotion had the former Ace originally coming on board in a different capacity as Lemon explains:

I met up with David Gordon and Chris Morton in Torun last month, and when they learned I was planning to retire they said they had something I might be interested in getting involved with.


“I’ve always been keen on the project they’ve got going with the National Speedway Stadium and Academy, and that snowballed into them asking me if I wanted to be team manager.

“I’ve had a lot of fun with my racing over the years but unfortunately my injuries are coming back to haunt me, so I feel now is a good opportunity to move on and tackle new challenges”.
The Aces faithful will be hoping he can bring some of his grit he shown when he rode for the club back in 2012, as if his management with the Aces is anything like his managing with Australia, then they will be back in business for sure. ‘Lemmo’ will hope he can inject some of his enthusiasm into the Belle Vue side next year, with the Aces being on many occasions in recent seasons seemingly lacking in direction and focus while having trouble to transition teams that look good on paper, out on to track which has seen performances from many riders lacking in focus over the years.
 Pre-season predictions last year had the Aces tipped to be challenging for a playoff spot come the end of the season at the very least, but those hopes ended in the opening couple of months with the fact that the men from Manchester failed to win on their travels all year and finished above new boys to the league last year in the Leicester Lions, who themselves picked up more bonus points on the road than the Aces did.
Belle Vue will hoping that his contacts within the sport and his 25 years of experience in speedway, will hold him in good stead and will hopefully catapult the most successful speedway side in Britain, back up the table and challenging for honours instead of wallowing around at the bottom of the table, of which has been a familiar trait for the Belle Vue fans to deal with on a regular basis since 2006.
Despite the new Aces manager looking ahead to the Elite league, he will also be looking forward to helping Australian go for World Cup glory to as he is the current Australian team manager as previously mentioned and will have the task of trying to get his beloved homeland back on top of the speedway mountain once again the battle for the Ove Fundin trophy rolls around in June. However his biggest task will be trying to awaken a sleeping giant in Belle Vue Speedway after many years in the doldrums.
Lemon will be getting his team building started straight from the off too, as this coming week sees the second season of the ‘Fast Track draft’ system taking place and where a couple of riders on the radar for the new man in charge may see him make a potential move for a former Ace.
Jason Garrity is one name being mentioned about a possible return to his local track, to which is one possibly of happening, after the Droylsden-based youngster an incredible season riding at Coventry last year under the fast track system and saw him show he is one of the future riders for Great Britain.
Another option he has is Steve Worrall, the younger brother of Richie who rode for the Aces last year. Steve though certainly outshone his older brother on the track last season, with the St Helens born rider picking up a fair few high scores in his time down at Swindon last year and also took many guest bookings too, plus there is also the added factor of Worrall being a Belle Vue Asset so it is an interesting start for Lemon`s regime as the opening team building plans are well and truly underway.

Ice Hockey: Hand-y Penalty sees Phoenix edge Lightning in shoot out

                                                (AFTER SHOOTOUT)

Manchester Phoenix player coach Tony Hand claimed the extra point for his side in a 3-2 shootout win over the Milton Keynes Lightning last night in what was a drab affair and far away from the usual classics served up by these two sides over the past few seasons. Phoenix went into the game missing two players from the line up, with Scottish forward Adam Walker and defenseman James Neil not icing for the League champions as they welcomed the MK Lightning to the Altrincham ice dome for the first time this season.


Manchester started off the most attacking team in the game as Stephen Wall face more rubber in the Lightning nets and had him produce a fair few easy saves from the home side, but none of the shots that came in at him were really troubling efforts at all.

Milton Keynes themselves created a couple of chances in the period that saw them get a few odd man rushes, that was down to the home defence employing cover in defence, with Jared Dickinson taking some shifts as defenseman in the game for the home team.

The visitors got the opening goal of the game at 6-23, when pressure by the Lightning saw Michael Farn and Jordan Cownie assisting Lewis Hook whose effort on goal found a way past Stephen Fone for the lead in the contest.

Manchester then got dealt another blow at 7-05 gone in the game, when a scramble at the front of the nets saw a player falling down in the crease and land right on top of Stephen Fone right leg, which then saw play come to a halt and had him receive treatment on the ice. Fone then got helped off the ice and looked in a bad way and was replaced by Back up netminder Declan Ryan and so saw the Phoenix play with their concentration distracted by the injury to Fone and had the opposition trying to capitalise on it.

Phoenix was getting caught out badly a couple of times and if not for the inability of the Lightning forwards to strike (pardon the pun) then the home side would have found themselves trailing by more than the one goal at that point.


For all the quickness that the Milton Keynes possessed on the ice, that couldn’t be said however for their line changes throughout the game. It would be fair to say to they were slow in deciding on their line changes and was as quick as a slug running the 100 metres race.  After many warnings by Andy Miller the match referee it had the official lose patience with the away team and so penalised them for a delay of game at 8-47 and drew protests, but they had no one to blame but themselves over it.

Phoenix then went on the power play and didn’t make much of the extra man advantage at all and so had MK kill it off with relative ease in truth.


Neither side was able to get anything going in the way of fluidity to their play as it made for a very disjointed and scrappy game by both teams on the ice. At 14-59 it saw the hosts tie the game up at 1-1 when Jack Watkins jumped onto a poke pass by Corson-Heron from the side of the net and Watkins was alert to quick get on to it and slide it in past Wall for a nice goal to see the game level.

