Other 2016/17 reports

Opponents: Sheffield & Wessex
Competition: Super8s
Date: Saturday/Sunday 21st/22nd January 2017
Venue: Ernest Bevin & LeAF Bournemouth
Sheffield Result: L 3-2 (11-25, 25-23, 17-25, 25-18, 7-15)
Wessex Result: L 3-0 (24-26, 22-25, 18-25)
Headline: A single point reward for Docklands' double weekend
Authors: Andrew Pink & Andy Hopper


London Docklands endured a tough double header weekend with matches against Sheffield and Wessex. Docklands showed flashes of quality in both matches but fell short on both days.

The weekend began with Docklands taking on third placed Sheffield. Earlier in the season Sheffield walked away with a comfortable 3-0 victory in the steel city and when they took the first set 25-11 it looked like it would be another easy day at the office for Keith Trenam's side.

However, Docklands found some fight in set two, recovering from 11-6 down to tie the score at 13-13. With Jean Baptiste Arzounian pulling the strings Docklands hitters were gaining confidence and his French compatriots Mathieu Ras and Flavien Hias started to get success at the net. And with new father Andrew Pink back in the fold, his unpredictable serve took Docklands 16-14 ahead at the second enforced pause. Docklands made the critical break during a run of serves by Julian Marcon, as blocks by Ras and Tomek Wysocki saw Docklands take a 22-18 lead. With the experience of Kieran O'Malley now running Docklands' offence, he was able to guide his side home to a 25-23 second set win against his former team.

Docklands maintained their momentum in set three and raced into an 8-3 lead. Sheffield managed to stem the flow of Docklands points with Cameron Carrington and Leon Chambers coming to the fore, but Docklands still led 16-14. Then the wheels came off the Docklands train as Chambers applied pressure from the service line and the hosts had no response. Errors crept back into Docklands' game and Sheffield took the set at a canter 25-17.

Docklands had to knuckle down in set four and with the introduction of Francois Leroy gained some much needed fresh energy to their play. Docklands made the first significant break with the serving of Hias bamboozling the Sheffield passing unit and with pressure passed onto their hitters it was the turn of Sheffield to make the errors. Hias put the final nail in the coffin to seal the set 25-18 with a smash over the block.

As ever a good start in the lottery of the shortened fifth set is crucial and on this occasion it was Sheffield who took advantage of some slack Docklands' play to lead 8-2 at the change of ends. It's rare for a team to come back from that sort of deficit and Sheffield made hay, eventually taking the set 15-7. However, the one point earned by Docklands could still prove critical in the shake up at the end of the season and Docklands had an immediate chance to secure more points on Sunday at Wessex.

Despite the arctic conditions of Wessex's old hall, Docklands warmed to the occasion of this critical fixture after the gruelling five-set loss to high flying Sheffield the previous day. Showing flashes of the form that has made Docklands one of the more tricky opponents in the past few Super8s seasons, Hopper's side stormed out of the gates and put Wessex under severe pressure when opening up a healthy lead at the first technical time-out.

The lead would grow to a seemingly unassailable 18-12 through crafty serving from Hias and the vital attacks of Ras. However, and in a scenario that is becoming sickening familiar, Wessex had Docklands stuck in a rotation and began to chip away at the deficit. Time-outs and a change in reception proved futile as Wessex built momentum on the back of Andrea Ivanov's exemplary transition attack scoring. With the wind in their sails, Wessex completed a remarkable comeback to claim the first set 26-24.

Now in a dogfight when an easy victory seemed on the cards, Docklands struggled to emulate their play of the first set that had left Wessex stunned. Typically assured play from Pink, who first played for the club a decade ago, kept the visitors close but Dan Hunter's team were always a few points ahead. There was little answer to Ivanov as the Bulgarian poured on the points and Wessex closed out a hotly contested yet all too comfortable second set 25-22.

Fatigue began to tell on Docklands, who were able to name just nine players for this weekend's double header, and the third set was never really in doubt. Opposite Miguel Espinosa and his counterpart Ivanov took their chances early in the set as Wessex built a commanding 14-7 lead. Stand-in opposite O'Malley was unable to match Espinosa and despite a slight narrowing in scoreline, Wessex closed out the match 25-18 and with it the three points.

Pink commented afterwards, "A tough weekend but we can learn lessons from it and make improvements, particularly our blocking and still make an impact this season". Hopper added, "A somewhat frustrating weekend but some bright spots and as Pink says, plenty to work on but a lot to be positive about. The season is still in our hands and we have the games in hand to move up the table".

Docklands now have three weeks until their next fixture against fellow strugglers Solent which is set to be a true relegation six-pointer.

Black Knight v Sheffield: Mathieu Ras
Black Knight v Wessex: Marcel Sivak

Docklands MVP v Sheffield: Andrew Pink
Sheffield MVP: Cameron Carrington

Docklands MVP v Wessex: Andrew Pink
Wessex MVP: Andrea Ivanov

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