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Chelmsford 4 Romford 4

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Juraj Huska’s stunning shorthanded blast, with only 24 seconds remaining, ensured honours finished even in the first leg of the ENL play-off final.

And it was no more than treble-chasing Raiders deserved, having outshot Chelmsford 41-20 on their own ice.

Barely a minute had been played when Raiders opened the scoring as Huska collected the puck in the left corner and sent it goalwards where Danny Marshall pounced to score at the second attempt.

But a turnover by Shaun Yardley just outside the Romford blue line handed Gary Clarke a chance to level with a low wristshot in the fifth minute.

And the hosts took the lead when a long stretch pass by Clarke sent Jakub Klima in to beat Michael Gray.

Andrius Kaminskas was called for slashing Michael Ranby late in the first period and AJ Smith and Klima faced each other up at the buzzer as both teams came together on their way back to the lockerrooms.

But Chieftains opened up a two-goal lead early in the second period when Clarke slipped Kaminskas at the blue line and skated in to fire past Gray.

Raiders hit back during a spell of 4-on-4 as AJ Smith fed a pass out from behind Ben Clements and Matt Turner squeezed his shot over the line.

And the visitors got back on terms with a powerplay strike from Billy Phillips, as Dwayne Newman served a delay of game minor, with 14 seconds left in the middle session.

Romford continued to offer most of the attacking threat in the final period, but Chieftains regained the lead in the 52nd minute when Danny Hammond managed to escape his man at the blue line and kept his cool to beat Gray with a low shot into the bottom corner.

A hit on Hammond by Tyrone Miller, with less than a minute to play, handed Chelmsford a late powerplay chance, but it was Raiders who had the final say.

Gray’s blocker save denied Newman from the blue line, before Julian Smith sent the puck up to Huska in the neutral zone and he advanced to smash a shot past a stunned Clements.

Raiders will go into the second leg at Rom Valley Way as favourites to add to their league title and South East Trophy success, but the job is only half done and Chieftains will not give up their play-off crown without a fight.

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