Women’s Football: City Women Move Top Of The Table

00b5e-manchester_city-svg        twitter_arsenalladies




Manchester City Women moved to the top of the FA Women’s Super League table on Monday afternoon thanks to goals from Jane Ross and Toni Duggan, as Nick Cushing’s side overcame a physical Arsenal Ladies team to take the three points in front of a bumper Bank Holiday crowd at the Academy Stadium. City lined up with the same eleven that beat Notts County in the season opener last Wednesday and saw three members of the City Women’s EDS side on the bench. 

Neither side could grab the advantage in the game and saw the best chance falling the way of the visitors after Steph Houghton brought down Asisat Oshoala outside the area. It saw England International Fara Williams getting her free kick up over the wall and striking the woodwork and bouncing down before being cleared away. Arsenal then went down to 10 players after Jemma Rose was shown a red card for hauling down Jane Ross when the City striker was clean through on goal following Lucy Bronze long ball up field and from the foul she was given her marching orders.

The hosts weren’t making the most of their extra player advantage but it did see them finally having an effort on goal, when Demi Stokes had a fierce shot on target and was tipped over by Sara Van Veenendaal in the Gunners goal. Lucy Bronze and Jill Scott went close for the Blues, but Arsenal had a great chance through Asisat Oshoala as the Nigerian forward saw her being denied by a last-ditch tackle from Abbie McManus. Oshoala was a constant thorn in the side for the hosts all afternoon as she used her pace to good affect and thankfully for City, nothing came in the way of a goal action for her. 

Arsenal played a very physical game and saw some bookable offences going unpunished by the referee and had City in no position to be picking up any more knocks in the side, as they missing key players missing through injuries. Scottish-forward Jane Ross saw her header just missing the target from a few yards out and prior to the first half ending it saw Toni Duggan creating a brilliant chance all by herself, as the striker shot from outside the area and her shot hit the outside of the post with the teams heading into the break at 0-0.  

City continued to play a patience game and try to capitalise on any Arsenal errors that came and so on 65 minutes it saw the hosts taking the lead. The goal all came from the persistence of Toni Duggan as the Liverpudlian blocked a clearance from Arsenal’s Leah Williamson by the touchline and that allowed the England striker to look up and put a cross into the box where Jane Ross broke free from her marker to head home for 1-0.


The Blues were hanging on at times with their one goal lead and saw them unable to kill off their opponents off in the game. However 12 minutes from time Dominique Janssen tackled Nikita Parris outside the box and the match official deemed the challenge to be inside the box and gave the home side a chance to put daylight between themselves and Arsenal. Up stepped Toni Duggan and after her missed spot kick against Notts County in the last game, this time she made no mistake and saw the ball go in off the left post to seal victory. 

With the game being closed out by the home side it led to them making it two wins from two and still has them yet to concede any goals in their three competitive games so far. Manchester City Women’s Manager Nick Cushing will hoping to extend their winning run on Sunday afternoon when they entertain Sporting Albion in the FA Women’s Cup quarter-final at home. 


ICE HOCKEY: Phoenix ‘Herded’ Out Of Playoffs


Manchester Phoenix saw their turbulent season coming to an end at the hands of the EPL Champions the Basingstoke Bison with the Bison winning 6-3 on aggregate after a 2-1 win at Deeside and then a followed it up with a 4-2 victory on home ice down in Hampshire. This play-off tie was a repeat of last year’s quarter final clash in which the Phoenix shocked the Bison in their own barn last time out and so had Basingstoke keen to set the record straight this time around.

The match was a good old fashioned play-off game with hits aplenty and both sides not giving an inch to their opponent. Basingstoke created an early chance in the game with twenty seconds gone on the clock, but Steve Fone in the Manchester nets made an important stop to get an early touch of the puck. The home side came right back at their foes and created a couple of good chances themselves in the process. Both sides were evenly matched and made for an exciting and interesting encounter for the fans in the rink.

The game had feisty and little flashpoints in it as one incident saw Joe Greener taking a sore one when Martin Baranyk collided with the Bison man and took a hefty hit to the leg, which saw Basingstoke players very unhappy with hit and had the Phoenix man immediately trying to check on him and got a kneeing penalty for his troubles. Manchester had a 5 on 3 powerplay to which they failed to make much of and as the period went on, it saw Fone making some superb saves to deny the dangerous Basingstoke shooters.

