A thrilling finish saw Newcastle Vikings Handball Club’s men claim an equaliser in the dying seconds of their England North Regional Development League clash against the University of Leeds’ Gryphons on Saturday at the Temple Park Leisure Centre in South Shields.
In a very evenly matched game where there was rarely more than a single goal separating the two sides throughout the 60 minutes, the home side’s goalscoring was led by half players Athbi Almarzouq and Stephan Stricker with eight and seven goals respectively. With a supporting goal apiece from wingers Wiktor Laczny and Matthew Lamb, Newcastle went into the half-time break one behind at 13-14.
Stalwart line player Craig Swanson set the ball rolling at the start of the second half with a well-deserved first Vikings goal of the season, while strikes from winger Gracjan Joppek, Stricker and Lamb, together with some crucial saves from goalkeepers Daniel Walsh and Faisal Albathali, ensured the teams kept level-pegging. A quick-fire Almarzouq hat-trick then put Newcastle tantalisingly ahead, but yet again the Gryphons pulled back and edged in front.
Young half player James Porter then struck his first senior Vikings goal to set up a tense finale. And with the clock running down into the final few seconds Laczny broke through the Leeds’ defence line to fire in the leveller for a 22-22 final scoreline.
Meanwhile, the University of Leeds’ women’s B team were forced to forfeit their game after being unable to field a full team of registered league players, granting Newcastle a default 10-0 win. The Vikings ladies nevertheless played out a 23-9 friendly win against a makeshift Leeds side, with Newcastle taking the opportunity to give several less experienced players valuable court time.
Newcastle Vikings men: Daniel Walsh (GK), Faisal Albathali (GK), Matthew Lamb (2 goals) Athbi Almarzouq (8), Gracjan Joppek (1), Craig Swanson (1), Florencio ‘Kole’ Viejo-Caballero, Wiktor Laczny (2), Robert Thompson, James Porter (1), Jonathan Bastit, Stephan Stricker (7), Holger Schulz