LANCASTER started their North Lancashire campaign with a potentially tricky mid-week trip to Burnley, who in the past have provided a somewhat physical challenge to visitors to their small pool.
Lancaster’s young NLL squad has been together over the past three to four years now and are now more physically mature than in those early days.
They are also more physically capable of handling themselves and despite one or two little wobbles, the players acquitted themselves well, dominating from start to finish.
Although only two goals to the good at the end of the first period thanks to goals from Decland Ellwood and Scott Sharpe, only a series of missed chances kept the score line anywhere near respectable for Burnley whilst in defence Ben Walker, Michael Brown and Steve Smith kept control of Burnley’s attackers.
Lancaster were far more used to attacking the deep end and soon built up a more comfortable lead, scoring regularly throughout their forays against the Burnley defence.
Robert Simpson led the scoring with seven goals but all of Lancaster’s players managed some contribution including youngster Josh Barratt with his first North Lancs senior goal.
Burnley battled on to the end and Luke Saul provided some entertainment for his colleagues when, exasperated at taking a couple of elbows, an over enthusiastic leap over one of the Burnley attackers in the shallow end resulted in Luke being excluded.
No real harm was done though and the game ended peacefully with a comfortable victory for Lancaster.
THE second game of the season was another away fixture, this time with a tricky challenge against a Kendal side which had taken the points in the equivalent fixture last year.
Detko elected to attack the deep end first and the decision proved useful as Decland Ellwood with a first quarter hat-trick put Lancaster three goals ahead.
Credit also must go to Steve Smith and Michael Brown who both handled ex-Lancaster players, Dan Barker and Miles Little who both took their turn to try and unsettle Lancaster’s defence.
Consequently Zak Sly had very little to do in a shallow end goal which is notoriously difficult to attack due to the shallowness of the pool.
Kendal pulled a goal back early in the second period but with Detko replacing Smith in defence the opposition attackers again struggled to make much of an impact. Lancaster scored two further gaols from counter attacks courtesy of Michael Brown and Luke Saul to take a 5-1 half-time lead.
The third period was a tight affair. Kendal scored first only for Steve Smith to net with a powerful back hand. Kendal then broke away to score again but Elliot Trafford re-established Lancaster’s four goal lead.
The final quarter proved a tense affair with Kendal steadily reducing the deficit as Lancaster lost their stranglehold on the game.
Fortunately they didn’t find their scoring boots until half way through the quarter but two quick blue exclusions led to a fifth Kendal goal reducing the deficit to two.
As Kendal’s morals rapidly increased so Lancaster’s nervousness started to tell. Lancaster lost the services of Ellwood and sloppy attacking play led to the unnecessary loss of possession and Kendal notched a third with two and half minutes still remaining.
The home side then had a clear opportunity to level in the final minute when Detko was excluded but a fine save from Sly saved the day and Lancaster held on for the victory.
Lancaster: Z Sly, Steve Smith, Sam Smith, R Detko (capt), D Ellwood, M Brown, E Trafford, R Simpson, N Howson, S Sharpe, B Walker, L Saul, J Alker, J Barratt.