WHITLEY Warriors coach Garry Dowd is refusing to repeat past mistakes and hype up tomorrow’s top-of-the table derby at Billingham Stars.
The Warriors are looking to close the five-point gap on the Stars, who have a game in hand at the top of English National League North One.
Whitley have won the last two titles, but in this season of transition Billingham have already inflicted two defeats on them.
In the first meeting this season, Billingham ran out 7-2 victors and Dowd’s hunt for revenge at Hillheads was unsuccessful as Whitley were defeated 5-3.
The match has added importance for Warriors coach Dowd, an ex-Billingham man. Nevertheless, the coach is doing his best to treat this game like he would any other.
“I don’t feel we have a point to prove. We have a full bench this time around, which we didn’t in the previous games,” he said.
“The last two times I’ve built it up as a big local derby game and a few of the lads rose to that and a few didn’t, so this time around we’re just treating it the same as any other match.” Last week Whitley beat Coventry Blaze and Solihull Barons to gain on Billingham and take momentum into this fixture.
“The two wins were massive,” added Dowd. “We started the New Year with a loss at Trafford, but having got those wins we have put our season back on track.”
Billingham lost their last game at Blackburn Hawks, and Dowd is seeking to emulate the approach of those who have done well against the Stars recently.
“They’ve had trouble recently against teams playing an offensive physical game, trying to crash the net, and we’ll be looking to do that too,” he said.
Dowd put his own skates on last weekend to cover the injury-weakened squad, and the coach will provide cover again tomorrow.
“This is absolutely a must-win game to challenge for the title. A loss would be a big step back for our title aspirations so it’s vital we win,” added Dowd.
The match is at Billingham’s TFM Ice Arena. Tickets will be available on the door from 5.30pm with the game at 6.30pm. A large crowd is anticipated and fans are advised to get to the Arena early.