Second period saw the Phoenix spurning a glorious chance of a goal when Michal Satek poked the puck past Ciaran Long in the Bison zone, and it saw the puck coming towards Robin Kovar at the front of the netminder and saw quick one-two between him and Stanislav Gron that led to Kovar miscuing on the shot and had the visitors lucky to get away with it.

Basingstoke then had their turn to go close in the game when Joe Greener skated unchallenged and fired an angled shot that beat Steve Fone, but saw the puck striking the foot of the post instead and flew away. Referee Paul Brooks then gave awful call on Satek, as in the view of the official he brought down Tomas Karpov when it looked like the Phoenix man had just simply outmuscled him and saw Karpov hitting the deck theatrically and Brooks called him for tripping.

Stanislav Gron then a had a couple of bites at the cherry while his side were a man down, but Basingstoke netminder Tomas Hiadlovsky made a good stop from the Slovakian forward and then had the Phoenix man lifting his rebound over the bar. Ryan Watt then had his attempt brilliantly thwarted by Steve Fone with Greener playing a nice pass back across goal towards the Scottish forward and the Manchester netminder made a great stop from him. Ben Russell then put his body on the line for the home side when Rene Jarolin tried a back handed effort on goal while the Manchester goalie was down, and Russell made a nice kick save to keep it 0-0.

Mark Thomas was then drilled hard into the board from behind by Shaun Thompson and Thomas did extremely well to keep his composure over the nasty hit and saw the Bison man given just a two minute call for boarding. It would be fair to say that Bison pushed the boundaries of legal play with some very questionable hits they were dishing out on their opponents and this would continue on throughout the game.

Hiadlovsky made another good stop in the Bison net from Manchester’s James Neil, and so with two periods gone it was looking like it would be a very tight 1st leg between the two sides. Moving to the third period and it finally saw the deadlock broken at 43:21 through Stanislav Gron, after the Slovakian man batted the puck into the back of the net from a loose rebound off Luke Boothroyd’s one time blast. The home fans didn’t have long to celebrate the lead though, as Joe Greener equalised instantly at 43:45 to send us back to an all square game.

The visitors then took the lead with less than 8 minutes of play left to go in the game, after Rene Jarolin tried forcing the puck into the net and managed to get it just under Fone and over the line to see the Bison going 2-1 up at 52:46 in the game.

Manchester fans were furious with Basingstoke’s Declan Balmer when the Bison man gave Ben Wood nowhere to go when he skated into the zone and saw him collecting the Phoenix man and led to him crashing hard into the boards. The was akin to being ejected from a car at high speed and heard a sickening thud into the boards that saw the Manchester man down for a few minutes to gather himself before struggling to skate properly to the bench and made the odd shift.

Manchester carried on their pursuit of this equalising goal and found it hard to come by, as the Basingstoke sides scrambling defending across their crease numerous times had them doing very well to preserve their one goal lead in the contest. Tomas Karpov had a chance very late on to extend the lead for the away side, but Steve Fone once more came up big for the home team to keep them in the tie and see the first leg end 2-1 to the visitors.

Basingstoke Bison   5  –  2  Manchester Phoenix

(Aggregate  7- 3)  

Sunday Night saw the Bison not making the same mistake twice as they did last year, as they defeated a depleted Manchester side the night after with Martin Baranyk, Stanislav Gron and Ben Wood all missing through injury. The Bison came away 5-2 winners and saw goals come from Rene Jarolin, Tomas Karpov, Matt Towalski, Grant Rounding and Alan Lack to send the Herd through to Coventry and where they will face the Milton Keynes Lightning Saturday afternoon.

Womens Football: Captain Fantastic Houghton Earns City Win



Steph Houghton celebrates with team mates after netting winner   : Pic MCFC.CO.UK


  Manchester City Women   1    –    0   Notts County Ladies 

A last minute free kick from Manchester City’s Captain Steph Houghton was enough to give her depleted side a deserved 1-0 win over a very stubborn Notts County Ladies side on Wednesday night, as they opened their FA Women’s Super League campaign with a huge win at the Academy Stadium.

From the opening kick off it saw the hosts asserting pressure to their opponents and had the ‘Ladypies’ frustrating City for the whole of the match. The hosts went through the opening seven minutes of the contest with an unbelievable amount of corners coming their way, but the hosts just weren’t able tomake much of their set pieces and rarely tested Megan Walsh in the County goal.

County’s only attack in the entire first half led to them being awarded a penalty kick when Jess Clarke made a powerful run through the City midfield and defence, before being upended by Jill Scott in the box and gave the visitors a chance to take a lead in what would be very much against the run of play.  Clarke picked herself up to take the resulting spot kick and saw her missing the target completely, as the ball flashes wide of the left hand post of Karen Bardsley in the City goal and had the hosts breathe a sigh of relief.

