REGARDLESS of what happens in ice hockey’s North East derby, Whitley Warriors will consider this season a success, says Garry Dowd.
Tomorrow’s game against Billingham Stars at Hillheads could go a long way to deciding who wins English National League North One.
Regardless, Dowd will look back on the campaign with pleasure.
It is Dowd’s first as coach – he added playing to his duties in the New Year – and he went into it with low expectations.
The goal, he said at the time, was securing a play-off place.
Victory over Trafford Metros last week guaranteed that.
Dowd said: “When I took over my aim was just to stay in the league.
“I said we would try to make the play-offs. Now we are starting to look at the title.
“We had a shaky start to the season and it took us until Christmas to gel properly.
“Since then, though, we have pulled 11 points back on Billingham.
“There were a few fans at the start of the season who said we would not make the play-offs and we would be relegated.
“There is no pressure on me now. The management are happy.”
They will be happier still if Whitley win in Sheffield tonight to go level on points with Billingham from a game more.
Dowd (pictured below) is not concerned at having twice the Stars’ workload this weekend – he thinks the fact Billingham have not played for a fortnight is an advantage – and is refusing to think about the derby until tonight.
He added: “I am not even looking at Sunday. We need to win tonight’s game first and foremost.
“If we are in a comfortable position we will be reserving our energy, but if we mess up at Sheffield the Billingham game will be less important anyway.
“We will talk about it for the first time on the bus tonight.”
Rather than taking more players to South Yorkshire with tomorrow in mind, Dowd will bring fewer.
He said: “I tried to play four lines against Solihull. I played three last week but there was not enough room on the bench.
“Some people were not getting much ice time.”