Manchester Titans @ Merseyside Nighthawks 22/05/2011

In tough weather conditions the Manchester Titans suffered their second defeat of the 2011 season losing to the Merseyside
Nighthawks 34 – 16

Manchester’s 2nd game of the 2011 season was away to old rivals, the Merseyside Nighthawks. The Titans were keen to make up for their disappointing loss away to the Gateshead Senators. Manchester won the toss elected to receive the opening kickoff, which star WR Adam Simms returned 28 yards to the Titans 30.

With winds gusting up to 50 mph, it was always going to be difficult passing conditions going into the wind, which the Titans ended up doing in the 1st & 4th Quarters. So unsurprisingly the offense went 3 and out with Punter Ryan Farrell having to kick into the wind. His punt only travelled 21 yards giving Merseyside excellent field position on their 43 yard line. 4 running plays later, the Nighthawks had a 6-0 lead but Manchester LB Mike Smith blocked the extra point attempt.

Manchester’s next drive was far more substantial going 60 yards in 11 plays, including 3 catches by Simms but a 12 yard TD run by Simms was called back for penalty and QB Alan Mead’s 4th down pass to WR Matt Barton was incomplete.

The Nighthawks again relied on their running game on their next possession but their first pass of the day was batted down by CB Joe Hutton and their 2nd pass was dropped by GB WR Joe Black. The ensuing punt was blocked by Titans LB Andy Burridge giving Manchester the ball on their38 yard line as the 1st quarter ended.

Mead drove the Titans down to the Nighthawks 10 yard line thanks to a 23 yard catch by WR Rik Lowthion. From here Simms made a fantastic catch in the endzone but the officials ruled it incomplete and on the next play Mead’s pass to WR Will Kinghorn was intercepted.

Merseyside again ran the ball effectively on their next drive, despite key tackle for losses by Burridge and LB Rob Bainbridge and they were facing a 4th & 11 from the Titans 19 yard line. However Manchester DB Joe Hutton knocked down the endzone-bound pass to end the drive.

Manchester took over and averted disaster when WR James Dean recovered his own fumble on the Manchester 12 yard line. Then Mead hit Simms for 25 yards, before receptions of 10 yards by Simms and 15 by Lowthion, moved the ball over midfield. An 8 yard run by RB Nick Copley kept the drive going but 4 straight incomplete passes, including some that pass interference should have been called, ended the drive scoreless.

The Nighthawks ran out the clock to end the 1st half up 6-0.

Farrell booted the 2nd half kick-off out for a touchback and a false start and a series of strong defense by Manchester curtailed the Nighthawks offense. Strong tackling by LB Andy McKay, DL Andy Boshall plus pressure by DL Gregory Ali forced an incomplete pass and the subsequent punt only went 19 yards giving the Titans great field position on Merseyside’s 41 yard line.

However Manchester was unable to capitalise and was forced to punt. But the Titans defense stepped up again with LB Matt McCormack recovering a fumble on the Nighthawk’s 38 yard line. Despite driving down to the Merseyside 10 yard line, the Titans Offense again came away without a score.

This was where the game started to come to life though and the Nighthawks gifted Manchester their first points when an errant snap flew over the punter’s head and he was forced to kick the ball out of the back of the endzone for a safety. Manchester thought they had capitalised on this through a 39 yard catch by TE Ste Kimmins but it was called back for a holding penalty. But the Titans did score their first touchdown of the game when Copley swept around the left end for a 28 yard TD. Simms’ excellent catch on the 2 point conversion gave the Titans a 10-6 lead as the 3rd Quarter expired.

The Nighthawks immediately struck back though as a good kick return was ended by an illegal tackle by McCormack, giving Merseyside the ball on Manchester’s 39 yard line. Another penalty – this time a late hit out of bounds by Burridge – moved the ball to the Titans 6 where the Nighthawks ran it in on the next play. Another errant snap this time bounced in the Nighthawks favour as it fell into the hands of the kicker, Black, who ran in the 2PAT.

The Titans went 3 and out into the wind and Farrell’s punt was blocked. On the next play, Merseyside completed their first pass of the game, a 15 yard TD pass and a 20-10 lead.

But Manchester wasn’t done, and aided by a roughing the passer penalty and a pass interference penalty, moved into the Nighthawks redzone where Simms ran a perfectly executed reverse for a 9 yard TD. The 2PAT attempt failed leaving the Titans down 20-16.

Merseyside then drove 54 yards in 6 plays to increase their lead on their only other completed pass of the game, a 20 yard TD. The kicked extra point made the score 27-16.

Now the Titans needed to score and score quickly. However Mead was hit whilst throwing and the pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. The XP was good and the Nighthawks were ahead 34-16.

On Manchester’s final drive Mead’s desperation pass was intercepted to end the game.

Manchester now need to prepare for the difficult game away to the Yorkshire Rams on June 12th knowing only a victory would get the season back on track.

Titans MVPs
Offense – Adam Simms – 12 catches for 119 yards, plus a further 34 yards rushing, 1TD & 1 2PAT.
(Special Mention to DL Keith Lees who was forced to play OL for the first time ever due to injury).
Defense – Andy Burridge – 6 solo tackles, 3 assists, 1 QB Pressure and a blocked Punt.
Special Teams – K/P Ryan Farrell – solid kicking despite the gale-force winds.