Just a couple of weeks ago it saw some shocking news coming out of the Annual British Speedway Promoters Associate AGM down in Broxbourne, with the announcement that one of the most famous and historic names in British Speedway in the form of the Belle Vue Aces had their membership being annulled by the speedway chiefs, due to financial problems within the Belle Vue setup. 

The news came just a few days after former Belle Vue CEO David Gordon had stepped down from his role within the club, that left the duo of former Aces rider Chris Morton and George Carswell in charge of the Manchester club fortunes from now on. 

However, as rumours ran rife on social media that something ‘big’ was about to break involving the Aces, it saw one fan tweeting ‘things looking bleak’ when in connection to Belle Vue. Those rumours turned out to be sadly true, as it announced through a press release by the (BSPA) that the Belle Vue promotion was to have their licence revoked and annulled due to financial irregularities.

Things were then expanded upon ‘by the powers that be’ as they soon revealed that the reason for the annulment of the Manchester club, was all down to the Aces management having not paid any rent to the Council all season.

In the same press release from the BSPA, it saw Manchester City Council also taking the decision not to renew the licence for the club at the National Speedway Stadium as Leader of Manchester City Council Sir Richard Leese, was quoted as saying in the Press release: “Since taking control of the National Speedway Stadium in March this year, BV Arena Ltd have also failed to meet important requirements of their agreement, including paying any rent on the property to the City Council.

“As a result Manchester City Council therefore are unable to renew Belle Vue Aces licence to occupy the building in their current position. It has also come to light that the group companies have significant debt not only with the Council but also other parties.

“The City Council will now work closely with the BSPA to put in arrangements that can ensure the success of the National Speedway Stadium and develop of speedway in Manchester.

It saw a joint statement by Chairman Keith Chapman and the BSPA stating on the Aces situation that ‘the BSPA agreed to recommend that Belle Vue Speedway promotion be annulled from their financial situation and that it would kick in over the next few days’. One thing of note from the press release was that despite the club having their licence taken from them, it was not necessarily the end of the club and that a further release was then put out stating that both Leicester- who of which are in the same boat as the Aces are in- had them and Belle Vue both being pencilled in to run come 2017.

This then led to some Aces fans venting their anger towards different people over social media in regards to the annulment of the club. While a large group of Belle Vue fans accused the BSPA of trying to kill off their club, for Aces fans the British Speedway Bureau has always being the biggest thorn in their side when they have clashed with the Gorton-based club and a lot of ill feeling has been levelled against the BSPA and sometimes not always fairly.

Many fans feel and believe that they have always been getting the rough end of the stick from ‘the powers that be’ since back in the old John Perrin days in the mid-90′ when the two regularly butted head.

Former Aces promoter and Team Manager the Late John Perrin had many run-in’s with the BSPA over riders and how he felt the sport was being run, and he wasn’t one bit concerned over who he upset and would challenge the top brass numerous times over his term in charge of Belle Vue. He was in a sense a bit of a maverick and anti-establishment in a way with how he dealt with the people at the top and did also rub senior members and upset a lot of people, rightly or wrongly. One thing that could never be levelled at Perrin was that he lacked ambition and that he didn’t shy away from anything and always gave his all to the club, but did also prove to be equally as much of a thorn for the British Speedway chiefs too.

Since the press releases were put out on the Thursday afternoon (3rd of October) from the British speedway chiefs, it has since saw David Gordon responding to what the BSPA and Manchester City Council put out to the media that day or saw the fireworks- which was convenient having been on Bonfire night the day of the reply. David Gordon who as previously stated earlier, stood down from his role as CEO of Belle Vue Speedway and then went on the offensive in an interview, as he gave it both barrels to the local press and had him not mincing his words. 

In the interview with the Manchester Evening News, he told of his ‘disappointment for all supporters,staff and management at the club for the demise that had been forced on the club’. Gordon said also that ‘they’ were pursuing legal action for the people who were involved in the problems that had beset the club back a month of opening on time, due to their Grand Opening fiasco back in March. It also proved to be an embarrassingly way to open up their first event at the new stadium, after the meeting was abandoned due to an unfit track and saw the club and Gordon losing thousands of pounds as a result.

He told the MEN,after 10 years working on this project we are distraught that the negligent actions of other people are the cause of all the problems we have faced this season which has affectively destroyed the Club.

Gordon then added further,It’s shameful, the people responsible for the defective track are the track builders and as a consequence the project management. A report by leading structural engineers clearly put the blame for the defective track on the constructors.

“We never recovered from the financial impact of the Grand Opening Meeting being called off on March 19 when the stadium was packed and racing was about to start. We lost so much momentum and income that we have been on the back foot ever since.”

Speaking as a fan of the club for twenty-six years and a regular on the terraces at Kirkmanshulme Lane for twenty years, the ill-fated Peter Craven Memorial Trophy meeting back in March was an absolute disaster. For those spectators that attended the event and where tickets were like goldust to get your hands on the opening meeting, it proved to be was a complete and utter nightmare as well as a massive black eye for the club. It was clear to see from having watched the riders riding around the track that something wasn’t right and that the base had not bedded anywhere close to how it should have been, which led to riders commenting on it afterwards and was saying that the track was sinking six-inches due to the track being clearly not sorted. 

Some riders on social media were stating that there was rumours going round days before the opening night, that track was unfit and that it was still being worked on the day before. That night also represented the closest thing to a riot I have ever been around that involved speedway. Matters weren’t helped with a 45 minute wait, after the riders cut short their practice laps on the track and had everyone inside the stadium awaiting any news or update on what was going on.

After the fans were told of the dreaded ‘riders meeting’ taking place, it then saw the long figures of Gordon and Morton both walking to the centre green with microphone in hand and apologising to the bumper crowd in attendance for the cancellation of the meeting. Irate supporters showed their displeasure towards the promotion by booing over the Aces management speaking on the mic and needed Chris ‘Bomber’ Harris to come out to save the day.

‘Bomber’ calmed the situation by addressing the crowd over the concerns that the riders had and in truth it was the only option they could have taken on the night.

