Titans lose by a point in shootout in Shropshire

Match report courtesy of the Shropshire Revolution.

Tight –anic Finish
Revolution move to  3-1 with late game pandemonium
BAFANL Central  18/05/2013
Shropshire Revolution 27
Manchester Titans 26

A nail biting final stand from the Shropshire defensive unit enabled the Revolution to hold their nerve in claiming a vital win over early pace setters Manchester Titans by the narrowest of margins 27-26, in a Saturday showdown at Harper Adams University.
Marking the first meeting between the sides since the equally thrilling 2010 National Semi Finals which saw the Titans edge out the Shropshire men 28-20 to reach Britbowl, Manchester travelled south attempting to protect their record of having never lost against the men in purple dating back to 2007.

The Revolution continued their streak of fast starts when on the opening Kick Off rookie Defensive Back James Taylor on debut crashed into a Titan returner with enough force to jar the ball loose, Joe Knight’s recovery set up the home side in scoring range. Quarterback Richard Mantle capped off a short drive with a 3 yard Plunge over the goal line to give his side a 7-0 lead. Shropshire extended their lead courtesy of another turnover when Linebacker David Ralphs’ Interception and return set up duel threat Slot Receiver Stephenson Ardern-Sodje to smash through Manchester tacklers for a 10 Yard score and a 14-0 lead on the next play.

Titans Quarterback Alan Mead produced a mercurial display and reduced the visitor’s arrears in a stunning second quarter fight back, despite throwing 3 interceptions and taking hits from a fierce Revolution pass rush which recorded 5 sacks on the day, Mead would throw for 3 Touchdown passes in the game. Following Running back Jonathan Pan Gago’s barrelling short yardage score which got the visitors on the score sheet, Mead connected with Danny Caballero and James Newnes either side of the break for touchdown strikes. The Home team regained a measure of control in the second half through a pair of bruising scoring drives which were both finished off in identical short range fashion by Mantle to complete his trio of rushing Touchdowns.

A dramatic end to the fourth period ensued with the score at 27-20 the Revolution seemed to have done enough when their defense held Manchester scoreless for most of the fourth quarter and forced Mead to leave the game with 5 minutes remaining, however a sloppy Revolution possession failed to run out the clock and Mead bravely re-entered the game to march his offense downfield one last time, on a dramatic all or nothing fourth down play the Titans signal caller evaded the pass rush to find  Wide Receiver Steve Spence over the middle for a  touchdown from 5 yards out to bring the away team within a point of a tie. With the momentum on their side Manchester dramatically went for a 2 point conversion to snatch the victory but Mead could find no more magic and his pass sailed harmlessly out of the endzone.

The excitement was still not over as the Titans appeared to recover the following onside kick to the delight of their side line, however an offside flag wiped out the recovery and forced a re-kick which was pounced upon by Wide Receiver Ross Brookes.  Needing only to run out the clock and force the Titans to use their remaining time outs Revolution Fullback Tom Altinok to the disbelief of the home side line fumbled on the next play allowing Mead and his offense one last chance, The Revolution defense stood firm however, after forcing another fourth down they completed the job when Cornerback Matt Tonks swatted down Mead’s final pass on the day to end the game.

Revolution Head Coach Dave Reid struggled to come to terms with what he saw in the final stages of the game“ I don’t know how we almost didn’t win the game but I am thrilled for the guys to finally put an end to the Manchester hoodoo, I thought we just about deserved to win the game given our ability to dominate with the ground game and turnover margin”
Reid would also pay tribute to Titans Quarterback Alan Mead who courageously kept his side in the game “We threw everything we had at him both physically and schematically, yet he somehow kept getting back up and finding a way to give his team a chance, the objective football fan in me says it was a pleasure to watch and the rest of my staff have said the same since.”

Photo courtesy of Ben Burrows.