Premier League Title Race back on!
Premier League HBU (Kings) 7 – 1 Bury
Location: Bay Arena, Time: 19.45, Date: 31st March
The early weekend news in the Premier League was that title hopefuls Grimsby had beaten current champions Middlesbrough 6-3 in the lunchtime fixture, this meant that if HBU could win both their matches this weekend they would jump from 3rd in the table to 1st.
HBU’s first game of the weekend was against old rivals Bury. Although Bury are in a transitional period with a lot of young players being drafted into the first team they are still a formidable force. The game started off as a tense affair, with both teams having good possession but neither side could break through their opponents defence. Then with 11 minutes left in the first half, Brendan Barker came from round the back of the goal to force the ball home at the near post to put United 1 – 0 up. United were still finding it difficult to break down a solid Bury defence. The with 6 minutes left in the half Dave (Toddy) Todd received a pass from Barker before flicking the ball into the top left hand corner of the Bury goal to make it 2 – 0 to United. The second goal settled United down and they were now beginning to dominate the play. At half time the score remained 2 – 0.
The 2nd half saw Bury come at HBU, and they would have scored on more than one occasion had it not been for United veteran keeper Dan Barton, who was forced into a string of fine saves. However it was United who found the back of their opponents net when captain Simon Hosking scored from the edge of the box to make it 3-0 with 20 minutes to play. United were playing controlled hockey and their team play was much improved from previous performances. There was nothing Bury could do as United pulled further ahead with goals from Tom White and a 2nd from Hosking to give United an unassailable 5-0 lead with 10 minutes to go. Bury to their credit did not stop trying, and they were rewarded for their efforts when their captain Martin Walker scored to make it 5-1. United though were in good form and were not going to be caught. 2 further goals from Danny Butcher (penalty) and Karl Smith (with 2 seconds left in the game) gave United a comfortable 7-1 victory.
HBU team: Dan Barton (GK), Dave Garlick (GK), Karl Smith (1), Joe Singleton, Danny Butcher (1), Tom White (1), David Todd (1), Simon Hosking © (2), Neil Austin, Brendan Barker (1)
(Kings Fish Bar man of the match: Daniel Barton)
Manchester 5 v 17 HBU (Kings)
Location: Manchester, Time: 12.15, Date: 1st April
United had an early start the following morning, as they had to leave at 6am to drive to Manchester to start their game at 12.15. United travelled with only 5 outplayers and a keeper after 2 of the squad pulled out at the last minute. United’s form has been improving over the last 2 months and they were keen to keep the momentum going. They knew that a good win would put them back on top of the table on goal difference. United started the game strongly with Karl Smith scoring after only 47 seconds to put United in front. This set the tone for the rest of the first half as United went on to score 9 more goals before the break. Manchester did score twice but could do nothing to stop United. The score at halftime was 2 – 10.
HBU continued the second half as they finished the first, Brendan Barker scored twice in the first minute to make it 2 – 12. United had got the 10 goal cushion they were looking for. Manchester pushed United all the way and proved that they are a team with huge potential scoring 3 very good goals in the second half. However United were scoring too. At the final whistle the score was Manchester 5 – 17 HBU.
HBU Team: Dan Barton (GK), Karl Smith (4), Simon Hosking © (2), Neil Austin (5), Phil McVey (4), Brendan Barker (2)
(Kings Fish Bar man of the match: Neil Austin)
After the game, Man of the Match United’s Neil Austin said: “We are pleased to have won both games this weekend. Grimsby have done us a massive favour by beating Middlesbrough, it means we are now back in with a shout at the title. It looks like it’s a going to go right to the wire this season. We thought we had blown our chance of the league with our shocking performance against Middlesbrough. Now it looks like it’s all to play for. We have 3 games left, Peterborough, Grimsby & Middlesbrough. Who knows how it’s going to pan out come the end of the season. It makes for an exciting couple of months. Our strength is the strength and depth of our squad. If you look at today’s match against Manchester, the average age of our team was 36. Competition for places is fierce. Our elder statesmen are all playing well, so the gaffer has some tough decisions to make for our last 3 matches. Even the gaffer has played 3 of the last 4 games, and has played really well.”
United player coach Phil McVey added: “A very good weekend for us. First of all we got the 2 wins we required. Bury and Manchester are both good sides. There are no easy matches anymore. All the teams are solid in defence and all have players who can change games. I was very pleased with the manner of our performances. The Middlesbrough defeat was a turning point for us. It highlighted to the players that we could not continue playing the style of hockey that we were, which was geared on individuals rather than the team. We lost by 4 goals to Middlesbrough but it could have been 14 such was the difference between the 2 sides. From that moment onwards we have all worked hard to go back to the structured passing game that made us successful in the first place. From that day forward we have improved, each performance has been better than the previous one. All of the players have played their part. The players who have come into the squad have done well, and I would include myself in that. I have been pleased with the ways the younger players within the squad have developed. The competition for places is strong. We have 11 out players and I can only pick 8 for a game, so 3 will have to miss out each time. It wasn’t such an issue before as we all thought the season had gone for us, but with Grimsby beating Middlesbrough this weekend it is all back on. If we win our last 3 games we will be champions. It is not going to be that easy though, and I can see a few more twists and turns before it’s all said and done.
Grimsby have been knocking on the door for some time so it is no surprise that they beat Middlesbrough, they are genuine title contenders. It’s now a 3 way race for the title. Us and Grimsby both have 3 games left whilst Middlesbrough have 4. When you think that we all need to play each other again, it is still anyone’s this season. There is very little (if anything) between all 3 teams, so it should be exciting.
All 3 teams have to play each other again. Apart from our matches away to Grimsby and Middlesbrough we have a tough trip to Peterborough. Middlesbrough and Grimsby both have to travel to 4th placed team Bury, Middlesbrough also have to travel to northern rivals Manchester. It should be very exciting for all concerned, and it look as though whatever happens it will come down to the last day”.
Run in for title challengers:
HBU: Peterborough (away), Grimsby (away), Middlesbrough (away)
Grimsby: Middlesbrough (away), HBU (home), Bury (away)
Middlesbrough: Grimsby (home), Bury (away), Manchester (away), HBU (home)