Moving to the present day and the weekend that followed the announcement, had Aces fans still feeling frustrated over the entire goings on and wanting answers to questions and having no-one that could or would give them the answers they wanted. With the club now left in limbo and unsure as to its immediate future to date, it sees a club that has finished runner’s up in the grand final two years running and now has the sorry state of having no promoters, no Colts either and no technically no home. But should things be sorted hopefully, then it looks fairly safe that should still be able to track a team, whether Premiership or National League at the very least next year in the NSS.

The irony of the whole thing and is slightly laughable in a sense, is that Belle Vue for so long have apparently tried new ways of introducing fans to the sport and have always wanted exposure in the local paper. However, through this incident they have accidentally stumbled upon the publicity the club wanted, sadly though it isn’t for the right reasons and the once famous Aces keep finding ways of shooting themselves in the foot with unwanted coverage in the press. That said though, they do say that ‘bad publicity, is good publicity’.

The following Monday (7th of November) saw another member of the promotion team giving their thoughts to their licence being annulled as part of the Aces woes, in club legend Chris Morton. It saw the former British Champion distancing himself away from the comments made by his former business partner in David Gordon.

Morton tried to put some positive spin on the gloomy news that has surrounded the club this past seven days, by saying, “It could herald a new start for the Aces”.

With Gordon seemingly washing his hands completely of the ‘concerns of the financial side of the club’ to which the BSPA PR stated, it saw Morton not hiding behind anyone over the news and admitted to the MEN,While I accept responsibility for my part in this project, both good and bad, I am devastated by what has happened and will take time to consider everything,” 

Chris Morton was also complimentary of the Manchester City Council for helping with the process of getting the stadium from a built and from turning a pipe-dream into a reality, he added,I would like to thank Manchester City Council for believing in this project. Belle Vue Speedway has the opportunity to grow from this point.

It couldn’t have seen two more different interviews given by the two main men at the heart of this whole sorry saga in the clubs history, as both gave very different answers when expressing their feelings on the situation in question. Reading Gordon’s interview, it was almost like he and the Aces were the victims of those from outside the sport and were the reason for the problems. When scanning over the comments that Morton made on things, then it was a case of someone who was far more remorseful and just wanted to see his former side in a healthy state and being less angry than that of Gordon.

The former CEO was quoted as saying “The actions of other people are the cause of the problems we have faced this season”, meanwhile his partner for the last nine-years in Chris Morton, was also quick to refute the claims that had been brought up by Gordon. One very interesting twist to the tale was Morton saying that he had now broken his working relationship with the man that he worked with for nearly a decade. 

Morton finished off by saying the article, “I have taken time to reflect on my position and, following a recent press release from Belle Vue CEO David Gordon, I wish to make it clear I did not agree to these comments being made or released,” he said. “This does not fully represent myself or my thoughts and opinions. David and I have worked together and have not always agreed. “I have let David know that our partnership has now come to an end.”

It does seem very much like the relationship the two has gone South pretty quickly and that it seems to have almost dissolved the relationship from the outside looking in. Questions still remain though from the whole fallout of this news, like ‘Did they think they could avoid paying the council rent on the stadium?’ and also did they try to sort anything out with the Council after they worked with the club to repair the track.

There are some stories too that came out and it didn’t look good on the club at all, with some riders not being paid for months by the club and that went into the final month of the season and even during the Grand Final of which saw them losing on the title to Wolverhampton. Rumours of riders still being owed money with some of the figures being allegedly banded about in excess of £2ok, but they are only rumoured numbers.

As I bring this blog entry to a close, as saw many fans of rival teams often giving their thoughts on the Belle Vue promotion and used the terms ‘joke’,’clowns’and ‘incapable’ for starters. Arguably though, some of the comments made by other fans maybe hiding a hint of jealousy possibly to their words too. As with the duo of Gordon and Morton delivering on a rare promise that they made coming true, it is certainly the only good aspect that they have left in the future, should the club have a future. 

Whilst we await the next snippet of news to come out on the next chapter of Belle Vue speedway’s tapestry, it does seems certain that the truth will never be fully forthcoming and that fans will always be left in the dark over the near occasion that the sport lost not only a team in Manchester, but a jewel in the Speedway sporting crown.

City youngsters make it through to Quarter-Finals

                 13         Manchester-City-Crest (3)                

Sheffield FC Ladies  1  –  2   Manchester City Women Res

This past Sunday saw a Manchester City Womens Reserves side beating Sheffield FC Ladies 2-1 at the FA Hub St.George’s Park facility in Sheffield, as the Blues youngster booked their place in the quarter-finals again Aston Villa Ladies with a great team effort and two second half goals by Kaylea Cuncliffe and Keeley Goodwin to book their passage to the next round. 

The home side started the match off on the front and caught the visitors in trouble at times, through some sloppy passes by a City side that featured no subsitute to speak off on the bench. Sheffield’s Kenedy Owen had the opening chance for the hosts in the 4th minute of the game, when Owen collected an under hit ball halfways inside the City half and saw the Sheffield player firing wide of the target.

Moments later it saw them intercepting another careless ball from City and it saw the captain for the home side in Lois Daniels, seeing her effort flying over the bar and sent more warnings to the visiting team that the home side were more than up for this cup tie. The away side was really struggling to find their way in the game and always seemed to over play the ball at times and combined with poor passing and good attacks by Sheffield Ladies, the home side were well on top and saw them wasting all their chances that came their way.

cxliqxrwqaa7xgi

For the best part of the first, it saw a midfield battle taking place with both teams cancelling out the other side and made for an entertaining game to watch and also who would probably be the difference the game. Sheffield Ladies created many good scoring chances their way in the half, but with City defending deep at times it saw the away side unable to register any meaningful efforts.

Prior to the half time break it saw the hosts having three late chances going begging, as Firstly Kenedy Owens took a great touch to control and turn and then set Cara Fields away on goal, but her attempted effort saw her lifting the ball to high and went for a goal kick. Chloe Dixon then hit the woodwork for the hosts from a lovely Jess Heald cross into the box and then the final action saw Lois Daniels volleying over to see a goal less first half.

