The opening weekend of the Northern England Men’s Lacrosse Association Premiership started on Saturday. Even though the champions weren’t playing, there was plenty of action and talking points from the first week of fixtures.
Heaton Mersey 15-5 Timperley
Heaton Mersey produced the shock result of the weekend by thumping Timperley 15-5, in what many thought would be a breakthrough year for the Altrincham club.
After Mersey’s uncharacteristically poor season last year, new captain Ant Hayes has made it his priority to bring Mersey back to their winning ways. They have welcomed back some familiar faces to the first team including Andrew Ellison, Andrew Battersby and John Beadle and have also added a new addition in Josh Kinder.
Kinder transferred from Brooklands in the summer; a member of the 2012 England U19’s, he will add an additional offensive threat from midfield.
“I think because we had such a bad year last season, it’s made everyone put in the extra effort. We started pre-season seven weeks ago and played a couple of games, so I think we were just ready.” said Hayes.
Timperley were without Resh Panasar and James Bates but the majority of the team was present at The Heatons Sports Club.
The game started slowly, with both teams looking rusty in the opening quarter. Mersey got their noses in front at the end of a scrappy opening quarter 1-0 and extended their lead further in the second period, to make the score 7-2 at halftime.
Mersey new boy, Josh Kinder, performed well on his debut and scored three goals. Ant Hayes opted to play in midfield, which allowed Gareth Roberts to step between the pipes. Both performed well with Hayes scoring two goals.
Other Mersey goals came from Andrew Ellison (3), Ryan Hunns (3), Jamie Gallagher (2), Pete Hayes (1) and one more from Andrew Battersby.
Timperley captain Mike Armstrong was disappointed with his team’s performance but is confident they will bounce back. “no one can say they played particularly well, including myself. I think we trained really well in the week, but we made too many unforced errors, which cost us. I think ultimately we just underestimated how good Mersey would be on the day.”
Timperley goals came from Ollie White (3), Jack Brook and Greg Sandy.
Sheffield Steelers 5-5 Poynton
Sheffield’s return to the top-flight saw them produce an early upset on the opening weekend, with a 5-5 draw against Poynton.
The Steelers have been training hard in the offseason and Saturday’s result, against last season’s 3rd placed team, is an indication of how much the team has developed.
Poynton will be disappointed to drop two vitals points so early in the season as they aim to be challenging Cheadle and Stockport for the title.
Sheffield were without midfielder Vin Curran who has not returned to the UK as thought, however the young team played exceptionally well in his absence.
Poynton were also missing a rumoured summer transfer, attacker Will Sugden, which seemed to be a done deal, he has returned to Mellor after a change of heart.
Head Coach Tom Wenham was pleased with his team’s performance, in particular his defence who contained the usually high scoring Poynton to five goals. He said, “our game plan defensively was to stop Sam Russell being the quarterback of the Poynton offense, everything goes though him and our LDO Jonathan Gill who was outstanding in this role.”
Simon Jones had an excellent game between the pipes for the Steelers and made a string of saves to keep his team in the game. Poynton goalie Will Baxter was also in fine form and had his fair share of saves.
Poynton captain Sam Russell praised both goalies after the game saying, “Both goalies were MVP’s for their respective teams in my opinion.”
Sheffield had a chance to win the game in the last 30 seconds. Wenham called a timeout and implemented an all or nothing play to try and win the game. Ben Stringer dodged from up top and let a shot go which beat Baxter, unfortunately for the Steelers the whistle had already gone and did not count.
Goal scorers for the Steelers were Rob Hopkins (2), Ben Lyon (1), Tom Dale (1) and Dan Ivers (1). Goal scorers for Poynton were Luke Johnson (3), Jamie Butler (1), Rob Hutchinson (1).
Manchester Waconians 3-17 Stockport
Stockport started their campaign in comfortable fashion, with a convincing 17-3 win over Manchester Waconians.
Stockport raced to an early 4 goal lead and never looked back with the score 9-0 in the opening half.
Manchester Waconians piled the pressure on Stockport in the third period with two goals from captain Eddie Owen and new signing Matthew Collier also scored on his premiership debut for Wac’s.
Stockport’s captain Tom Williamson was pleased with the result but stressed that there is still a way to go saying, “I think playing 6 games last weekend at the European Championships in Ghent helped us immensely, however we still have things to work on.” He goes on to say, “we are still working on things at training and hopefully we will get better as the season progresses, we need to peak at the right time this season.”
Stockport goals came from Greg Rowlinson (3), Joe Singleton (3), Tom Patterson (2), James Morris (2), Sean Smith (2), Tom Gosnay (2), Adrian Wright (2), Sam Patterson (1).
Premiership Games 27/09/2014
Stockport vs. Heaton Mersey
Timperley vs. Manchester Waconians
Poynton vs. Brooklands
Image Credit: Lee Warburton