NFL WEEK 12 – Round up

This Thursday kicked off with a Thanksgiving triple-header and saw two of the three games on show producing some stunning football, with the All-NFC battle at AT&T Stadium and a last-gasp kick in the NFC North proving to be a taster ahead of the traditional Sunday games. A couple of blowout wins for the Saints and Falcons were mixed in with some close competitive games throughout the day and included a barnburner of a game in the late game between the Chiefs and Broncos at Mile High Stadium. 

DETROIT LIONS  16 – 13  MINNESOTA VIKINGS 

The first game of the week came from Ford Field in Detroit and where the Lions and the Vikings met in an All-NFC North match-up and had both teams entering the game with 6-4 records on the season. Detroit led through a Anquan Boldin touchdown after quarterback Matt Stafford threw a pass to the man wide open in the end zone for a 2-yard pass. Minnesota was living a charmed life in the first quarter, with firstly Sam Bradford being sacked and having Detroit recovering the fumble until the umpires deemed it was an incomplete pass. Shortly after it saw the Vikings turning the ball over again and have the Lions going 70+ yards up field, only to see them rule a pass interference against the Lions on the play.

The resulting drive came saw Matt Asiata going in for 5-yards and see the Vikings tying the game up at 7-7. Field goals then came to the forefront with Matt Prater making a successful 29-yard kick for the home side, before Kai Forbath then converted with kicks from 30 and 38-yards to put the Vikings 13-10 up. Prater then got the Lions back on level terms and in the dying seconds of the game it saw him converting on a 40-yard field goal that would condemn Minnesota to defeat and lift Detroit to the top of the NFC North standings.

DALLAS COWBOYS  31 – 26  WASHINGTONS REDSKINS 

A grudge match from the NFC East pitted the Washington Redskins against the Dallas Cowboys in a return match from Week 2, where on that occasion Dallas came away victors 26-23 in Washington. To say the sides don’t like one another is a given, but the first half of the contest was predominantly Cowboys driven and saw Ezekiel Elliott getting the Cowboys on the board first with a 4-yard touchdown. Dustin Hopkins then kicked a 24- yard field goal to cut the lead down to four points, after he had missed an earlier kick due to the sun glare from inside the AT&T Stadium which proved to be problematic.

Dan Bailey made a 46-yard kick at goal for the Cowboys before an astonishing catch by Terrance Williams, saw him jumping to make the catch and still have the presence of mind to get both feet down in the end zone for a touchdown before he went out of bounds.

After a scoreless third quarter, it saw Washington coming from nowhere to score 20 points in the final quarter. Firstly Jordan Reed started the comeback for the Redskins with a touchdown from a Kirk Cousins throw on a 2nd & Goal and then soon saw Dallas QB Dak Prescott taking it upon himself to run the ball in for Dallas touchdown and lead by 12. That was until a 67-yard play saw Cousins firing the ball way up the sideline and saw receiver DeSean Jackson going in for the touchdown to bring it closer once again. 

Elliott then barged his way over for his second touchdown of the game for Dallas and that looked to have killed off the hopes of their fellow divisional rival. However with 1:55 remaining in the game it saw Washington last signs of defiance, and had Jordan Reed scoring another touchdowns as he made it an uncomfortable couple of minutes for the Cowboys but Dallas held on.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS  28  – 7  INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 

Prior to kickoff it saw the game between the Steelers and the Colts being billed as the two most inconsistent sides meeting head to head and it was Pittsburgh who prevailed. Things didn’t start off well for the Colts quarterback Scott Tolzien, as on the opening play of the game as he fumbled the ball and was lucky to recover it. Le’von Bell then put the Steelers in front with a 5-yard run, with Pittsburgh’s quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throwing a pass to Antonio Brown in the corner that saw him spinning away to score a touchdown and put the Steelers 14-0 ahead.

Donte Moncrief then dived his way in to make a catch off Tolzien to complete a 5-yard pass and get the Colts back in the game. Soon after it saw a copy of the Steelers previous touchdown,with Rothlisberger once again finding Antonio Brown and have Pittsburgh lead after the first half.

A scoreless third saw the Colts going for broke with a couple of 4th & Goal attempts, but none of them were successful. Pittsburgh then rubbed salt into the wounds of their opponents late on, as Indianapolis fell to third Brown touchdown catch off Roethlisberger, and this time he completed a 22-yard pass to see the Steelers improving to 6-5 on the season.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS  49 – 21   LA RAMS 

The clash between the Saints and the Rams pitted two quarterbacks very much at the different ends of the spectrum, with Jeff Goff making just his second start for the Rams while Drew Brees was playing in his 16th season in the National Football League. Goff picked up his first ever touchdown pass, when his 24-yard throw connected with Tavon Austin and he gave the Rams the lead early on.

Brandon Coleman then caught a 3-yard pass off Drew Brees in the Rams end zone to see the Saints levelling things up with the added point. New Orleans then fumbled the ball inside their own 10 line line and after Brees was tackled by Mark Barron it led to the Rams scoring a touchdown quickly after through Kenny Britt, who completed a 6-yard play. 

New Orleans then stormed right back in the game with three unanswered touchdowns in the game, with firstly Mark Ingram picking up a 10-yard run before Brees then leapt over his blockers to cross the whitewash and put the Saints back in ahead. Michael Thomas then made a good catch in double coverage to pick up another touchdown for the Saints and that moved them out to a 28-14 lead before LA scored a late touchdown with Lance Kendricks making it 28-21.

Second half saw New Orleans completing the job with further touchdowns by Ingram and Thomas again, as a 50-yard play was converted by Tim Hightower for the huge win in the Superdome.

ARIZONA CARDINALS  19 –  38 ATLANTA FALCONS

This was a must win for the Cardinals against the Falcons, as they couldn’t afford another loss or it would be a mountain to climb to make the playoffs. Larry Fitzgerald helped boost their chances with a spectacular one-handed catch to get Arizona in decent field position and following on from that catch it saw the Cardinals scoring a touchdown through Jermaine Gresham, as he made a catch off Carson Palmer.

Justin Hardy then made a stunning catch of his own to take the Falcons up to the Arizona 10 yard line, before Devonta Freeman burst at speed on a 1st & Goal to see the home side tying the game up with the kick and had both kickers nailing their respective field goals for a 10-10 score. Taylor Gabriel then went in for 25-yard run to see the Falcons back ahead, but that was before Chandler Catanzaro brought an end to the scoring in the first half with a 54-yard field goal for the Cardinals. 

Tevin Coleman made it a 24-13 game for Atlanta, as he put daylight between them and Arizona. Gabriel then picked up his second touchdown of the game with a 25-yard run, which had the visitors in all sorts of trouble. David Johnson managed to somehow take a pass down by his knees and go over for a score, as he gave the Cardinals some late hope till Devonta Freeman made sure of the win for the Falcons as he completed a 5-yard run to pick up a big win.

MIAMI DOLPHINS  31   –  24   SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

San Francisco arrived at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami hoping to avoid a tenth straight-loss as they faced an recently in-form Dolphins side. Things started well for the 49ers though, after Carlos Hyde completed an 11-yard touchdown pass to lead after the first quarter. However, Miami who have one of the best home records in the league came right back through British Running-Back Jay Ajayi, as he was given the ball inside the 10-yard line and  you can normally predict that it will result in a touchdown and that was just what happened.

Dion Sims then completed a pass in the end zone to put the Dolphins 14-7 up, before Andrew Franks then added to the total with a field goal for Miami. 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw a 4-yard pass to Garrett Celek as he claimed a touchdown and see San Francisco not giving up quite yet. Kenyan Drake ran a kick return for 78-yards and got Miami up to the 49ers 20-yard line. Kenny Stills then caught a pass from Ryan Tannehill and he took it to the house for a 43-yard play and with Leonte Carroo getting a scorer later on for the Dolphins , it  saw Miami move to 31-14.

San Francisco kept battling away and a stunning one-handed grab by Torrey Smith kept the 49ers in the game as they refused to go away, but had to resort to Phil Dawson striking a 36-yard field goal to move them within one score of levelling the game and proved to late to come back.

BUFFALO BILLS  28  – 21  JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 

Buffalo kept their playoff chances alive with a win against Jacksonville, though it was the visitors who got the better of the early exchanges with Chris Ivory going in for the Jaguars to lead after the first quarter and have the Bills looking to respond in the second. LeSean McCoy then ran in a 7-yard touchdown to tie the game up and Jacksonville’s defence once again sprung a leak as they let McCoy in again, with the Buffalo man punishing them and recording a 75- yard run on the play to see the Bills lead 13-6.

Jaguars Quarterback Blake Bortles  threw a 20-yard pass to Marqise Lee as he put the Jags back ahead with a slim one point lead at 14-13, before Tyrod Taylor darted for the end zone with a 7-yard run to temporarily give Buffalo the lead back. However back came Jacksonville again and a diving Allen Hurns effort saw him injured on the play but put his side back ahead. On a night of fantastic catches, it saw Justin Hunter making a grab from nowhere as he claimed the ball in the endzone to give the Buffalo Bills victory in a back and forth contest in Buffalo, New York.

CLEVELAND BROWNS   13  –  27   NEW YORK GIANTS 

The Cleveland Browns looked in search of their first win of the year against a tough NY Giants side that had dreams of consolidating their playoffs hopes at the ‘Dawg Pound’. A Surprising scoreless first quarter between the two sides then saw touchdowns by Dwayne Harris and Odell Beckham Jr of the Giants giving them the lead and had the Browns responding with the boot of Cody Parkey, as he was successful with a couple of field goal attempts. 

Another scoreless quarter in the third saw it all to play for in the final quarter and had the Giants 14-6 up at the start. Jason Pierre-Paul then took the sting out of the game when Josh McCown saw him having the ball knocked up in the air and ended up in the hands of the Defensive End for a 43-yard fumble return and put the Giants 20-6 ahead. Corey Coleman then caught a 21-yard pass from McCown in the New York end zone to see them trying to rally late on, but Beckham who had missed the previous drive with an injured hand, then saw him returning to the game and grabbing another touchdown to see off the Brown late challenge and keep the Browns imperfect season going at 0-11.

BALTIMORE RAVENS  19  –   14  CINCINNATI BENGALS 

In the NFC North clash between the Bengals and the Ravens, it saw Baltimore opening up an 10-0 lead on Cincinnati after Joe Flacco threw a 14-yard pass to Breshad Perriman for a touchdown and then had Justin Tucker finding his range with a 52-yard field goal to see the Ravens taking an early lead. Mike Nugent then kicked the home side on the board with a 23-yard kick before Tucker landed a mammoth 57-yard field goal to move the Ravens 13-3 in front, with another kick just before the half.

The Bengals kept the Ravens quiet in the third and saw Cincinnati picking up a touchdown for their troubles, when Andy Dalton played a quick 3-yard pass out to Tyler Eifert as he made it an 11-point ball game. Justin Tucker then made another kick and that put Baltimore 19-9 up early in the 4th quarter. Nugent would close the gap again on their opponents as he landed a field goal with time coming to an end. Baltimore’s special teams then chewed the clock and conceded a safety with 11 seconds of the game remaining to see out victory.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS    14  –  5   SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 

Tampa Bay kept their recent form of late going with a win over the Seattle Seahawks at Qualcomm Stadium, as the Buccaneers took an early 10-0 lead after the first quarter through Jameis Winston pass to Mike Evans for the opening touchdown and then a Robert Aguayo field to give them a lead. The combination for Tampa  Bay worked again later on as Winston thrown the ball up over the last man and found Evans again on hand to make the catch and pick up the touchdown.

