NIHL North preview: Barron’s wild about Widnes

Widnes Wild travel to Bradford Bulldogs on Saturday aiming to build on their impressive performance on the opening weekend of the NIHL North season.

Wild won 8-1 against Hull Jets to get their Laidler D2 promotion bid off to the perfect start, with new Player/Coach Ollie Barron (above) leading the way with a couple of goals.

Barron joined Wild following the controversial demise of Sheffield Spartans and he says he’s delighted to have the opportunity to lead the ambitious North West-based club.

“I’d only heard good things about Wild and after meeting with the team’s management and seeing the facilities, it’s one I couldn’t turn down,” said Barron.

“The set-up is very professional with a great fanbase worthy of a higher league.

“The team had most of the squad already signed before my appointment and with the additions I made I’m happy with the squad overall. The effort level and commitment from the players has impressed me.

“I expect the league to be tight this season as other teams have made good signings to strengthen their squads.

“We’ll be taking each game as it comes and making sure we prepare correctly for each one.

“We play Bradford this weekend and while not knowing too much about their squad, the pre-season game they had in Deeside a few weeks ago was a good result and I expect a tough fixture.

“Hopefully a few of my players will be back from injury and we will be able to ice near to a full squad.”

Wild will have one new face in their squad after Barron added former Spartans teammate Andrew Turner to his defensive unit.

Altrincham Aces face a weekend double-header against Blackburn Eagles looking to maintain their 100% record.

Aces are the early D2 leaders after victories against the Jets and Nottingham Lions, and forward Joel Cope is hoping the team can mount a serious bid for honours.

“I feel we’ve started the season strongly – we’ve been organised and done things how they should be done,” said Cope.

“The atmosphere before and during games is spot on – everyone is backing each other and I think that will be important this weekend.

“It’s a big double header with the Eagles and is likely to be our toughest test this season. We need to go out and show the league we are here to play.

“We want to show we are the team to beat and if we carry on the way we are I think we could be in for a title shot, but we will definitely be in a play-off spot come end of the season.

New Deeside Dragons Player/Coach Scott McKenzie (above) returns to Telford this weekend for the first time since helping the Tigers’ EPL team win the double in 2014/15.

Dragons visit the Tigers’ NIHL outfit in Moralee D1 on Saturday buoyed by last week’s improved performance at home to Sutton Sting.

McKenzie said: “I can’t wait to get back to Telford on Saturday. It’s been a really great year for me and although I definitely made the right decision to leave, I’m looking forward to getting back and seeing all the great fans.

“We know how strong Tigers NIHL are going to be, but we’re not here to make up the numbers.

“We have a plan and will stick to it. I’m excited to see everyone and hoping for a great crowd.”

The Tigers follow up Saturday’s game against the Dragons with a trip to face Sting on Sunday, with Head Coach Daniel MacKriel demanding defensive improvements after seeing his team blow a three-goal lead against Solihull Barons last weekend.

“To race into a 4-1 lead shows that we can compete and take it to teams on our day,” said MacKriel.

“However, we need to realise that games are won and lost by defending as a team, and to lose that lead puts a slight dampner on things.

“We know Solihull have a great team – there’s no bones about that. But it’s about making smart decisions for the sake of the team, ensuring we have cover in out slot and basically killing off games.

“We’ve got lots to look forward to though and this weekend will be another good test. There are no teams in this league that will be a pushover, so we’ll need to work hard and smart for 60 minutes.

“Both Deeside and Sutton will be prepared for us and I fully expect a difficult weekend. The boys will need to be ready to battle each shift and stay focused on the task in hand.”

WEEKEND FIXTURES

NIHL North Moralee D1

Saturday

Blackburn Hawks v Whitley Warriors
Solway Sharks v Sutton Sting
Telford Tigers NIHL v Deeside Dragons

Sunday

Billingham Stars v Blackburn Hawks
Sutton Sting v Telford Tigers NIHL
Whitley Warriors v Solihull Barons

NIHL North Laidler D2

Saturday

Altrincham Aces v Blackburn Eagles
Bradford Bulldogs v Widnes Wild

Sunday

Blackburn Eagles v Altrincham Aces
Nottingham Lions v Hull Jets

(Image permission: Ollie Barron – Geoff White; Scott McKenzie – Deeside Dragons)

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