When the game restarted, it saw the pitch feel like it was sloped in City’s favour second half and led to Sheffield having to clear a shot off their line from an early effort in the half. 

The visitors were much more the aggressors in the second half of play and saw the ball striking the bar and needing the hosts to clear their lines and had the travelling supporters given something to shout after an uneventful first for the visitors. Youvette Loukes down the City right was seeing plenty of the ball and had her getting into great positions and having the better of her opponents down that flank, which saw the home side unable to contain the City number seven. 

img_20161113_173511-1After some great balls into the area by Loukes time and time again, it saw the deadlock finally being broken by the away side on 51 minutes, when a ball into the area was attacked by a City player in a crowded penalty area and saw the ball crashing off the bar again, before Keeley Goodwin was on hand to nod home from virtually the goal line to put the visitors one up.

Katie Anderson then saw her being denied by the City keeper Rachel Derbyshire soon after, with the goalkeeper quickly down to her right to make the important stop. It saw the away side gaining more and more in confidence and having some great chances, but much like Sheffield in the first, City just weren’t able to convert their chances to goals.

Finally the away side had some breathing space in the cup tie now as they added a second what a goal it was too. Play down the right saw a ball cleared away from the Sheffield box and went only as far as Kaylea Cuncliffe, who then got to the edge of the area before unleashing a fierce strike that beat the keeper and found the top corner to put City 2-0 in front and send the travelling Blue fans delirous.

City should have put the game to bed after two good chances came the way of the visitors, but the away side were just getting their aiming off target at the worse possible point. Seconds before the 90th minute ticked by, it saw a hard challenge on Keeley Goodwin by a Sheffield player in the middle of the pitch and it resulted Goodwin having to be helped off the field of play and didn’t look to good for City’s second goalscorer.

 

cxkbsj9weaa6xo9
Photo: Amelia Kemp Twitter

 

Sheffield found it difficult to make their extra man advantage count, as the visitors were able to control it as best they could and were forced to play out the remainder of the game with just 10 players, due to no-one being on the subs bench for City. Eventually the home side pulled a goal back through Chloe Dixon from close range in the 98th minute, but that goal proved to be little more than a consolation goal for the hosts and had the red rose of Lancashire prevailing in the war of the roses.

Storm suffer nightmare weekend

                  images (3)                                         dundee-stars

Manchester Storm  2 – 3  Dundee Stars  

   (After Penalty Shots)

This past weekend proved to be hard one for the Manchester Storm on many fronts with the Altrincham based side suffering a triple-whammy of defeats to Dundee, Braehead and finally Cardiff, as they took advantage of a depleted Storm squad. After the stunning win over Nottingham last weekend, that win came at a price and had the Storm losing two of their star players through injuries and led to Omar Pacha signing Dutch International Nardo Nagtzaam and made his home debut against Dundee.

Friday saw the first visit of the Dundee Stars to the ‘Storm Shelter’ this season and had the Stars as one of two Scottish sides that would be making the trip over the border to face Manchester over the weekend. The meeting saw the return of Storm favourite from last year in Vinny Scarsella and he certainly came in for plenty of attention by the home side, as Scarsella found himself having to get off the deck pretty early from a  couple of good Trevor Johnson checks. The two would battle all night long and made for an entertaining subplot to the game.

Manchester and Dundee found attacks hard to come by in truth in the opening period of play, as the best chance fell to the home side when Cody Cartier took a shot on goal and saw a rebound coming out to Jack Prince and the Storm was unable to capitalise and had the teams scoreless after first. In the second it saw the visitors taking the lead at 23:32, when Stars Kevin Hart tipped in a Vinny Scarsella shot after Mario Trubucco was caught napping near in the neutral zone and that allowed Dundee to gain possession of the puck and ended up with the visitors a goal up.

Manchester quickly got back on level terms over a minute later, after  Jack Prince had time to fire in a shot past the Joe Fallon in the Dundee goals and have have assists going to Taylor Dickin and Paul Phillips. The home side then took the lead a bit later on through a marvellous bit of stick handling by Matt Bissonette, as a break up ice saw a little back hand feed from Mark Heatley setting up Bissonette to skate around the Stars last man and then put the puck in one handed for a 2-1 lead.

It seemed that with the Storm on top and things going to plan for the home side that it would be a case of Manchester holding on for victory. New signing Nardo Nagtzaam was making a good impression on his home league debut, as Nagtzaam was flying up and down the ice for the home side and was causing the Stars problem with his speed. Dundee were there for the taking, but the visitors just wouldn’t go away and saw the Stars tying the game up with just under six minutes of play to go in the third, after Scott Brannon saw his effort fly past Mike Clemente for a 2-2 hockey game. 

Late on in the period it saw Cody Cartier being assessed a 2+10 by match referee Tom Pering, as he was called for a check to the head on Scarsella and had the Canadian heading for an early shower 

With the game tied up at 2-2 it saw the closing stages being even and had the game move to an overtime period, to which the home side almost netted the game winner through Trevor Johnson, when his one time shot was saved by Fallon in the Stars goal. Dundee for the final minute of the overtime period, saw them having a couple of late efforts in the game and had their attacks coming to nothing and needs penalties to determine the winner.

With a shootout forthcoming it saw pretty much the same old story for the Manchester Storm and especially when it comes down to penalty taking. Since Manchester joined the league last season, it has saw them involved in seven shoot-outs and winning only one of those and failing to score during any overtime period too. 

Mikael Lidhammar got the shootout underway, as he tucked his shot past Clemente for first blood to the Stars and saw Manchester’s shooters all trying to make an extra move on their shots and made it so predictable for the goalie that in truth, he didn’t really need to do much at all. As a result Dundee took the extra point and saw the Storm’s woes in extra play continue on, while letting a great chance get away from them. 

       images (3)                                             Clan_Logo

Manchester Storm   2 – 5 Braehead Clan

The next night saw the Braehead Clan roll into town and have the Purple Army hoping to make it two straight road victories over the Storm in Altrincham, after Manchester had earlier beaten their opponents up in Scotland earlier in the season. In all honesty it was perhaps the worst performance by the Storm this season at home and saw the host unable to really find anything in their locker.

