LANCASTER City played their National Water Polo Junior Boys Championships Final at Manchester Aquatic Centre on April 28, where they took on Sheffield Water Polo Club.
Lancaster had three players, Scott Sharpe, Tom Grieve and Lewis Peach in London preparing for an Olympic test event plus their Junior team coach, Zak Sly.
Lancaster started strongly as Sam Smith opened the scoring.
Sheffield tried to hit back but solid defending and excellent goalkeeping kept Sheffield goalless.
Lancaster drove forward again and Sam Smith scored his second goal.
Another Lancaster attack was rewarded with a Sheffield exclusion and from the extra-man situation Sam scored to give Lancaster an early three goal lead.
Sheffield fought back and were awarded a penalty but keeper Matthias Reichel continued his dominance over Sheffield as the penalty taker dropped the ball in the process of taking the shot.
Lancaster drove forward and Smith was on hand to score his and Lancaster’s fourth goal of the game as Sheffield conceded a penalty.
Sheffield hit back before the break to score two goals to leave the score at the end of the first quarter Lancaster 4, Sheffield 2.
The second period started with a quick counter attack and a well-placed goal from Elliot Trafford.
Good strong centre forward work by Noel Howson then caused the Sheffield defender to be excluded. The resultant man-up was converted by Howson after some confusion in front goal.
Fast reflexes by Lancaster’s Reichel denied Sheffield a couple of goal scoring opportunities, hampering their desperate attempts to catch up on the score sheet.
Lancaster pressed forward and were awarded a penalty as the Sheffield defending became desperate.
However, Lancaster failed to score and were punished by Sheffield on the counter attack, leaving the score at the end of the second quarter Lancaster 6, Sheffield 3.
At the start of the third period Lancaster surged forward again and from a set play Mathew Calvert executed a delightful lob shot to increase their lead.
Sheffield responded with some dogged attacking and were rewarded with a goal.
This was quickly followed-up by a Lancaster set attacking play which found Smith, who scored a back-flick shot for his fifth goal.
Lancaster continued to press as Sheffield’s desperate defence conceded exclusion.
Ben Walker converted the extra man situation but Sheffield then replied with two quick goals.
The game was still very much in the balance as the score stood at Lancaster 9, Sheffield 5.
Sheffield, buoyed by the two quick goals, scored again to narrow the gap to three goals.
Lancaster, with the dominance of Smith in front of goal, scored to ease the nerves and give his side a 10-6 lead at the end of the third quarter.
The game was finely balanced with the next goal crucial, and it was Lancaster’s Smith who popped up to score his seventh goal of the game, completely out playing the Sheffield defence.
Lancaster continued to push forward and Smith crowned a brilliant displaywith his eighth score of the game.
Sheffield had no answer to Lancaster’s high pressure game, and the final score was Lancaster 12-7 Sheffield.
Matthias Reichel in Lancaster’s goal made many outstanding saves throughout the game and was a key player for his team.
Elliott Trafford and Ben Walker worked tirelessly in defence and supported the forwards when necessary.
James Alker and Mathew Calvert were inspirational in attack and defence as they worked to cover the hard pressed forwards.
Noel Howson and the inspired Sam Smith gave the Sheffield defence an enormous headache as they continued to threaten goal at every opportunity.
Sam Routledge worked hard and gave everything, as did Andy Robinson.
Luke Saul showed off his swimming speed as he troubled the Sheffield defence when the opportunity arose. Lancaster’s remaining players were all players who had just competed in the victorious Youth final, Dominic Lock, James Pratt and Sebastian Reichel.
As always a big thank you must go the three coaches, Ron Winn, Zak Sly and Gary Ellwood for the hard work they put in before and during the competition. The coaches also would like to thank the newly appointed team manager Maggie Prayle for the organisation of the transport and hotels.