Streatham loving the underdog tag as first leg draw sets up potential play-off upset against Chelmsford Chieftains

Streatham 4 – 4 Chelmsford Chieftains

Joe Johnston says Streatham ripped up the form book after he secured a late draw against Chelmsford Chieftains in the play-off semi-final first leg last night.
Johnston struck twice along with Callum Best and Adam Wood to cancel out strikes from Cameron and Grant Bartlett and Daniel Hammond.
Will Sanderson’s penalty save heroics kept Streatham in the game at 3-3, giving Johnston, whose side were resoundingly beaten by Chelmsford in last month’s cup final, reason to believe they can spring a surprise in tonight’s second leg tie.
“I think in the cup final we had a few nerves you could see with a big crowd but I thought we put that to bed last night,” said Johnston.
“There’s no pressure on us. In a really twisted way the loss in the cup final did us a favour because everyone thought we were going to get absolutely spanked, and Chelmsford probably thought they’d come here and win fairly easily.
“But we just showed a bit more spirit and a bit more fight like we want to be here and it’s a good place to be.
“There’s still no pressure on us tonight, they’re still the favourites, everyone’s still expecting them to win, so we’ll do the same thing and try to cause a massive upset.
“If we play like that again there’s no reason why we can’t.”
Streatham were determined to make amends for their lacklustre cup final defeat and their improvement was apparent from the off.
Johnston has been in among the goals of late and set Streatham on their way with the opener on 50 seconds when Adam Wood fed him in to strike a low shot past Euan King.
That began a period of confident play from the hosts who continuously gave little time to their opponents on the puck.
Cameron Bartlett leveled the scores on 14 minutes with a well placed wrist-shot high into the net but Streatham came firing back.
In the 17th minute Wood turned from provider to goalscorer this time, after Steve Fisher once again had a hand in the goals to set him up from the left.
Already after one period Streatham looked a different team from a fortnight ago, particularly in defence, which Dominic Hopkins put down to hard work in training.
“We came with a plan really and executed it pretty well, just trying to get the puck in behind them, hold our lanes and congest the neutral zone to make it tough for them to break down,” said Hopkins.
“We just wanted to keep it tight at the back there and just communicate a bit more and not have too much of a gap between us and the attackers.
“It’s something we worked a lot on in practice and it worked out good.”
Chelmsford came out stronger in the second and this time it was their turn to benefit early with a Grant Bartlett power play goal just seconds after the restart.
But no sooner had Chelmsford gained the lead with a big slap-shot from Hammond on the edge of the blue, than Callum Best equalised within a minute after clever one-two play with Liam Rasmussen left King hapless in the Chelmsford goal.
The momentum had constantly shifted  between both sides throughout the match and when Chelmsford were awarded a penalty shot in the 34thminute, it appeared to shift in their favour once again.
However up stepped Sanderson to save from Grant Bartlett before making a quick-fire double save shortly after.
Clearly one of the defining moments of the game, Hopkins was in no doubt about the importance of that save.
“It was huge, both our goalies have been great this season but for Will to come in and stop that penalty shot, and that last save that he made at the end there, they’re the kind of saves that are going to make the difference come tonight,” he said.
By the final 20 Chelmsford were showing why they have been the team to beat this season with slick passing moves that handed them a fourth goal seven minutes into the period.
Grant Bartlett picked up the puck wide on the right and finished the move with a powerful shot high into the net.
Johnston completed proceedings just five minutes from time to level up the match when Best stole the puck and pulled off a shot, only for the veteran forward to pick up the loose puck and tap in for the equaliser.
With tonight’s leg a winner takes all senario, Johnston believes Chelmsford should write Streatham off at their peril.
“No one’s going to give us a chance, we have belief in our room and we know what we can do,” he added.
“We’ve got the best support in the league if not the country so we’ve got all that behind us but everyone else outside of that probably won’t give u a sniff.
“But that’s fine, people can think that and you know what, we might cause an upset, who knows.”
Feature image of Joe Johnston courtesy of Rick Webb, with thanks

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