London Raiders coach has goalie ‘problem’
PUBLISHED: 17:00 02 December 2016
Blyth undecided on who will start against Bracknell
London Raiders coach Alan Blyth admits he has a problem – he doesn’t know who to put in goal for the visit of National League rivals Bracknell Hornets on Sunday.
Blyth, a former goalie himself, saw Michael Gray produce a 44-save shutout as Raiders recorded the first 0-0 draw in their long history at Streatham last Sunday.
And that came after Euan King, so impressive between the pipes since his return to the club, had made 36 saves in a 4-3 home loss against Streatham the night before.
“It’s a good problem to have, whichever way around there will be questions asked either way,” said Blyth.
“They’re both good goalies and I’m still not sure who will play this weekend. Euan has been a true professional since joining us and the defence have been nice and relaxed and more composed.
“Maybe it has been easier for him to settle in with some of the defencemen having played with him in Chelmsford last season.
“But Michael was under pressure to perform on Sunday, with the way Euan has been playing, and he justified his start.
“It will be a judgement call nearer face-off time on Sunday. We’ve only got one game this weekend too, so only one of them can play this weekend.
“We will be very disappointed if we don’t come away with the two points. We need our home form back again to what it was a couple of weeks ago.”
Raiders had gone unbeaten in their first six home matches of the season, before losing 4-2 to Invicta two weeks ago.
And they came up short by the odd goal in seven last weekend against Streatham, much to Blyth’s frustration.
He added: “We started pretty well on Saturday, but then had a long period when we were not really doing anything. There was no real spark.
“It wasn’t until the third period that we got going again and it was too late to get back into the game by then.
“It set us up for Sunday, though, and it was a much better performance. Everybody came with a better frame of mind and more ready to play.”
Gray returned to the starting line-up for Raiders in south London, having last played in a 4-4 home draw with Streatham on October 29.
And he took centre stage with opposite number Matt Colclough as the pair proved unbeatable in a thrilling contest.
Blyth added: “Sunday should have been tougher, with Streatham having almost four lines to our two, they should’ve been fresher. But our guys seemed to get stronger and Streatham faded away.
“It was a really good game from a neutral perspective. It had everything except goals.
“Usually you don’t like to draw, but if either team had won, it would have been harsh on the other team.
“Streatham are probably one of the favourites for the league this season so to get a draw there with a short bench is pretty good. We had chances to win it towards the end too, which was a bit unfortunate.”
Raiders are hoping to bolster their ranks before the Christmas break, but Blyth does not expect big defenceman Julian Smith back from injury this weekend.
He added: “I’m not expecting Julian back, but anything is possible with hockey players. Everyone else should be okay.
“We’re definitely looking at bringing in one or two forwards. We’ve got a nice number of defencemen now, but need to help the forwards a bit.
Hopefully in the next week or two.
“Bailey Chittock is almost back to full fitness and the imports are helping out with making up a third line, but we’re one or two forwards away from where we would like to be.
“But I’m generally happy with how the squad is shaping up.”