English Premier League: (Phantoms win 4-3 on penalties) THE chances are the race for the English Premier League Play-offs will go right down to the wire.
And if it does Damien King’s penalty save against the Bees at the Peterborough Arena on Sunday night (29 January) could turn out to be a season-defining moment.
Since taking over as number one when Stephen Wall quit the club two months ago, the young netminder has come in for plenty of stick.
But his stunning stop from Alex Barker in a nerve-jangling shootout to earn his side the bonus point showed that when it comes to the crunch, King may just have what it takes afterall.
Whether or not Phantoms have the wherewithal to climb into the play-off spaces remains to be seen, but on this evidence they surely have a fighting chance.
The Bees’ shock win against Manchester Phoenix means Chris Allen’s side remain two points adrift but it’s Phantoms who have the momentum.
Allen said: “Results on Saturday didn’t go our way, but all we can worry about is our own performance and this was another really good win - our third in a row at home and it keeps us rolling along nicely.
“We kept our discipline really well but we still played hard and deserved to win the game.
“The next couple of months are going to be really exciting. In my opinion it is going to go down to the last three or four games, so this win could be vital.”
With so much on the line both teams came out hard but it was Phantoms who landed the first blow when Ondrej Lauko struck with a great individual goal.
There didn’t look to be anything on as the Slovakian sniper ploughed through Bracknell bodies down the left wing.
But god loves a trier and Lauko somehow found the angle he needed to get a shot away that flew past man-of-the-match Tom Annets and into the far corner.
Phantoms didn’t hold the lead long, though. Barker soon had the Bees back level and for the next five minutes it was the men in yellow and black who were on top.
Andy Munroe thought he had scored against his former club but his ferocious shot instead hit the bar. Minutes later it was a cracking double save from King rather than the crossbar that came to Phantoms’ rescue.
But having rode their luck Phantoms restored their advantage when Lauko found Greg Randall who shovelled his shot into the back of the net with his second bite of the cherry.
Continuing with their policy of controlled aggression in the middle act, Richard Bentham set the tone early on with a huge check that lifted Bees’ import Peter Jasik clean off his feet.
It lifted the crowd too and his team mates as Phantoms went on to dominate the period. Tom Carlon, Jeff Glowa and Robbie Brown went closest to adding to the score, but Annets managed to get something behind each of the 16 shots that came his way - including at one point his faceguard when Carlon lashed in a drive from point blank range.
Having failed to add to their lead Phantoms looked vulnerable going into the final 20 and the Bees pulled level for the second time when Lukas Smital finished into the top corner when one on one with King.
No more goals meant overtime and the Bees thought they’d won it but ref Joy Tottman spotted that James Galazzi clearly kicked his ‘goal’ into the net to earn himself a two-minute misconduct penalty.
Still it made no difference as neither side were able to break the deadlock and penalty shots were needed to decide the winner.
Lauko, Maris Ziedins and Joe Graham all hit their mark to make it 3-3 before King stepped up with a cracking reaction save to turn Barker’s shot onto the bar and secure what could prove to be a priceless bonus point.