Sheffield Steelers on cusp of booking a semi-final Cup berth

Sheffield Steelers are all but through to the Challenge Cup semi finals after reducing Manchester Storm to a gentle breeze.
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

On Thursday night, they won 5-1 at Altrincham against a hugely underperforming host side.

Barring a slip-up of unimaginable proportions, Steelers are through to the penultimate round of a competition they blossom in - having won it in 1998–99, 1999–00, 2000–01, 2002–03, and 2019–20.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Their job was made all the easier by Manchester's malfunction.

Robert Dowd enjoying himself at ManchesterRobert Dowd enjoying himself at Manchester
Robert Dowd enjoying himself at Manchester

Their coach Matt Ginn showed an unusual degree of honesty when he summed up his squad in their quarter-final first leg.

Despite taking the lead, his side had "crumbled" he said.

"What was disappointing for me was the lack of response we had" after Sheffield equalised on the power play.

"Guys were feeling sorry for themselves.

Steelers outwork Storm at ManchesterSteelers outwork Storm at Manchester
Steelers outwork Storm at Manchester

"That has got to be rock bottom, at some point we have got to dig in and get this thing back on the tracks."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He said the defensive craft of earlier in the season had disappeared.

"We were just terrible, there was no emotion, no passion...just second best to everything.

"It is time to look in the mirror here."

Marco Vallerand enjoys a return to the scoreboard at ManchesterMarco Vallerand enjoys a return to the scoreboard at Manchester
Marco Vallerand enjoys a return to the scoreboard at Manchester

It would be better to look in the mirror, perhaps than look ahead to the second leg at Sheffield Arena, where another pummelling awaits if they repeat that performance level.

Aaron Fox, the Sheffield coach, praised his special teams as he reflected on "a very good, solid game" and said he was happy to take a four-goal advantage back to Broughton Lane.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Michael Korol had put the puck past Steelers' netminder Anthony Morrone after six minutes, but Manchester conceded one second before the first interval, with Robert Dowd getting his tenth of the EIHL campaign.

Manchester caved in as Scott Allen and Marco Vallerand forced a middle period lead.

The icing on the cake were two third session finishes from Sheffield top points scorer Patrick Watling, and Brandon Whistle.

Allen's 22nd-minute, ultimate game-winner summed up the game, in a sense.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Manchester tamely turned the puck over to Dowd in Sheffield's defensive zone, were unable to close out the Sheffield captain as he nipped down the left wing, couldn't clear the puck in the slot and were second to the puck as Allen completed the move.

The home fans in the 1,001 crowd were left cursing Sheffield's efficiency in front of goal compared to their own lack of penetration...bizarrely both sides had 38 shots on goal.

Sheffield should compete the move to the semis in the second leg on December 20.

They will probably call on the services of back-up netminder Morrone again, after his Thursday 97.37 per cent save ratio, as they seek their sixth win of the season over Storm.