Seattle then forced a safety after Luke Stocker of the Buccaneers grabbed Frank Clark in the end zone and prevented him from making the likely sack on Jameis Winston and saw the Seahawks registering the two-points. Steven Hauschka then kicked a field goal to get the Seahawks chipping away at the scoreboard and Seattle were then given hope late on, when Robert Aguayo pulled his 48-yard kick on goal wide of the target before half-time.

A scoreless second half saw both defences on top and had both sides making an Interception a piece and caused a fumble as well with the offence on both sides being shut down.

HOUSTON TEXANS      13  –  21      SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 

A stunning performance by Chargers quarterback Phil Rivers, saw him leading his San Diego side to victory with three touchdowns and making 242 yards in the game. Play was scoreless in the first quarter with the hometown Texans taking the lead through quarterback Brock Osweiler leaping over his blockers and breaking the pane to score first.

Rivers then threw for the first of his touchdowns after Tyrell Williams made the catch and completed a 52-yard play to tie the game up with the added point. Osweiler then had a pass intercepted and was the first of three he would turn over in the game. That interception would lead to the Chargers scoring a second touchdown, with Williams making the grab in the end zone to put San Diego 14-7 up.

Josh Lambo missed a 54-yard kick for the Chargers in the second quarter and despite the home side causing a turnover, it never saw the Texans making the most of their chance. Nick Novak opened up the fourth quarter with a 19-yard field goal and put them four points behind San Diego. Phil Rivers then saw Hunter Henry straying inside the end zone and his 12-yard pass resulted in a touchdown. Houston then had Novak drilling over 45-yard field goal with 18 seconds left and then gambled on an onside kick and saw the Texans recovering to try to steal victory right at the death. 

As it was, Osweiler with no time left on the clock took a few steps back and launched the ball downfield into the end zone and had Chargers Dexter McCoil making the clean catch for San Diego and confirming victory.

NEW YORK JETS  17   –  22    NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

New England left it late in their game against the Jets, as victory moved them to 9-2 on the season with a win at MetLife Stadium. The game started with New York going 10-0 ahead early in the second quarter, with a Nick Folk field goal and a Brandon Marshall touchdown to put the Jets ahead in this AFC East battle. Soon after the Patriots got things going in their favour thanks to a Steven Gostkowski 28-yard field attempt as they began to make their comeback. 

Malcolm Butler who was the hero for New England in the Superbowl two years ago, then saw him recovering a loose ball on a Jets play and led to an eventual touchdown for visitors. Tom Brady shown his coolness under pressure when the ball was snapped to him and after the quarterback dropped the ball momentarily, Brady quickly gathered himself and fired towards Malcolm Mitchell for the score in the end zone.

Both teams then failed with field goal attempts, before Gostkowski finally broke the stalemate almost midway through the third quarter as he put the Patriots 13-10 up with a 29-yard kick. Quincey Enunwa then took an extraordinary catch in the deep corner of the end zone from a Ryan Fitzpatrick throw and that put the Jets back in front with a 22-yard pass for a touchdown. Another field goal by New England then saw them move within one point of the Jets with the final few minutes ticking down by.

The winning play then saw Malcolm Mitchell picking up his second touchdown of the game on a 1st & Goal for the Patriots, when Brady found Mitchell to his left and saw him going over for a 8-yard play to see the Patriots stay perfect on the road this year and go 3-1 against divisional teams this season.

CHICAGO BEARS   21  –  27   TENNESSEE TITANS 

Chicago Bears coach John Fox gave Matt Barkley a run out as quarterback in what has been a bit of a poisoned chalice at quarterback position so to speak for the Bears this year-after the loss of both Jay Cutler (shoulder) and Brian Hoyer (Arm) through injury. One noticeable thing about the game wasn’t on the field of play, but in the crowd, as over 13,000 empty seats gave a clear sign that Bears fans weren’t happy with their side.

The game itself saw the Bears running game looking useful in the first half of the opening quarter, with Jordan Howard continuing to be the only bright spark on what has been a dismal season for the Windy City outfit this year. Barkley then threw his first touchdown pass to Daniel Brown for a 7-yard play and it put the hosts up 7-0. Tennessee then mounted their comeback at the end of the first quarter through a Derrick Henry run as he ran into the Bears end zone with a 11-yard run.

Delaney Walker then caught a 4-yard pass to register the Titans second touchdown of the game and saw the Chicago defence getting horribly confused and caused the score. More slack marking by the home side allowed Rishard Matthews to make a stunning catch in the Bears end zone for a 29-yard completion to put the visitors 21-7 up at the half. Chicago then fooled the Titans by going for an onside kick at the start of the second and successfully recovered in the process too. Barkley then got the Bears to a 3rd & Goal until the quarterback panicked and threw a turnover in the end zone to see a chance go begging.

Two fields goals by Ryan Succop moved Tennessee even further ahead at 27-7 and the game seemed pretty much dead in the water. That was till Matt Barkley then tried to engineer a stunning comeback for Chicago, with firstly Marquess Wilson completing an 8-yard pass and then Deonte Thompson making a catch on the next drive for successive scores and bring the Bears on the verge of possibly stealing the game.

The killer for Chicago in the game was all the dropped catches they were making or not making-as the case would be, with a total of 12 overall and none that were more important than the one Josh Bellamy dropped in the final minute. With Barkley looking for a man he saw a Tennessee man losing his footing throwing to the Bears wide-receiver available for the winning catch but he somehow managed to drop it and it proved costly as the Bears loss to a heartbreaking defeat.

OAKLAND RAIDERS   35   –  32    CAROLINA PANTHERS 

This was a game of two halves for sure, as Oakland dominated their opponents for the whole of the first half and then saw the Panthers role-reversing in the second half. Seth Roberts put the Raiders ahead with a 2-yard grab in the end zone and that until Panthers quarterback Cam Newton dashed in for a 3-yard run to tie the game up. Latavius Murray then ran through the Panthers defence on the goal line to see the Raiders retaking the lead and was followed up by a Sebastian Janikowski field goal to see the Black & Silver 17-7 ahead.

Cam Newton then panicked on his 3-yard line and his intended pass was intercepted by Khalil Mack, who caught the ball to go in for a touchdown and have the Oakland 24-3 up at the break. Newton had gone the whole of the second quarter without a single completion and the Raiders defence had him their collective pockets it seemed. As the third quarter came around it saw the turning point in the game at that point in time, as Derek Carr got the ball snapped to him but in the process the snap came out wrong and saw the quarterback dislocating his ring finger on his throwing hand.

This led to Carr missing the next drive for the home side and in his absence saw Oakland now starting to lose their way as touchdowns for Jonathan Stewart and a 88-yard pass for Ted Ginn, saw the Panthers forcing their way back but failed in their two point conversions and extra point kicks. Carr returned to the field of play wearing a glove on his injured hand, meanwhile Carolina had by now turned the game on its head. Two quick scores by Stewart stretching over for a score late in third and then a Kelvin Benjamin with a 44-yard catch, saw the Panthers going 32-24 ahead with the added point.

Clive Walford then made a good catch from a Derek Carr throw up the middle of the field, as he completed a 12-yard play with Seth Robert then making a catch on a two point conversion to see the Raiders back level with their opponents. Janikowski then kicked the winning points with 1:45 left to go in the game as he slotted over a 23-yard field goal to see Oakland come from behind in a game that they should never have comfortably won at half time.

DENVER BRONCOS    27  –  30      KANSAS CITY CHIEFS   

An incredible finish at Mile High Stadium saw the Kansas City Chiefs getting a huge stroke of luck in the dying seconds of overtime to complete a memorable win for the AFC West side. After the sides played out a scoreless first quarter, Offensive Linebacker Justin Houston was having a half to remember and was giving the Broncos offence nightmares. Houston saw Denver conceding a safety in their own end zone, after he sacked the quarterback and luckily for the Broncos had Russell Okung to fall on it and avoid a touchdown against them. 

Tyreek Hill then ran back a 86 yard kick off return immediately on the following play, and that put the visitors 9-0 up in a blink of an eye. Brandon McManus struck a 33 yard field goal to get Denver on the scoreboard and had the Broncos trail by six at the half way point. Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian then dodged a bullet to set up Jordan Taylor for their opening touchdown, as the former Northwestern QB in college had to scramble to avoid the Chiefs defence before running to the far side and finding Taylor for the score.

Hill was back at it late in the third quarter, when he went to the corner for another touchdown to saw the Chiefs back in front. Emmanuel Sanders then caught a 35 yard pass to move the Broncos ahead by a single point and when Bennie Fowler looked to have secured the win for the home side on 76 yard play, it put Denver ahead 24-16 with over two minutes to go. Kansas City though had other ideas and saw Tyreek Hill rolling into the end zone with :11 seconds to go in the game and then saw the Chiefs follow it up with a two point conversion courtesy of Demetrius Harris to send the game to overtime.

Both Brandon McManus and Cairo Carlos nerves were tested to the fullest in the overtime quarter, with both kickers making their kicks to see the game continue on as the scores moved to 27-27 all. McManus then tried to kick a 62 yard effort for the Broncos, but that was no good and with the last play of the contest having Santos the chance to win it on a 34 yard kick, his effort veered left and somehow went in off the post and gave Kansas City victory. 

GREEN BAY PACKERS 27 – 13  PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Green Bay snapped their recent losing streak with a win over the Eagles in the Monday night football game in Philadelphia, while the home have now lost six of their last eight games this season. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers picked up his first of two touchdowns passes in the game after Davante Adams scored on a 12-yard pass to put Green Bay up in the contest, and that was soon cancelled out by Carson Wentz who run into the end zone to tie the game.

Adams then claimed a superb catch to see the visiting side retaking the lead, after the wide-receiver somehow made a catch for the touchdown. Caleb Sturgis then nailed a 48-yard field goal to see the Eagles move within four points of their opponents. Crosby is a familiar name that has brought misery towards Philadelphia fans for a long time, but that is more Sidney Crosby from their Pennsylvania neighbours the Pittsburgh Penguins in ice hockey, while this Crosby was Mason Crosby and he kicked a 33-yard field goal to move 17-10 ahead in the match. 

Sturgis responded within five minutes of the third after he kicked over a 50 yard strike to pull three points back for the Eagles and then had Aaron Ripkowski crashing over to see the Packers lead 23-13, before Crosby put the nail in the coffin for the Eagles with a 32 yard kick to condemn the home side to defeat.

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Giants blown away by late Storm

          primarystorm2015logo-1          Manchester Storm     5   –   1    Belfast Giants       lo_belfastgiants-16346

A stunning team performance saw the Manchester Storm recording a 5-1 win over the Belfast Giants this past Saturday night at the Altrincham Ice Rink and land an early blow ahead of the sides Challenge Cup meeting next month. Two goals by Canadian Forward Darian Dziurzynski helped his side on their path to victory in what was a tight game up until the third period, and that before the Storm went into top gear for the win.

Both these sides will get to know each other a little better within a month, as Manchester and Belfast will face other four more times before the turn of the year and so perhaps it wasn’t much of a shock when the sides were almost feeling the other out to begin with. Belfast then started to find some shooting lanes of which to work with and had the home side needing to be good defensively, while Mike Clemente between the pipes for the home side was making some routine stops as he was seeing the puck clearly.