City wasted good chances with Jill Scott trying her luck from long range and was easily dealt with by Megan Walsh. Kosse Asllani then volleyed over from close range after Nikita Parris crossed in a nice ball for the Swedish International, but the striker couldn’t quite find the finish. Notts County then had to scramble away another City opportunity when Jill Scott battled her way to the dead ball line and put in a low cross for Jane Ross and saw the visitors clear away.

The hosts were then fortunate to get given penalty themselves on the half hour through Nikita Parris, as City forward was brought down just outside the area and saw her falling inside the box and had the referee pointing to the spot. In a way justice was done when Toni Duggan saw her penalty saved by Walsh and saw yet another opportunity go begging for the home side.

Nick Cushing’s side thought they had the lead minutes later when Toni Duggan put a cross to the back post and had Asllani turning it in, but the linesman on the far gave an offside on what looked like a wrong decision. In the second half it was a continuation of the first half, with City dominating play and had the home fans urging on their team as they kept knocking at the door. Credit where credit is due though, County were resolute at the back and refused to give up any clear cut chances for the home side.

Attack after attack saw the blues getting closer, but sadly the efforts they did create had Jill Scott dragging her shot wide of the post and then Toni Duggan tried to curl a ball to the far post and missed the target by inches. With the game seemingly heading for a 0-0 draw and deep into stoppage time, it saw Parris being brought down and gave City one last chance to take the win.

Steph Houghton who scored a stunning free kick against the LadyPies last year, this time it saw her repeating the feat again. It wasn’t the best free kick the England and City skipper will have ever taken, but with the ball bouncing just in front of Walsh into managed to beat the keeper and saw the Captain wheeling away in delight to celebrate the winner. The victory was nothing more than City deserved in truth, that despite a brave defensive display from the County side in the game and they can have little complaints to the home side taking victory.

ICE HOCKEY: Phoenix Beaten By Bees Clinical Finishing

bca0c-56697983_phoenix_logo_roundal_c                            fcac7-images

Manchester Phoenix      2     –    6    Bracknell Bees 

Sunday night saw the Manchester Phoenix rounding off their EPL campaign with a big home loss to the bottom of the table Bracknell Bees, where the Berkshire side took a thoroughly deserved 6-2 victory and had the home side ruing their missed chances and poor defending.

Most of the game was played inside the Bees zone and had the home side dominating play throughout the game. Bracknell’s goalie Alex Mettam faced 30 shots in the game and saw his goals coming under fire early doors, but his defence was there to help weather the storm from the Phoenix forwards. It then saw the visitors taking the lead against the run of play through Vanya Antonov of the Bees, as with over three minutes gone in the contest it the GB U-20 international dispossessed the puck from the Manchester D man and saw him firing past Phil Spanswick for a 1-0 lead.

Manchester pressed for an equaliser and had the visitors in no mood to relinquish their lead. However some brilliant defending by the Bees defence and especially from Jan Bendik, saw the Czech man cutting out a couple of dangerous attacks by the home side and along with Alex Mettam had Bracknell keep their lead. Things then got better minutes later for the visitors, when James Galazzi battled away at the front of the Phoenix net and after some poor defending by the home side it allowed Galazzi to poke in for a 2-0 score and had assists going to Joshua Smith and Scott Spearing at 7:33.

Phoenix still kept plugging away though as they look to try and find a goal back in the contest that their dominance deserved. Bracknell was making themselves incredibly difficult to break down, as the Bees were resolute over the course of the game. Manchester finally got a bit of good fortunate going their way inside the last minute of play in the first, when Robin Kovar tried to shoot from a tight angle and saw his shot bouncing in off a Bracknell man to reduce the arrears to a one goal game after one.

Manchester performed another comeback in as as many nights, as the previous evening the Phoenix had come back from a two-goal swing against the Sheffield Steeldogs and saw them repeating the same feat here yet again. This time it was Ben Wood who drew the Phoenix level 49 seconds into the second period, after the Macclesfield-born player quickly fired his effort through the legs of the goalie for a ‘desmond’ at 20:49 and at that point in time it seemed like the Phoenix had the momentum in their favour.

Bracknell on the other hand had other ideas. Carl Thompson netted to put the Bees back ahead for 3-2 and silence the home fans at 22:19, and saw Manchester dominating the possession count in the period, but just unable to convert their chances they were creating. Bracknell deserved huge credit to for fantastic rearguard display in the game, as the easy chance came at a premium. Mark Thomas then collected a two minute slashing slashing call for Manchester, after the former GB man did just enough to put off Antonov’s shot at the last second and seen his effort skew wide of the target.