Once again the slowness of the Lightning bench came to the fore and saw Milan Kostourek who was told a couple of times to return to the team bench for a late change, had the Czech forward argue over it and so saw another delay of game called against the visitors with Nick Poole the head coach of the Lightning, signalling to his man to come off prior to the penalty and so another power play went the way of the Phoenix as the period came to a close.

In the middle stanza the period was drearier than the previous one, with not much in the way of excitement from either side and had the atmosphere in the ice dome flat as a pancake, to which the fans watched a turgid period by both teams.

Milton Keynes had the better of the attack though as they looked more threatening than that of the home team, but they too couldn’t find a way past Ryan as they looked in search of retaking the lead.

Manchester had a spell of good pressure on the Lightning goals in the period with the puck sent whizzing across the front of their crease on more than one occasion, but again nothing really coming of it.

In the final minute of the second it saw Lightning forward Blaz Emersic flying up the ice and let loose a bolt from the right faceoff circle of Ryan, which saw the Phoenix netminder just get a piece of the puck off his glove to turn it onto the goal post and have the sound of pipe work ringing through the rink and bring a goalless period to an end.

With the game tied at one apiece to start the 3rd period it saw the sides slightly open up a bit more and saw both teams with Wall and Ryan having good games for their respective sides in keeping it level.

Leigh Jamieson then restored the lead for the Buckinghamshire club, when the forward skated round the Phoenix zone unchallenged by a Phoenix defenseman and saw him slot home with a lovely solo goal, but really should have been dealt with in the build up it at 45-34.

It looked to be another game where Manchester in previous matches would have probably dropped their heads and cave in, however Manchester battled back and the saw them get a bit a bit of luck go their way too for their tying goal.

James Archer and Bobby Chamberlain was trying to find a shooting lane to get a shot off on Stephen Wall, but the MK defense was standing firm and so when Chamberlain effort hit of Robin Kovar at the front of the net, it saw the puck hit him and go in by Wall for a 2-2 game with under 6 minutes of the game remaining.

With the clock expiring for a winner in regulation, it saw the game head to an overtime period to see who would claim the extra point in the standing.  Manchester had been boosted by their goal late in the 3rd and it shown as they had a couple of chances to win it, Tony Hand nearly notched the game winner with a couple of minutes remaining in the extra period, as him and Bakrlik went on a 2 on 1 which saw Hand wind up for a big slapshot and dinged off the goal post and away to safety for the Lightning.


MK then had their chance to take the spoils, when Kostourek was sent away up ice and had only Ryan to beat, but the Phoenix goaltender stood up well to make a good pad save on him and deny him the winning goal. The horn sounded with the Milton Keynes side finishing the game with a power play that they couldn’t make full use off with 13 seconds to go and so that meant the dreaded penalty shoot out was used to decide the winner of this game.

James Archer went first for the home side and saw him and Milan Kostourek both miss their sides opening penalties, but goals by Frantisek Bakrlik and Michal Psurny for the Phoenix were cancelled out by Blaz Emersic and Jordan Cownie efforts to see the score 2-2 after the 4th round of penalties.


Misses by Robin Kovar and Joe Graham for the home side and Adam Carr and Stanislav Lascek for the visitors brought out saw player coach for Manchester in Tony Hand, as the Scottish veteran tried to give his side the advantage and after a slight miss control in the build up to his shot, it seen the forward recover and commit Wall out of the nets before neatly lifting it up over him to go 3-2 up.

Leigh Jamieson then came out for the Lightning, knowing they needed to scored to stay alive in the game and has his penalty saved by Ryan to which gave the Phoenix the extra point to move up the table and get their league campaign back on track.     


Phoenix netminder Declan Ryan said on Phoenix TV: “It was great to get ice time tonight; although I would rather Stephen (Fone) had not got injured. I really enjoyed the game and it was great to get the win.”
British forward Bobby Chamberlain commented on the win on the Phoenix Podcast: “They`re a good team and came out strong as well; It was a weird game to tell you truth, we had chances, and they had some chances, but we got the win and doing well at home now winning the last 3. He added” It`s good to get these wins that are close, because towards the start of the season we had a couple of games that we should have won and we didn’t really get the wins.”



RUGBY: No Luck of the Irish as the Shark bite back


Sale Sharks moved up to 7th position in the Aviva Premiership with a resounding 36-8 thrashing of London Irish at the A.J Bell stadium on Saturday, as the Sharks forwards powering them home to a big win in front their home fans and gave a good response to last weekend`s capitulation at Leicester Tigers. Sale boss Steve Diamond wasn’t a happy camper with his side second half disappointment six days ago and wanted them show that they were a better side than and they certainly made amends for it too, with the home side picking up 5 tries in the match to which two of them came in the way of penalty tries with their opponents bullied upfront by the Sale pack as the Sharks claimed a much needed bonus point too in with the win.

The game started off with the visitors taking the early lead in the match after just twenty seconds in, when an infringement during a scrum led to the referee awarding a penalty to London Irish and Chris Noakes kicked over successfully to put them 3-0 up.  The visiting side had the lion share of possession in the opening five minutes of the game, but they just wasn’t able to get too much going or make use of the ball when in their possession. Sale then began to stir and make some inroads on their opponents, with the Sharks scrum flexing their muscles as they forced back the Irish pack which then led to them moving nearer the line, before play switched to the right wing where space was open and saw the ball quickly moved and had Michael Paterson throwing it over the last defender and David Seymour went over the line for a try and had Danny Cipriani kick the conversion for a 7-3 Sharks lead.