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Manchester’s Paul Phillips looking for support – Pic: Photos by Aaliyah & Mark Ferriss of All Sports Photography

 

Manchester themselves had some chances in the opening frame, but the Giants netminder Stephen Murphy kept the hosts at bay. With the Giants out shooting their hosts in the period, it had the home side taking the lead through Darian Dziurynzski after Mario Trubucco played a lovely pass across the face of goal and so his fellow Countryman find the net from close range to give the Storm the lead midway through the first. Taylor Dickin then sat for two in the penalty box after he was called for a slash and that left the home side having to kill off a penalty.

With Belfast’s powerplay unit trying to set up a clear sight on goal, it led to the puck coming to Manchester’s Mark Heatley and he played a flip pass up to Jack Prince and the British forward broke away and then finished with a little move to slip it under the keeper for a short-handed goal and double the lead for the Storm. As the play entered the final minute of the first period, it saw the Storm unable to fully clear the zone and led to the visitors pulling a goal back through Colin Shields with 20 seconds left for 2-1 game.

Second period saw both teams doing a good job of breaking up plays and having some decent amounts of pressure, but neither side were able to make it count. The Northern Irish outfit then tried to use their physical style to conjure up a goal-scoring chance, but it had Manchester sticking to their task and not allowing the Giants to disrupt their game plan and saw goalless second.

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Mario Trubucco celebrates putting Manchester 3-1 up –  Pic: Photos by Aaliyah & Mark Ferriss of All Sports Photography 

In the third it saw play going back and forth between the two sides and had the Storm playing outstanding at the back as a defensive unit. Belfast had out shot the home side in the first two periods of the contest and apart from the Shields effort in the first period, it saw the Giants trying everything to try to force an equaliser but Clemente was determined to deny the visiting shooters.

With less than ten minutes left to go it saw the turning point in the game when Mario Trubucco blocked a Belfast players pass just outside the Storm zone and that led to a foot race for the puck and saw Trubucco breaking away for one on one-and scoring for a 3-1 lead to give the hosts some breathing space. Minutes later it saw Dziurynzski then making it 4-1 for the Storm, as a bounce off the boards fell favourably for the forward as he quickly turned and shot to extend the lead further for the home side.

Those two quick goals looked to have taken the wind out of the Giants sails and that saw the home side becoming more confident towards the back-end of the game. Belfast were making silly errors and saw local boy Paul Swindlehurst rounding off night with a goal, after defenseman begged for the pass and his low shot went through Murphy to seal victory for Manchester and leave Storm coach Omar Pacha extremely happy. The win was their first over Belfast as the new Storm and will give them confidence ahead of the upcoming clashes against Derrick Walser’s side within the month- in both the League and quarter-final games.

NFL ROUND-UP: WEEK 11

Last weekend saw Week 11 in the National Football League and for the kickers it was a weekend to forget as from 12 attempted Extra Points being kicked, amazingly 10 were missed or blocked up and down the Country. Meanwhile Monday Night Football took place in Mexico City in front of a packed out between the Texans and the Raiders.

17227042013Minnesota Viking  30 – 24  Arizona Cardinalskwth8f1cfa2sch5xhjjfaof90

Minnesota Vikings snapped their four game losing streak against the Arizona Cardinals at the US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, with two returns leading to touchdowns that both were over a 100-yards. Sam Bradford threw a 16-yard pass to Adam Thielen in the end zone to get the Vikings off and running after they challenged the original call for an incomplete pass. Arizona came back with David Johnson running in for a touchdown from short distance to score for the Cardinals.

After the Cardinals led 10-7 courtesy of a 34-yard field goal by Chandler Catanzaro, it then saw Matt Asiata reaching out over the whitewash to put the home side back in front. Xavier Rhodes then made a ‘pick-six’ play as the Minnesota Corner-Back intercepted a pass on his own goal line and then proceeded to take it to the house for a 100-yard touchdown and help the ‘Vikes’ pull away. Arizona’s Jermaine Gresham then spun and staggered his way through the Viking defences to score a touchdown for the Cardinals, as he closed the gap going into at the half. 

From the start of the second half it saw Corrdelle Patterson returning a 104-yard kick off for a touchdown and having the home fans cheering him home. During the week Minnesota sacked their kicker for poor form and their new kicker Kai Forbath started his Vikings career with a miss but would later kick a 27-yard field goal. Arizona had the last say in the game when David Johnson collected his 2nd touchdown of the game for the visiting side, after Carson Palmer threw a 4-yard pass out to Johnson to score on.

 

857Kansas City Chiefs  17 – 19  Tampa Bay Buccaneers17636702014

Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City saw a battle of the field goals taking place, as Kansas City’s Cairo Santos kicked the hosts into an early 3-0 lead, before Buccaneers kicker Robert Aguayo converted on his opening two kicks to put Tampa Bay ahead at 6-3. Chiefs Quarterback Alex Smith then ran and slid his way into the end zone as he put Kansas City 10-6 up with the extra point added, then Aguayo drilled a 41-yard field goal to see Tampa trail by a point at the half for a 10-9 scoreline.

Another Robert Aguayo field goal saw him making it a 12-10 lead for the Buccaneers as his kick 36-yards out in the fourth quarter went through the uprights. Alex Cross then caught a 3-yard pass by Jameis Winston to put the visiting side 19-12 up, but back came Kansas City once again and had Alex Smith finding Albert Wilson open in the end zone to complete a 3-yard pass and move the Chiefs within one score of their opponents. Tampa Bay managed to see out the game and make it 2 wins on the bounce for the Buccaneers.

406Dallas Cowboys   27 – 17    Baltimore Ravens318

Baltimore Ravens Quarterback Joe Flacco made a comment during the week prior to their clash against the Cowboys that ‘We should beat them. I’m not kidding’. In hindsight it may have been better to look at his own side than the in-form Cowboys. The Ravens led after the first quarter through a Terrance West 18-yard run touchdown and it also saw the AFC North side playing well defensive too in the opening quarter. 

Cole Beasley then made a catch in the endzone from Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott, as the Rookie QB for the Cowboys carried on seeing his stock continuing to rise with another good play. Both sides traded field goals in the second quarter and went in all square at the break.

Dez Bryant went on to score two touchdowns for the Cowboys, as he made it a 24-10 ball game. That until the Ravens replied through a Steve Smith 5-yard catch to make it 24-17 and as time dwindled down it was left to Dan Bailey to close out the game for ‘America’s Team’ with a 21-yard field goal for Dallas.

970Pittsburgh  Steelers   24 – 9    Cleveland Browns15578552015

In Cleveland it saw the Browns going 0-11 on the season after their recent defeat coming against a fellow AFC North rival, in the Pittsburgh Steelers. A couple of Chris Boswell field goals put Pittsburgh 6-0 up early on in the contest and that set up how the game played out. Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell went in for a touchdown and then had David Johnson completing the two-point conversion for the Steelers.

Both teams saw their respective quarterbacks getting hurt on plays in the game, with ‘Big Ben’ Roethlisberger getting dumped hard to the ground by a Browns player that ended up crashing down on top of Roethlisberger saw him struggle for a time before he shook it off. Cleveland’s Cody Kessler then got hurt himself during a tackle and was forced out the game and replaced by former Chicago Bears QB Josh McCown. 

After Cody Parkey and Chris Boswell both converted field goals, it saw the Browns scoring a touchdown through a Josh McCown pass to Gary Barnidge and the Cleveland player made the catch to get the points on the board for the home side-however their extra point attempt was no good. 

Pittsburgh finished the game off with Ryan Shazier sacking Josh McCown near the Cleveland endzone and saw the ball coming loose for Javon Hargrave to gather and go over for a Steelers touchdown.

919New York Giants     22 – 16     Chicago Bears364

After the Bears embarrassing defeat to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last weekend, John Fox’s men looked to try and redeem themselves at the Meadowlands, and looked like they might just do that. Chicago led midway through the first quarter when a Jay Cutler 19-yard pass to Tight-End Zach Miller saw him in for the touchdown, but sadly for Miller and the Bears- the influential player for the Chicago in the half saw forced to leave the game with a broken foot.

Rashaad Jennings then responded for the Giants with a 2-yard run and that moved New York into a 7-6 lead with the extra point good. Bears kicker Connor Barth then kicked a successful 40-yard field goal attempt as he restored the lead for Chicago in the 2nd Quarter. Jeremy Langford then crashed over from a yard out to put the visiting side 16-6 points up in the game and looked like a different Bears side that played all season. Former Soldier Field favourite in Robbie Gould came up against his former side for the first time since they shown him the door, and the Bears All-time highest points kicker converted on a 46-yard field goal for his new club. New York were being upstaged by a struggling Chicago side that was on absolute fire at MetLife Stadium, but the game was far from over.

This season more than any other season for the Bears has saw building leads and then falling away in the second half, and this game was to prove no exception to that rule. The second half proved this this point, as an early touchdown by Will Tye for the Giants started the recovery for New York and shown the Bears defensive frailties once again. 

Sterling Shepard then caught the Chicago defence cold again going in for a 15-yard touchdown for the Giants, as they had all the momentum. Jay Cutler then tried to engineer a winning drive late on in the game for the Bears, but Cutler did what Cutler does best and that was seeing him being picked off for an interception and handed the Giants the win and leave Chicago look unlikely to win another game this season on their current second half form.

cwuyv0w15ruuk34j9qnfuoif9Detroit Lions    27 – 17      Jacksonville Jaguars 15988562013

This was a crazy game at Ford Field between the Lions and the Jaguars, with Special Teams being the key to victory. Jason Myers kicked Jacksonville into an early lead courtesy of a 27-yard field goal, meanwhile Andre Roberts then took the ball to the house for a 55-yard punt return for Detroit and saw the extra point blocked by the Jaguars defence. Jacksonville’s Wide-Receiver Allen Robinson then caught a 3-yard pass on a 1st & goal from quarterback Blake Bortles, as he put the Jags back in front.

Detroit kicker Matt Prater kicked over a 27-yard field goal to tie the game up in the first half and then early on in the second half saw Rafael Bush making an interception and running it back for a 39-yard return to see the Lions taking the lead.

Jacksonville had Myers kicking another field goal for them before Marqise Lee made a superb grab in the endzone and managing to just get his feet down in time for a touchdown for the Jaguars. Eric Ebron then forced his way past the visiting defence to score a touchdown and with the Lions back ahead in the game, it saw Prater adding another field for Detroit to make the game safe for the home side.

 593Indianapolis Colts    24 – 17    Tennessee Titans1053

Indianapolis scored 14 unanswered points in the First Quarter to set the Colts on their way to victory against a hard-working Tennessee Titans side at the Lucas Oil Stadium. Robert Turbin got things rolling for the home side after he scored a touchdown five minutes into the game, after Frank Gore had rushed up the sideline for a run of 49-yards to get the Colts in position for a score. From there it saw Dante Moncrief then making a catch to pick up a touchdown for the home team while under pressure and it had the Colts offense on fire.

T.Y Hilton then made it 21 unanswered points for the Colts as he completed a 2-yard catch for Indianapolis with Andrew Luck finding his man. With time ticking down on the second quarter it saw Marcus Mariota then ducking out of a tackle before firing out to DeMarco Murray for the touchdown, and get the Titans on the board and give them a boost ahead of the half-time break. 

Mariota then threw a pass down field in the Colts endzone and had his Wide-Receiver in Tajae Sharpe was on hand to make the catch for a one score game. As the Titans battled their back from 21 points down to now trail by seven, it saw Tennessee right back in the contest. Titans Ryan Succop then made it a four point game with his field goal effort, but Adam Vinatieri made amends for an earlier miss in the first half, as the veteran converted on a 49-yard field goal to helped the Colts edging out their visitors.

