Two milestone men helped to fire Peterborough Phantoms to arguably the most memorable success of their super English Premier League season so far.
Captain James Ferrara marked a club record-equalling 415th appearance in a Phantoms jersey by hitting the decisive goal in a 3-2 triumph at pre-game table-toppers Basingstoke last night (December 12).
And youngster Martins Susters claimed his first goal for the Phantoms - it won’t be the last for a precocious teenager either.
The two points were enough to clinch a return to the EPL summit for a city side who had to twice come from behind before ending the Bison’s unbeaten home record.
Phantoms were able to rely on another man-of-the-match display from their magnificent netminder, Janis Auzins, while their hosts felt they had two Ciaran Long ‘goals’ not given – the first of which came in the second period when they held a 2-1 advantage and the second which would have been a short-handed equaliser late on.
Development coach Lee Elias – in charge along with Alex Kulikov in the absence of Slava Koulikov due to Great Britain Under 20 commitments – was quick to insist it was not one of Phantoms’ finest performances, but they again proved they have the beating of the toughest of opponents at this level.
Elias said: “This was the two best teams in the league right now facing each other. Basingstoke played a really great game and were on top for much of it.
“We played the final 10-15 mins well and that made the difference. It wasn’t our best performance by any means, but it was certainly a very good result.
“We have proven time and time again that we can come back in a one-goal game, and did that again.
“I could not be more proud of our guys and it was great to see Jimmy come up with the game-winning goal.
“There is a reason why he has the ‘C’ on his chest and he proved again last night why he is the heart of the team.
“Basingstoke thought they had another couple of goals, but the referee and his officials did not make a goal call on either occasion and the trust has to be in them to make the right decisions.”
Phantoms found themselves in arrears after just 70 seconds to a Rene Jarolin goal as Marc Levers sat a delay-of-the-game penalty.
But they were level just before mid-point of the opening period thanks to the first of doubtless many goals in the career of Susters. The teenage prospect collected a Craig Scott pass and fired past Bison netminder Jon Baston.
Phantoms were behind again early in the second session to one of their former favourites. Alan Lack, who spent half of last season with the city club, tipped in a Kurt Reynolds drive.
Basingstoke thought they had struck again moments later, but referee Stephen Matthews and the goal judge were unmoved.
There were no further changes to the scoreline until Phantoms struck twice in little more than two-and-a-half minutes to turn a losing predicament into a winning position.
Ales Padelek levelled on a powerplay when guiding a Lloyd Gibson effort past Baston before Ferrara provided a fitting winner when seeing his shot trickle across the line.
The hosts were again left frustrated when Long’s celebrations were cut short after the officials deemed the puck had not crossed the line.
And Phantoms stood strong to see out the closing stages after Bison had sacrificed netminder Baston in favour of an extra skater.
Phantoms are now a point clear of the Bison and Milton Keynes at the top of the table, with the opportunity of extend that cushion tonight (December 13) when involved in one of only two EPL games to take place.
They will expect to complete a four-point weekend when hosting bottom side Hull at Planet Ice (5.30pm) after dishing out an 11-0 drubbing to the Pirates in their previous visit to the city.
Elias added: “The message after the game to the guys was to be focused.
If we want to be the team we are trying to be, we need to bring the same effort and mentality regardless of whether it is the top-of-the-table or bottom-of-the-table team we are facing.
“Two important points are on the line and we have to ensure we pick them up.”
1:10 Jarolin (PP) ass: Watt/Rand
24:53 Lack (PP) ass: Reynolds/Rand
9:50 Susters ass: Scott
49:58 Padelek (PP) ass: Gibson/Scott
52:33 J. Ferrara ass: Levers/Susters
Basingstoke – Alan Lack
Phantoms – Janis Auzins