Sale`s dominance in the scrum was evident and saw them over power the visitors time and time again, which led to another penalty being awarded to the Sharks and a chance to pull further ahead with Cipriani kicking at goal, but the fly half just pulled his attempt wide of the uprights and a chance went begging by the hosts. London Irish then had a patch in the game where they threatened the Sharks solid defense as they tried to find little gaps in the Sale side, but the defence stood up to them well and suffocated all play to which they weren’t able to create any clear chances in the half. At the mid way point in the first half it saw the visitors given a penalty from a scrum and had Noakes strike the post with his kick and gave Sale a lucky escape.
Irish was coming up against a mean defence in the Sale back line and was making it extremely difficult to penetrate through and they also didn`t really help themselves either when they were making far too many handling errors and unforced ones for that as it seemed to plague the visitors in the game throughout the contest. Sale`s Samoan Sam Tuitupou then put in a crunching tackle in on fly half Chris Noakes as the London Irish man took too long with the pass and saw them hammered in midfield, to which he stayed down after Noakes  felt the full force of the New Zealander in the tackle.

The Sharks driving maul was once more using its power to full affect and saw them move up field gaining twenty metres, before Captain Dan Braid then made a break from the maul and led to their opponents getting penalised again and gave Cipriani another chance to extend the lead for Sale and this time he made no mistake with as he made 10-3 to the Sharks. Once more the Sale forwards asserted more pressure on the Irish back line and led to David Paice being shown the yellow card for a late hit in a good build up by Sale, which led to a line out being won by the hosts and the forwards driving towards the try line where Braid was the man to score the try and make it 15-3 for the Sharks with Cipriani hitting the post with the kick.
Sale were dominant at set pieces and when they earned another penalty, it saw the Sharks sensing blood now and Danny Cipriani chose to kick for the corner as the Sharks  looked in search of one more big push before the end of the half. The driving maul that was like a wrecking ball, simply ploughed through the London Irish defense and with an infringement by Luke Narraway in trying to stop the Sale juggernaut on route to the line, it led to a second London player sitting in the sin bin for ten minutes and the award of a penalty try to the hosts for a 22-3 lead at the half with the conversion added.

Will Cliff in his 100th game for Shark

Some Sale fans and management would have wondered whether the Shark could maintain this lead or do what has been done many times this season and have the men from the AJ Bell Stadium relinquish the lead in a second half collapse and let many a wins slip through their fingers.  As it was, the home side let their opponents get by easily at times through their defense and needed some good last ditch tackling to stop the advancing attackers from getting by them, with Noakes for the Irish managing to break a couple of lax tackles by the Sale players and saw him just stopped in his tracks with no support in coming by his team mates in the rare attacks they did have.
Cipriani missed another penalty for the hosts with the Sharks getting more and more aggressive and carving the Irish side open a bit more now than previously in the game, with the away side making more mistakes and causing problems for themselves too with their handling being the biggest let down for the southern side.  Sale was dismantling the London scrum to pieces and saw them awarded another penalty to which the following drive towards to the line brought the referee once again to award a penalty try for the Sharks and had the kick converted for a 29-3 points lead.

Sale tried to force the play a bit more as they had threatened all over the pitch whenever moving forward and saw the London Irish side finding it really hard to stop them and nearly brought another try soon after, when good build up play saw the ball switch to the other side of the pitch and a little clever Cipriani`s pass to Tom Arscott on the wing went slightly forward and brought an end to a good passage of play for the home side.  The Irish then had Alex Lewington break through a couple of Sale defenders and when he looked on course for a try, a Mike Haley tackle right at the death by the corner flag saw him manage to drag his opponent out of play before he grounded the ball and kept the score as it was after the TMO gave no try.
Danny Cipriani last action of the game saw him almost create a try out of nothing for the Sharks, with them looking even more dangerous up front and when then visitors thought they had everything covered a clever little kick put in behind the defense and towards the left corner, just had too much pace on it for Arscott and the ball ran dead.  The visitors did get some joy with ten minutes to go from the end, when a counter maul by the London Irish pack had Captain George Skivington going over for a try to make it 29-8 with Noakes missing the conversion.

In the 75th minute of the game, Sale grabbed their fifth and final try of the match as some lovely aggressive attacking play by the forwards saw Nick Macleod break away from the opponents and then made a lovely little pass to Andy Forsyth for the try to take them over the 30 points barriers with Macleod converting the extra points on offer for a 36-8 score to see the Sharks pick up a massive victory and move up the table.

The game also marked three milestone in the match with the 5th try also happening to be Sale`s 100th try in AJ Bell stadium since moving there in 2012 and also saw Will Cliff reach 100 games for the Sharks, as well as Marc Jones who saw him play in his 150th game for the club. Sale put in a great performance to see the Salford-based side rising up the table with a fantastic win and will look to improve on this win as they face Harlequins next Friday night at the Stoop.