403Cincinnati Bengals   12 – 16   Buffalo Bills n0fd1z6xmhigb0eej3323ebwq

This game saw the defences on top and had the kickers proving their worth on a day of bad kicks in the league. Cincinnati suffered a huge blow early on in the contest though, when A.J Green was carted off the field with a hamstring injury inside the opening two minutes of the play.

Buffalo scored their only touchdown in the game when Running-Back LeSean McCoy became the architect to the Bills score, after he had made the huge play to get them up inside the Bengals half with a big run on the drive. McCoy then finished it off with a 7-yard run to see Buffalo 7-0 up in the game.

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton dashed to the endzone towards the back-end of the opening quarter as he picked up a touchdown for the home side. Mike Nugent had an absolute nightmare in the game for Cincinnati, with the kicker missing one of his two extra point attempts in the game. Buffalo’s Stephon Gilmore then made a great interception to see him streaking away up field and was finally brought down around the Bengals 6-yard line.

Kicker Dan Carpenter kicked over a 26-yard field goal for the Bills as he helped them to a 10-6 lead after the opening quarter. Tyler Boyd then caught a catch in the Buffalo endzone to see the home side taking the lead again and this then saw Nugent missing his second straight kick and was roundly booed by his own fans. Two further kicks by Carpenter in the third and fourth quarters handed the visitors the advantage and took the game by four points in a tight contest.

17994552009San Francisco 49ers    17 – 30    New England Patriotsy71myf8mlwlk8lbgagh3fd5e0 

Tom Brady led his New England Patriots to victory at Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco, with the controversial quarterback making 280 yards and throwing for 4 touchdowns in the win. His first of four touchdowns came when he found Julian Edelman open in the endzone for a 4 yard-pass to get the Patriots up and running, but the 49ers cut their lead down thanks to a 33-yard field goal by Phil Dawson.

Brady pulled a stunning move to set up James White for a touchdown, as his delicate little lob pass over two San Francisco players left White wide open and all the time in the world to run in for a 6-yard touchdown. Vance McDonald then completed an 18-yard touchdown for the ‘Niners’ after quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw the ball for the Tight-End to get the host back in it. With the contest scoreless in the third, it saw Brady scanning the field and floating a ball up towards Danny Amendola and he made the catch for New England and have the Pats well and truly in control.

Brady’s fourth touchdown pass of the game saw him coming under pressure from behind, but his quick-out pass found Malcolm Mitchell- which saw the 49ers defence stopping the wrong man and that allowed Mitchell to gallop away unchallenged and make it 27-10 ball game. Stephen Gostkowski then coolly slotting a 38-yard field goal over to increase the Patriots lead in the game, but San Francisco had the last word on the scoring and had Kaepernick throwing a pass out to Shaun Draughn as he ran in for the 49ers second touchdown of the game.

594153172016Los Angeles Rams    10 – 14    Miami Dolphins 15041052013

A late rally by the Dolphins saw them prevailing in the wet at the Los Angeles Coliseum, but overcame a very tough defensive effort by the LA Rams. The big news before kick off was that the Rams was giving a start to their number one draft pick and his first start of the year in Jared Goff -as the 22-year old didn’t look out of place either in the game. 

Todd Gurley then gave the Rams the lead with a 24-yard run to the endzone and that was the only score in the game up until the third quarter. After a Greg Zuerlein field goal for the Rams, it saw LA looking like they were going to hold out over Miami and with the rain starting to come down a bit heavier- it made things harder for the two sides on the field.

However Miami got a touchdown through Jarvis Landry and the his Dolphins team mates,  as after making the catch on the 5-yard line he was then grabbed by the Rams defence and this led to Landry’s teammates virtually using him as a battering ram to plough their way over the endzone for a score. With 37 seconds remaining on the game it saw Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill throwing to DeVante Parker for the winning play and completed a 9 yard touchdown pass to beat LA and have the home side wondering how on earth they let the win slip through their fingers. 

pfiobtreaq7j0pzvadktsc6jv Seattle Seahawks    26 – 15     Philadelphia Eagles960 

Seattle defeated a fellow NFC rival in the shape of the Philadelphia Eagles at CenturyLink Field and in the process, it saw them improving their record but sitting just behind the Cowboys and Giants for the best Conference record. Things started out great for the Seahawks when CJ Prosise ran for a 72-yard touchdown, as he flew up the sidelines and into the endzone for a score. The extra point was blocked and was the tenth in the day to be missed in the League all day.

Second quarter saw Zach Ertz reaching out over the line to score a touchdown and put the Eagles back on level terms. Russell Wilson then threw an angled pass out to Jimmy Graham who looked like he was tackled, but somehow the Seattle man wriggled his way free and went in for a score.

A brilliant piece of play-calling by the Seahawks offensive saw Wilson flipping the ball to Doug Baldwin who then threw back to the running quarterback in the endzone, and had Russell Wilson making the catch to move the Seahawks 24-7 in ahead. With Hauschka making a 35-yard kick to put Seattle further ahead, it then saw Carson Wentz finding Dorial Green-Beckham with a pass to see the Eagles getting a touchdown late on.

im5xz2q9bjbg44xep08bf5czqWashington Redskins    42 – 24    Green Bay Packersdcy03myfhffbki5d7il3 

An incredible fourth quarter saw 34 points being scored between the Redskins and the Packers- with Washington showing their dominance late on with three touchdowns in the final quarter. DeSean Jackson opened the scoring after he caught a 17-yard pass from Redskins Quarterback Kirk Cousins, as he put the home side up 7-0 after the first. Green Bay then got on the board in the second quarter after a Jordi Nelson catch and saw him dropping it soon after, but the umpires deemed that the Packers man had full control of it before losing quickly after.

Rob Kelly then run right up the middle of the field for a 10-yard touchdown and move the Redskins 13-10 in the contest. Jamison Crowder then made a catch and took it into the endzone for a 44-yard touchdown after Cousins had fired the deep pass up the middle for Crowder to claim. In the third it was mostly Washington and they hammered home their advantage in the game from that point on wards.

However the Packers scored first in the final quarter as a 31-yard play saw Aaron Rodgers throwing the ball to an open James Starks in waiting and he pounced on the opportunity to make the home side pay for not keeping tabs on him. Cousins then looked down field once again and spotted the movement of Pierre Garcon open, and his throw to his Wide Receiver saw Garcon finishing it off with a 70-yard play for Washington and had them grinding the Packers in the dirt.

Jared Cook then claimed a bullet pass from Rodgers in the Washington endzone, to see the Packers picking up a touchdown. The Redskins then run in two further touchdowns thanks to the efforts of Rob Kelley, as firstly he went in from a yard out and then soon after ran in for another score from 4-yards out to inflict a heavier defeat on the Green Bay Packers.

f1wggq2k8ql88fe33jzhw641uCarolina Panthers       23 – 20      New Orleans Saints907

The Thursday night game between Carolina and New Orleans kicked off last weekend’s games, in what was filled with injuries to both teams over the course of the game.

Both sides traded field goals early on in the first quarter, and so as we moved to the second quarter where the Panthers showed their claws to their opponent. Jonathan Stewart went in for a 1-yard touchdown and that was soon followed up by a long 49-yard kick by Graham Gano to see Carolina going 13-3 up.

Cam Newton then fired off a ball up field that saw Ted Ginn Jr making a stunning catch for a touchdown. After Gano and Lutz traded field goals in the final quarter for their respective sides, it saw New Orleans scoring twice with Brandon Coleman and Coby Fleener picking up a touchdown a piece in a losing effort.

g9mgk6x3ge26t44cccm9oq1vlOakland Raiders  27 – 20   Houston Texans 570

Monday night football came from South of the Border as the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City was the venue for the clash between the Raiders and the Texans and was played in a stadium with an Infamous bit of American Sporting history attached to it too. It was the sight of the infamous ‘Black Power salute’ that took place back in 1968 during the Mexico Olympics and involved two African American athletes, namely John Carlos and Tommie Smith. So this past Monday saw Tommie Smith lighting the Al Davis torch of which is traditionally done at every single Oakland Raiders game and was befitting that he should light it in Mexico City.

Onto the game and it was a packed house of 76,743 as the Oakland Raiders came from behind to beat the Houston Texans in an entertaining encounter. Nick Novak put the Texans ahead in the contest with a field goal, but that effort was cancelled out by a Jalen Richard touchdown and a Sebastian Janikowski field goal to see the Raiders edge ahead. Houston then scored a touchdown either side of half time, as firstly Braxton Miller completed a 12-yard play with Brock Osweiler throwing the ball his way and then Lamar Miller went in for the Texans to lead 15-10.

Janikowski kept up his record of having never missed a single kick on a Monday Night Football game with a 20-yard field goal attempt through the posts to make it a 15-13 game. Novak then returned the favour and reopened Houston’s five-point advantage again with a kick and that then brought an onslaught by the Raiders. Oakland Quarterback Derek Carr fired a pass up field towards Jamize Olawale and had his blocker doing his job well to help his team mate en-route to the endzone for the touchdown.

The Raiders then scored the winning points with Carr throwing to Amari Cooper, as he gave the Houston defenders the slip quite literally and running to the endzone for a 35-yard score to see the Raiders 27-20 up and win a thrilling game in Mexico.

Fall and Rise weekend for the Storm

photo Manchester Storm  4 – 5  Braehead Clan clan-1000px-rgb

This weekend saw the Manchester Storm welcoming two fellow Gardiner Conference opponents to the ‘Storm Shelter’ and also snapped their recent Three-game losing streak in the process. After two losses last weekend which saw Manchester firstly going down in a shoot-out to Dundee Stars, they were then ripped apart by their opening opponents of the weekend in the Braehead Clan. 

Saturday night saw the Braehead Clan returning to the Silverblades Ice Rink in Altrincham for their second visit in seven days, as they looked to make it three wins in a row on Manchester’s home ice. The home side was boosted by the return of Canadian forward Darian Dziurzynski to the line up, after he suffered a nasty injury against Nottingham at the start of this month. 

A week ago saw the Clan put the home side to the sword with a 5-2 victory and had Manchester losing Eric Neilson for the immediate future after suffering a horrific eye injury that he sustained in the game. You could make the case that tiredness and poor shooting selection were a couple of key reasons they lost the game last time out, but by in large it was down to the hard work of the Braehead side.

Both teams were pretty much cancelling each other out for the first part of the period, with the home side making sure they didn’t give up any easy chances like they was doing last time out. Manchester broke the deadlock through a powerplay strike by returnee Darian Dziurzynski, with captain Trevor Johnson and Matt Bissonnette credited with assists. That lead lasted all of seven seconds, when a failure by the hosts to get organised from the restart, saw the Clan heading up ice and had Matt Keith finding the twine to the tie game up at 1-1 at 12-46.

Braehead then had their goalscorer heading to the box for a tripping call and this then led to a controversial moment in the game. What followed saw Corey Cowick of the Clan picking up a 10 minute abuse of official call off Referee Tom Darnell and had Linesman Kris Wells trying to grab the player and lead him away from the referee and towards the box,  but instead had the player taking exception too the grab and shoving the official.

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Manchester celebrate taking the lead over Braehead Pic: Photos by Aaliyah & Mark Ferriss of All Sports Photography 

That would have seen the Braehead man gone for sure, but for the match Referee discussing the penalties at the scorers table. As play got back underway it saw Cody Cartier putting the hosts back in front at 2-1 and you could say that over the balance of play in the first, the home side was probably just deserving of the lead. In the second period it saw a story of two halves, as for the first part it was dominated by the Storm and then had the Clan coming right back into the game. 

