The Lancaster City junior team started off their camping to retain the National title this weekend in Gloughster.
Lancaster was drawn into group B along with Cheltenham, City of Birmingham, London Penguin, Welsh Wanderers and Barnstaple, over two days in Gloucester.
In Group A, which played over a day in Watford was Watford, City of Manchester, Solihull, Basingstoke Bluefins, Castleford and City of Sheffield
Lancaster’s first game was against Barnstaple. Lancaster got off to a good start with the team bonding well. Lancaster gained seven manups during the game and converted all seven as well as putting away some quick counter attack goals and some six on six goals. The game finished 12 – 1 and Lancaster’s goal scorers were James Alker (4), Scott Sharpe (3), Zak Lamb (2), Joe Barker (1), Ben Walker (1) and Sebastian Reichel (1).
Lancaster second game was against London Penguin who was being coached by ex-Great Britain Coach Steve Baker Manager of the 2004 Commonwealth Bronze winning team.
The first four minutes of the game was more like a swimming gala, both teams were swimming up and down with some great goalkeeping from Dominic Lock. It was only when Penguin got a man sent out and Scott Sharpe scored did the game actually start. The next goal was a reversal of Lancaster opening goal, with Lancaster having a player sent out and London scoring. Lancaster hit back quickly with a goal from Ben Walker only for London to hit back with an equaliser.
With 42 seconds to go in the first half, Luke Saul quick counter attack took Lancaster one goal clear at the end of the first half. Lancaster knew they had to keep control of the game and in the second half Sebastian Reichel and captain Walker scored. The final result being Lancaster 5 London Penguin 3
Lancaster third and final game of the day was against Welsh Wanderers. Lancaster started off strong and kept a good lead through the game. The goal scoring was spread out over the team and Lancaster put away 10 goals; Sharpe (3), Noel Howson (2), Alker (2), Reichel (1), Baker (1) and James Pratt (1). The final score finished 10 -4
Lancaster had now qualified for the next round but still had two hard games to play the next day, Lancaster wanted to finish top for a better ranking. They had heard that in Group A Solihull, Basingstoke Bluefins, City of Manchester and Watford had qualified already.
Lancaster first game on Sunday was against a Strong Cheltenham team. Howson in the pit worked hard to get a penalty, but Lancaster failed to convert it. Reichel opened the scoring from five meters. Lancaster had a player excluded and Cheltenham equalised and with 15 seconds to go, they put another goal away which finished the half with Cheltenham leading 2 -1.
Lewis Peach won the swim off and some quick passing saw Reichel score his second goal. Some outstanding goalkeeping from Owain Llewellyn kept the scores level. Howson scored from the pit to take Lancaster one goal up with Cheltenham hitting back to make it 3 – 3. With 45 seconds to go Cheltenham took a time out but a strong Lancaster defence denied them of another goal and the game finished 3 -3.
Lancaster final game was against another strong opposition, who the day before beat Cheltenham in a close game. Walker opened the scoring for Lancaster but a quick Lancaster exclusion saw Birmingham bring the game back to level. A man down for Birmingham and some quick ball movement form the Lancaster team saw Sharpe from the top of the arc but the ball in the top corner. At Half time Lancaster took the lead 2-1 and they knew they had to keep hitting hard to win their final game.
Two minutes of hard work saw Howson get another penalty for Lancaster and Sharpe converted it into a goal. Birmingham hit back to shorten the lead by two goals, but some good pit work from Peach, saw him pass the ball out to the Saul on the wing and a quick one to pass to Reichel on the top of the arc saw him score his second goal and made the final score 4 – 2.
Lancaster finished top of their group and could only do that with the hard work from all 13 players in the team! Dominic Lock in goals made some outstanding saves with Llewellyn, Lancaster youngest player at 13, didn’t let his team down and pulled off some great saves. Walker captained his team well and played a big part in both defence and attack. Howson and Sharpe both played to a high standard in pit attack and pit defence and got several crucial man ups. Alker played an all-round good game and was Lancaster top goal scorer. Saul, Peach and Fox swimming made a big difference to the team, able to counter defence and slow the opposition attack down but also contributed well with their quick counter attack swims. Reichel had a good eye on the space in the water and was able to convert some well-placed goals. The younger players, who will play a big part in next weekend��s youth championships, Lamb, Barker and Pratt, just showed why they had been picked for the junior team. Lamb quick thinking put him one step of the game.
The Lancaster lads will now play the qualification round in Liverpool over the weekend of 13th and 14th April and will be hoping to finish in the top four to go through the semi-finals.