Ice Hockey: Thompson Late Strike Burns the Flames



Sunday night saw the reigning English Premier League Champions (EPL) the Manchester Phoenix complete a rare home double this past weekend with victories over the Solway Sharks in the EPL Cup on Saturday night and then followed it up with a 5-3 thriller against the Guildford Flames, that saw a late go-ahead goal by Phoenix forward Shaun Thompson finding Its way in the back of the net for a big win over a top 4 team.

Phoenix who have had somewhat of a resurgence to form of late and looking much like them old selves kept that form going in the opening period of the game, as the home side got out of the blocks quickly and warmed the glove of the Flames net minder Gregg Rockman, as the Guildford shot-stopper was called upon to make some important saves in the opening couple of minutes of the contest, with the Phoenix still buoyed by that massive win last week over the Basingstoke Bison. 
Manchester came close to taking a lead in the game, but for the pipe work yet again denying the hosts of an opener and saw the game remain scoreless after the first five minutes of a Phoenix dominated period. Guildford it seemed was still in the locker room as they looked slow and out-paced by their opponents and was unable to make any kind of attack in the game with the Phoenix defense on top of the Flames forwards and held them  back at arm length so to speak in the game.

Eventually the deadlock was broken and came from back in inform Czech forward Michal Psurny, who scored his 100th goal for the Manchester Phoenix the previous night in a 10-2 win over Solway, saw him scoring the game opener when play by James Archer behind the Flames back boards had the returning forward find Tony Hand and his pass found the man from the Czech Republic waiting near the far side of the net and put home from a tight angle to beat Rockman and give the home side a early 1-0 lead after 7-23.

Guildford then started to up come alive and started to enjoyed a bit more possession in the game, but nothing that really caused any kind of problems for the Phoenix, as the home side had to kill off a 5-on-3 power play, to which they successfully did with ease as Luke Boothroyd sat for Tripping and Johan Burlin collected a delay of game call, but no shots came on the two man advantage for the away side and so a tight one goal lead separated the sides at the break.

Second period saw a much better Guildford side turn up, as they started to create problems and should have really leveled the game up early in the second, when Steve Fone in the Phoenix nets was forced to make a pad save and the rebound fell straight to Andy Hemmings and the Guildford forward who had a majority of the goal to aim at and plenty time to shoot, but the forward could only find the far post instead and saw Fone managed to gather up the rebound quickly. 

The Flames if you pardon the pun, was fired up a bit more in the second and it showed as they seemed to edge their way back in the contest and in parts controlled the period with Fone now being was the netminder coming under pressure in the match. Phoenix seemed to weather the Guildford storm in the early part of the period as they looked to be getting back on track with play.
Manchester started to find to some joy then and forced Rockman into a couple of saves as they got by the Guildford back line on a few occasions, but they couldn`t find a way through. The visitors have always had the ability to score at any time with the fire power they have at their disposal and it was highly likely that they would reply at some point and they did. Their opener came from a trio of former Phoenix players and straight out of the Manchester playbook too, as Andy McKinney and Marcus Kristofferson battled along the boards for Guildford and when Johan Burlin lost an edge it gave Kristofferson enough time to play a lovely pass across the far side for Curtis Huppe to control and put home for the tying goal at 25-55, which saw the defensive inability yet again by the Phoenix to not have the back post covered.

crowd look on at the Altrincham Ice Dome during Phoenix/Flames match

Manchester seemed slightly stunned by the goal they conceded and had their opponents enjoy the play for the next few shifts of play. Phoenix though retook the lead again a couple of minutes later, when at 27-57 Tony Hand found James Archer and his shot on goal was stopped by Rockman, but the Yorkshireman battled for the puck at the front of the net and saw Michal Psurny on hand to sweep the puck into the net and grab his second goal and the Phoenix 2nd of the game to get the large home crowd back on their feet again. 
Guildford huffed and puffed at the Manchester goals, but they were unable to force anything past Fone with the home defense and forwards back checking to snuff out any danger that the Flames posed and had Boothroyd and Hand throwing their bodies in the way too.

Things towards the back end of the period got a bit feisty on the ice, with some niggle after the whistle between Branislav Kvetan and Ben Wood to which saw a bit of a pushing and shoving and saw a little scrum occur but nothing more than that. The following passage of play saw Kvetan lay a big hit on former Flame Joe Graham and saw Manchester`s Bobby Chamberlain take exception to it and offered the big Slovakian out, as Chamberlain was fired up by it and laid a hard hit on a Guildford player on the boards to move the intensity up a notch heading to the end of the period.

In the final period of the game it was almost expected that the visitors would come out and give everything they had in the remaining twenty minutes of this encounter, and it saw an exciting end to end game for the fans with both sides slugging it out with their attacking play coming to the fore with a kind of who would blink first type of scenario, as both Fone and Rockman had good games between the pipes and kept the attacker out. Phoenix then moved two goals ahead in the game as a pass from Tony Hand from the side boards, fell perfectly to James Archer at the front of the net and the forward netted on his return to the line up and moved the home side 3-1 up and looked to be the goal that would end the game at 47-39. 
Manchester then suffered a mini collapse in the space of 20 seconds towards the middle of the period, when first off Andrew Hemmings shot somehow squeezed in at the near post of Fone for 3-2 at 49-13 and then at 49-23 Branislav Kvetan scored the tying goal to send the traveling fans delirious and give the visitors a massive boost in the game as we approached the final 10 minutes of the contest. The game then saw play go back and forth for a crazy eight minutes or so, before the game then became like a overtime period with both set of players trying not make any mistakes in the final two minutes of the game.