Braehead came out strong and that was exactly how they played throughout the entire game, as they always seemed to have an extra gear to up in if they so needed too. Manchester were guilty of leaving big gaps at the back of their defence and saw the Clan nearly exposing those gaps whenever they found themselves able to. With Storm not making the most of their chances they did create, it had their misses coming back to bite them when the visitors took the lead through a Kyle Wharton goal. The goal all came from the Braehead man literally stepping back onto the ice surface after serving a penalty, but Manchester were not aware of this and led to Wharton scoring.

Storm struck back through player-coach Omar Pacha soon after though, when the Quebec native fired in a low shot on Gary Russell during a power play and made it a 1-1 game. That pretty much was as good as it got for the home side in the game with the Clan just out working and out playing the hosts on every facet of the contest. Braehead went 2-1 in the second period with a carbon copy of their first goal, as the home side were caught out by the returning man to the ice from the penalty box, as Trevor Hendrikx played a feather pass to Matt Haywood and Haywood finished it off nicely to put the Scottish side back ahead.

With Manchester looking very much a side without any ideas and unable to get going at all, with tiredness catching up to them while still being short benched. That said though, a lot of credit had to go to Ryan Finnerity and his men for a great game plan and putting it into action. Third period was bossed fully by the Braehead Clan and was met with a wall of silence by the home fans, while all the noise came from the noisy Braehead fans who made their voices heard and had the Storm fans watching their side implode at times with sloppy plays.

One of those sloppy plays came right at the start of the third when a Manchester player tried to make a pass and fell over, but saw the puck coming onto the tape of Alex Leavitt and he calmly fired the puck home to make it 3-1. Things got worse for the home side, when a scary moment saw fan favourite Eric Neilson taking a nasty hit to the face from a Matt Beca shot that saw the Canadian forward heading straight off and needing to go to hospital for a horrific injury.

Braehead made their possession count and had the visitors adding to their lead after Scott Pitt chipped a little pass ahead for Leavitt to chase and saw there being only one winner and he made it four for the Clan, with over ten minutes to play in the contest. Pitt then made it 5-1 and it was getting to be far to easy now for Braehead after he pounced on a rebound from a Wharton shot and that was pretty much game over. 

Dallas Erhardt then shown some fighting spirit quite literally, when he stuck up for his young team-mate after former Toronto Maple Leafs player Jay Rosehill went for a huge check on Tom Ratcliffe and that brought the Storm man over and had the two players dropping the gloves and having a good scrap.

As with every Storm game at home this season their was the obligatory controversial goal added as an extra bonus, but for once it was in the favour of the home side and not the visiting side. Replays didn’t suggest that the puck had gone over the line, but after the referee consulted with the goal judge who was adamant that it had gone over saw Taylor Dickin being credited with the goal and made it a 5-2 game.

In the end it was a disappointing night for the home side and saw them dropping more points to their rivals in the Gardiner Conference after their loss to Dundee the night before. 

Cardiff_Devils_logo.svg                                                                       images (3)

Cardiff Devils  5 – 3  Manchester Storm

Sunday night saw the Storm playing their third game in three days, as they travelled to South Wales to face the Cardiff Devils in their final Challenge Cup group game and was pretty much a dead rubber match, with both sides having already qualified.

It saw the Storm missing Eric Neilson after he sustained a torn retina in 2 places and also had the visitors drafting in Cardiff Fire duo Jordan Baber and Sam Bryant due to a very short bench. Phil Spanswick was given the nod to start the game and was his first start for the Storm this season in a competitive game. Despite losing 5-3 it saw the Warrington-born goalie collecting a maiden man of the match awards for his trouble.

Two powerplay goals by Mark Heatley saw the away side trailing by one after the second, and that then saw the Devils moving 4-2 ahead before Jack Prince scored to make it a 4-3 game and Cardiff’s Gleason Fournier sealed the win for the home side with a goal late on at the IAW.

It means now that Manchester will be playing the Belfast Giants again in the quarter-final stages, after both sides met last season at the same stage and saw the Northern Ireland side coming out on top over the the two legs.

Wonder goal by Walsh hands City advantage in Euro tie

Manchester-City-Crest (3)                                                       brondby_if-svg

Manchester City Women  1  –  0  Brondby IF

An absolute ‘bolt from the blue’ by midfielder Keira Walsh handed Manchester City Women a 1-0 win over Brondby IF in their first leg of the Uefa Women’s Champions League Round of 16 tie this past Wednesday night, as a 35-yard stunner by the Blues midfielder proved to be the difference in the game. Nick Cushing will see his team taking over a one goal advantage to Copenhagen next Thursday night, as City will look to hopefully finish the job off in Denmark in the second leg.

The game was one of patience by for the home side, with the Danes making things very difficult for City to play their normal style of football and proved to be a very tough nut to crack. After disposing of Russian side Prem Zvezda 05 in the previous round, this was seen as a far tougher assignment to date for the English Champions and so it proved to be. City had a lot of possession in the opening ten minutes of the game, but Brondby too had their moments and showed a few glimpses now and then of what they could do set early warnings off for this tie that they hadn’t come just to defend.

Those warning signs were soon to be alarm bells for the home side, that was until a timely tackle by captain Steph Houghton saw her denying an early chance for the visiting side. Lucy Bronze had the opening chance for the hosts in the 24th minute of play, when Kosavare Asllani played a little ball ahead for the fast running Bronze to run on to and the defender saw her shot at the near post beating blocked by the foot of Katrine in the opponents net.

katrineabemanchestercitywomenvbrondbyexzddg3hoykl
Jane Ross getting the better of the keeper :PIC: BBC Sports

Brondby then carved out their first chance of the game, when an attempted cross was blocked near the by line by a City player and saw the height of the ball being too high for Kiera Walsh to get any real clearance on from it, so the ball came to Christiansen who aimed for the far corner and looked to be creeping in but for the England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley getting down brilliantly to push it away from goal.

