Nervous sighs of relief were exhaled around Sheffield University Bankers hockey club as the men’s first team beat Preston 2s 9-1 at their Goodwin centre fortress but more importantly clung onto a dramatic 3-2 win over Yorkshire rivals Leeds 2s the following day.
The back-to-back victories pushed the Sheffield side to the top of the table for the first time this season on 55 points after 21 games– two points ahead of City of York, who they had beaten in the dramatic must-win game the week before, and with only one game left to play.
Despite an empathic home result on Saturday, Matt Northcott, the head coach, had to watch on in nervous panic as his unbeaten team were almost undone by division strugglers Leeds.
“It was a very one sided affair against Preston and we were the better side by a mile. The game plan was to attack from the off and we were 5-0 up by half-time because of free flowing and comfortable hockey,” explained Matt.
“We did have one lapse in concentration where everybody just switched off completely but we were spot on with everything else including great confidence following our win over York.
“But on the Sunday I don’t really know what happened. We started off very quickly and were 3-0 within 10 minutes! I just think players then let it slip and Leeds really woke up and challenged us by pushing high up the pitch.
“They got their second late, and everybody was so nervous in the last 10 minutes. The players knew how important it was to get the win and that really showed on the pitch. I’m just so relieved we got the result!”
Bankers will win the North 1 Division league title if they win tomorrow at fifth placed City of Manchester, who they emphatically beat 7-2 in the reverse fixture in November.
Matt is confident his side can clinch the trophy, in his first season in charge, and has stressed that the players will be focusing on closing down their opponents dangerous’ aerial threat.
“They have a very talented player who has a superb air pass and that is their only real threat to us and way in on goal. If we close that down then they will be very limited to what they can throw at us,” explained the 23-year-old.
“We have a better hockey playing side and I want us to really play with flair and passion which we have been about all season. We won’t win the game by holding back – we need to come out all guns blazing and really attack Manchester.
“The team deserve to walk off that pitch as champions on Saturday because everybody at this club has played so well this season and I am not going to let the players even consider losing.”
“I will be saying some very motivational words before the start but the players shouldn’t need it because what could be better than getting their hands on that trophy- bring on Manchester!”