With the winds of winter striking across the country, several of the scheduled English club games games were postponed this week due to frozen pitches. However, the heat of the Northern Premiership competition was enough to melt the snow away in the two arguably biggest games of the weekend, with Wilmslow hosting Rochdale in their fight for top-level survival and Poynton welcoming Heaton Mersey in a match which could go to some distance in deciding the final standings toward the top of the table.
Following their disappointing loss against fellow Premiership strugglers Sheffield Steelers last week, Wilmslow came into this weekend desperately needing a win to ensure they didn’t slip to the bottom of the table. Rochdale, who hadn’t played a competitive game for over 5 weeks, were equally as eager to register a W having been unable to take full points from a match since their 2-win streak at the start of the season.
In their previous league meeting back in October, it was Rochdale who emerged as victors, pipping the visitors to the win in dramatic fashion winning 11-10 in the final moments of the game. Wilmslow were keen to avoid a repeat result and set about ensuring the game was tense affair from the first whistle which saw the lead change hands repeatedly throughout the game. With both teams battling for every ball in the wintery tundra, this was a war of attrition in which every player gave everything for their respective teams and showcased the gritty, never-say-die attitude which will serve them well in their bids to retain Premiership status.
After a tense and dogged 4 quarters with both teams trading blows throughout, Wilmslow held off the Rochdale onslaught and emerged as 12-11 winners to bring them equal on points with the visitors as well as Manchester Wacs, and Sheffield Steelers who now sit bottom of the table by merit of having the lowest goal difference.
Whilst all 4 teams have 2 wins to their name, Wacs and Rochdale have games in hand on the others and as these are caught up with, we may see a gap begin to appear between them.
Across the county in Poynton we saw an all-LTP battle with Rutgers Alumni Kevin Albert’s Heaton Mersey facing a Poynton team including Syracuse Alumni and Florida Launch starlet Jovan Miller and LTP Alumni Thomas Brook as well as LTP’s very own Sam Russell.
With Heaton Mersey hot on the trail of Poynton & Cheadle fighting it out for 2nd place and with the two teams sharing the points over both of their games last season, this was a hotly-anticipated fixture which drew crowds of fans from a number of clubs across the league, all eager to see who would earn the bragging rights in what is fastly-becoming one of the highlights of the NEMLA Premiership fixture list.
Poynton were eager to impose themselves from the first whistle and started the game incredibly brightly racing into a quarter-time 6-0 lead including an all-LTP goal when Jovan fed LTP Founder Russell on the restrainer who found room to unleash a cannon high into the top-right corner. Mersey had no plans to lie down though and after Miller had extended to Poynton lead to 7, The Bumblebees, led by ex-Rutgers powerhouse Kevin Albert, scored 3 slick transition goals to reduce the deficit and ensure the game was going to be competitive for the full 80 minutes.
Mersey drew first blood in the second half to regain their momentum and continued in fine form with yet another goal to bring them within 2 of Poynton before Sam Russell fed younger brother Alex who finished in true Russell fashion to regain a 3-goal lead. This swayed the game back into Poynton’s control who responded with another 2 goals (including a Sam Russell assist) to take the game into the final quarter with a 5-goal lead at 10-5.
The visitors scored early in the 4th but Jovan Miller bagged his 2nd and 3rd of the game either side of another Poynton goal to stretch the lead to 7 going into the final 5 minutes. Mersey rallied to register another 2 late in the game, but were unable to catch the deficit inflicted upon them in the first quarter.
This takes Poynton up to 2nd place thanks to having a better goal difference to Cheadle who are also on 12 points with the same record of 6 wins, 2 losses. Poynton face Brooklands next week in a game they will be hoping to post another W on to keep the pressure on Stockport in 1st place who are scheduled to have a week off. Elsewhere, Mersey face Timperley in what will undoubtedly be an exciting encounter, Cheadle play away at Rochdale and Wilmslow host Manchester Wacs in a game which could change who resides at the bottom of the league going into February.
Make sure you check back next week to see how the excitement unfolds!
– Images via Lee Warburton Photography