With 1.20 left on the scoreboard, it saw the hosts then strike the killer blow in this match as a Robin Kovar pass found Shaun Thompson who was patrolling the blue line and his first effort was turned away by Rockman, but the puck came only as far as Kovar, who again passed to Thompson and this time the Phoenix man blasted home the winner from the blue line that saw the dome nearly come off and the Flames looking dejected and the home side ecstatic for a 4-3 lead.
With a timeout called by the away side with eleven seconds to go in the game, it saw the visitors pulling their netminder for the extra attacker in a bid at somehow rescuing a point, but it was to no avail as the hosts sealed victory with Michal Psurny completing his hat trick with an empty net goal at 59.59, to see the Phoenix beat two of the top two sides in the league over back to back weekends.

ICE HOCKEY: Psurny Treble Sinks The Herd

Manchester Phoenix   8 –  3  Basingstoke Bison

Both sides reflecting on their game 

English Premier League (EPL) Champions Manchester Phoenix completed an incredible fightback that saw them overcome the EPL Playoff champions the Basingstoke Bison with five goals coming in the third period, as the Phoenix showed signs that they may have turned the corner finally. The league champions came back twice in the contest to as they took victory at the Altrincham Ice dome 8-3 thanks namely to forward Michal Psurny, as the Czech man netted his first hat trick of the season for the Phoenix in what was a crazy game.

The win looked extremely unlikely after the opening period of play when the Bison rampaged over a lacklustre Phoenix side that looked low on confidence, out of ideas and very below par at times too. Basingstoke who sat in second place prior to the game, looked as always a very well drilled side and looked to execute their game play as the opening half of the period saw the game even with no one really on top to start with.

Bison though never really got out of first gear and in all truth they didn’t need to either as Manchester was having a difficult time trying to clear their zone with the Bison playing a quicker game and mainly not putting a foot wrong. On the flip side, the Phoenix was making bad decisions all over the ice and despite the hosts enjoying early possession in the opening half of the period; they just couldn’t get any kind of meaningful shots on Dean Skinns as he kept a clean sheet. Basingstoke in the second half of the period saw them attack Phoenix with quick counters attacks that saw the home side having just one defender back covering and led to multiple odd men rushes for the Bison.

Eventually the numbers game told and saw Phoenix yet again being caught on a 3 on 1 rush by the rampaging Bison, which saw Tomas Karpov make it 1-0 for the visitors at 11-29 with Declan Balmer and Michael Wales getting assists. The visitors then thought they had scored less than a minute later, but referee Andy Miller washed it out for a ‘man in the crease’ and had the Bison’s protests fall on deaf ears. As it was the Herd didn’t have to wait very long for their second goal to come, as another Phoenix defensive fail saw the Bison double their lead through a Michael Wales strike at the back post to see the visitors looking good for their lead at 13-45 and the home side looking dead and buried at that point in time in the game.

Phoenix fans vented their displeasure towards the players, as they were putting in a poor display in front of their home supporters and any errors that the home side made was greeted with a collection of frustrated groans around in the stands. The hosts then got given a powerplay opportunity after Joe Baird went for Hooking and saw Phoenix unable to take a single shot in the two minutes, with passes going astray and going nearer their own goals than that of their opponents.  Play ticked down and saw the Bison seemingly having got the better of the Phoenix already in the game, after they snuffed out all attacks in the first period of the game and saw one said dejected and flat, while the other was massively upbeat and looked on course for victory, repeating a worrying trend of late for Phoenix being beaten in the opening periods of games.

In the second, it saw a better period for the hosts as they tried to find their way back in the game after a stern Tony Hand team talk seemed to work, with the Phoenix coming out and looked to be a much different side to that, that played out the opening period.  One indication of a change in the game, saw a passage of play that saw Phoenix and Bison players battling hard down towards the corner and saw no one shying away with fully blooded hits and some slightly questionable ones too, that saw the Phoenix almost make a statement during it, that they weren’t going to be bullied anymore in the game.

Manchester then got given another chance on the powerplay and saw them this time make the most of it, with player coach of the Manchester side Tony Hand and Michal Psurny combining to see Robin Kovar redirecting it in at the front of the net for a 2-1 score at 26-53, then a couple minutes later at 28-25, it saw Hand and Psurny once again team up to see another Czech forward get in on the act as Frankie Bakrlik found the twine with his  blast for a tied game at 2-2.  Basingstoke hit back 93 seconds later to retake the lead after an unlucky break for Steve Fone, as the Phoenix netminder thought he had stopped the puck completely but could only take the speed off it as it unfortunately squirmed through his defences just trickling in over the line, much to the frustration for the hosts after there was a mad scramble by both sides in the crease as it seemed no one could touch it.

That lead for the Bison lasted all of 41 seconds, with the Phoenix striking right back themselves, after Michal Psurny converted from Hand to see the score tied at 3-3 and saw the hosts edging the final half of the period as the game had completely turned in favour of the home side now.  Basingstoke though did have chances, but was now getting their shots half blocked and were still getting breakaways as the hosts pushed on for goals and left the back gate open far too many times against a top outfit in the Bison, but they couldn`t capitalise now. The buzzer sounded for the end of the second and   had the game nicely poised heading into the third, with the match to close to call on who would come out the winner.