City were the dominant side in the half and just weren’t able to unlock the Brondby defence to find a goal, but they was finding minor chinks in the Danish sides armour. Blues fans were getting frustrated with little pulls and clear holding on the home sides players that seemed clear as day, but they didn’t seemed to garner any interest at all from the match officials from Romania.

As half time came on a freezing night in Manchester, it saw the teams going into the break deadlocked at 0-0 and if any team looked like they would score first then it would be the home side. In truth Brondby are a very different animal to say the likes of Doncaster, Reading and Sunderland in the WSL with all due respect to them. But the Danes have a European pedigree in this tournament and have reached the semi finals of this competition on a fair few occasions.  

It was back in the 2010-11 season that saw the visitors last playing an English team in this competition and had Brondby losing out to Everton Ladies at the same stage 5-2 over two legs, in which City trio Jill Scott, Toni Duggan and Lucy Bronze all played in that tie for Everton.   

Play was still being controlled by the home side and they were now starting to pick holes in the visitors defence, after they had been so greatly difficult to break down from their superb organised set up and now had the home side starting to find some joy.

Jane Ross really should have put the Blues up with a fantastic chance on 57 minutes, but the Scottish striker spurned the game best chance. It all came from play in the middle of the park as a Keira Walsh through ball run nicely for Ross to run onto and after she pushed it past the keeper for a certain goal, the striker seemed to hesitate slightly and tried to use the outside of her foot and by doing so allowed the away side to get back an deny her the hosts a goal.

That seemed to be the chance that City had craved for in a tight contest and they let it go begging in the Round of 16 tie. City manager Nick Cushing then made his first change of the game as he brought on Nikita Parris for Kosse Asllani and that just gave the side an extra boost that they were missing.

_92373678_walsh
City celebrate Keira Walsh stunning winner  PIC: The Guardian

With the home side still trying to find a way past their opponents, it saw an unlikely source producing a bit of magic that came from absolutely nothing. It saw the goal coming from a quick free kick by Jennifer Beattie as she and Izzy Christiansen played a little one-two between each other and that then saw Walsh receiving the ball between the halfway line and the Brondby area, but the 19-year old then fired off a stunning 35-yard effort that flew by the keeper and put the hosts 1-0 up with 15 minutes left in the contest. 

Toni Duggan then made way for England under-17 star Georgia Stanway, and as the home side now faced started to come under fire more from their opponents it had Brondby creating a couple of efforts. Firstly Karen Bardsley was called upon to make a great save off Sorensen, when a corner was cleared so far until a pass was driven towards the opposing player and she saw her effort being well stopped by the out coming England number one.

The contest saw some very poor officiating mainly from the referee’s assistant on the Brondby left, as the Romanian lines-woman was getting some clear cut calls horribly wrong and most of them seemed to involve Nikita Parris at the forefront of them.  

Collective hearts were in the mouths of all City fans just before the clock struck 90 minutes, when some late pressure led to the Danish champions having an effort that saw Karen Bardsley scrambling backwards to tip a shot onto the bar and way, after an cross come shot by Veje saw her effort coming off the crossbar late on.

The full time whistle came for the home side and was one of relief at the end, as they just did enough to win on the night and that after being on top for a large majority of the contest. Brondby though let their opponents know in this tie that they will need to up their game next week in Denmark if the Blues wish to progress further on in this competition.

 

Match winner Kiera Walsh spoke to Man City live presenter Kelly O’Donnell after the game and said of the encounter, “It was a tough game tonight, they was tough opposition but we goal in the end in the second half and we never stopped pushing. 

“We played our game in the second half and the result went out way. I mean in the first half they took the game to us and we rarely got out of our half in the first. But in the second half, we calmed down and played out game and got out of first gear and the game was all out after that. But they just kept really pushing us and were really tough to break down.”

When asked on her wonder goal, the midfielder couldn’t stop smiling when asked about it and told City, “Especially when I support City, you know to score in the Champions League you can’t really beat it.”

” My team mates keep taking the mick out of me and saying its coming every game, but it is a dream come true.”

 

 

Injury ravaged Storm pull off stunning win against the Panthers

photo   Panthers-News

Manchester Storm  4 – 3  Nottingham Panthers 

Manchester Storm performed a herculean effort to defeat the Nottingham Panthers 4-3 on Saturday night as they played the entire final period with only two lines after two of their star players with possible long-term injuries and had another thrown out in a controversial end to the second period.

For two periods Manchester seemed to be in control of the contest and had Taylor Dickin for the thanks for two goals for the hosts as they built up a 4-1 lead, but that was until controversy reared its head once again and saw chaos after the second period.

Early stages saw the sides pretty much even with no one really taking the advantage in the game and saw the defences on top starting out. Manchester then got fortunate with the opening goal of the game at 7:48, when a Mario Trubucco pass up ice for Matt Bissonette saw the Storm man forced to take a weak shot at Miika Wiikman in the Panthers net and had the puck rebounding in off Alex Nikiforuk for the leading goal. 

Storm then doubled their lead minutes later, when a power play goal by Taylor Dickin saw him batting down a puck out of the air from a Cody Cartier shot and the redirecting it past the goalie at the front of the net to put the hosts 2-0 at 11:54. Shortly after that it saw Nottingham cutting the deficit in half through a Matt Carter strike, as defenseman Eric Lindhagen played a quick pass up the middle for Carter, who then found himself one on one with Mike Clemente and saw his initial shot saved by the Goalie but was quick enough to the puck in on the rebound to make it 2-1 at 13:11 

14980658_1810359659243316_4385579762583173836_n

Photos by Aaliyah & Mark Ferriss of All Sports Photography

Manchester took firm control of the first period and that shown with them outshooting their opponents 12 to 5. Play in the second period was a mixed bag for the home team, as the Storm continued their good play throughout the second stanza and had them not giving the visitors much of a sniff in truth. The home side were on top for virtually the whole period and looked to further increase their lead with some good attacks as they looked dangerous coming forward.

