Newcastle Vikings’ men’s handball team travelled to take on Bolton Hussars on Sunday in a crunch top-of-the-table clash. Separated only on goal difference at the top of the England Handball North Regional Development League, this match was destined to be a tough battle right from the start.
The teams took a while to find their playing rhythm, both in defence as well as in attack, with hard defensive work from both sides forcing them to bring out their best offensive plays. Newcastle edged ahead however, thanks in particular to some great goals from top scorer Simon Heintz who put away seven from the right side, with Vikings goalkeeper Faisal Albathali defying the Bolton attack with some stunning saves at the other end.
For a team that have won all of their previous league fixtures this season by some significant goal margins, the Bolton side seemed somewhat stunned at half-time with the resistance and fight that the Vikings men came up with, as Newcastle edged an entertaining first half 10-8.
Bolton inevitably stepped up a gear in the second half, looking to secure another home win. Their strategy looking to be working as the Vikings’ let a few mistakes creep into their game, enabling the Hussars to draw level at 14-all. The match was equally hard fought from then on, each team trading goals. A crucial last minute equaliser by Sam Turner from a tight angle on the left wing brought it all square at 18-18, and as the Vikings pushed for a fast break win in the dying seconds time ran out before Heintz could shoot.
Initially a little disappointed about missed chances that might have snatched the win, the Vikings were ultimately satisfied to secure a creditable draw that arguably no-one expected before the game.
Newcastle Vikings: Faisal Albathali (GK), Peter Schichtel (2 goals), Simon Heintz (9), Jason Lee (2), Scott Garrow, Chris Bowe, Neil Bhandary, Jonathan Bastit (2), Matthew Lamb (1), Sam Turner (2)