An old puppet show called ‘Stingray’, had a phrase “Anything could happen in the next half hour!” and by crikey didn`t it half.  Manchester just flat out dominated play from the drop of the puck in the third to the final buzzer, as they dismantled their opponents, though part of it was down to a lot of ill discipline within their side too and partly led to their downfall.  Frankie Bakrlik sat for two minutes in the open early stages of the period, with the Czech forward getting a High Sticks calls at 40-21 and saw the Phoenix on the penalty kill. The home side snuffed out their opponents chances and not only that, but they also took the lead too. As Joe Graham saw the spotted the movement of Tony Hand and his attempted pass up ice was stopped by Kurt Reynolds at centre ice, but Hand managed to gather the puck back and blasted one by Skinns for a short-handed goal at 42-17 to see the Phoenix lead for the first time in the contest.

Declan Balmer then picked up a needless 2+10 minute penalty for a Check from behind on Shaun Thompson, with the Phoenix forward pushed into the goal frame from behind by Balmer and that started the implosion by the Playoff champions from that point onwards.  Adam Walker made it Six for the Phoenix at 45-40 as a quick attack by the home side saw Hand slow play right down, before he found his fellow countryman and Walker fired a quick shot in the Bison net for a 5-3 lead and had the fans finally seeing the Phoenix click for the first time properly all season. Joe Greener then lost his cool with the official over something he saw, to which the forward would not let drop and saw continue on at the match official and spoke out of term to the referee and picked up a ten minute Abuse of Official call at 50-14. 

Michal Psurny then scored his second goal of the game and looked to be looking like his old self again, as the man from the Czech Republic banked the puck off the back of the net with an oncoming Bison defender coming towards him and then tried a mini wrap around and made it Six for the hosts, with the Bison quickly losing the plot big time in the game now and saw a timeout taken to gather their thoughts. The timeout temporarily halted the goals, with the Phoenix netting twice more through an excellent Ben Wood solo goal and then saw the Bison defence go walkabouts, before a 2 on 0 by Manchester saw Hand feed Psurny and the Czech forward completed his hat trick to round off the rout at 57-47 and had everyone in shock over what they saw.

No one could have predicted the outcome and turnaround in the game after viewing the 1st period and the 3rd, it was quite incredible. Phoenix had played abysmal and looked likely to ship more goals, but to then come out and by the end look like the defending league champions, no doubt that this result will have raised a few eyebrows in the league and perhaps a sign to come, that the Phoenix are rising once more and are back in business but for now the win is springboard for the Altrincham side to use now for the rest for the season.  Manchester have a weekend at home next week, as they entertain the National Ice Hockey League outfit the Dumfries based Solway Sharks on Saturday night in the EPL cup, before hosting another tough game in the Guildford Flames the following evening in the league.

 Official Manchester Phoenix Podcast:  Listen Here

RUGBY: Sharks show bite in cup victory

Sale SHARKS  32  –  29 WASPS

Sale Sharks opened their LV=Cup campaign with a win in a see-saw game against the Wasps 32-29 at the AJ Bell Stadium on Saturday Afternoon, the match saw the lead change hands no more than seven occasions in the contest and had the visiting side battle back from ten points down in the second half to then draw level before a Nick Macleod penalty gave the Sharks the victory in an entertaining game for the fans, but frustrating for the coaches. 

The hosts were hoping that home comforts would help them out after their last few tough weeks for the Eccles based outfit, that has seen the Sharks get beaten heavily in Clermont last weekend in the European Rugby Cup and then suffered heartbreaking defeat against Irish heavyweights Munster, with a last gasp drop goal that denied them a famous win.  On the domestic side of things they was humiliated in front of a television audience at champions Northampton and saw their last victory ironically, coming against their visitors in this game nearly a month ago in the Wasps.

Both sides had a different look to each other from the last meeting between the two, as a few players was rested by their respective teams as Sale had Magnus Lund, Tom Arscott and Danny Cipriani being the main trio of players omitted from the home squad and for the away side they had Andy Goode, Christian Wade and Ashley Johnson all missing from the Wasps line up.

 It saw a fast opening to the game in which the hosts took an early lead through the boot of Joe Ford after the Sharks driving maul them gain 40 metres up field and forced a penalty by Wasps.  Ford kicked over for a 3-0 Sharks lead after only 2 minutes of play and from the resulting kick off it seen Wasps come right back, as Will Rowlands crashed over the try line for the away side with Alex Lozowski adding the conversion for the visitors as they took their turn to go 7-3 up with less than five minutes gone in the game.  Sale then responded themselves in the 9th minute of the game, when the home side won their own line-out and with some nice passing deep inside Wasps territory and led to a gap in the defense which Alberto De Marchi ran into space and over for a try to see the Shark bite back with Ford kicking the extras.

An explosive opening ten minutes of play then brought some calm to the contest, with both sides making handling errors as the story of this contest was a attack being the best form of defence and it seemed to ring true with neither side being able to defend well in the opening quarter of the game.  It then saw Wasps quickly break through the Sale defences thanks to a break by the visiting Captain Ben Jacobs, as he made a quick dash towards the Sharks line but was brought down well by the last man and saw them quickly use the ball at the breakdown and saw Will Helu going over under the posts to give the visiting side the lead back again at 14-10 with Lozowski converting once again.