From that resulting man advantage for the the visitors it had Matt Foord finding the back of the net for 4-2, with some good vision by Carl Thompson spotting the movement at the back post at 30:47 to give the Bees a two goal cushion. The hosts once again got ‘stung’ once more by the visitors, this time it saw Bracknell’s player-coach Lukas Smital starting the move and had him finishing it off for 5-2, thanks mainly to some deadly Bees counter attacking and had the home side chasing shadows.

Tony Hand then called a timeout to try and settle down his Phoenix players after the two goals they had quickly conceded, but Bracknell looked very dangerous on every attack they had and were far more clinical of the two sides for sure in the game. Phoenix thought they had pulled a goal back deep in the period when James Archer laid on a nice pass for teammate Stanislav Gron to score, but his effort was plucked out of thin air by Alex Mettam with a stunning diving glove save.

Just before the second intermission came around it saw the Bee Army celebrating once more, as that man Yanya Antonov tapped home for his second of the game to make it 6-2 and put the game to bed. In the third period it saw a goalless period of hockey and despite the Phoenix swarming all over the Bees goal, they just weren’t able to break down a very stubborn defensive effort by the visitors.

Bracknell put on a proud display for their fans that made the long trip up North and saw them thoroughly enjoying it. Yanya Antonov took home the man of the match award for the visitors, after his brilliant performance with two goals and two assists in the game made it an easy choice to give it to him.

For Manchester it was Stanislav Gron that took the home side honour, in what will be a bitter disappointment to not have gained some momentum heading into their two legged quarter-final meeting with the EPL league champions the Basingstoke Bison next weekend.

Speedway: Belle Vue Building Up For Big Night


Pic taken from: Belle Vue Aces Facebook page

Saturday March 19th 2016 may not hold a lot of meaning for many people, but for a lot that is the day when Belle Vue Speedway team can finally say that they have a home of their own as they open up their doors to the new £7m National Speedway Stadium for the historic first meeting as the Peter Craven Memorial Trophy will be contested with a world class field.  

The World Famous Belle Vue Aces had been tenants at their previous home of the Greyhound Stadium for 27 years, after they were forced to move from what was describe as the ‘Best Speedway stadium ever’ by riders and a supporters back in 1987, when they raced at the old Hyde Road Stadium.  If you ask older fans up and down the country on what was their favourite Speedway track, then the answer would mostly be that of Belle Vue. It wasn’t just the Stadium and speedway that people enjoyed when they came to Belle Vue, it was also the Zoological Gardens and had events for everyone from young to old a like to keep them entertained before the Aces would race.


Their was a couple of contributing factors which led to the Aces having to move out of their home. One was due to the ‘Bradford Fire’ back in May of 1985, as Valley Parade home to Bradford City football club got devastated by fire and tragically took 56 lives and saw 265 injured from the disaster. Collection of rubbish under the wooden stands at the ground had caught fire from a discarded cigarette and had set the whole stand a blaze in minutes.

This led to stadium safety being looked at massively in the UK and sadly due to Belle Vue being an old wooden stadium too, this meant that it’s time had ran out.  Another problem was crowds falling and the Zoological gardens and funfair had disappeared and left the stadium clearly seeing better days. In 1981 former World Stock Car Champion Stuart Bamforth then brought the stadium for a ballpark figure of £400,000 and was alleged to have almost paid double in just keeping it in some kind of state.

 In 1987 the bad news came that the famous old stadium had been sold off by Bamforth to the British Car Auction group and this drew anger from Aces fans and also fans of further field, as well as rider too when the news was made public. Bamforth told the local press

“There’s No way I could have afforded to keep Belle Vue up to Government safety requirements.” He also said “It would have to go eventually. And I’d prefer to think I saved Belle Vue for 5 years rather than be remembered as the man who closed it”.  

Aces fans were outraged by his actions and with him quoted as saying “I sympathise with the supporters who have drawn up petitions to save Belle Vue. But I have been put under tremendous pressure by British Car Auctions and after the turn of events at the weekend over the League Cup final, I finally agreed to sell. But the price is nowhere near £10 million. I only wish it was”.

“It’s not the end of Belle Vue Aces because the council has a site in Cheetham Hill where a new stadium can be built to stage Speedway and Stock Car racing”

“I’m quite prepared to put my money in and help build the stadium ready for the next Speedway season. But I’m not sure I will be interested in running Speedway there myself. I will probably sub-let it.”

