Sparks keep up their edge over Meteors
By GLEN PORTEOUS
SPARKS maintained their edge over Meteors but only after a late penalty lifted them to a 3-2 Gladstone District Hockey Association A1 men's semi-final victory on Saturday.
The match was played out with the intensity of a grand final, in which they will clash in a fortnight, with neither side prepared to give an inch.
Sparks attacked from the outset with only good defensive work by Meteors' Joel Scherer defusing an early Sparks raid.
However, it was Meteors who struck first when Shannon Bobart scored after good lead-up work from Darren Heard.
Sparks squared the ledger before halftime soon after a solitary drive by Sparks' striker Joe McGuire was blocked by a brilliant piece of defence from Matt Lamberton.
A penalty resulted from the ensuing goal-mouth scramble with Nathan Smith moving up to the spot and sliding the shot into the back of the net to set up a 1-1 halftime score.
Sparks grabbed the lead for the first time after the break when Jason Burns found the backboard but Meteors were quick to strike back when Craig Mathison scored off a short corner.
The match appeared headed for a draw until the dying stages when Smith launched a driving run into Meteors' circle only to be stick checked by an opposition defender and awarded another penalty.
Smith calmly slotted his shot home to secure a 3-2 victory. Smith's brother Warwick was a standout for Sparks, producing a strong defensive game as did Lamberton for Meteors.
Meteors will have to reverse a worrying run of losses against Sparks if they are to claim this year's title.