 

Nottingham then began to test Mike Clemente in the Manchester nets more, but had their shots not really troubling as such and was keeping the away side at bay. Cody Cartier then made it a 3-1 game with a tap home at 24:27 and that then saw the visitors starting to throw their weight around a lot more and upping their hitting too.

Prior to the game it had the Storm dealt a huge blow with the loss of arguably their best defenseman in Conor Varley missing from the line up due to illness, so that put the home side in as spot of bother and needed an all round team effort to be a more defensively sound than normal.

Things got a bit harder for the Manchester side as the period went on, as firstly they lost their joint points scorer in Darian Dziurzynski for the game, after the Canadian took a tumble and crashed heavily into the corner boards in the Panthers zone and saw him unable to return to the contest.

14890361_1810361142576501_2844504721076436862_o
Storm celebrate scoring on the Panthers:   Photos by Aaliyah & Mark Ferriss of All Sports Photography

 

Taylor Dickin then made it four for the Altrincham side, after Matt Bissonnette had just got out of the box for serving a tripping penalty and saw him joining in on a play after Cartier had poked it in his direction and saw a three on one, with Dickin finishing off the move at the halfway point of the contest and saw Manchester punishing yet more sloppy Panthers play.

 

With the period coming to the end it saw another in a long line of disputed goals being given in the rink entrance end, as Nottingham attacked and saw the puck ending up in the back of the net but saw no light coming on. Referee Tom Pering then discussed whether it was a goal or not and whether the puck had gone under the net inside of the conventional way of between the pipes. 

After small consultation between the linesmen and the match referee, it saw the official calling the captains over to discuss the result of his findings and gave the goal which drew anger from the home fans, as well as the players and had Paul Phillips handed a ten minute penalty for abuse of official and had the Storm bench irate with the call. That wasn’t the last of the action though in the second, as from the restart it saw tempers flaring and mini stand-off between the players.

14938247_1810361049243177_5705259590180261728_n
Storm’s Patrik Valcak & Nottingham’s Jeff Brown have a slight disagreement :Photos by Aaliyah & Mark Ferriss of All Sports Photograpy

However Mario Trubucco then had three Panthers surround him and pulling him all over, while Patrik Valcak and Jeff Brown then tangled and resulted in both men wrestling to the ground and saw the Nottingham man landing on top of Valcak, with the referee seemingly having lost control of the situation. Trubucco who did little if any anything at all during the stand-off, saw the Manchester man getting a game penalty for leaving the bench, when in fact the period had ended and saw him heading for the door before watching on what was going on.

What made matters worse for the hosts now, was that they were now down three players, as with Dziurzynski and Trubucco missing for the third period, Storm now had to do without the services of Czech Patrik Valcak who had sustained an injury from the aggro after the period with Brown. This meant that Paul Swindlehurst was now asked to play forward instead of defence and had the Storm coach Omar Pacha having to shake his lines up a bit, with only 6 forwards and 4 defenceman at his disposal, while Phillips sat in the penalty box for the first half of the period.

The third period was completely dominated by Nottingham as with them having their tails up after the second, it saw Storm basically just trying to hold onto what they had for the rest of the game. Manchester’s constantly icing of the puck up was a method that wasn’t helping the home side and the visible sight of the Manchester players trying their best to catch a second wind through tiredness was there for all to see, and would have been boost for the Panthers players too see.

Manchester had Mike Clemente in nets to thanks at times for the side in the game, as without his saves at key moments in the period then the away team really would have run away with the contest without doubt. Nottingham did add to their total with on the scoreboard, after a nice little pass from Matt Carter saw Alex Nikiforuk redeeming himself after the goal that he unfortunately conceded in the first to make it a goal game.   

Play remained largely in the Manchester zone and saw Dickin at one point going to ground and spreading himself big to stop the puck going across goal and then saw Omar Pacha taking one for the team, as he took a blast to his body from a shot and had the home side were putting it all on the line in which to keep the Panthers side out. Nottingham Head Coach Corey Neilson then pulled his netminder with over a minute of play to go, but the Storm stood to their task and blocked shot after shot after shot from the Panthers shooters and nearly had Jack Prince sealing the win but for a last second invention by a visiting player diving to stop the puck going in.

As the last few seconds of the game ticked down, it saw Clemente coming under even more heavy fire and did enough to see the clock out and despite the angry protests of the visiting players wanting time to be added on to the clock, it saw David Clarke being the most vocal of the Nottingham side not happy with the game ending. The win was the most hard-earned two points that the home side have collected in just their second season back, but was also their first win over the Midlands side since the team entered the Elite League last year. 

Victory moved the Storm to fifth in the Elite League table and have a tough few games with the uncertainty of a few of their players currently,  as they faced Coventry on Sunday night before a Scottish home double-header against Dundee on Friday and then Braehead on Saturday. 

Cubs Clinch Historic World Series crown To End 108 Year Title Wait

2016-world-series-logo

In the early hours of Thursday Morning at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio it saw one of the most memorable and action packed Game sevens in recent World Series history finally coming to end, with the Chicago Cubs finally ending their 108-year wait for a title to win 8-7 in a heart-stopping game over the Cleveland Indians to be crowned World Series Champions for 2016. It saw the rare occasion of a World Series pitting two sides that wasn’t best known for their championship winning exploits in recent times with the Cubs and Indians. But the series more than made up for it with a thoroughly entertaining series that was full of twists and turns and needed a 10th innings to determine a winner in an epic series decider. 

In the end it saw Chicago turning a page in their somewhat tumultuous storied Franchises history and have the team from the ‘North Side’ of the Windy City, prevailing after 108 years without a success. In truth the series should have been wrapped up far earlier by the Cleveland, with the Ohio outfit looking back and wondering how on earth they didn’t put the series to bed. With the Indians having taken a 3-2 series lead back with them from Chicago on Sunday night, it was almost nailed on that Cleveland would close out the series on their home turf, with the final two games being played out of Cleveland.

However the Cubbies who have shown plenty of grit and adopted a ‘never say die’ attitude to their play in this post season and also the regular season. The Cubs shown their battling qualities going from a game down against the LA Dodgers in the National League Championship Series (NLCS) to then coming back and reaching the World Series. After the Chicago staved off elimination in Game six with a 9-3 win to tie the series after winning two successive games on the bounce, it saw the series heading to an exciting game seven. 

