Newcastle Vikings Handball Club’s men’s and women’s teams both travelled down to Manchester for Saturday’s English North Regional League matches, although came away defeated but with their heads held high.
The Vikings men were only able to field six available players as they took on the University of Manchester for the second time in a month at the Sugden Sports Centre. But they defied the odds to keep themselves in the game throughout, working really well together in defence to limit the chances for Manchester’s students while creating opportunities for themselves to score at the other end. Half-player Adam Batley opened Newcastle’s account before a brace from centre Pablo Docampo. Captain Adam Mobberley quickly made up for a missed penalty by scoring from the wing and line positions, and Thomas Harrison netted from the opposite wing as the Vikings went into the half-time break just one goal behind at 7-6.
Buoyed by their first-half performance, Newcastle began the second-half in similar vein with some strong defensive teamwork keeping the opposition at bay, while moving the ball well in attack to create spaces for both the back-court players and wingers. Docampo’s treble sandwiched further strikes from Harrison and Batley to briefly edge the Vikings 11-9 ahead.
However, the Manchester side took advantage of Batley’s two-minute suspension to get back into the game, while adopting a 4-2 defensive formation in the latter stages to try to stop Newcastle’s attacking plays. Mobberley, Fedi Boussema and two more goals from Batley kept them in the close-fought contest, while goalkeeper Matthew Lamb continued to make some good saves between the posts before Docampo’s ankle injury forced him to have to go in goal for the last five minutes. In the end they were unable to pull out an unlikely victory as the University of Manchester edged out a narrow 17-15 home win again, but Newcastle’s lads were nevertheless proud with the way they had played with a man down for the whole game.
Meanwhile, over at Sale High School, the Vikings women were also in action at the same time against a newly-formed Trafford Handball Club team that featured several former Manchester players. The home side made the better start as Newcastle struggled to close down their twin line-player attack. Vikings line player Blessing Ogbee eventually got Newcastle on the scoreboard, but Trafford opened out their lead to seven before sister Ed Ogbee fired in a couple of penalty strikes either side of goals from left-half Judyta Turulska and right-winger Marie Thompson. By half-time Trafford had built an 11-5 advantage.
However, Newcastle came out with far more energy and drive in the second half as they sought to close the gap. Right-half Alina Inta netted a penalty and one from the back-court, player-coach Marlen Slinning Goulty cleverly lobbed the keeper from the line position, and Thompson converted two perfectly-placed penalties either side of Turulska’s brace from the right-wing as the Vikings took advantage of a double two-minute suspension for the home side to claw their way back to within four.
Turulska and Blessing Ogbee each fired in from the wings, but Goulty’s late suspension allowed Trafford to regain the upper hand and stretch their lead again. Inta rounded off Newcastle’s scoring as Trafford ultimately ran out 21-15 winners, but the Vikings ladies were pleased to have at least matched the home side in the second-half with their much-improved performance and positive team spirit.
Newcastle Vikings men: Matthew Lamb (GK), Adam Batley (4 goals), Adam Mobberley (3), Thomas Harrison (2), Mohamed Fedi Boussema (1), Pablo Docampo (5).
Newcastle Vikings women: Andrea King (GK), Marie Thompson (3 goals), Marlen Slinning Goulty (1), Judyta Turulska (4), Ed Ogbee (2), Blessing Ogbee (2), Alina Inta (3).