The game turned into a ‘anything you can do, i can do better’ type of contest, with Sale breaking away again down the left flank and then had Mark Easter make a brilliant offload to Josh Beaumont (son of Bill Beaumont) and he went over the whitewash for a try to see a one point lead for the hosts with Ford kicking over to make it 17-14.  This crazy match turn on it`s head once more, as Wasps attacked once more and got held up on the line by the Sale defence but once again the ball was played to Helu and he ploughed over to claim his 2nd try of the game and had the attack for both teams well on truly on top in the match. 

Sale came close on many occasions to retaking the lead but for a number of knock on`s and the ball being passed to people that wasn`t there that helped contribute to the Sharks inability to get a score.  With the time running down in the half, Sale tried to find some field position for a drop goal attempt and with three seconds remaining the ball was played back to Ford and the fly half pulled his kick wide as it drifted left of the posts to have the hosts trail by two points into the break.  

Second half saw conditions turn a tad wintery with swirly rain and wind about that saw both teams having to deal with the elements and made the kicking game almost impossible to use. Sale drew first blood in the second half thanks to a Viliami Fihaki try as the Wasps back line tried their best to stop the Tongan but his power was too much to handle and saw the Sharks man finding the line to lead 22-19,  Ford was unable to convert the kick and so it became a three point game. Both sides had decent amount of possessions but neither could get through the defences to which had finally turned up and made chances of scoring more difficult.

In the 62nd minute of play a break by Sale`s Sam James saw him cut through the visitors defences and with Charlie Ingall in support of James the Sharks man passed it into his direction and Ingall went under the posts for the fourth try to the hosts and made it a 29-19 score with Nick Macleod taking over the kicking duties and duly added the extra points for Sale with just under 20 minutes of play to go.  Wasps hit right back once again in the match with Ed Jackson making a going over after a little a sidestep move by Lozowski fooled the Sharks and Jackson was on hand to make to score and get the points.

With 10 minutes to play in this entertaining game, it saw Lozowski kicking over a penalty for the away side and saw the opponents level the game at 29 all. Five minutes later the Sharks were back in front with the Sale forwards once again putting pressure on the Wasps defense and so saw them conceding a penalty, to which Macleod kicked over between the uprights and proved crucial heading towards the end of the game with close to four minutes left to play in the match.

Wasps tried to get the ball from Sale as the hosts played tremendously well in the final few minutes of the contest as they just tried to see out the game with them eating up the clock as much as they much, but saw them gaining yards and keep the ball in their opponents half frustrating the Wasps and managed to force them to give up a penalty with less than thirty second to go in the match and despite Macleod unable to convert,  the game was won and the most pleasing factor for Sale boss Steve Diamond must be the way the side bounced back and put on a good performance as well as the players given a run out that will give Diamond food for thought on his selection process.

The hosts looked very attacking in their playing and will hope to build on their win as they look for a second successive win with a trip to Leicester Tigers next weekend in the next LV=CUP game 

ICE HOCKEY: The rocky Phoenix Horror show

Manchester PHOENIX   3 – 4  Peterborough PHANTOMS 

Thursday evening witnessed a horror show on ice by the English Premier League champions as the Peterborough Phantoms carved open their opponents with three goals in the opening period that rocked the home side in this pre Halloween game and made it very scary viewing for the home fans to watch. After the thrilling match on Sunday night that saw the Phoenix unfortunately lose out 3-2 to an overtime goal, it was hoped that the performance given that night would be seen as a bit of a jump start for the champions and that they could kick on from that game, what transpired though was the most opposite end of the scale possible.

It was a performance to forget for the home side for a majority of the game, with the Peterborough team asserting their dominance from the off and that was pretty much the story of the game. The last time the Phantoms travelled up to Manchester, it saw them edged out 3-2 that night could count themselves very unlucky not to have picked up a point in that last encounter.
The Phantoms looked more focused and had a gameplan that they put into practice and saw them not just dominate the Phoenix in the opening period, but absolutely dismantle their opponent too in the game. To say it was a below par performance by the hosts, would be the biggest understatement of the year, as all aspects to the Phoenix game was appalling whether it was in attack, defense or even passing.

Things started badly early on for the home side, when Shaun Thompson was penalised for Tripping after just 38 seconds into the match when pushed a Phantoms player one too many times into the back by the boards and the referee raised his arm resulting in him heading to the penalty box.  From that resulting Phantoms power play it saw Edgars Bebris fire in the opening goal of the game with the home defence being pulled all over and when the home side failed to deal with the puck in their zone, it saw James Hutchinson finding James Ferrara who pass found Bebris near the front of the goal and he buried it after 1-52 in the game for a 1-0 score.

Peterborough rarely attacked much in the first period as their hosts was having a great deal of difficulty trying to find a teammate with their passing and was getting out skated by the Phantoms forwards as the away side took it to the league champions. 
Steve Fone looked a bit rattled by the goal and the fact he had no support from his defence in which saw the home side concede a second goal didn’t help matters, as yet again it saw a defenseman being beaten for speed with Bebris again being a thorn in the Phoenix side, as the Latvian made a little move at the net to slide the puck under Fone for a 2-0 score. Phoenix looked lost and unable solve any questions that the Phantoms posed them in the match at that point and looked to a long night ahead for the hosts. 

