Phoenix leave it late with a barnstorming finish

Saturday, 10th October 2009

Manchester Phoenix 6 – 4 Sheffield Scimitars

Saturday night saw the Manchester Phoenix move into a three-way tie at the top of the English Premier League, but they left it late, very late before finally overcoming a tremendous effort from the Sheffield Scimitars.

Phoenix’ veteran pairing of Ed Courtenay and player coach Tony Hand it was who both scored in the final sixty seconds to break the hearts of the Scimitars who themselves had fought back from a two goal deficit to twice lead the home side in a see-saw thriller.

Phoenix eased into a sixth minute lead as Iain Bowie continued his fine early season form, latching onto a pass from Courtenay to fire the opening goal. Phoenix were enjoying the better of the opening period, but finding Pasi Raitanen in the Scimitars goal again in determined mood. Phoenix went two-nil up in the 16th minute as Robert Lachowicz converted a neat pass from Adam Walker, and the home fans began to think of victory. However, the Scimitars had other ideas and shortly before the first interval, Tom Squires reduced the arrears on a delayed penalty against Phoenix captain Luke Boothroyd.

The second period saw something of a role reversal as the Scimitars fought back as if their lives depended on it and a quickfire brace shortly before the half hour mark saw them equalise and then take their first lead. Matt Haywood fired a powerful shot past Steve Fone in the 26th minute and Robert Farmer fired the visitors ahead two minutes later with Phoenix shorthanded having lost Ben wood on a Match Penalty for Butt-Ending. Phoenix had Steve Fone and the frame of the goal to thank later in the session as the goalie made an excellent stop from James Archer and Peter Slamiar hit the crossbar when it looked easier to score.

The final period saw Phoenix surge forward, but the Scimitars were defending doggedly and counter-attacking with great effect to give the Phoenix plenty to think about at the back. Phoenix drew level five minutes into the period as two quick passes from Hand and Courtenay found Adam Walker on the doorstep and he finished confidently. Sheffield didn’t panic as the Phoenix continued to pepper their goal with shots and their hard work was rewarded in the 54th minute with Archer netting at the back post. The previous three meeting of the two sides had been close finishes and Sheffield could have been forgiven for thinking they’d just about done enough, but if there was any slight relaxation, they were severely punished for it. With less than four minutes to play, Phoenix again tied the score, Jaakko Hagelberg finding Tony Hand on the left side and his precise finish gave Raitanen no chance. The veteran Finnish keeper has been outstanding for the visitors and the game seemed destined for overtime entering the final minute. But a defensive error saw the puck land on the stick of Ed Courtenay and from no more than ten feet, he lifted the puck into the roof of the net to give the home side the lead. With Sheffield pulling Raitanen for the extra forward in a final desperate attempt to salvage a point, it was fitting that Phoenix player coach and Man of the Match Tony Hand pounced on a loose puck to fire the puck three quarters the length of the rink into the unguarded Scimitars goal to seal a late, late victory for his side.

After the game, Hand breathed a sigh of relief and commented, “That has to be one of the most entertaining games I’ve played in for quite some time. Both teams gave it 110% and to honest, neither deserved to lose. Sheffield gave us a heck of a game and Jon Rowbotham can be very proud of the effort and application of his team, they are a credit to him. I thought our guys needed to stay calm and not panic, and they did. It would have been easy for us to wander off the game plan, but I thought the guys played really well. We dug deep to get the job done and I think you could tell by the noise that the supporters enjoyed the game. I hope that when they spread the word about tonights’ game that we can continue to get more people to come out and see what great value for money we offer as a sporting spectacle.”

Tony Hand

Phoenix Man of the Match: Tony Hand

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