NORTHERN Section winners Salford beat Southern Section winners London GD 29-27 in a thrilling English National League play-off clash on Sunday.
Despite currently filling the second place spot, London GD went into the game confident. Having met Salford three times last season and winning each time, there would be no reason for them to expect anything but a victory this time round too.
Salford on the other hand could be far from confident. The last time these two teams met saw Salford end up on the wrong end of a 19 goal drubbing. A defeat that handed London GD last year's league title.
The game started tight with no team managing to turn their opening attacks into goals. However, London GD were first to break to deadlock and soon after had opened up a 4 goal to nothing lead.
At this stage there was a real danger of history repeating itself, but an opening goal from Salford's Aden Woodall seemed to ease the tension slightly and give the northerners the bit of a boost they needed. A few minutes later London GD were forced to call an early time out as Salford crept up on their lead and were now only trailing by two at 5-3.
The time out didn't help. With every attack that followed you could see the confidence growing in the youngsters from the north. All helped by their renowned strength in defence. As the sides grew level the turning of the tide was obvious. As the teams went in at half time Salford had returned the 4 goal deficit to go in ahead by a single goal at 12-11.
Clearly the start of the second half was going to be key now to the outcome of the game. If London GD could retake the lead and reopen their ealier advantage then the chances of Salford coming back again would be minimal. Once again crumbling to the southern superiority that had kept the title in the south for a number of years.
Salford, however, seemed to know what would be coming. Taking the time to refresh their line up, it was Salford that came out with all guns blazing, leaving their opponents shell shocked and trailing by 5 goals after just 5 minutes.
To their credit though London GD didn't give up. As true champions, they are always a threat and worked hard to try and recoup the deficit. But, Salford's greater fitness and speed just made that task impossible. Even with two late 2-minute suspensions, Salford would not succumb to London GD's pressure.
A goal to keep Salford up by three with a minute left made the outcome certain. Even with a late goal from London GD the result was now inevitable. Salford ending an entertaining match victorious at 29 goals to 27.
Salford Assistant Coach, Kristian Marsh, said after the game: “Any match against London GD is going to be tough. They are a well established club with a great record to show for it. They've been deserved champions for a number of seasons and any team that comes to play them have to be at their best, especially down here in London.
“We played well as a team today and showed that we do not rely on any one single player. This was a massive result for us, it takes us one step closer to the title and banishes the memories of last season's catastrophic final game. We do though need to keep the momentum going. This season's far from over and we are in no way guaranteed of anything. We've wounded London GD a little today, but, just like a wounded animal, that will make them all the more dangerous next time".
Notable performances on the day come once again from Salford's Rafik Tahraoui, scoring 6 goals, and London GD's Jordi Ferrer-Torras, scoring 7. With 11 assists Salford's Aden Woodall played a great supporting part and with a save rate of over 50 per cent Salford's Rob Avery showed his value in goal.
* In other play-off action, Cambridge moved up to fourth in the play-off table with a 23-17 victory over Manchester, while Ruislip Eagles were 34-25 winners over Leeds Hornets.
The play-offs resume on April 1 at Greenbank Sports Academy in Liverpool, where Leeds Hornets play London GD, Salford take on Cambridge and Manchester play Ruislip Eagles.