Hand settles tight affair in Phoenix favour

Saturday, 26th September 2009

Sheffield Scimitars 2 - 3 Manchester Phoenix

A late game-winning goal from player coach Tony Hand earned Manchester Phoenix two valuable points on Saturday night as they maintained their 100% start to the new English Premier League season.

Phoenix were pushed all the way for the points by a hard-working Sheffield Scimitars who twice saw shots hit the Phoenix goal frame late in the game.

Phoenix went into the weekend icing just fifteen players following the departure of Carl Graham to Bracknell, but the loss of one player was hardly noticed as they took an early third minute lead. With the Scimitars drawing a second-minute penalty, Phoenix opened their account as Ed Courtenay found Andre Mattsson at the top of the slot and Jaakko Hagelberg redirected his blast to the net past Raitanen in the home goal. Having grabbed the lead on the powerplay, Phoenix were pegged bagged in similar fashion as the defence failed to clear the loose puck and Farmer netted just past the five-minute mark. The Phoenix response was immediate as just 18 seconds later, the home fans cheers were stifled as Iain Bowie found James Neil, he fed Robert Lachowicz and his rising shot from the left circle gave Raitanen no chance. Phoenix should have increased their lead, but Raitanen made excellent stops to deny Hand and Courtenay and a superb diving glove save to foil Hand again.

Phoenix failed to make the most of a long two-man powerplay early in the second period and then had to work hard to kill another minor called on captain Luke Boothroyd. Raitanen in the home goal was the busier netminder as Phoenix carved scoring opportunities without converting. As the period wore on, it assumed an air of an error leading to a core and that's exactly what happened with just over two minutes to play. Courtenay lost possession and Brittle release Farmer to race in on Steve Fone and the Scimitars forward netted his second equalising goal of the game.

Phoenix, keen to impose themselves on the game, started brightly in the third period and put the home side under pressure with Raitanen making good saves from Hagelberg and Bowie. Phoenix killed a Slashing penalty on Andre Payette and rode their luck as a rising shot from Matt Haywood hit the crossbar before Fone was called upon to deny Farmer his hat trick on another breakaway. Phoenix secured the points in the 56th minute as pressure from Iain Bowie gave Hagelberg a wraparound chance and Tony Hand pounced as the puck came free. The Scimitars worked hard to force another equaliser as the impressive Farmer saw a shot hit the post and Boothroyd cleared the danger, and in the final minute, they pulled their goalie for the extra skater, but the Phoenix stood firm.

Phoenix forward Andre Payette noted, "That might have been an ugly game to watch, but we found a way to win and the two points right now are more important than style. We're still gelling as a squad and Tony had to mix the lines up in the final period to try and give us that little extra impetus. Sheffield made us work and that will help us in the end, as we can only get stronger. We know we can play better than we did tonight."

Phoenix are at home in Altrincham on Sunday evening with a 5.30pm face-off against the Milton Keynes Lightning.

Tony Hand

Phoenxix player/coach Tony Hand

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