Shot-shy Manchester Phoenix lose ground in EPL title battle after 2-0 defeat to Bracknell Bees

By Steven Oldham

Manchester Phoenix are now four points behind leaders Basingstoke Bison in the English Premier League following a 2-0 home defeat to Bracknell Bees last night. 

Tony Hand’s men put in an out-of-sorts performance and failed to score for the first time this season. 

Phoenix now have 51 points and sit third in the table, with new leaders Bison on 55 after beating Peterborough Phantoms 5-1 at home.  Guildford Flames slip to second after a 2-1 away defeat to Milton Keynes Lightning. 

Coach Hand said: “A disappointing night with us not taking our chances. We just don’t seem to be able to convert at the moment. However respect to Bracknell, they came with a game plan and executed it well.” 

Netminder Steve Fone was again missing having not recovered from a groin injury sustained in last weekend’s game against Bison, so Jorge El-Hage again took to the ice for a full game. 

Phoenix’s blank scoreboard was not through a lack of attempts – in a goalless first period, Manchester had 19 shots in as many minutes. 

Bracknell however held firm with netminder Carl Ambler producing good saves to deny Ondrej Pozivil and Richard Bentham.

The home supporters were silenced however within three minutes of the restart as Bracknell took the lead through Lukas Smital. 

El-Hage saved Martin Masa’s initial effort, but the rebound fell kindly for the Czech veteran, who provided the assist for Bracknell’s second and winning goal five minutes later.

A mix up in the Phoenix back line allowed James Galazzi to find Smital, who in turn fed Masa who was able to double the visitor’s lead. 

That may have been the last goal, but the game had plenty more incident and controversy left in it yet. 

With just over ten minutes to go, Bees’ Sam Oakford slashed Andy McKinney which resulted in a brawl between the two. This proved to be McKinney’s last contribution to the game after a penalty for roughing combined with a ten minute penalty for instigating the fight. 

Oakford was removed from play for six minutes, two for the initial slash and four for roughing.  This wasn’t the end of the scrapping however as Galazzi and Pozivil clashed near the benches a couple of minutes later. 

Both players were given roughing penalties, with the Bees man coming out on top in this fight.

Both Tom Duggan and Robert Schnabel were also penalised, with Duggan getting a ten minute misconduct punishment for reacting to his Czech team mate’s slashing penalty.

This win was for the first for Bracknell over Phoenix this season after losing the first three meetings, however it is their fourth straight victory in the league. 

Today, Phoenix make the return journey to Bracknell looking to halt a dip in form having only gained one point from their last three games.  It is certain to be a competitive game given the fiery end to yesterday’s game, and with the season progressing, it is imperative Phoenix win to keep the pressure up on the leading pair in the table.

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Photo courtesty of Rai Pekannen, with thanks

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