Thursday, 23 February 2012

Flames prove too hot for Phoenix and Savage proves himself a hero

On Sunday I was one of 6,200 Brighton & Hove Albion fans who made the trip from Sunny Sussex to Not Quite So Salubrious Liverpool for what proved to be nothing short of an FA Cup ownership.

The Albion scored four goals. Three at the wrong end. Liverpool scored three of their own. And that was pretty much that. Well, apart from Brighton also clearing three off the line, villain in chief Luis Suarez having a penalty saved and Andy 'Caveman' Carroll placing a firm header against the bar.

The Independent's Tim Rich summed it up best, with his report on the match getting off to a wonderfully evocative start.

He wrote, "André Previn to Eric Morecambe: "This is Grieg's Piano Concerto, you are playing all the wrong notes." Eric Morecambe: "I am playing the right notes, sunshine, but not necessarily in the right order."

"Likewise, Brighton became the first visiting side since Arsenal in 2007 to score four times at Anfield, although the goals were not necessarily in the right net."

Top banana journalism.

However, it is fair to see, this week started on something of a downer.

Thank goodness then for the Guildford Flames and the wonderful game of ice hockey. Football may well be my first love, but hockey is coming up fast on the outside. A few more nights like Wednesday and it might even overtake football on the home straight.

The Flames took on Manchester Phoenix in the second leg of the Premier Cup semi final, with the score perfectly balanced at 2v2.

The home side - playing in front of a near packed out Spectrum Centre - started the better but struggled to either create clear cut chances, or finish the ones they did.

In fact, it took until the second period for the table-topping Flames to build up a genuine head of steam. With just over two minutes on the clock Ben Campbell put Guildford ahead. The game, it seemed, was going to script. And so it remained. For about 30 seconds.

Phoenix equalised less than a minute after going behind, with Slava Koulikov beating Mark Lee, before Ryan Johnson reacted quickest to put the visitors ahead - much to the delight of their dozen or so travelling fans.

The game was tense and hard-fought, with both teams trading penalty power plays and missed chances before David Longstaff evening it up with a deserved strike.

And, with Over Time looming, the Flames faithful looked to the big guns for inspiration. Much like Bonnie Tyler, they were holding out for a hero. A street-wise Hercules to fight the rising odds or a white knight upon a fiery steed. Where, they demanded to know, had all the good men gone? Where were all the gods?

Their answer arrived in the form of David Savage (pronounced savage by everyone but me, who prefers the more exotic savARge). With Phoenix shorthanded and the clock ticking down, Savage exchanged passes before slapping a howitzer of an effort into the roof of the net.

His reaction said it all. Leaping up in the air like an excited youngster who has just blagged a day off school, Savage was soon mobbed by his teammates.

Near me, an old lady with white hair and an Edmonton Oilers jacket on twirled an old wooden rattle.

This was cup glory. This was what football used to be like.

The future is bright. The future is hockey.

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