At 27:39 it saw Matt Bissonnette opening up a two goal lead for Manchester, when the forward cut in from the left wing and then fired a low shot by Craig Russell in the Braehead goals to give the Storm a 3-1 lead and looked like the home side was well on their way to getting some revenge. Later on in the period it saw a penalty against Manchester captain Trevor Johnson and that saw the Clan handed a powerplay. From there Corey Cowick who arguably could be been shown the gate for his earlier exploits in the game, then gave the visitors a way back into the game and in truth saw all their hard work in the second part of the period reaping their rewards.

With the home side holding a slim one goal advantage entering the third period, it had the hosts needing to be able to kill off the game and stop the attacks of the visiting side. Sadly for the home fans though, that was not to be the case and had both teams playing end to end hockey. Manchester much like the week before started to show signs of creaking under the pressure they were under, and came as no surprise when Trevor Hendrikx made it a three-all game before the halfway point of the third. 

That goal sparked a crazy two-minute spell in the game when the Clan tied the game up through Hendrikx and then had Bissonnette restoring the lead again for the Storm a minute and seven seconds later, only for the away side to strike right back again and score through Scott Aarssen. Storm’s defending had gone from solid as rock, to now bursting their defensive banks with some very poor play indeed and allowed the Clan to make it a 4-4 game. 

Braehead were now firmly in control now of the game with the Storm struggling to even mount any offence and saw the home side pinned in their own zone. It then saw a strange run of play which led to the visitors going in front, as with the net nearly toppling on top of Mike Clemente in the Storm goal, it saw the puck partly cleared away and with the goalie starting to pick up his water bottle the Clan regaining possession of the puck and Michael Beca netted the winning goal at 52-50.

It was hard to fathom how on earth Manchester went from being in control in the game, to now going into meltdown and having players all skating down the same side of the boards and leaving the other wing wide open for their opponents to have chances on. Play from the hosts had seen them from the middle of the second period on wards almost just come to a stop and that allowed the Clan to come storming back, pardon the pun. 

With less than a minute of play to go in the game, it saw Omar Pacha pulling the goalie for the Storm and putting the extra attacker out on the ice. Storm were needlessly dumping the puck into the Clan zone when they really should have been trying to take into the Clan zone themselves, but they were making a complete hash of things in truth. Braehead then had a chance to score an empty net goal, but some good defending stopped it from happening and saw the Scottish side snuffing out the last opportunity for the home side and inflict a third straight loss on the Storm side.

photoManchester Storm  3 – 0 Fife Flyers ctjwxjowiaqqeqn

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Connor Valery celebrates his goal against the Fife Flyers :Photos by Aaliyah & Mark Ferriss of All Sports Photography

After the disappointment of the previous evening against Braehead, the Storm looked bounce back and make amends for that loss on Saturday with the Fife Flyers coming to town and as side that had annihilated Manchester up in Kirkcaldy 7-0 earlier in the season.

The match also brought about another familiar face for the Storm faithful, in the form of top scorer for the side last year in Matt Sisca. On this night though Manchester was to put on a far better rear-guard showing and had the hosts returning the favour on their Scottish opponents with a 3-0 shutout of the Flyers. 

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Mike Clemente stops Fife’s Ryan Dingle on way to his first shutout –  Photo by Aaliyah & Mark Ferriss of All Sports Photography

A goal in each period helped the Storm claim their first win in three games, as Connor Varley scored the first with a powerplay strike in the opening period, before player-coach Omar Pacha made it 2-0 in the second and then Darian Dziurzynski sealed victory with an empty net goal towards the end of the game to move Manchester up to fifth place in the standings and get a vital W in the wins column.

Belle Vue Future in doubt?

Just a couple of weeks ago it saw some shocking news coming out of the Annual British Speedway Promoters Associate AGM down in Broxbourne, with the announcement that one of the most famous and historic names in British Speedway in the form of the Belle Vue Aces had their membership being annulled by the speedway chiefs, due to financial problems within the Belle Vue setup. 

The news came just a few days after former Belle Vue CEO David Gordon had stepped down from his role within the club, that left the duo of former Aces rider Chris Morton and George Carswell in charge of the Manchester club fortunes from now on. 

However, as rumours ran rife on social media that something ‘big’ was about to break involving the Aces, it saw one fan tweeting ‘things looking bleak’ when in connection to Belle Vue. Those rumours turned out to be sadly true, as it announced through a press release by the (BSPA) that the Belle Vue promotion was to have their licence revoked and annulled due to financial irregularities.

Things were then expanded upon ‘by the powers that be’ as they soon revealed that the reason for the annulment of the Manchester club, was all down to the Aces management having not paid any rent to the Council all season.

In the same press release from the BSPA, it saw Manchester City Council also taking the decision not to renew the licence for the club at the National Speedway Stadium as Leader of Manchester City Council Sir Richard Leese, was quoted as saying in the Press release:

“Since taking control of the National Speedway Stadium in March this year, BV Arena Ltd have also failed to meet important requirements of their agreement, including paying any rent on the property to the City Council.

“As a result Manchester City Council therefore are unable to renew Belle Vue Aces licence to occupy the building in their current position. It has also come to light that the group companies have significant debt not only with the Council but also other parties. 

“The City Council will now work closely with the BSPA to put in arrangements that can ensure the success of the National Speedway Stadium and develop of speedway in Manchester.

It saw a joint statement by Chairman Keith Chapman and the BSPA stating on the Aces situation that ‘the BSPA agreed to recommend that Belle Vue Speedway promotion be annulled from their financial situation and that it would kick in over the next few days’.

One thing of note from the press release was that despite the club having their licence taken from them, it was not necessarily the end of the club and that a further release was then put out stating that both Leicester- who of which are in the same boat as the Aces are in- had them and Belle Vue both being pencilled in to run come 2017.

This then led to some Aces fans venting their anger towards different people over social media in regards to the annulment of the club. While a large group of Belle Vue fans accused the BSPA of trying to kill off their club, for Aces fans the British Speedway Bureau has always being the biggest thorn in their side when they have clashed with the Gorton-based club and a lot of ill feeling has been levelled against the BSPA and sometimes not always fairly.

Many fans feel and believe that they have always been getting the rough end of the stick from ‘the powers that be’ since back in the old John Perrin days in the mid-90′ when the two regularly butted head.

Former Aces promoter and Team Manager the Late John Perrin had many run-in’s with the BSPA over riders and how he felt the sport was being run, and he wasn’t one bit concerned over who he upset and would challenge the top brass numerous times over his term in charge of Belle Vue.

He was in a sense a bit of a maverick and anti-establishment in a way with how he dealt with the people at the top and did also rub senior members and upset a lot of people, rightly or wrongly.

One thing that could never be levelled at Perrin was that he lacked ambition and that he didn’t shy away from anything and always gave his all to the club, but did also prove to be equally as much of a thorn for the British Speedway chiefs too.

Since the press releases were put out on the Thursday afternoon (3rd of October) from the British speedway chiefs, it has since saw David Gordon responding to what the BSPA and Manchester City Council put out to the media that day or saw the fireworks- which was convenient having been on Bonfire night the day of the reply.

David Gordon who as previously stated earlier, stood down from his role as CEO of Belle Vue Speedway and then went on the offensive in an interview, as he gave it both barrels to the local press and had him not mincing his words. 

In the interview with the Manchester Evening News, he told of his ‘disappointment for all supporters,staff and management at the club for the demise that had been forced on the club’. Gordon said also that ‘they’ were pursuing legal action for the people who were involved in the problems that had beset the club back a month of opening on time, due to their Grand Opening fiasco back in March.

It also proved to be an embarrassingly way to open up their first event at the new stadium, after the meeting was abandoned due to an unfit track and saw the club and Gordon losing thousands of pounds as a result.

He told the MEN,after 10 years working on this project we are distraught that the negligent actions of other people are the cause of all the problems we have faced this season which has affectively destroyed the Club. 

Gordon then added further,It’s shameful, the people responsible for the defective track are the track builders and as a consequence the project management.

A report by leading structural engineers clearly put the blame for the defective track on the constructors.“We never recovered from the financial impact of the Grand Opening Meeting being called off on March 19 when the stadium was packed and racing was about to start. We lost so much momentum and income that we have been on the back foot ever since.”

Speaking as a fan of the club for twenty-six years and a regular on the terraces at Kirkmanshulme Lane for twenty years, the ill-fated Peter Craven Memorial Trophy meeting back in March was an absolute disaster. For those spectators that attended the event and where tickets were like goldust to get your hands on the opening meeting, it proved to be was a complete and utter nightmare as well as a massive black eye for the club.

It was clear to see from having watched the riders riding around the track that something wasn’t right and that the base had not bedded anywhere close to how it should have been, which led to riders commenting on it afterwards and was saying that the track was sinking six-inches due to the track being clearly not sorted. 

Some riders on social media were stating that there was rumours going round days before the opening night, that track was unfit and that it was still being worked on the day before. That night also represented the closest thing to a riot I have ever been around that involved speedway.

Matters weren’t helped with a 45 minute wait, after the riders cut short their practice laps on the track and had everyone inside the stadium awaiting any news or update on what was going on.

After the fans were told of the dreaded ‘riders meeting’ taking place, it then saw the long figures of Gordon and Morton both walking to the centre green with microphone in hand and apologising to the bumper crowd in attendance for the cancellation of the meeting.

 Irate supporters showed their displeasure towards the promotion by booing over the Aces management speaking on the mic and needed Chris ‘Bomber’ Harris to come out to save the day. ‘Bomber’ calmed the situation by addressing the crowd over the concerns that the riders had and in truth it was the only option they could have taken on the night.

Moving to the present day and the weekend that followed the announcement, had Aces fans still feeling frustrated over the entire goings on and wanting answers to questions and having no-one that could or would give them the answers they wanted.

With the club now left in limbo and unsure as to its immediate future to date, it sees a club that has finished runner’s up in the grand final two years running and now has the sorry state of having no promoters, no Colts either and no technically no home. But should things be sorted hopefully, then it looks fairly safe that should still be able to track a team, whether Premiership or National League at the very least next year in the NSS.

The irony of the whole thing and is slightly laughable in a sense, is that Belle Vue for so long have apparently tried new ways of introducing fans to the sport and have always wanted exposure in the local paper.

However, through this incident they have accidentally stumbled upon the publicity the club wanted, sadly though it isn’t for the right reasons and the once famous Aces keep finding ways of shooting themselves in the foot with unwanted coverage in the press. That said though, they do say that ‘bad publicity, is good publicity’.

The following Monday (7th of November) saw another member of the promotion team giving their thoughts to their licence being annulled as part of the Aces woes, in club legend Chris Morton. It saw the former British Champion distancing himself away from the comments made by his former business partner in David Gordon.

Morton tried to put some positive spin on the gloomy news that has surrounded the club this past seven days, by saying, “It could herald a new start for the Aces”.

With Gordon seemingly washing his hands completely of the ‘concerns of the financial side of the club’ to which the BSPA PR stated, it saw Morton not hiding behind anyone over the news and admitted to the MEN,While I accept responsibility for my part in this project, both good and bad, I am devastated by what has happened and will take time to consider everything,” 

Chris Morton was also complimentary of the Manchester City Council for helping with the process of getting the stadium from a built and from turning a pipe-dream into a reality, he added,I would like to thank Manchester City Council for believing in this project. Belle Vue Speedway has the opportunity to grow from this point.

