Unconvincing Pitbulls pull victory from the jaws of defeat in London
BRISTOL Pitbulls left London with a win by the skin of their teeth after a spirited performance by bottom-of-the-table Lee Valley Lions pushed them all the way.
Bristol were lethargic from the opening face-off and were lucky to finish the first period 1-0 up through a Sam Feeney goal with Lions having long periods of puck possession.
Lions went 2-1 up early in the second period before Bristol scored twice on a double powerplay with Feeney getting his second goal of the game and Adrian Smith putting the visitors ahead.
Richie Hargreaves had to bring his team from behind once more before Smith got his second of the game to ensure Bristol went into the second break preserving their one-goal lead.
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With Ross Webster feeling unwell, John Dibble took over duties in the Bristol net for the last period.
Dan Mann gave Bristol a two-goal lead for the first time in the game, but a short-handed goal by Lee Valley ensured a tense finale to the game.
While it extended Bristol's unbeaten run to five games, it was a performance that left player/coach Hargreaves deeply unimpressed.
He said: "Two points is two points, but it was a garbage win for us. It felt like a loss to me in the dressing room after the game because I was as angry as I would have been had it been a loss.
"We were outplayed by a 12th-placed team and didn't deserve to win and I made that clear in the dressing room."
Lee Valley have struggled all season, failing to win a single game so far and have been on the receiving end of some one-sided scorelines.
Hargreaves said: "It's tough. You turn up to a club like that and you can't stop the guys following the table, watching how other teams have been beating them 14-2 and 11-0 and, so guys start thinking about boosting their own stats rather than focussing on winning the game."
And it was that lack of focus that left Hargreaves most disappointed.
He added: "We were too loose before the game and I was frustrated at the way they prepared themselves for the game. We didn't get going from the get-go and everyone was looking for someone to get a goal and it wasn't as easy as it has been the last few weeks. And, if you don't come out strong, you can't get momentum."
Lee Valley came agonisingly close to scoring the equaliser three times in the dying minutes and Hargreaves was quick to offer sympathy.
He said:"It's the kind of game at the start of the season that we would have lost. We were just like them, working, working, working and getting nothing out of it. In every department they were better than us. They finished their hits. They got the loose pucks. They made a nuisance of themselves and outworked us with a much shorter bench. Experience won us that game, not hard work."
Bristol return to Swindon on Saturday for a 7.45pm face-off against the top-of-the-table Peterborough Islanders.