Merseyside Nighthawks vs Manchester Titans
By George Buksmann
This weekend will see the Titans and Nighthawks clash in what looks to be a hotly contested fixture.
Last season saw both teams split the honours in hard-fought battles, producing high scoring games including the Nighthawks’ ‘Miracle on Merseyside’ – a stunning, last-ditch Hail Mary to grab a 44-41 win.
With the Titans sitting second and trying to close the gap on the Phoenix and the Nighthawks third in the table both teams know the value of this fixture.
Titans look to put pressure on Phoenix
The Titans have made a good start to their campaign placing second in the division after two games, a comfortable 49-16 win over the Falcons showed that the Manchester outfit picked up right where they left off from last year with their high-powered offence.
They had something of a scare last week, only managing a 0-6 win over the Giants, but they pulled together for the W and despite the narrow margin, the Titans are in a good place on the heels of the Phoenix.
“The current feeling within the team is very good,”
Said Head Coach Pete Birds,
“The team are focused, but relaxed and looking forward to every challenge that’s ahead.”
Manchester’s explosive offence put up multiple 40-plus scores in 2018 with quarterback Sam Bloomfield developing an excellent rapport with his wide receivers that led to plenty of passing touchdowns.
“Sam Bloomfield’s relationship with the wide receiver corps with the like of James Newnes and Adam Bamber will always give us a chance to score. On the opposite side of the ball we have a defensive line that should hopefully cause problems for most offences.”
The ‘Miracle on Merseyside’ is clearly not lost on the Titans, who were favourites to win last time around.
“Last season’s fixture at Merseyside won’t be forgotten by anyone involved in that game to be honest. It’s got a bit of history over the years for draws, close games and very competitive games. I expect Craig Pennington will have his team as prepared and well drilled as ever and ready to put us to the test. This is game three of four on the bounce for us, and we have some good momentum going into the game, but it will be a very tough game where we will have to be at our best to get a result.”
Merseyside to produce another stunner?
The Nighthawks come into 2019 with a much better start than their previous season, wins over the Wolves and Falcons and a loss to the Phoenix see them sat in third with the potential to leapfrog the Titans with a win on Sunday.
“There’s a good feeling in the camp at the minute. Opening the season with a win is always good and to end Leicester’s long unbeaten streak was better,”
Said General Manager Pete Horgan,
“Tamworth are always going to be difficult to play against, as they’re ferocious around the ball and we were glad to get back on track against Edinburgh after a tough first half. We know what is expected of us from the coaching staff, and we’re working towards that with another tough game this weekend.”
Horgan was complimentary of linebacker Mark Houghton who has been all over the field for the defence with defensive back Jonny Weekes popping up in the right places making key interceptions.
Merseyside’s running backs and offensive line have been making a real impact, as has Harry Routledge who’s stepped into the quarterback position through the early part of the season. The Nighthawks’ wide receivers “really shone” against Edinburgh and will be pivotal against the Titans.
“Our games with Manchester always seem to be shootouts and that can be great and terrible at the same time!”
“We’re preparing no different for Manchester than any other opponent this year; film reviews have already taken place, so we’ve got a good idea of what we’re going to see from them.”
Though the Titans clearly struggled to put up points against the Giants, it appears Sheffield’s three-man front was responsible for giving the Titans some serious troubles. The Manchester O-line will look to get things back on track this weekend, and should they do so than this fixture screams of another high-scoring shootout, a la the 2018 meetings between these two!
Merseyside have the advantage of having played an extra fixture, and are carrying great momentum off a strong outing against Edinburgh, yet I feel Manchester, when playing to their potential, have the more explosive offence and it’s for this reason I’m siding with the Titans to take it in a narrow one.