‘More of the same’ – that’s the call from Telford Tigers NIHL Head Coach Jason Parry, ahead of Sunday night’s game at home Sheffield Spartans.
Telford have been a surprise package in NIHL North Moralee D1 this season, following their promotion from the second tier last year.
They currently sit fourth in the standings, just one point behind Solihull Barons, having occupied third spot for much of the pre-Christmas period.
Parry believes his side can continue defying the odds against the league’s more fancied teams over coming months.
He said: “I think in terms of what other teams think, we have over-achieved, but not for us. We looked at the team at the start of the season and knew we had a good squad.
“I’m really pleased with where we are and I think on our day, we can beat anyone. Of the games we have lost, a lot of them have only been by a few goals.
“We just need to keep pushing in the right direction. It would be really nice to make the end of season play-offs and I think the guys can push on and do more.”
Parry’s men have enjoyed an extended festive break, having played their last game of 2015 – a defeat to title-chasing Blackburn Hawks – on December 12th.
He added: “The long break is the same for a lot of teams, so I don’t expect it to make any difference against Sheffield. Many of our guys have trained with the EPL squad, which has helped.
“January is a busy month and we need to start it well. A lot of the teams in and around us will be looking to take fourth place, so it’s a key part of the season for us.
“I don’t think the defeat to Blackburn before Christmas will have a huge effect on the squad. We have been playing well all season, and it was just one bad period that hurt us.
Deeside Dragons will welcome back prolific forward James Parsons for this weekend’s Laidler D2 games against Coventry Blaze and Altrincham Aces.
The 28-year-old suffered a fractured cheekbone in a horror collision during his side’s 12-1 win over Bradford Bulldogs in November.
Parsons has since undergone facial surgery to repair the injury and is likely to wear a face cage for much of the rest of the season.
Deeside boss Lol Paul is looking forward to seeing him back in a Dragons jersey this weekend.
He said: “It’s fantastic to have James back in the team, although he will of course be wearing a visor. He’s been training with us for a while and has looked good in the drills.
“James has naturally been keen to get back playing, but I’ll probably be flexible with his shifts for the first few games. He is one of our top scorers and I’m sure he’ll slot straight back in.
“January is a very busy and important month for us. We’ll have some other guys back, such as Ross Kennedy, so we’ll be a lot stronger against Coventry and Manchester.”
Saturday’s clash with Coventry is a repeat of Deeside’s final home fixture of 2015, when they put in a dominant performance to beat Blaze 7-1.
But Paul will urge his players to put memories of that win to the back of their minds.
“If we underestimate teams, it is apparent straight away and we have to get on top of that,” he added. “As far as the players go, we have to be strict on how we start games.
“We are top of the league and the table doesn’t lie. If we play at our best throughout games, then we’ll be fine. The mental side, at this stage of the season, is really important.”
Sunday sees Deeside make the trip to face local rivals Altrincham Aces, a team that has struggled to maintain a consistent run of form so far this season.
“Aces have strengthened since we last played them and are very good on home ice,” Paul said.
“We need to go there flying and go for the points. That is what it’s all about now. Whether we win well, or win ugly, we need to keep going for the points if we want to win the league.”
NIHL North Moralee D1
Sutton Sting v Solihull Barons
Billingham Stars v Solihull Barons
Blackburn Hawks v Sutton Sting
Telford Tigers NIHL v Sheffield Spartans
NIHL North Laidler D2
Bradford Bulldogs v Blackburn Eagles
Deeside Dragons v Coventry Blaze
Altrincham Aces v Deeside Dragons
Hull Jets v Bradford Bulldogs
Nottingham Lions v Widnes Wild