It couldn’t have seen two more different interviews given by the two main men at the heart of this whole sorry saga in the clubs history, as both gave very different answers when expressing their feelings on the situation in question. Reading Gordon’s interview, it was almost like he and the Aces were the victims of those from outside the sport and were the reason for the problems. 

When scanning over the comments that Morton made on things, then it was a case of someone who was far more remorseful and just wanted to see his former side in a healthy state and being less angry than that of Gordon.

The former CEO was quoted as saying “The actions of other people are the cause of the problems we have faced this season”, meanwhile his partner for the last nine-years in Chris Morton, was also quick to refute the claims that had been brought up by Gordon. One very interesting twist to the tale was Morton saying that he had now broken his working relationship with the man that he worked with for nearly a decade. 

Morton finished off by saying the article, “I have taken time to reflect on my position and, following a recent press release from Belle Vue CEO David Gordon, I wish to make it clear I did not agree to these comments being made or released,” he said. “This does not fully represent myself or my thoughts and opinions. David and I have worked together and have not always agreed. “I have let David know that our partnership has now come to an end.”

It does seem very much like the relationship the two has gone South pretty quickly and that it seems to have almost dissolved the relationship from the outside looking in. Questions still remain though from the whole fallout of this news, like ‘Did they think they could avoid paying the council rent on the stadium?’ and also did they try to sort anything out with the Council after they worked with the club to repair the track.

There are some stories too that came out and it didn’t look good on the club at all, with some riders not being paid for months by the club and that went into the final month of the season and even during the Grand Final of which saw them losing on the title to Wolverhampton.

Rumours of riders still being owed money with some of the figures being allegedly banded about in excess of £2ok, but they are only rumoured numbers.

As I bring this blog entry to a close, as saw many fans of rival teams often giving their thoughts on the Belle Vue promotion and used the terms ‘joke’,’clowns’and ‘incapable’ for starters. Arguably though, some of the comments made by other fans maybe hiding a hint of jealousy possibly to their words too.

As with the duo of Gordon and Morton delivering on a rare promise that they made coming true, it is certainly the only good aspect that they have left in the future, should the club have a future. 

Whilst we await the next snippet of news to come out on the next chapter of Belle Vue speedway’s tapestry, it does seems certain that the truth will never be fully forthcoming and that fans will always be left in the dark over the near occasion that the sport lost not only a team in Manchester, but a jewel in the Speedway sporting crown.

City youngsters make it through to Quarter-Finals

                                               

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Sheffield FC Ladies  1 – 2  Manchester City Women Res

This past Sunday saw a Manchester City Womens Reserves side beating Sheffield FC Ladies 2-1 at the FA Hub St.George’s Park facility in Sheffield, as the Blues youngster booked their place in the quarter-finals again Aston Villa Ladies with a great team effort and two second half goals by Kaylea Cuncliffe and Keeley Goodwin to book their passage to the next round. 

The home side started the match off on the front and caught the visitors in trouble at times, through some sloppy passes by a City side that featured no subsitute to speak off on the bench. Sheffield’s Kenedy Owen had the opening chance for the hosts in the 4th minute of the game, when Owen collected an under hit ball halfways inside the City half and saw the Sheffield player firing wide of the target.

Moments later it saw them intercepting another careless ball from City and it saw the captain for the home side in Lois Daniels, seeing her effort flying over the bar and sent more warnings to the visiting team that the home side were more than up for this cup tie. The away side was really struggling to find their way in the game and always seemed to over play the ball at times and combined with poor passing and good attacks by Sheffield Ladies, the home side were well on top and saw them wasting all their chances that came their way.

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For the best part of the first, it saw a midfield battle taking place with both teams cancelling out the other side and made for an entertaining game to watch and also who would probably be the difference the game. Sheffield Ladies created many good scoring chances their way in the half, but with City defending deep at times it saw the away side unable to register any meaningful efforts.

Prior to the half time break it saw the hosts having three late chances going begging, as Firstly Kenedy Owens took a great touch to control and turn and then set Cara Fields away on goal, but her attempted effort saw her lifting the ball to high and went for a goal kick. Chloe Dixon then hit the woodwork for the hosts from a lovely Jess Heald cross into the box and then the final action saw Lois Daniels volleying over to see a goal less first half.

When the game restarted, it saw the pitch feel like it was sloped in City’s favour second half and led to Sheffield having to clear a shot off their line from an early effort in the half. 

The visitors were much more the aggressors in the second half of play and saw the ball striking the bar and needing the hosts to clear their lines and had the travelling supporters given something to shout after an uneventful first for the visitors. Youvette Loukes down the City right was seeing plenty of the ball and had her getting into great positions and having the better of her opponents down that flank, which saw the home side unable to contain the City number seven. 

img_20161113_173511-1After some great balls into the area by Loukes time and time again, it saw the deadlock finally being broken by the away side on 51 minutes, when a ball into the area was attacked by a City player in a crowded penalty area and saw the ball crashing off the bar again, before Keeley Goodwin was on hand to nod home from virtually the goal line to put the visitors one up.

Katie Anderson then saw her being denied by the City keeper Rachel Derbyshire soon after, with the goalkeeper quickly down to her right to make the important stop. It saw the away side gaining more and more in confidence and having some great chances, but much like Sheffield in the first, City just weren’t able to convert their chances to goals.

Finally the away side had some breathing space in the cup tie now as they added a second what a goal it was too. Play down the right saw a ball cleared away from the Sheffield box and went only as far as Kaylea Cuncliffe, who then got to the edge of the area before unleashing a fierce strike that beat the keeper and found the top corner to put City 2-0 in front and send the travelling Blue fans delirous.

City should have put the game to bed after two good chances came the way of the visitors, but the away side were just getting their aiming off target at the worse possible point. Seconds before the 90th minute ticked by, it saw a hard challenge on Keeley Goodwin by a Sheffield player in the middle of the pitch and it resulted Goodwin having to be helped off the field of play and didn’t look to good for City’s second goalscorer.

 

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Photo: Amelia Kemp Twitter

 

Sheffield found it difficult to make their extra man advantage count, as the visitors were able to control it as best they could and were forced to play out the remainder of the game with just 10 players, due to no-one being on the subs bench for City. Eventually the home side pulled a goal back through Chloe Dixon from close range in the 98th minute, but that goal proved to be little more than a consolation goal for the hosts and had the red rose of Lancashire prevailing in the war of the roses.

Storm suffer nightmare weekend

 

 images (3)       Manchester Storm  2 – 3  Dundee Stars     dundee-stars 

   (After Penalty Shots)

This past weekend proved to be hard one for the Manchester Storm on many fronts with the Altrincham based side suffering a triple-whammy of defeats to Dundee, Braehead and finally Cardiff, as they took advantage of a depleted Storm squad. After the stunning win over Nottingham last weekend, that win came at a price and had the Storm losing two of their star players through injuries and led to Omar Pacha signing Dutch International Nardo Nagtzaam and made his home debut against Dundee.

Friday saw the first visit of the Dundee Stars to the ‘Storm Shelter’ this season and had the Stars as one of two Scottish sides that would be making the trip over the border to face Manchester over the weekend. The meeting saw the return of Storm favourite from last year in Vinny Scarsella and he certainly came in for plenty of attention by the home side, as Scarsella found himself having to get off the deck pretty early from a  couple of good Trevor Johnson checks. The two would battle all night long and made for an entertaining subplot to the game.

Manchester and Dundee found attacks hard to come by in truth in the opening period of play, as the best chance fell to the home side when Cody Cartier took a shot on goal and saw a rebound coming out to Jack Prince and the Storm was unable to capitalise and had the teams scoreless after first. In the second it saw the visitors taking the lead at 23:32, when Stars Kevin Hart tipped in a Vinny Scarsella shot after Mario Trubucco was caught napping near in the neutral zone and that allowed Dundee to gain possession of the puck and ended up with the visitors a goal up.

Manchester quickly got back on level terms over a minute later, after  Jack Prince had time to fire in a shot past the Joe Fallon in the Dundee goals and have have assists going to Taylor Dickin and Paul Phillips. The home side then took the lead a bit later on through a marvellous bit of stick handling by Matt Bissonette, as a break up ice saw a little back hand feed from Mark Heatley setting up Bissonette to skate around the Stars last man and then put the puck in one handed for a 2-1 lead.

It seemed that with the Storm on top and things going to plan for the home side that it would be a case of Manchester holding on for victory. New signing Nardo Nagtzaam was making a good impression on his home league debut, as Nagtzaam was flying up and down the ice for the home side and was causing the Stars problem with his speed. Dundee were there for the taking, but the visitors just wouldn’t go away and saw the Stars tying the game up with just under six minutes of play to go in the third, after Scott Brannon saw his effort fly past Mike Clemente for a 2-2 hockey game. 

Late on in the period it saw Cody Cartier being assessed a 2+10 by match referee Tom Pering, as he was called for a check to the head on Scarsella and had the Canadian heading for an early shower 

With the game tied up at 2-2 it saw the closing stages being even and had the game move to an overtime period, to which the home side almost netted the game winner through Trevor Johnson, when his one time shot was saved by Fallon in the Stars goal. Dundee for the final minute of the overtime period, saw them having a couple of late efforts in the game and had their attacks coming to nothing and needs penalties to determine the winner.

With a shootout forthcoming it saw pretty much the same old story for the Manchester Storm and especially when it comes down to penalty taking. Since Manchester joined the league last season, it has saw them involved in seven shoot-outs and winning only one of those and failing to score during any overtime period too. 

Mikael Lidhammar got the shootout underway, as he tucked his shot past Clemente for first blood to the Stars and saw Manchester’s shooters all trying to make an extra move on their shots and made it so predictable for the goalie that in truth, he didn’t really need to do much at all. As a result Dundee took the extra point and saw the Storm’s woes in extra play continue on, while letting a great chance get away from them. 

images (3)Manchester Storm   2 – 5 Braehead ClanClan_Logo

The next night saw the Braehead Clan roll into town and have the Purple Army hoping to make it two straight road victories over the Storm in Altrincham, after Manchester had earlier beaten their opponents up in Scotland earlier in the season. In all honesty it was perhaps the worst performance by the Storm this season at home and saw the host unable to really find anything in their locker.

Braehead came out strong and that was exactly how they played throughout the entire game, as they always seemed to have an extra gear to up in if they so needed too. Manchester were guilty of leaving big gaps at the back of their defence and saw the Clan nearly exposing those gaps whenever they found themselves able to. With Storm not making the most of their chances they did create, it had their misses coming back to bite them when the visitors took the lead through a Kyle Wharton goal. The goal all came from the Braehead man literally stepping back onto the ice surface after serving a penalty, but Manchester were not aware of this and led to Wharton scoring.

Storm struck back through player-coach Omar Pacha soon after though, when the Quebec native fired in a low shot on Gary Russell during a power play and made it a 1-1 game. That pretty much was as good as it got for the home side in the game with the Clan just out working and out playing the hosts on every facet of the contest. Braehead went 2-1 in the second period with a carbon copy of their first goal, as the home side were caught out by the returning man to the ice from the penalty box, as Trevor Hendrikx played a feather pass to Matt Haywood and Haywood finished it off nicely to put the Scottish side back ahead.

With Manchester looking very much a side without any ideas and unable to get going at all, with tiredness catching up to them while still being short benched. That said though, a lot of credit had to go to Ryan Finnerity and his men for a great game plan and putting it into action. Third period was bossed fully by the Braehead Clan and was met with a wall of silence by the home fans, while all the noise came from the noisy Braehead fans who made their voices heard and had the Storm fans watching their side implode at times with sloppy plays.