This was no ordinary Game 7 to a World Series, as for both these franchises it gave a chance to end their own personal droughts in Baseball and also in American Sports period. Once the game got under way it saw Dexter Fowler putting Chicago in front with a an opening home-run off Indians pitcher Corey Kluber in the opening innings to put the Cubs ahead in the ball game. Cleveland tied the game up in the bottom of the third through a Carlos Santana hit down the line, that allowed Coco Crisp to make it back for home and make it a 1-1 game.

Top of the fourth saw the Cubs going back in front again through a Kris Bryant score, with the Third Baseman sliding under the catcher to touch base and move 2-1 in front. Willson Contreras then struck a double with long fly ball that bounced off the far wall and that saw Ben Zobrist make it from third-base to give Chicago a 3-1 lead and put them firmly in the driving seat.

With the Indians not scoring in their first four innings, things only got worse for the home side as the game moved to the fifth, after Javier Baez then homered to extend their lead even further for the Cubs and go 4-1 up. Cleveland management then took Corey Kluber out of the firing line and replaced him with pitcher Andrew Miller, after Kluber had restricted the opponents to just one run in two games he had pitched in during the series. This brought the Cleveland management to mound and made the change as they wanted to try to stem the flow of runs that the Cubs were scoring at will. 

Shortly after the change, it saw Anthony Rizzo drilling a ball into right field and that allowed Kris Bryant to make his way from first base all the way home for another run and that put Chicago 5-1 up now at the top of the fifth. The home team then caught a lucky break their way when Jon Lester threw a wild pitch that bounced off the dirt and struck David Ross on the face cage of his helmet and ran away and that led to Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis both pick up runs for the Indians, to make it a 5-3 game and give the hosts a bit of hope. 

In the next innings it saw Ross who was part of the incident that gave up two-runs for Cleveland then redeeming himself, as he struck a home run to make it a 6-3 and was a perfect way to end his career on in what was his final ever play. With Jose Ramirez scoring for the Indians after a Brandon Guyer line drive to make it a closer game at 6-4, it then saw the moment that turned the game on its head. 

rtx2rmuj-1024x690
Rajai Davis celebrates his home run to tie game at 6-6 Picture: MLB.com

With Aroldis Chapman then brought on by Cubs Manager Jon Maddon to close the game out, Rajai Davis then made sure that was not going to be the case and smashed a homer left field and just strayed inside the outfield to make it all-square ball at 6-6. That moment could have possibly saw Chicago seeing their moment of triumph disappear at the point and maybe to triumph at all. Cleveland seemed to have staggered their opponent who for the most of the game looked to be on course for their first World Series success in 108 years, but now found themselves having to dig deep and show their grit once again in an even game.

After a scoreless 9th for both teams it meant now that this World Series decider would be heading to extra innings to determine a winner in this topsy-turvy series. With both clubs having gone so long without a championship to speak off, it did seem like at times that the pressure or inability on both sides to seal victory was affecting both sides and seemed to be theme in the last three games of the series.

With the drama that was ongoing on the field and the tension being knock up a few notches, there was yet more drama added as the heavens opened up prior to the 10th innings and caused a rain delay that lasted nearly 20 minutes and saw the ball game going past midnight. Both teams headed to their respective locker rooms and had the coaches chatting amongst themselves with the umpires on the weather.

When play did restart it had Ben Zobrist nailing a ground ball double down the left line of the field and just evaded the third baseman to let in Albert Almora and he made it 7-6 to the Cubs and moved Anthony Rizzo onto third. The looks of joy and celebrations from Zobrist and Rizzio told their own stories, and had the Cubs seemingly edging nearer to glory and gaining momentum back their way now. Miguel Montero then struck a single which saw Rizzio touching back for base and opening up a two run lead for Chicago, as the Cubs dugout came out to urge him home and celebrate a 8-6 lead after the tenth.

Cleveland knew the score now going into the bottom of the innings, anything less than two runs for the Indians and the title went Midwest. Cubs Manager Jon Maddon then made a pitching change before the innings got underway and put in Carl Edwards Jr for the outgoing Aroldis Chapman with the Cubbies looking to seal the game and take the series.

Mike Napoli struckout and saw the first out going down for the home side and when Jose Ramirez followed soon after with Addison Russell throwing to first base for Anthony Rizzo to run him out, it seemed that it was all over bar the shouting. Brandon Guyer then got walked to first base and saw Cleveland’s last bit of defiance come, when Rajai Davis hit a ball down center field and was collected by Dexter Fowler to which allowed Guyer to get back home and see it become a one run game at 8-7. 

 

 

gettyimages-620748132-a996afcf-e5f2-4be5-969c-b6603fdc2eff
                       Chicago Cubs players celebrate winning World Series                           Picture: Time Magazine

Chicago then had another little conference at the mound and that saw sprung another change as Mike Montgomery came in to the ball game for Edwards Jr. Montgomery with his first pitch to Michael Martinez saw a strike and then his second pitch brought an end to proceedings and series for that matter, as Martienz hit a ground ball that saw Kris Bryant running to collect it and had Anthony Rizzo getting the last out and confirmed the Chicago Cubs as World Series winners. 

The winning out sparked wild celebrations on the field among the Cubs players and management and also in the stands with a large contingent of fans that had made the way from Chicago to be there. It was a series that by many pundits was to be a case of the Cubs having too much for the Indians overall and that the bullpen and big hitters that Chicago had would be the telling factor. Arguably the Cubs turned the series in their favour last Sunday and was the key game of the series in Game 5 at Wrigley Field, as prior to that meeting the home side had only won once in the opening four games of the series to that point and the 3-2 win for Chicago gave them a massive boost as they headed to Cleveland.

