December 13 2013 Latest news:
Thursday, September 26, 2013
Forward happy to answer Marshall’s call
AJ Smith made a surprise return to the London Raiders line-up at former club Invicta at the weekend.
The forward had announced his retirement at the end of last season, when Raiders were forced out of their Rom Valley Way home due to the closure of the rink.
But Smith was back in gold and blue as Danny Marshall’s men put up a brave fight against the Dynamos in a 3-2 defeat and admitted it felt great.
He said: “It was really great being back out there, playing for the Raiders again. I loved it!
“Invicta away is a tough first game to be thrown back into after a summer off and only one training session and my legs were starting to give up on me a bit in the third period. But I came through it and I’ll be back to full fitness soon enough.
“I always keep myself fit throughout the summer anyway, so hopefully it won’t take too long!”
Having beaten Solent in their first match of the new National League Divisoin One season, at their new Lee Valley base, Raiders fell behind inside two minutes at Invicta.
Dynamos doubled their lead before JJ Pitchley replied with his fourth goal of the campaign, before the hosts claimed a third.
The scoreline remained unchanged until the 52nd minute, when Billy Phillips netted on a powerplay to give Raiders hope of salvaging a point.
It was not to be, as Dynamos held on with Chris Douglas making a total of 54 saves, but Smith felt there were lots of positives.
He added: “It was a great performance from all the lads as well. I know it was a loss but I feel we deserved at least a draw, if not the win as we were the better team for the final two periods.
“I think the rest of the league will take notice of that result and see that just because we’ve lost a few of last season’s key players and been forced out of our home rink and made to change our name to London, it doesn’t mean we’re no longer a top team!
“It was clear on Sunday that the Romford spirit is still alive and well within the team and within the fans.”
Smith’s call-up came with Frankie Harvey unavailable last weekend and he revealed he was only too happy to help.
“I told Marsh in the summer that if he was ever really short for a game he could give me a call and if I could help him out, I would,” added Smith.
“I just didn’t think that call would come only two weeks into the season!
“The original plan was that I would just come in to cover for Frankie, but speaking with Marsh and Ollie after the game I was told there was still a spot open for me if I wanted it and I did.
“It’s a great team of lads this year. We have kept the core players and added some great youngsters like [Nathan] Pollard and also added some experience with [Dwayne] Newman, who I’m looking forward to playing with this season.
“It’s great to be back in the team and I can’t wait to see what this season brings.”
Raiders host Invicta in a quick return at Lee Valley on Saturday (5.30pm), before making the short trip to Brixton to take on Streatham the following night.
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