One of those sloppy plays came right at the start of the third when a Manchester player tried to make a pass and fell over, but saw the puck coming onto the tape of Alex Leavitt and he calmly fired the puck home to make it 3-1. Things got worse for the home side, when a scary moment saw fan favourite Eric Neilson taking a nasty hit to the face from a Matt Beca shot that saw the Canadian forward heading straight off and needing to go to hospital for a horrific injury.

Braehead made their possession count and had the visitors adding to their lead after Scott Pitt chipped a little pass ahead for Leavitt to chase and saw there being only one winner and he made it four for the Clan, with over ten minutes to play in the contest. Pitt then made it 5-1 and it was getting to be far to easy now for Braehead after he pounced on a rebound from a Wharton shot and that was pretty much game over. 

Dallas Erhardt then shown some fighting spirit quite literally, when he stuck up for his young team-mate after former Toronto Maple Leafs player Jay Rosehill went for a huge check on Tom Ratcliffe and that brought the Storm man over and had the two players dropping the gloves and having a good scrap.

As with every Storm game at home this season their was the obligatory controversial goal added as an extra bonus, but for once it was in the favour of the home side and not the visiting side. Replays didn’t suggest that the puck had gone over the line, but after the referee consulted with the goal judge who was adamant that it had gone over saw Taylor Dickin being credited with the goal and made it a 5-2 game.

In the end it was a disappointing night for the home side and saw them dropping more points to their rivals in the Gardiner Conference after their loss to Dundee the night before. 

 Cardiff_Devils_logo.svgCardiff Devils  5 – 3  Manchester Storm images (3)

Sunday night saw the Storm playing their third game in three days, as they travelled to South Wales to face the Cardiff Devils in their final Challenge Cup group game and was pretty much a dead rubber match, with both sides having already qualified.

It saw the Storm missing Eric Neilson after he sustained a torn retina in 2 places and also had the visitors drafting in Cardiff Fire duo Jordan Baber and Sam Bryant due to a very short bench. Phil Spanswick was given the nod to start the game and was his first start for the Storm this season in a competitive game. Despite losing 5-3 it saw the Warrington-born goalie collecting a maiden man of the match awards for his trouble.

Two powerplay goals by Mark Heatley saw the away side trailing by one after the second, and that then saw the Devils moving 4-2 ahead before Jack Prince scored to make it a 4-3 game and Cardiff’s Gleason Fournier sealed the win for the home side with a goal late on at the IAW.

It means now that Manchester will be playing the Belfast Giants again in the quarter-final stages, after both sides met last season at the same stage and saw the Northern Ireland side coming out on top over the the two legs.

Wonder goal by Walsh hands City advantage in Euro tie

 

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Manchester City Women    1  –  0  Brondby IF

An absolute ‘bolt from the blue’ by midfielder Keira Walsh handed Manchester City Women a 1-0 win over Brondby IF in their first leg of the Uefa Women’s Champions League Round of 16 tie this past Wednesday night, as a 35-yard stunner by the Blues midfielder proved to be the difference in the game. Nick Cushing will see his team taking over a one goal advantage to Copenhagen next Thursday night, as City will look to hopefully finish the job off in Denmark in the second leg.

The game was one of patience by for the home side, with the Danes making things very difficult for City to play their normal style of football and proved to be a very tough nut to crack. After disposing of Russian side Prem Zvezda 05 in the previous round, this was seen as a far tougher assignment to date for the English Champions and so it proved to be. City had a lot of possession in the opening ten minutes of the game, but Brondby too had their moments and showed a few glimpses now and then of what they could do set early warnings off for this tie that they hadn’t come just to defend.

Those warning signs were soon to be alarm bells for the home side, that was until a timely tackle by captain Steph Houghton saw her denying an early chance for the visiting side. Lucy Bronze had the opening chance for the hosts in the 24th minute of play, when Kosavare Asllani played a little ball ahead for the fast running Bronze to run on to and the defender saw her shot at the near post beating blocked by the foot of Katrine in the opponents net.

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Jane Ross getting the better of the keeper :PIC: BBC Sports

Brondby then carved out their first chance of the game, when an attempted cross was blocked near the by line by a City player and saw the height of the ball being too high for Kiera Walsh to get any real clearance on from it, so the ball came to Christiansen who aimed for the far corner and looked to be creeping in but for the England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley getting down brilliantly to push it away from goal.

City were the dominant side in the half and just weren’t able to unlock the Brondby defence to find a goal, but they was finding minor chinks in the Danish sides armour. Blues fans were getting frustrated with little pulls and clear holding on the home sides players that seemed clear as day, but they didn’t seemed to garner any interest at all from the match officials from Romania.

As half time came on a freezing night in Manchester, it saw the teams going into the break deadlocked at 0-0 and if any team looked like they would score first then it would be the home side. In truth Brondby are a very different animal to say the likes of Doncaster, Reading and Sunderland in the WSL with all due respect to them. But the Danes have a European pedigree in this tournament and have reached the semi finals of this competition on a fair few occasions.  

It was back in the 2010-11 season that saw the visitors last playing an English team in this competition and had Brondby losing out to Everton Ladies at the same stage 5-2 over two legs, in which City trio Jill Scott, Toni Duggan and Lucy Bronze all played in that tie for Everton.   

Play was still being controlled by the home side and they were now starting to pick holes in the visitors defence, after they had been so greatly difficult to break down from their superb organised set up and now had the home side starting to find some joy.

Jane Ross really should have put the Blues up with a fantastic chance on 57 minutes, but the Scottish striker spurned the game best chance. It all came from play in the middle of the park as a Keira Walsh through ball run nicely for Ross to run onto and after she pushed it past the keeper for a certain goal, the striker seemed to hesitate slightly and tried to use the outside of her foot and by doing so allowed the away side to get back an deny her the hosts a goal.

That seemed to be the chance that City had craved for in a tight contest and they let it go begging in the Round of 16 tie. City manager Nick Cushing then made his first change of the game as he brought on Nikita Parris for Kosse Asllani and that just gave the side an extra boost that they were missing.

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City celebrate Keira Walsh stunning winner  PIC: The Guardian

With the home side still trying to find a way past their opponents, it saw an unlikely source producing a bit of magic that came from absolutely nothing. It saw the goal coming from a quick free kick by Jennifer Beattie as she and Izzy Christiansen played a little one-two between each other and that then saw Walsh receiving the ball between the halfway line and the Brondby area, but the 19-year old then fired off a stunning 35-yard effort that flew by the keeper and put the hosts 1-0 up with 15 minutes left in the contest. 

Toni Duggan then made way for England under-17 star Georgia Stanway, and as the home side now faced started to come under fire more from their opponents it had Brondby creating a couple of efforts. Firstly Karen Bardsley was called upon to make a great save off Sorensen, when a corner was cleared so far until a pass was driven towards the opposing player and she saw her effort being well stopped by the out coming England number one.

The contest saw some very poor officiating mainly from the referee’s assistant on the Brondby left, as the Romanian lines-woman was getting some clear cut calls horribly wrong and most of them seemed to involve Nikita Parris at the forefront of them.  

Collective hearts were in the mouths of all City fans just before the clock struck 90 minutes, when some late pressure led to the Danish champions having an effort that saw Karen Bardsley scrambling backwards to tip a shot onto the bar and way, after an cross come shot by Veje saw her effort coming off the crossbar late on.

The full time whistle came for the home side and was one of relief at the end, as they just did enough to win on the night and that after being on top for a large majority of the contest. Brondby though let their opponents know in this tie that they will need to up their game next week in Denmark if the Blues wish to progress further on in this competition.

Match winner Kiera Walsh spoke to Man City live presenter Kelly O’Donnell after the game and said of the encounter, “It was a tough game tonight, they was tough opposition but we goal in the end in the second half and we never stopped pushing. 

“We played our game in the second half and the result went out way. I mean in the first half they took the game to us and we rarely got out of our half in the first. But in the second half, we calmed down and played out game and got out of first gear and the game was all out after that. But they just kept really pushing us and were really tough to break down.”

When asked on her wonder goal, the midfielder couldn’t stop smiling when asked about it and told City, “Especially when I support City, you know to score in the Champions League you can’t really beat it.”

” My team mates keep taking the mick out of me and saying its coming every game, but it is a dream come true.”

Injury ravaged Storm pull off stunning win against the Panthers

photo   Panthers-News

Manchester Storm  4 – 3  Nottingham Panthers 

Manchester Storm performed a herculean effort to defeat the Nottingham Panthers 4-3 on Saturday night as they played the entire final period with only two lines after two of their star players with possible long-term injuries and had another thrown out in a controversial end to the second period.

For two periods Manchester seemed to be in control of the contest and had Taylor Dickin for the thanks for two goals for the hosts as they built up a 4-1 lead, but that was until controversy reared its head once again and saw chaos after the second period.

Early stages saw the sides pretty much even with no one really taking the advantage in the game and saw the defences on top starting out. Manchester then got fortunate with the opening goal of the game at 7:48, when a Mario Trubucco pass up ice for Matt Bissonette saw the Storm man forced to take a weak shot at Miika Wiikman in the Panthers net and had the puck rebounding in off Alex Nikiforuk for the leading goal. 

Storm then doubled their lead minutes later, when a power play goal by Taylor Dickin saw him batting down a puck out of the air from a Cody Cartier shot and the redirecting it past the goalie at the front of the net to put the hosts 2-0 at 11:54. Shortly after that it saw Nottingham cutting the deficit in half through a Matt Carter strike, as defenseman Eric Lindhagen played a quick pass up the middle for Carter, who then found himself one on one with Mike Clemente and saw his initial shot saved by the Goalie but was quick enough to the puck in on the rebound to make it 2-1 at 13:11 

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Photos by Aaliyah & Mark Ferriss of All Sports Photography

Manchester took firm control of the first period and that shown with them outshooting their opponents 12 to 5. Play in the second period was a mixed bag for the home team, as the Storm continued their good play throughout the second stanza and had them not giving the visitors much of a sniff in truth. The home side were on top for virtually the whole period and looked to further increase their lead with some good attacks as they looked dangerous coming forward.

 

Nottingham then began to test Mike Clemente in the Manchester nets more, but had their shots not really troubling as such and was keeping the away side at bay. Cody Cartier then made it a 3-1 game with a tap home at 24:27 and that then saw the visitors starting to throw their weight around a lot more and upping their hitting too.

Prior to the game it had the Storm dealt a huge blow with the loss of arguably their best defenseman in Conor Varley missing from the line up due to illness, so that put the home side in as spot of bother and needed an all round team effort to be a more defensively sound than normal.

Things got a bit harder for the Manchester side as the period went on, as firstly they lost their joint points scorer in Darian Dziurzynski for the game, after the Canadian took a tumble and crashed heavily into the corner boards in the Panthers zone and saw him unable to return to the contest.

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Storm celebrate scoring on the Panthers:   Photos by Aaliyah & Mark Ferriss of All Sports Photography

 

Taylor Dickin then made it four for the Altrincham side, after Matt Bissonnette had just got out of the box for serving a tripping penalty and saw him joining in on a play after Cartier had poked it in his direction and saw a three on one, with Dickin finishing off the move at the halfway point of the contest and saw Manchester punishing yet more sloppy Panthers play.

 

With the period coming to the end it saw another in a long line of disputed goals being given in the rink entrance end, as Nottingham attacked and saw the puck ending up in the back of the net but saw no light coming on. Referee Tom Pering then discussed whether it was a goal or not and whether the puck had gone under the net inside of the conventional way of between the pipes. 