Belle Vue in early 1988 were given a boost of racing for their 60th Anniversary when an agreement was made to race at their previous home of the Greyhound stadium, while they looked for a new home of their own.  Some fans felt like they were given a further low blow, when the opening meeting at their ‘new’ home saw British Car Auctions sponsoring the event and some saw it as taking ‘Blood Money’ from the company that they felt had shut the old stadium down. 

With the Aces switching race nights from a Friday to Monday night back in 2002, it saw the crowds beginning to drift away off due to school nights and the lack of success for the Manchester club being some things that went against them. However Belle Vue spent many seasons rooted to the bottom of the table and had the hardcore fans joking with gallows humour, that they could build a kitchen set with the amount of wooden spoons that the club had collected over the lean years. With Success not coming on the track, they did have a very good record of bringing in top quality riders to the team with the Late John Perrin building very good teams on paper, but just not able to transfer it to reality. Riders like Billy Hamill, Sam Ermolenko, Jimmy Nielsen, Jason Crump and then riders that became legends at the club in Jason Lyons and Joe Screen.

With the side unable to challenge for honours barring their league success in 1993, when they last won the title in a last heat decider at Wolverhampton. It’s only other glory came in 2005 under the promotion of Tony Mole and the Late Ian Thomas. The Aces had finished top of the table before losing out to Coventry in the grand final and had to make do with beating Eastbourne in the Knockout Cup final to claim their last honour. 


2007 came around and saw a change in ownership again at Belle Vue, with David Gordon, Gordon Pairman and former Aces legend in Chris Morton in charge. Belle Vue fans for a few years felt like the end was near for the club at times as attendances were lower and the sides were not as competitive as down the years and had the Kirkmanshulme Lane side bottom for a fair few years.

However things then started to change in 2010, with the news that sent shockwaves through British Speedway and had Belle Vue fans especially whipped into a frenzy, as the local newspaper reported that the club was in talks to build a brand new stadium solely for Speedway and had the backing of the other sides fans interested too in the the reports. With talks on-going for a few years, there were a few bumps along the way that Belle Vue C.E.O David Gordon would often quote from time to time on the lack of news that was being released and had some thinking it was perhaps a false dawn.

As 2013 arrived, it saw the go-ahead finally given to build the new stadium and would now see the next phase of the plan in erecting the stadium. Two years later and work was eventually made on construction of the new ‘National Speedway Stadium’ and is all ready for it’s unveiling to the speedway masses on Saturday night. 

The opening meeting will be the Peter Craven Memorial Trophy, which is befitting for the Aces new home and also the National Speedway Stadium (NSS) as the Late Great Peter Craven was Britain’s first Double World Champion to lift the crown back in 1955 and then again in 1962, winning both times at Wembley Stadium before his tragic death up in Edinburgh in 1963.  


                      Pic taken from: Belle Vue Aces Facebook page



This brand spanking new stadium will host 6,000 spectators and also has a 1,800 seater grandstand that will have fitted some huge state of the art acoustic barriers, in which it help to keep in and avoid the sounds of the biked causing noise pollution for nearby residents.  


Pic taken from: Belle Vue Aces Facebook page


Belle Vue have attracted a very good field of riders for the meeting, with as a mix of Grand Prix stars and World Champions for the event. Riders such as Tai Woffinden, Niels Kristian-Iversen, Chris Harris, Jason Doyle and making a rare appearance in the UK this year is Danish rider and Three times World Champion Nicki Pedersen. 

The field contains Aces riders as well, with Slovenian GP star Matej Zagar, Aussie youngster Max Fricke and British trio Ritchie Worrall, Craig Cook and Belle Vue Captain Scott Nicholls all in the star studded line up. Tickets in the grandstand sold out in a matter of days and has in the last couple of days saw extra demand for tickets having a temporary stand erected, as it looks to be a huge success with everyone hoping that the Speedway gods will be kind on the day.

Ice Hockey: Braehead Put On A CLAN-tasic Performance Over Storm


Braehead_Clan                          Updated_New_Manchester_Storm_Logo_2015


Braehead Clan  8  – 3  Manchester Storm


Defeats against the Braehead Clan home and away this past weekend confirmed an early end to the season for the Manchester Storm, where a crushing 8-3 loss up in Scotland was then followed up with a 6-3 defeat at home in Altrincham.

