Title challengers Sheffield University Bankers told to sharpen up

Sheffield University Bankers are unbeaten but trail leaders York by five points with a match in hand. Picture: Ian Anderson
Sheffield University Bankers are unbeaten but trail leaders York by five points with a match in hand. Picture: Ian Anderson
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Sheffield University Bankers hockey club head coach Matt Northcott believes the side can win the league this season.

But he says they must play with a more attacking style ahead of this weekend’s trip to face bottom-of-the- league Leeds Men’s 2s after a crucial 2-1 home win against Newcastle University 1s last Saturday.

The victory was the Sheffield side’s fourth consecutive win and they remain unbeaten in North 1 Division, currently in second place on 30 points, with City of York ahead by five points but having played a game extra.

Northcott, 23, was pleased that Bankers came from behind to win, but was disappointed with the overall “rusty performance,” after the Christmas break and admitted that his side were greatly aided by the sending off of a Newcastle defender in the 55th minute of the game.

“Signs of a lack of match fitness from players were clearly visible and after we fell behind I knew we needed something to give us a boost,” said the coach who took over in August.

“Then we had a bit of luck as the Newcastle player made a rash challenge bringing down our attacker with a horrible tackle from behind and we took the advantage by finishing off the penalty corner.

“It did turn things for us as up till then the tempo and attacking play wasn’t at the level that I would have liked but we made sure that we took our chances and that was the difference on the day.”

Before kick-off Newcastle had been just two points behind and captain Matt Godden was all too aware of the importance of the game.

“Our aim is for promotion this season and if possible winning the league outright and it was that motivation which gave us the last little push to cling on till the end,” said the 23-year-old.

“They could have drawn level with us right at the end but thanks to some last-ditch defending we got those vital points but overall a lot of improvement can be made on our performance.

“We can’t use Christmas as an excuse and we really need to pick our fitness up over the next few games. I think overall though we did deserve the victory and we have to take confidence from that.”

However Matt has warned that the team must improve and play with more attacking flair ahead of this Saturday’s game at Leeds, who haven’t won a game all season, or they may face an unexpected upset.

“We must not under estimate them – I don’t want Leeds to be the banana skin team that effects the excellent run of form that we have been on,” explained the former Walsall player.

“I believe we are the best team in this league and I want us to get back to playing the attacking style we were playing before Christmas when goals were flying in.

“I want everyone switched on right from the whistle and I expect lots of goals and chances to be created.”

The skipper added: “When we are playing at our best and following the coach’s game plan we really are unstoppable and so we do have something to prove on Saturday.”

“We have some very important fixtures coming up and we are gearing ourselves up for the big game against York towards the end of February because that could well be the league title decider.

“The title is in our hands if we want it and so we must all just focus and take each game as it comes.”