Raiders headed to Bracknell for a pre-season rust removal challenge on Saturday and found a Bees team boosted by Streatham’s Vanya Antonov clearly energised from the first whistle.
A two goal start and a 29 second withdrawal of netminder Brad Windebank did nothing to shake the Raiders confidence however and it was immediately clear that a comeback was very much a possibility.
Despite a lot of pressure in the final minutes an equaliser couldn’t be found and the Bees took the over-night bragging rights as they clung onto a 5-4 win courtesy of a fine early start. A Blaho Novak brace helped his deserved claim to the man of the match beers.
The return leg in the Sapphire was justification for the optimistic sounds coming from the mouths of the Gold and Blue on Saturday. A fine first home performance saw flowing moves, immense strength on the puck, big hits and some quality finishing leading to a fairly lop sided 7-1 score line in favour of the Raiders. Bees will console themselves that they were missing a few bodies but in the case of star turn Antonov that is likely to be so for much of the season unfortunately for them.
Raiders beers were awarded to Lukas Sladkovsky who amongst other things showed he is not the guy you want racing at your netminder unchallenged with two very well taken goals to calm some pre-season nerves regarding his experience.
For Raiders the coming weekend against Swindon and Basingstoke will probably represent bigger challenges but beating an experienced and established side like Bracknell with such style will foster optimism which will need to be tempered with some caution facing two of the more fancied teams in the new National League