Saturday saw the horror show starting early for the Storm, as two goals in the space of 12 seconds by Scott Pitt put the Clan 2-0 ahead with less than three minutes gone in the contest and then had Pitt completing his hat trick at 10:44 with the hosts never looking back from then on. As early as it was in the game, Manchester never recovered at all from those early strikes and it got even worse for the visitors when Paul Phillips took a puck to the mouth and had him going to hospital as a result.

Stray passes and just a lack of basic fundamentals had the visitors looking very much like a side that had never meet each other before. Braehead on the other hand looked very much like the team that was on the title charge only a few weeks ago before their injury problems stopped their run. Manchester’s goalie Zane Kalemba seemed to be only one of a handful of players that seemed to have turned up for Storm and saw their defence that had been such a key component to their late playoff push, all but disappeared in recent games and this was one of those of those games.


Both captains netted for their respective sides, as firstly Manchester’s Matty Davies scored for the Storm early on in the second to give them hopes of a comeback, however Braehead captain Matt Keith then dashed their hopes with a quick reply for 4-1. Neil Trimm then made it a 5-1 game for the Clan with Keith then adding a sixth before the end of the period and saw the Storm being torn apart by their hosts. In the final period of play it saw Gary Russell replacing an impressive Chris Holt between the pipes for Braehead and one of his first jobs was to collect the puck out of the back of the net, when Matt Paton scored twice for Manchester in the period to give the scoreline a bit of a flattering look at 6-3. Tempers frayed and eventually boiled over as Tristan Harper and Paul Swindlehurst dropped the gloves and saw both heading to the penalty box.

Omar Pacha then pulled the goalie for the extra attacker to try and get his side back in the game, instead Brendan Brooks fired into an empty net for 7-3. That wasn’t the end of the drama though, as Referee Toby Craig deemed Matt Paton had pushed the nets off with a 0:01 to go in the game and awarded a penalty shot to the home side where Scott Pitt scored his fourth of the game and eighth for the Braehead Clan, as it rounded off a miserable evening for the travelling Storm and their supporters.


Manchester Storm  3 – 6 Braehead Clan

Sunday saw the teams meeting up again Altrincham less than 24 hours from their previous encounter and saw ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ of the Storm coming out all in one game. Both sides came out with aggression and had the game played with a bit of an edge that seemed to be an underlying theme of the match.

Chris Holt in the Braehead nets carried on from where he left off the night before, as he made some good stops from the Storm forwards to keep it scoreless. The good side of Manchester has been their attacking play and that was on show when they broke the deadlock at 11:10 courtesy of Matt Sisca quickly fired in a rebound from a Vinny Scarsella shot to put the Storm 1-0 up. The bad side then led to the lead lasting all of 49 seconds, as it saw their defence once again making basic errors and it saw a suicidal pass out towards the front of net from Mike Folkes and allowed Ben Davies to make a nice move and level things up.


Storm then went back in front on the powerplay courtesy of a Vinny Scarsella strike after the American forward diverted a low driven shot by Paul Phillips high up into the Braehead net for a 2-1 lead at 16:07 to give Manchester arguably a deserved lead as they shaded the scoring column at least. The game was nip and tuck with the second period no different. The Clan equally shaded the middle stanza thanks to two very well taken goals by Thomas Nesbitt, as he helped put the visitors 3-2 ahead with almost half the game gone.

There were a few scrums involving the sides and had a lot a missed calls by the referee Dean Smith and had fans on both sides up in arms at certain times over the lack of clear penalties and this led to the match being bad tempered at times. One such occasion saw David Phillips skating across the face of his own goals and hitting a poorly under hit pass that nearly led to Matt Keith going close for the visitors and as play continued on, Zane Kalemba covered the puck and collected a hack for his troubles by Matt Keith, to which wasn’t looked upon very well by the home side and saw both sides coming together in a very heated moment.

Manchester’s Grant Toulmin then paid the price for tying the game up for the home side at 3-3 as he got a stick up towards his face by Nathan McIver while scoring the goal, and had his team mates unhappy with the incident and ended up with Vinny Scarsella getting an unsportsmanlike penalty for his remonstration. Matt Paton and Marcus Gotz then tussled and saw Paton almost backdropped WWE style on the ice to which the referee wasn’t impressed and gave both men penalties and had neither man happy with their respective calls. With the game tied after two periods, it saw the Clan edging the play much like Manchester had in the first.

