Fourth defeat ends play-off hopes for Pirates

June 27th, 2016

East Kilbride Pirates 3 Merseyside Nighthawks 23 SpaRKY

A fourth defeat of this year’s campaign finally closed the door on the Pirates’ play-off hopes for 2016.

With both Merseyside and Tamworth still undefeated, the worst that either can finish is 6-4. This matches EK’s best possible finish, but both hold head-to-head advantage over the Pirates. The bottom line is that East Kilbride will have no post-season action for the first time since 2008.

A good return of the kick off gave the home side a promising opening position. Former Junior QB Stephen McCluskey was making his first start for the Senior side, and after a slow beginning, went on to have a good game.

The Pirates quickly had to punt and Merseyside took over at their own 29-yard line. Three consecutive incomplete passes looked to have brought the drive to an early end, but a 26-yard run on a fake punt kept possession.  Six plays later and QB Ben Robinson completed a 32-yard pass to Liam Holbrook for the opening TD. It was Holbrook who stepped up to kick the extra point but his attempt failed. East Kilbride’s response saw them move the ball to the Nighthawks’ 9-yard line before an incomplete pass on 4th Down brought the drive to a halt. The sides traded punts as the first quarter ended with the visitors 6-0 ahead.

jig and stephenAn early 57-yard run took Merseyside deep into East Kilbride territory at the start of the second period, but the home defence held strong to prevent a score. East Kilbride then put together a 15-play drive that took them all the way to the visitors’ 1-yard line before an untimely fumble gave the ball away. Neither side could sustain any offensive momentum for the rest of the quarter, although Merseyside’s big play capabilities were always a threat.

The Pirates kicked off in the second half and immediately forced a 3-and-out.  Again the home side moved the ball well, but couldn’t force it home, settling instead for a 33-yard Field Goal attempt by Steven Kane. Unfortunately he pulled his kick wide of the left hand post, leaving the Pirates scoreless. He did make amends later in the period when he successfully slotted over from 28 yards after another drive was stopped short of he endzone. The 6-3 scoreline didn’t last long however, as Nighthawks running back Laurent Tshimanga raced 63 yards to score on the first play after the restart. Holbrook had more joy with his kick this time round and the visitors led 13-3 going into the final period.

The fourth quarter started badly for EK with McCluskey being intercepted by Alex Eager who returned the ball into Pirates’ terrain. Aided by a Pass Interference call, Merseyside took the ball to the 1-yard line from where Robinson plunged over for a TD which Holbrook converted.  Later in the period Eager once more picked off a McCluskey pass, setting up a 25-yard Field Goal for Holbrook to conclude the scoring and round off deserved win for the Nighthawks. Their “bend don’t break” defence kept the Pirates at bay and the combination of Tshimanga’s speed and Robinson’s arm always carried a threat on offence.

East Kilbride now have a short break before they travel to face Coventry Jets on July 9th. With just three games left, it may be an opportunity to give more playing time to some of the less experienced players, although the coaching staff will be determined to finish with three victories.

Game report by Bill Campbell
Photos courtesy Duncan Gray, Duncolm Photography


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