The home side then went on the power play at 12-12 as Alan Lack was given a delay of game penalty for the visitors and saw the Phoenix waste their man advantage with the Phantoms killed it off without ever breaking sweat for the two minutes.  Peterborough was the only side that seemed to turn up for the game and they soon hammered home their advantage soon after, as at 16-26 a counter attack by the Phantoms that saw them move quickly up ice on a 2 on 1 that was led by Edgars Apelis , he had Luke Ferrara in support with him and the Latvian defenseman passed the puck to Ferrara and he fired top corner over the glove side of Steve Fone and gave them a 3-0 lead.
That then saw Player-coach for the home side in Tony Hand, making the decision to change netminders as Fone was pulled in place of Declan Ryan and had the home fans supporting Fone as he skated to the bench as it was a rare bad night for the shot stopper, as on Sunday he was Man of the Match and just goes to show how quickly things can change in hockey.

Adam Walker had the only decent chance in the period for the hosts, as the puck came to him unmarked at the back door with Janis Auzins stranded and with no defense about either, the Scottish forward then proceeded to strike the foot of the post from 2 foot away, to squander a perfect opportunity and pretty much summed up Phoenix as they lacked hardly any threat at all. The Phoenix fans then eventually had something to cheer as 11 seconds from the end of the first period a Tony Hand throw on net was redirected in by Adam Walker`s stick that gave the hosts a goal back and was very much against the run of play too.
In the second period it was more in the way of penalty based action, as yet again another poor 20 minutes by the Phoenix outfit saw them unable to cut out any decent chances on any of their four power play`s that came their way in the period.  Peterborough had come with a game plan to just frustrate the Phoenix forwards and make full use of their counter attacks and that worked to perfection, as Phantoms coach Slava Koulikov will have been very pleased to see his men cut out every attack that the Manchester side tried to create in the match. 

Edgars Apelis picked up the opening call in the second, with the Latvian sitting for two over a Slashing call against him at 20-28. Frantisek Bakrlik then picked a unlucky two minute call himself not long after, as he went for a Boarding call on a Peterborough player that seemed to be a clean hit, but referee Tom Pering didn`t agree and so sent the Czech forward to the penalty box.  Phantoms then picked up a bench penalty for a Face-off Violation and yet again the Phoenix were unable to create anything clear cut in the way of shooting opportunities as they took far too long setting up their power play and had next to nothing in the way of shots in the two minutes they had.

Tom Norton then took his turn to sit in the Phantoms penalty box for a Slashing call at 32-22, as a Phoenix player skated over the centre circle and Norton just hacked him a bit too forcefully for Pering liking and so he headed to the sin bin. The only time Phoenix looked threatening on the power play, seemed to come with three seconds remaining on the clock and saw Hand pass the puck out towards the front of goals where Joe Graham a former Peterborough player, then had the best effort for the hosts in the twenty minutes.
At 37-07 the final penalty against the Phantoms was called, when Marc Levers was given a two minute penalty against him for a Holding the stick call. The former Nottingham Panthers forward wasn`t too happy about it as in the lead up the penalty it saw Bakrlik seem to trip the Phantoms player up, so in retaliation Levers grabbed the stick of the Czech man and Pering caught him red handed and a furious Levers headed to the box.

After two periods of hockey, the Phantoms had out played, out fought and out worked the champions on both ends of the ice and looked to be a foregone conclusion to the final period. Manchester seemed to come out for the third period a different side and eventually looked to have awoken from their slumber, slowly coming in it as the game progressed in the final twenty.  Phoenix scored their second goal of the game at 43-30, when a Shaun Thompson pass found Czech forward Robin Kovar and the forward took a tumble to the ice just as his effort beat Auzins to make it a 3-2 game.

Manchester then gave away a poor turnover in their zone and despite the attempts to try and clear the danger away, it was very predictable outcome in the end as Luke Ferrara manage to gain possession in front of a crowded Manchester goal and found the back of the net for Peterborough as he netted the fourth for the travelling side and made it a two goal game again and looked to have killed the game off.  Peterborough then looked in search of a fifth goal and after Graham had cut out a pass by the away side he attempted to bank it off the boards and away from trouble, but instead he managed to clear it out of play and picked up a delay of game call at 52-38 to see the Phantoms on a power play.

Less than a minute later it saw a goal go in, but not for the away side. Michal Psurny managed to get control of the puck in his defensive zone and then had Tony Hand set off ahead of him, with the Czech man playing the puck up ice to him and despite the efforts of a Phantoms D man partly blocking the attempted pass up ice, it saw Hand drag the puck back up towards him and then blast it by Auzins for a short-handed goal at 53-26 for a one goal game.  Manchester killed off the penalty and saw them push for the tying goal and had Auzins a bit unsure at times with the Phantoms defense scrambling clear the puck as the hosts looked to have final big push in the final 3 minutes.

With less than a minute remaining the match, the home side huffed and puffed at Peterborough net and in honesty never truly looked like they would find this tying goal and after a misplaced pass in the middle of the Phantoms zone, it  was just what the visitors wanted and saw them wind time down by the Phoenix end to pick up a big two points and record only their second ever victory at the Altrincham ice dome with the 4-3 win that definitely flattered the Phoenix.