If the game was tight before then the third, then it even more so and that remained the case up until the final ten minutes of play when Braehead upped their play and saw them netting on a 5 on 3 powerplay through Matt Keith at the backdoor for a 4-3 lead, with the Storm unable to keep them out. Over a minute later and it saw a carbon copy of their fourth goal, as this time round it was Marcus Gotz skating unmarked towards the back post and had no Storm man picking him up for another powerplay goal and all but ended the home side’s challenge from that point onwards.

Manchester’s biggest problem all season has been that they have leaked goals alarmingly and in recent games saw this problem returning to the Storm ranks. The follow play saw the ugly side of the Storm as the Clan’s 6th goal was a good illustration to their poor defending and lack of concentration at the back at 57:00, as Brendan Brooks pinched the puck from a lost faceoff in the Braehead zone and set Stefan Meyer and Matt Keith on their way up ice on a 3 on 1 breakaway with only Paul Phillips trying to get back and had Keith finishing off the move to score his second of the night. Ill discipline has been a huge problem for Manchester over the course of the season had Matt Sisca being another player added to the ejections that they have suffered this season.

With playoff hopes dashed and just pride to play for next week against Cardiff and Coventry, the whole atmosphere felt very flat but not from the away section as the travelling support from north of the border saw them avenging their  two losses to their opponent just over a month ago.

Ice Hockey: Storm’s Playoff Hopes Dented By Fife Massacre





Manchester Storm’s Play-off hopes hang by a thread after Sunday night, as the Altrincham based side was thumped 8-2 in their own barn by a dominant Fife Flyers side. Fife also had an extra incentive going into the match, as if results went their way then they would been crowned Gardiner Conference champions.

From the opening face-off there was clearly only one side in the contest, as Fife side came out of the traps flying and dominated their opponents from start to finish and had the Storm struggling to find any answers to the Scottish side. The visitors took a deserved lead through a TJ Caig strike on the powerplay at 4:21, and that pretty much set the tone of how the game would pan out.

Manchester were unable to generate any kind of offense going forward, but give huge credit to Fife, they stifled the hosts play and Storm were masters of their own downfall too with a performance littered with mistakes throughout. With the period coming to an end, Patrik Valcak skated the puck out of trouble and then got caught just outside his own zone, where Patrick Cullen scored the seconds Flyers goal with a neat finish past Zane Kalemba and was greatly deserved after twenty minutes of play.

The opening period though was brought to a bit of premature end, when Fife’s Nicholas Rioux took a puck to the face and saw blood dripping all over the ice from the cut he has picked up and it resulted with both sides heading to the locker room with 1:11 left on the first and allowed the Ice staff to clean up.



Early in the second period and Patrik Valcak made up for his earlier mistake, when the Czech forward this time collected a poor pass across the Fife zone put it by David Brown in the Flyers goal for a 2-1 score and was game on again. Sadly that was as close as home side came to the Flyers and saw the Kirkcaldy outfit hammering home their advantage.

If it wasn’t for the efforts of Storm’s netminder Zane Kalemba, then the scoreline would have been far bigger at that point in time, after the American goalie making a string of stunning saves to deny the Fife attackers. However as well as he played it saw his teammates in front of him making life harder for him. Kalemba then produced a ‘Scorpion save’ and followed it up immediately with a stick save to keep it within one.

TJ Caig then netted his second of the game for Fife as he moved them 3-1 ahead, before further goals by Shayne Stockton and another goal by Patrick Cullen made it 5-1 after two periods of play. Manchester continued to be outworked, outplayed and out thought in the whole game and had the home fans at times looking through their fingers at the action.

Things were then compounded for the hosts, when Devin Didiomete picked a double misconduct and saw his night over with in the opening few minutes of the third. Fife then went into overdrive on their scoring, as Michael Dorr made it six for the visitors and had the Flyers fans in dreamland. Derek Roehl then picked up a misconduct call and a further ten minute penalty for abuse of official on the play, as he and Jeff Lee tangled as Dorr scored for Fife and Roehl would leave the game towards the end with suspected concussion.



Yet more horrific defending came from the Storm, to which allowed the Flyers to rip through the Manchester back line with ease and saw firstly Nico Sacchetti making it seven after a lucky bounce of Ricards Birzinsh skate felt nicely to the Flyers, before Jeff Lee made it 8-1 with a goal at the back post coming at 53:09. The last word went to the home side and Paul saw Swindlehurst firing his shot past Brown to make it an 8-2 game with just over three minutes left to play. The horn sounded to end Manchester’s embarrassing evening on home ice and saw the traveling Fife fans reveling in win, but also edges closer to a Conference championship and let the other teams know that that they mean business towards the playoffs.

