Leeds Knights 5 Swindon Wildcats 2: Kieran Brown enjoys hat-trick night in return to winning ways

KIERAN BROWN enjoyed a hat-trick night as Leeds Knights bounced back from their derby disappointment with a 5-2 victory in front of another bumper Elland Road crowd.

By Phil Harrison
Monday, 3rd January 2022, 9:30 pm
Updated Monday, 3rd January 2022, 11:49 pm
Kieran Brown fired

Leeds Knights to victory against Swindon Wildcats with a hat-trick. Picture Bruce Rollinson
Kieran Brown fired Leeds Knights to victory against Swindon Wildcats with a hat-trick. Picture Bruce Rollinson

Coach Dave Whistle had made it clear he was upset with his players after seeing them lose 5-2 to an under-strength Sheffield Steeldogs at Ice Sheffield on New Year’s Eve.

And it looked for a while as if the Knights would incur their coach’s ire once again when - against another short-benched opponent in the shape of their Autumn Cup Final conquerors Swindon Wildcats - they looked like fluffing their lines once more.

Holding a 2-0 lead after the first period, the Knights let Swindon back in early in the second by conceding two goals in the space of 60 seconds.

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Thereafter, the game could have gone either way, a resurgent Swindon enjoying as much possession and clear chances as their hosts, who got ahead again through Cole Shudra’s 30th-minute marker.

But, not surprisingly, an energetic Wildcats tired somewhat in the third, Brown adding to his first period strike before finishing off the night with an empty-netter.

Since leaving Elland Road in triumphant possession just before Christmas with the Autumn Cup in their possession, Swindon have had it tough, being among a number of teams to be beset by Covid-related issues.

As a result, the Wiltshire team has played short, losing all four league games and seeing their six-point advantage at the top disappear to the extent that they arrived in West Yorkshire in third place, with Milton Keynes Lightning and new leaders Telford Tigers having leapfrogged them.

Brandon Whistle. enjoyed a productive night for Leeds Knights against Swindon Wildcats with a goal and three assists. Picture Bruce Rollinson

Not surprisingly, it was the Knights who made all the early running against a Swindon team missing the likes of Tomasz Malasinski, Edgars Bebris and Reed Sayers.

The hosts went ahead with just 4.36 on the clock when Adam Barnes back-handed across the front of Dean Skinns’ net to where Brandon Whistle was waiting at the bottom of the left-hand circle to fire home.

Skinns had to be alert to deny Whistle a second and then again when Jordan Fisher back-handed towards the net from right in front, while Matty Davies went closest to doubling the advantage when slick passing between Shudra and Harry Gulliver found him in front of net only for his effort to cannon back off the base of Skinns’s right-hand post.

Whistle looked odd-on to double his tally in the 16th minute only for Skinns to deny him when fully stretched to his left.

Swindon player-coach Aaron Nell pulled his team level against Leeds Knights at Elland Road in the 22nd minute. Picture: Kat Medcroft/Wildcats Media.

Aaron Nell ensured Sam Gospel remained alert at the other end when he forced the Leeds netminder into a smart save low down to his right in a rare foray forward by the visitors.

But the goal that had been threatened eventually came at 18.28, Whistle producing a sublime pinpoint pass from just inside the Swindon zone on the left-hand boards finding an on-rushing Brown who only had to deflect the puck home from close range.

But if Leeds thought they were going to have it all their own way. They were made to think again less than two minutes into the second period.

Only 18 seconds had elapsed before Swindon got themselves on the board, Gospel twice saving efforts from close in but power less to prevent a third one from going off the stick of Loris Taylor.

Cole Shudra gave Leeds Knights a 3-2 lead in the 30th minute against Swindon. Picture: Andy Bourke/Podium Prints

If that had quietened the home fans, then it was understandable when a few gasps could be heard exactly 60 seconds later, Nell left all alone in the right circle to fire past an already-committed Gospel.

Understandably, the visitors then had plenty of spring in their step, despite being considerably short-benched.

Nell almost put his team up from below the goal-line but Gospel was tight enough to his left-hand post to keep the puck out, Barnes and Whistle then denied by some desperate defending at the other end by Skinns and his defence amid an almighty scrabble around the crease.

But, as was most likely, the next goal did come for the home team, Shudra picking his spot from 10 yards out to make it 3-2 at 29.16.

Shudra’s next action of note came when he and Neil Liddiard dropped the gloves around centre ice, both getting five minutes for fighting but only after the Knights winger had managed to knock his opponent to the ice briefly.

Whistle, Barnes and Gulliver all went close to doubling the lead but Skinns was simply not for moving, Gospel also impressive at the other end when denying Swindon’s #29 at the other end when they were well-placed on a 2-on-1.

In the third, Whiistle was again denied by Skinns, this time from 10 yards out in front of net, while Hehir almost deflected in Joe Coulter’s net pass from the left boards.

But relief for the hosts eventually came at 51.40, Brown darting down the left down to behind the Swindon goal, from where played it back in front. Whistle couldn’t quite reach but a quick-thinking Barnes made a smart pass to Brown who had continued his loop round to the bottom of the right circle from where he fired home to make it 4-2.

The goal seemed to knock the wind out of Swindon who had rightly still fancied their chances up to that point, their doggedness ensuring the hosts couldn’t relax.

They enjoyed some good pressure in the closing two minutes when Skinns was pulled for the extra skater, but Gospel, and defenceman Ross Kennedy in particular with his willingness to play the body, stood tall, the puck eventually breaking kindly for Brown around the halfway mark from where he took a couple of quick steps before stroking it into the empty net to seal his hat-trick and two vital points for the hosts.