The much awaited opening game of the 2015-16 season took place at The Greenbank Sports Centre on Sunday.
Autumn as we all know is the season of bountiful harvests and yet this autumnal opener to the season, was bereft of that all too important ingredient of great games……..goals!
Liverpool HC had benefited from a 3 game round robin tournament 24 hours earlier and the expected honing of shooting skills sadly came to little, in a game dominated by defences.
Surprisingly unable to field a full complement of players, Coach Malone (sporting a Jürgen Klopp replica beard) left Mike Irving and Omar Althebani on the bench as the game started. A surprising start indeed, as Loughborough rattled the Merseysiders by scoring the first goal of the game. This however, would be the only time that the ‘Purple Avengers’ sporting the most vivid of migraine inducing kits, would head the contest.
After 10 minutes and the score at 3 –3 Liverpool then started to exercise their dominance and stretched to a three goal lead that was never narrowed as the first half closed 9 – 6 to the home team.
The first half had been punctuated all too infrequently by goals. This in the main, being down to strong defence, good goalkeeping and weak shooting. Eckersall pulled off a number of sharp saves in the Liverpool goal whilst Whittaker scored a brace of fine six metre goals which auspiced well for the second half, but as with so many Christmases, disappointment is not far away! Despite the strong defensive showing of both squads, only one 2 minute penalty was issued by the refs in a first half, littered with missed chances. Brandt, Clark and Feery defended stoutly however, the failure to exploit the fast break abilities of Hughes and Bousique-Green meant Loughborough were let off easily as ponderous attacks stemmed from Liverpool’s strong defence.
HT; LHC 9 LUHC 6
The second half followed the pattern of the first, with the squandering of plenty of chances from both teams. The growing confidence of Althebani and his agility at 6 metre proved a great foil to the hardworking Whittaker who pressurised the Loughborough defence constantly in the 9 metre area.
Brandt who finished up as top scorer for Liverpool took advantage of widening gaps in the LUHC defence to score 3 goals in very quick succession. This burst of energy and goal scoring was matched later in the game with two, ‘2 minutes’ in the 54th and 58th minutes and no doubt a welcome break on the Liverpool bench. Irving, Clark and Bousique-Green who failed to net could learn from the gymnastic display of Althebani who ‘ribboned’ the LUHC defence on a number of occasions and threw so many dummies, spectators were falling out of their seats.
Althebani completed Liverpool’s second half scoring with two goals and Liverpool cruised to a 17 -11 victory despite being handicapped by Brandt’s resuscitation on the side-lines.
Overall, much endeavour from Liverpool abetted by a little guile in attack ensured a winning start to the season and good preparation for the visit of Coventry on Saturday 31st.
As a postscript to this clash, the plea from spectators for the resurrection of the much loved ‘fast break’ and a speedier transition from defence to attack will no doubt ensure a more fruitful autumn and winter campaign for LHC. Certainly, this plea will be echoed by winger Hughes who for long periods of time echoed the sentiments of 80’s TV character Yozzer Hughes pleading ‘giz a job’ as the 20 metre wide court was narrowed all too often to a blunt arrowhead aimed at the heart of the LUHC back line.
by Paul Forester