For Manchester it is very much a case of drawing a line under this result and regrouping for next weekend, In what is now their biggest weekend of the season, with a double header against the Braehead Clan. Saturday will see the Storm making the trip north to Scotland before the return game in Manchester, where it is a must win in both games to keep their faint play-off hopes alive now.

Ice Hockey: Zajac Edges Tigers In Overtime



images    20e39-images

Manchester Phoenix   2   –  3    Telford Tigers 


An overtime goal by Sam Zajac saw the visiting Telford Tigers taking the extra point on Saturday as the Manchester Phoenix lost out, but it wasn’t through the lack of trying as they fell 3-2 to the Shropshire side.

Manchester knew coming into the game it would be a difficult task against one the strongest teams in the league, so they knew they had to take their chances when they came and be defensively sound at the back. Phoenix drew first blood through Martin Baranek strike with 1:52 gone on the game, after Robin Kovar pulled the Tigers defence towards him and then played a pass across for Baranek to
net the opener, as he put it top shelf on Sam Gospel for an early lead.

Telford then hit right back minutes later with Max Birbraer, as his shot seemed to be padded by Steve Fone in the home side goal but it somehow found a way in to tie the game at 1-1 with less than four minutes played. The visitors throughout the contest looked the most dangerous of the two sides on show, but Manchester’s netminder Steve Fone was putting on a goaltending clinic to keep their opponents out.  Manchester in the first period gave the Tigers as good as they got and had the Shropshire side in a bit of bother, with the home side bringing out a couple of good stops by Gospel in the opening twenty.


With 12:47 gone in the first period of play, it saw some Czech magic by Robin Kovar as the Phoenix man put the hosts 2-1 up after cutting through two Tigers to then send the puck past the goalie for a stunning solo goal, which had the Phoenix going into the break in front.  In the second and Telford kicked it up a few gears and saw the ice almost tilted towards the Manchester end, with Fone being called upon a lot in the period to keep his side in the game as the visitors were edging closer to a second goal you felt.

Joe Miller nearly netted from a tight angle for the Tigers and then Dan Davies went even closer with his effort as it struck the crossbar and had the Telford fans cursing the pipework.  Miller then spoke out of term to match official and namesake Andy Miller, as the Tigers man felt Ben Wood had stopped him in his play illegally and after a barrage of words towards the referee, it saw him smashing his stick on the glass a step too far for the referee and picked up a ten minute misconduct penalty. The visitors seemed annoyed by the call and upped their physical play quite a lot in the game and became a bit more aggressive.

Manchester was limited to odd man rushes for their attempts in the period, to which Gospel was more than equal to the shots he face and saw a scoreless second period of hockey. In the Third period it saw Phoenix trying to play smart and not wear themselves out as they may have done in past games, as Phoenix coach Tony Hand knew they would be under fire from the off in the period.  Phoenix was then awarded a powerplay, after Blahoslav Novak tripped up Michal Satek and saw the home side getting some good shots off on the Tigers goals with the extra man, but just couldn’t find a way by Gospel.

Stanislav Gron then picked up a Hooking call and that saw the Tigers player over milking the penalty with his dramatic fall. Phoenix then went two men down with Luke Boothroyd heading to the penalty box for the same offence, after saw some discussion over the penalty before the captain of Manchester skated to the box looking clueless as to the call.  With the Gron penalty expiring, it saw Telford getting a bounce going their way in the game, when a shot by Novak was blocked by a Phoenix defenseman and had the rebound deflecting right into the path of Dan Davies, who put the puck home for the tying goal at 48:20.


Both teams had chances and saw Phoenix on a 5 on 3 powerplay, but it saw the extra men advantage come to nothing and was error strewn from the beginning with Manchester unable to set up any type of attack.  Kovar and Satek then went close towards the end with both failing to hit the target, whereas Telford had the better of the chances falling their way and had them knocking at the hosts door.

Three seconds from time Peter Szabo tripped Michal Satek as he was looking like getting round his man and so saw the home side entering the overtime period with the man advantage. With Manchester starting with a 4 on 3 advantage to kick off the overtime period, it saw Phoenix coming out and almost like they were more concerned if their opponents broke away than their own play.

Instead it saw another powerplay by the hosts not being used to full effect, as they rarely tested the visitors defence. At 62:51 the winning goal came for the away side, when an error by the Phoenix attackers saw the puck gathered by Telford and they skated up ice with a 3 on 1 attack. Manchester managed to get back in defence and snuff out their attack, but Sam Zajac was still able to net the goal and send the travelling fans celebrating with the extra point collected.