Tighter at the Top !!
Ultimate Windows Billingham Stars clung on to second place in the NIHL Moralee conference following mixed fortunes that saw the Teessiderâ€™s slump to a 3 â€“ 1 loss at the hands of Sheffield Spartans, then less then 24 hours later the Stars shot back to form as they swept Whitley Warriors aside in a 6 â€“ 2 demolition derby.
At Sheffield the Stars shortages told as they opened with only four defenders on the bench. Sheffield were 2 â€“ 0 up by the first break and it became apparent that the South Yorkâ€™s side were set on defending that lead at all costs.
Billingham piled on the pressure but Sheffield defended with bodies back in numbers keeping the Stars at bay through to the end of the second. Stars luck changed early in the third when a speculative effort from an impossible angel surprised even the scorer Michael Bowman. A fourth marker for the Spartans came with six minutes to play, with just under a minute to play Terry Ward pulled the Billingham keeper to increase the Stars outfield fire power, however the clock wound down to a Sheffield win and Billingham`s third defeat in a row.
Back on Teesside and the Stars received a boost by the return of Jamie Pattison to the Stars side for the Tyne Tees Derby against Whitley Warriors. Simon Leach and his side must have fancied their chances following Billingham`s poor performance of late.
Warriors were first of the mark after only two minutes as Tommy Ralph found a gap in James Flavells pads. It quickly became evident that Billingham had rediscovered their form and shape when Michael Bowman beat Richie Lawson to tie the game through to the first intermission.
Some nifty work from James Moss saw him slide the puck under Richie Lawson in the Warriors goal. A power play marker from a well taken Andy Munroe shot moved the home side ahead on the 27th minute, seconds later hero turned villain as Munroe was called for interference and the Warriors pulled one back on the power play to cut the Stars lead. Just past the halfway mark Scott Ward pounced on a rebound to make it 4 -2 through to the second break.
Early in the third James Moss was called for illegal equipment after he attempted to play on with a broken stick, the Stars played off the penalty then as Warriors came back to full strength a poorly executed line change saw Billingham break.
A fast paced attack saw Cal Davies fire home after a well worked Paul Windridge assist set up the goal. Three minutes later Windridge added his name to the list of scorersâ€™ as he put away a Stephen Wallace rebound to make it 6 â€“ 2.
With ten minutes to go Warriors Jordan Barnes and Billingham`s Scott Ward went toe to toe, both 2+2 + 10 so with less than 10 minutes left to play both fighters took an early cool down shower and the Stars fans sang there way to a well deserved 6 â€“ 2 victory.
Billingham Head Coach Terry Ward thought his sides losing performance at Sheffield showed signs that the club had turned the corner;
â€œIt was starting to come right last night – we had 55 shots for 1 goal which is a bit disappointing. We dominated them for two periods, they got a couple of deflected goals and a really nice goal at the end when we were trying to push the game. We hit the post a couple of times, we hit the crossbar, but we were just really unfortunate last nightâ€.
â€œWe dominated the game and we carried that forward to tonight – we had a couple more players back too. Jamie Pattison has been missing for a long time and he’s a big rock at the back so that encouraged the lads to playâ€.
â€œJack Davies stepped up to the second line and didn’t look out of place. It’s his first year and he’s played brilliantly. Michael Elder tried to play, he wanted to do it for the team – he is still injured – but it didn’t work for the lad. All credit to him for trying and having the guts to go out there for the teamâ€.
â€œJames Flavell is the best goalie in the league – you miss him when you don’t have him. Mark Watson’s been really good, we let him down in the game against Blackburn last weekend. Hopefully now we’ve turned the corner, got our players back and we can start pushing back up the leagueâ€.
Player Coach Michael Bowman felt things didnâ€™t rub the Stars way in Sheffield.
â€œLast night didn’t go our way, we didn’t get any bounces – we outshot them by at least 20. The signs were there, we played well but we just couldn’t put the puck in the netâ€.
â€œTonight we did all the little things right, created a lot more space and managed to put the puck in the netâ€.
â€œWe’re almost at a full quota of players – when everyone’s back we’ll have some decisions to make, but good decisions, rather than ‘who’s going to play with who because we’ve only got 12 guys’. We’ve got Patto back, he looked really solid, like he’d never been away. The D looked really strong tonight. Mikey played a little bit of the game but his ankle wasn’t quite right so we put him back behind the bench – he’s helpful to us back there so it’s all goodâ€.
Warriors Coach Simon Leach made no excuses for his side;
â€œProbably the only positive for me tonight was us scoring first. I’ve got no qualms about the result – we were out worked, outplayed, out-hit and out-passed pretty much from the start of the gameâ€.
â€œWe didn’t get any momentum in the game – I’m just really disappointed, we all are as a group. We’ll all take responsibility – we didn’t have enough fight. Billingham have been through a bad time but they wanted it tonight and that showed. I’m disappointed for the team, the club and the fans that have come down in numbers to watch – I think we’ve let them all downâ€.
â€œI’m not going to make any excuses because we started with 5 D – we lost Josh Maddock but we still had 4 skaters. Billingham played with 4-5 D for most of the night so there was no difference, we weren’t on our game tonight, we didn’t work hard enough and we didn’t get anything out of the game because we didn’t deserve anythingâ€.