Hockey round-up: Sheffield Bankers look to stay in title hunt as Hallam hope to set up derby clashes

Matt Godden, Sheffield Bankers' captain
Matt Godden, Sheffield Bankers' captain
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Sheffield University Bankers’ men’s first team will be hoping to build on a good start to the season in 2015, as they hone in on promotion to the Conference North.

The Bankers got off to a terrific start to the season, winning seven of their first nine league games, and looked to be coasting to a comfortable promotion.

But five points from the four games before Christmas have placed a few doubts in Bankers’ minds, as their lead over second was cut to just one point.

There is a feeling at the club that pull-outs and injuries have weakened the Bankers’ grip on the title race, but hope that the situation will resolve itself when the season gets back underway.

Key to their hopes is Drew Burkin, who has scored over 25 per cent of his side’s goals this season, and he will be hoping to kick off 2016 in a similar fashion.

If Burkin - who has become renowned for his ‘drag flick’ skill - and other key men such as captain Matt Godden are at their best, then the Bankers have a terrific chance of promotion.

Meanwhile, Sheffield Hallam will be looking to continue holding their own in the Conference North, potentially setting up a local derby with the Bankers next year.

Hallam sit seventh out of 10, five points clear of the relegation zone, and will be looking to make further improvements as the season unfolds.

They are excellent defensively, conceding fewer goals this season than second-placed Bowdon, and that is a record that they will rely on with only bottom side Lichfield having netted less goals.

Hallam’s second string will be hoping to improve on the first half of their campaign in the North Hockey League Division One, as they sit precariously just four points above bottom-placed Wakefield.

They suffer from similar ailments as their senior side, namely a lack of goals, while no win since October is an obvious cause for concern.

No such problems for the Bankers’ second XI, though, who propelled themselves right into the promotion race with back-to-back wins in Division Two (East) of the North Hockey League before Christmas.

James Osborne’s side sit two points from top spot heading into the second half of the season, and will be looking to join their Hallam rivals in Division One next term.

There is a feeling of optimism surrounding both clubs heading into 2016, with numerous twists, turns and tense finishes sure to litter the hockey calendar once more.