After small consultation between the linesmen and the match referee, it saw the official calling the captains over to discuss the result of his findings and gave the goal which drew anger from the home fans, as well as the players and had Paul Phillips handed a ten minute penalty for abuse of official and had the Storm bench irate with the call. That wasn’t the last of the action though in the second, as from the restart it saw tempers flaring and mini stand-off between the players.

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Storm’s Patrik Valcak & Nottingham’s Jeff Brown have a slight disagreement :Photos by Aaliyah & Mark Ferriss of All Sports Photograpy

However Mario Trubucco then had three Panthers surround him and pulling him all over, while Patrik Valcak and Jeff Brown then tangled and resulted in both men wrestling to the ground and saw the Nottingham man landing on top of Valcak, with the referee seemingly having lost control of the situation. Trubucco who did little if any anything at all during the stand-off, saw the Manchester man getting a game penalty for leaving the bench, when in fact the period had ended and saw him heading for the door before watching on what was going on.

What made matters worse for the hosts now, was that they were now down three players, as with Dziurzynski and Trubucco missing for the third period, Storm now had to do without the services of Czech Patrik Valcak who had sustained an injury from the aggro after the period with Brown. This meant that Paul Swindlehurst was now asked to play forward instead of defence and had the Storm coach Omar Pacha having to shake his lines up a bit, with only 6 forwards and 4 defenceman at his disposal, while Phillips sat in the penalty box for the first half of the period.

The third period was completely dominated by Nottingham as with them having their tails up after the second, it saw Storm basically just trying to hold onto what they had for the rest of the game. Manchester’s constantly icing of the puck up was a method that wasn’t helping the home side and the visible sight of the Manchester players trying their best to catch a second wind through tiredness was there for all to see, and would have been boost for the Panthers players too see.

Manchester had Mike Clemente in nets to thanks at times for the side in the game, as without his saves at key moments in the period then the away team really would have run away with the contest without doubt. Nottingham did add to their total with on the scoreboard, after a nice little pass from Matt Carter saw Alex Nikiforuk redeeming himself after the goal that he unfortunately conceded in the first to make it a goal game.   

Play remained largely in the Manchester zone and saw Dickin at one point going to ground and spreading himself big to stop the puck going across goal and then saw Omar Pacha taking one for the team, as he took a blast to his body from a shot and had the home side were putting it all on the line in which to keep the Panthers side out. Nottingham Head Coach Corey Neilson then pulled his netminder with over a minute of play to go, but the Storm stood to their task and blocked shot after shot after shot from the Panthers shooters and nearly had Jack Prince sealing the win but for a last second invention by a visiting player diving to stop the puck going in.

As the last few seconds of the game ticked down, it saw Clemente coming under even more heavy fire and did enough to see the clock out and despite the angry protests of the visiting players wanting time to be added on to the clock, it saw David Clarke being the most vocal of the Nottingham side not happy with the game ending. The win was the most hard-earned two points that the home side have collected in just their second season back, but was also their first win over the Midlands side since the team entered the Elite League last year. 

Victory moved the Storm to fifth in the Elite League table and have a tough few games with the uncertainty of a few of their players currently,  as they faced Coventry on Sunday night before a Scottish home double-header against Dundee on Friday and then Braehead on Saturday. 

Cubs Clinch Historic World Series crown To End 108 Year Title Wait

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In the early hours of Thursday Morning at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio it saw one of the most memorable and action packed Game sevens in recent World Series history finally coming to end, with the Chicago Cubs finally ending their 108-year wait for a title to win 8-7 in a heart-stopping game over the Cleveland Indians to be crowned World Series Champions for 2016. It saw the rare occasion of a World Series pitting two sides that wasn’t best known for their championship winning exploits in recent times with the Cubs and Indians. But the series more than made up for it with a thoroughly entertaining series that was full of twists and turns and needed a 10th innings to determine a winner in an epic series decider. 

In the end it saw Chicago turning a page in their somewhat tumultuous storied Franchises history and have the team from the ‘North Side’ of the Windy City, prevailing after 108 years without a success. In truth the series should have been wrapped up far earlier by the Cleveland, with the Ohio outfit looking back and wondering how on earth they didn’t put the series to bed. With the Indians having taken a 3-2 series lead back with them from Chicago on Sunday night, it was almost nailed on that Cleveland would close out the series on their home turf, with the final two games being played out of Cleveland.

However the Cubbies who have shown plenty of grit and adopted a ‘never say die’ attitude to their play in this post season and also the regular season. The Cubs shown their battling qualities going from a game down against the LA Dodgers in the National League Championship Series (NLCS) to then coming back and reaching the World Series. After the Chicago staved off elimination in Game six with a 9-3 win to tie the series after winning two successive games on the bounce, it saw the series heading to an exciting game seven. 

This was no ordinary Game 7 to a World Series, as for both these franchises it gave a chance to end their own personal droughts in Baseball and also in American Sports period. Once the game got under way it saw Dexter Fowler putting Chicago in front with a an opening home-run off Indians pitcher Corey Kluber in the opening innings to put the Cubs ahead in the ball game. Cleveland tied the game up in the bottom of the third through a Carlos Santana hit down the line, that allowed Coco Crisp to make it back for home and make it a 1-1 game.

Top of the fourth saw the Cubs going back in front again through a Kris Bryant score, with the Third Baseman sliding under the catcher to touch base and move 2-1 in front. Willson Contreras then struck a double with long fly ball that bounced off the far wall and that saw Ben Zobrist make it from third-base to give Chicago a 3-1 lead and put them firmly in the driving seat.

With the Indians not scoring in their first four innings, things only got worse for the home side as the game moved to the fifth, after Javier Baez then homered to extend their lead even further for the Cubs and go 4-1 up. Cleveland management then took Corey Kluber out of the firing line and replaced him with pitcher Andrew Miller, after Kluber had restricted the opponents to just one run in two games he had pitched in during the series. This brought the Cleveland management to mound and made the change as they wanted to try to stem the flow of runs that the Cubs were scoring at will. 

Shortly after the change, it saw Anthony Rizzo drilling a ball into right field and that allowed Kris Bryant to make his way from first base all the way home for another run and that put Chicago 5-1 up now at the top of the fifth. The home team then caught a lucky break their way when Jon Lester threw a wild pitch that bounced off the dirt and struck David Ross on the face cage of his helmet and ran away and that led to Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis both pick up runs for the Indians, to make it a 5-3 game and give the hosts a bit of hope. 

In the next innings it saw Ross who was part of the incident that gave up two-runs for Cleveland then redeeming himself, as he struck a home run to make it a 6-3 and was a perfect way to end his career on in what was his final ever play. With Jose Ramirez scoring for the Indians after a Brandon Guyer line drive to make it a closer game at 6-4, it then saw the moment that turned the game on its head. 

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Rajai Davis celebrates his home run to tie game at 6-6 Picture: MLB.com

With Aroldis Chapman then brought on by Cubs Manager Jon Maddon to close the game out, Rajai Davis then made sure that was not going to be the case and smashed a homer left field and just strayed inside the outfield to make it all-square ball at 6-6. That moment could have possibly saw Chicago seeing their moment of triumph disappear at the point and maybe to triumph at all. Cleveland seemed to have staggered their opponent who for the most of the game looked to be on course for their first World Series success in 108 years, but now found themselves having to dig deep and show their grit once again in an even game.

After a scoreless 9th for both teams it meant now that this World Series decider would be heading to extra innings to determine a winner in this topsy-turvy series. With both clubs having gone so long without a championship to speak off, it did seem like at times that the pressure or inability on both sides to seal victory was affecting both sides and seemed to be theme in the last three games of the series.

With the drama that was ongoing on the field and the tension being knock up a few notches, there was yet more drama added as the heavens opened up prior to the 10th innings and caused a rain delay that lasted nearly 20 minutes and saw the ball game going past midnight. Both teams headed to their respective locker rooms and had the coaches chatting amongst themselves with the umpires on the weather.

When play did restart it had Ben Zobrist nailing a ground ball double down the left line of the field and just evaded the third baseman to let in Albert Almora and he made it 7-6 to the Cubs and moved Anthony Rizzo onto third. The looks of joy and celebrations from Zobrist and Rizzio told their own stories, and had the Cubs seemingly edging nearer to glory and gaining momentum back their way now. Miguel Montero then struck a single which saw Rizzio touching back for base and opening up a two run lead for Chicago, as the Cubs dugout came out to urge him home and celebrate a 8-6 lead after the tenth.

Cleveland knew the score now going into the bottom of the innings, anything less than two runs for the Indians and the title went Midwest. Cubs Manager Jon Maddon then made a pitching change before the innings got underway and put in Carl Edwards Jr for the outgoing Aroldis Chapman with the Cubbies looking to seal the game and take the series.

Mike Napoli struckout and saw the first out going down for the home side and when Jose Ramirez followed soon after with Addison Russell throwing to first base for Anthony Rizzo to run him out, it seemed that it was all over bar the shouting. Brandon Guyer then got walked to first base and saw Cleveland’s last bit of defiance come, when Rajai Davis hit a ball down center field and was collected by Dexter Fowler to which allowed Guyer to get back home and see it become a one run game at 8-7. 

 

 

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                       Chicago Cubs players celebrate winning World Series                           Picture: Time Magazine

Chicago then had another little conference at the mound and that saw sprung another change as Mike Montgomery came in to the ball game for Edwards Jr. Montgomery with his first pitch to Michael Martinez saw a strike and then his second pitch brought an end to proceedings and series for that matter, as Martienz hit a ground ball that saw Kris Bryant running to collect it and had Anthony Rizzo getting the last out and confirmed the Chicago Cubs as World Series winners. 

The winning out sparked wild celebrations on the field among the Cubs players and management and also in the stands with a large contingent of fans that had made the way from Chicago to be there. It was a series that by many pundits was to be a case of the Cubs having too much for the Indians overall and that the bullpen and big hitters that Chicago had would be the telling factor. Arguably the Cubs turned the series in their favour last Sunday and was the key game of the series in Game 5 at Wrigley Field, as prior to that meeting the home side had only won once in the opening four games of the series to that point and the 3-2 win for Chicago gave them a massive boost as they headed to Cleveland.

It did have the series being mainly one for the away team over the course of the series, with the home side winning just two out the seven games in the series and none were more vital than that elimination game on Sunday night at Wrigley Field. Had Cleveland shut down the Cubs in the 4th innings of that Game five and not allowed the three runs they conceded, then perhaps we may well have looked at the series being done and dusted in Chicago.

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Cubs fan celebrates his team winning Game 7  Picture: S.I .com

There is one side note to this series and one that i just touched on above, it was the fact that home advantage normally is vital for teams in the post season and for this particular series it seemed to less of a blessing and more of a curse. So in some ways the home crowd did prove to be a bit of a factor overall but not necessarily in a good way at all. For the two ball clubs it felt more like they were more relaxed on the road than they were at Progessive Field or Wrigleyville in front of their own fans. 

You could make a case that pressure got to Cleveland or that they just became complacent with their 3-1 lead when heading home for Games 6 and 7. But despite the Indians slipping up in the series, Manager Terry Francona should be applauded for taking his side to the club first World Series in 19 years after their last appearance back in 1997 and have a young squad that with some more planning could easily be back next year.

Meanwhile Chicago who was without question the ‘best team in baseball’ during the course of the regular season, they finally made transfer that to the postseason and ended the hoodoo on them clinched an elusive World Series crown after fifteenth post-season attempts since there last victory in 1908.  

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Cubs Owner Tom Ricketts lifts the World Series trophy in the Chicago locker room  Picture: MLB.COM