On a typical windy Wednesday afternoon at Cochrane Park, Newcastle were overcome by a very clinical Manchester side, as they debuted in the Northern 1A.
Having been promoted out of the Northern 2B last year, Newcastle knew that this match was always going to be a tough one. In previous meetings, Manchester had always stamped their authority, with Halcyon having bageled the Pies in a previous indoor tournament.
With the help of the Cochrane Park wind, Newcastle were hoping that the blustery weather would give them a level playing field over their Northern rivals, and it looked to be just that early on. After some slick movement with the disc, captain Fred Frisbee Davies picked out long-serving cutter Jake Hawkyard in the end zone.
Three consecutive Manchester points may have dejected Newcastle briefly, but they bounced back with a decent point of their own. After a quick turnover of possession, newcomer Ross Nugent sent a long haul for Brad Metcalfe to chase. The unashamedly herpes-ridden cutter latched onto the throw with a layout that left him face down in the mud.
After cutting out Ollie Gray’s pass, Newcastle’s playmaker Chris De Leeuwe passed the ball onto Metcalfe, who in turn found Davies.
The captain’s pass was seen early by Manchester’s Alex Aiton, who’s pinpoint pass let Manchester double their lead.
Manchester were again able to stretch their lead as a give-and-go between Hawkyard and Nugent didn’t come off. From the resultant turnover, Steve Dixon scored after some small interchanges between Phil Nicholas and Evan Smith.
Newcastle looked to strike back immediately as Nugent flicked the disc onto Theo Turvill, before the disc found its way back to Nugent via Davies.
However, his long pass had too much on it, as Manchester counter-attacked down the other end and scored through Nicholas.
Though some neat interplay between Tom Allan, Chris De Leeuwe and Nick Carter didn’t pay off, the next attack did.
Building again from CDL at the back, small passes around the arc from Davies, Turvill and De Leeuwe kept the attack alive. From there a long punt from Allan found its way into the hands of Metcalfe, who held off the challenge of Dixon to take the catch.
[pullquote]For all the work that Newcastle put into that point, they threw away immediately after as Dixon scored straight away from restart[/pullquote]
For all the work that Newcastle put into that point, they threw away immediately after as Dixon scored straight away from restart.
Compounding on that, a 10-pass move that concluded with club president Jack Westerman smartly finding Turvill ended in Manchester turning over possession and using the wind to their advantage for Harvey Lee Hughes to score.
After a Tom Allan pass was too low for Hawkyard, Smith looked to counter, but Carter got across quickly to shut the move down.
From there, Newcastle launched a quick counter of their own as vica-captain George Perry played three one-twos with De Leeuwe before finally fidning Davies in the end zone.
At 8-4, Newcastle looked to still be in the game, and having started the second half well, they had the momentum to press on.
However, Manchester defended well and wore Newcastle down. Hughes scored again after Metcalfe couldn’t get a strong enough hand to Gray’s pass, and Nicholas notched up another after cutting out Davies’ pass to Perry himself.
Though there wasn’t any easy solution, the issue behind Newcastle’s struggle was that the passes to the ‘Iso’ (isolated player) weren’t coming off. In the bucket formation that Newcastle were playing, they had four handlers sitting in the middle of the pitch and two men deeper down the pitch.
[pullquote]At 8-4, Newcastle looked to still be in the game, and having started the second half well, they had the momentum to press on[/pullquote]
In between, as a third cutter, is a pivot connecting the two lines, but the passes to that creative player were being regularly cut out.
Soon enough the score was 12-4 to Manchester, as Nicholas scored another, as well as Dixon and Luke Heseltine adding to their personal tallies.
The only clear-cut chance after that stage for Newcastle was a Nugent pass that was just too high for Hawkyard, and a counter attack in which Westerman couldn’t spot a man fast enough to lay the disc onto.
Further goals for Nicholas and Dixon, as well as one for Tom Moran rounded off the scoring and finished the game up quickly.
The 15-4 scoreline certainly flattered Manchester, though the lack of creativity and penetration towards the end of the second half for Newcastle was somewhat alarming.
With big players such as Charlie Huins and Will Mulvaney missing, Newcastle could potentially have been more dangerous.
But in reality, the real focus for the Pies will be on the Bangor, Leeds and Sheffield Hallam fixtures, which will be crucial if they want to avoid the drop and finish in the top four in the league.
As for Manchester, it looks like a straight fight between themselves and Durham for the top spot, which will be interesting one to keep an eye out for come March.