Sheffield Spartans left it late on Saturday night to claim a valuable victory over Manchester Minotaurs in their pursuit of a play-off spot. Spartans weren’t at their best but their class showed in the end to bag the points against spirited opponents in an entertaining & enjoyable game of hockey.
In an open & end to end first period there was very little to choose between the two teams but Spartans went into the first break 1-0 up after Ollie Barron had scored from Jonathan Kirk & Dave Pyatt on 15.48. Prior to that the best chance of the game had fallen to John Murray for Minotaurs but he couldn’t put his chance away which let Spartans off the hook somewhat as a goal had looked certain. Spartans themselves should have made more of a couple of chances after their goal but as it stood it was 1-0 to Spartans with Minotaurs unfortunate to be trailing.
Spartans may have been a bit guilty of trying too hard in the first and it looked to be the case early on in the second too as Manchester looked more at ease on the puck and deservedly equalised through Tom Gilbert time 23.06. Minotaurs were now on top and eventually took the lead and it couldn’t be argued that they deserved to be at this stage of the game. John Murray made a nice pass to Max Drakeley who fired in a great shot to score timed 28.56. Spartans called a time out and swapped netminders with Andy Bagshaw taking over from Brandon Stones. This had the desired effect with a positive response from Spartans who stepped it up a gear to enjoy some good possession and chances, most notably from Ollie Barron and Stuart Brittle who were both unfortunate not to score. However, Spartans were soon level after Jonathan Kirk fired in a cracker of a shot from just inside the blue line timed 31.38 to tie it up at 2-2. The game was still end to end but the better chances were falling to Spartans who were being pushed all the way by Minotaurs who were playing well and certainly didn’t look like a bottom of the league team without a win. Spartans had finished the stronger team but overall to be drawing at the end of the second was a fair reflection of the game.
Just as the teams were settling into the action a defensive howler from Spartans let in Minotaurs after Andy Bagshaw had fumbled a speculative shot from Jared Dickinson timed 41.13. It was once again end to end stuff but as the period progressed Minotaurs were looking the more likely winners but out of nothing Ollie Barron scored a nice goal after being set up by Stuart Brittle on 56.43. It was harsh on Minotaurs but things were soon to get worse for them when Elliott Knell & Ollie Barron combined to set up Stuart Brittle to score an amazing goal as he fired the puck between the post and netminder Fox to put Spartans 4-3 in front timed 57.29. Spartans regained possession from the face-off to see Andy Turner make a lovely pass to Shaun Wild who exploited the space he had made for himself to show great skill to fire in an unstoppable shot for another good goal, this one timed 57.53. Minotaurs frustrations boiled over with roughing penalties against both teams along with Minotaurs netminder Fox being thrown out for 3rd man in. It was a shame his game ended that way as he had been in fine form and had had a decent game. With no back up netminder there was a delay whilst Mikey Gilbert dressed to go in goal for the last couple of minutes with the delay taking the sting out of the game to eventually finish with a Spartans win.
Manchester had put in a terrific performance against Spartans who at times did make things difficult for themselves but at times they were outworked and the outcome of the game was hard on Minotaurs but class players create and score class goals which is what Spartans did to claim an important win that now sees them on the same points as 4th placed Sutton Sting with just two games left of the regular season. Spartans Man of the Match was Stuart Brittle.
Final Score: Manchester Minotaurs 3 Spartans 5