It did have the series being mainly one for the away team over the course of the series, with the home side winning just two out the seven games in the series and none were more vital than that elimination game on Sunday night at Wrigley Field. Had Cleveland shut down the Cubs in the 4th innings of that Game five and not allowed the three runs they conceded, then perhaps we may well have looked at the series being done and dusted in Chicago.

chicago-cubs-world-series-parade-signs-best-of
Cubs fan celebrates his team winning Game 7  Picture: S.I .com

There is one side note to this series and one that i just touched on above, it was the fact that home advantage normally is vital for teams in the post season and for this particular series it seemed to less of a blessing and more of a curse. So in some ways the home crowd did prove to be a bit of a factor overall but not necessarily in a good way at all. For the two ball clubs it felt more like they were more relaxed on the road than they were at Progessive Field or Wrigleyville in front of their own fans. 

You could make a case that pressure got to Cleveland or that they just became complacent with their 3-1 lead when heading home for Games 6 and 7. But despite the Indians slipping up in the series, Manager Terry Francona should be applauded for taking his side to the club first World Series in 19 years after their last appearance back in 1997 and have a young squad that with some more planning could easily be back next year.

Meanwhile Chicago who was without question the ‘best team in baseball’ during the course of the regular season, they finally made transfer that to the postseason and ended the hoodoo on them clinched an elusive World Series crown after fifteenth post-season attempts since there last victory in 1908.  

World Series Cubs Indians Baseball
Cubs Owner Tom Ricketts lifts the World Series trophy in the Chicago locker room  Picture: MLB.COM

Draw in the Battle of the ‘Blues’ for the Invincibles!

                                                 Manchester-City-Crest (3)download

 

Manchester City  Women   1-1  Birmingham City Ladies

trophylift Taken from Man City.com

The curtain came down on the Women’s Super League for Manchester City Women this past Sunday, as the side remained unbeaten and became ‘the Invincibles’ by going the whole season without a single defeat as they finished with a 1-1 draw against Birmingham City Ladies. It was only a few weeks ago that two teams met in this year’s Continental Cup Final at the Academy Stadium at start of October, with the home side coming out on top 1-0 thanks to a Lucy Bronze header in Extra Timer proving to be the winner.

It saw the club trying to create a party atmosphere ahead of their final WSL match of the 2016 season against Birmingham, with the title-presentation taking place after the game was over. Many may have thought that this game was a dead rubber and one that the home side would easily wrap up. However much like some big parties you get now and then, it saw Birmingham Ladies becoming the party poopers of the piece and wasn’t in the party mood. When the sides met in the cup final less than a month ago, it saw the West Midlands club coming out hard and not giving their hosts any easy way in ot to the game.

City had the first chance in the game afterward Jill Scott prodded a shot on goal but was collected by Berger in the Birmingham goals. Minutes later and the visitors were then awarded a penalty in the 5th minute of the game, after Lucy Bronze was adjudged to have fouled Andrine Hegerberg in the penalty box and it had looked like the England defender had pulled out of the challenge. Aofie Mannion was given the duties of taking the penalty for Birmingham City Women and after going early with her first effort before the whistle, it saw her initial penalty beating the England keeper all ends up and she repeated the feat a second sending the City keeper the wrong way.

The home fans were stunned by their sides going behind so early in the game and was only the fourth goal conceded by City this season in the WSL. City found it really difficult to get their creative spark going at first as their play was very sloppy and looked anything but a team that was undefeated all year. Chances were far and between for the hosts, as Birmingham shown their defensive capabilities once more and made it difficult for the home side throughout. Demi Stokes went close for the home side after she battled her way into the Birmingham penalty area and saw her effort stopped by Berger once again, with the former PSG keeper having another good game for the visitors. City created a clump of chances then soon after, as Kosovare Asllani saw her linking up with Jane Ross and had the Swede bringing another good stop by the keeper. Toni Duggan was the City next player to try her luck from range, with the England International shooting from outside the box and narrowly missing the target and had it gone it would most certainly have been candidate for Goal of the Season.

It was a very frustrating game for the home fans to watch, as with the Citizens trailing still to that early goal by Birmingham, they did seem to be shell-shocked for a certain amount of time and took them a while to get back to their normal play. Sloppy play seemed to be a common theme in the City team during the first half of the game, as balls were squirming under foot and passes were being played to invisible man at times. The hosts quite clearly wanted to finished their season on high note and try to have their undefeated record intact. Lucy Bronze who was the match-winner against her opponents in the Continental Cup at the start of the month, Bronze then saw her firing a fierce volley on target and needed Berger to be very alert to the shot. 

City over the course of the season always seemed to find a way to breakdown their opponents and score when it mattered, so after 54 minutes gone in the game it saw a huge stroke of luck for the home side when Demi Stoke put in a deep cross saw the ball dropping in for a goal to level the game up at 1-1. The cross come-shot then gave the home side the incentive to push on for a winning goal and saw the energy levels in the home side doubled and see City on the up now. Jill Scott saw her shot just missing the target and then moments later the Birmingham goalkeeper was on hand to deny Steph Houghton’s free kick mid-way through the half.  

The hosts pushed for a winning goal and none seemed to be forthcoming for the Manchester side, while their opponents were very content on just trying to soak up pressure and take a point out of the game. Jennifer Beattie saw her shot on goal turned aside by the Berger once more and then from the resulting corner saw Jill Scott having a goal chalked off for an apparent foul on the keeper in the process. City brought on Nikita Parris for the final twenty-minutes or so and had the former Everton striker almost celebrating a goal minutes from coming on.  Sadly for her, Berger pulled out one more save from her locker as she got the slightest of fingertips to the ball to deny Parris giving City the lead as it ball bounced back off the crossbar. Despite all the best efforts that the newly-crowned Champions could throw at their opponents,  it saw the game finished in a stalemate and had Nick Cushing side finishing the season unbeaten and becoming the female ‘Invincibles’.

With the domestic season now done and dusted now for the year, it gives the Blues time to recover and look forward to the visit of Danish side Brondby IF to the Academy Stadium next Wednesday Night in the Women’s Champions League. The match will see the Blues being tested far more this time around than that of their last opponents from Russia, as the Russian side struggled to register a shot hardly in almost 180 minutes of play.