8 league games and the second leg of the cup semi final to take a look at this week.
Swindon Wildcats had a weekend they would probably prefer to forget last weekend as they missed out on a chance to peg back the league leaders with losses against both Basingstoke and Bracknell. They did have a win against Invicta last night in a rare midweek game down in Kent, but I think they are fairly well cemented in 3rd place now – with a 6 point gap between themselves and the top two and another down to 4th place Raiders with just 6 games left to play. This weekend sees them play their final league games against both Streatham and Cardiff. They have mostly had the better of both teams so far this season, although the Redhawks did pull off a big 5-1 home win back in October. Redhawks are currently looking to be their most likely opponents in the first round of the playoffs, so both teams will want to put down a marker ahead of those games if they do end up matched together.
Bracknell have had a bit of a resurgence over the last 3 weeks, taking 9 points from 6 games after a spell of over 2 months in which they had just one dead-rubber cup game win and one league point from an OT loss point to their name. But they have a tough old weekend coming up as they visit league leaders Basingstoke on Saturday and then host league title challengers Peterborough on Sunday. While they definitely can’t win the title now, they could have a part to say in deciding where it goes if they can continue their good form and get at least one win from one of these games. Last Saturday they will have been disappointed to have only taken a point away from Peterborough after being the better team for the majority of the game, and they will be looking to take all the points at home.
Peterborough will be well aware that they got out of jail for free in that game on Saturday when they were poor for most of the game but somehow managed to stay on track with both points with a win in the penalty shootout. The league title is still a possibility for the Phantoms, but they probably can’t afford to drop points if they want to stay in the race and will know that they need to do better. They host Milton Keynes on Saturday and will want both a good performance and the 2 points to keep the pressure on Bison.
At the bottom of the table, Saturday probably sees Cardiff’s best chance of picking up some points this season when they host Invicta. The Dynamos have had the upper hand so far with 3 relatively comfortable wins, but they have also been struggling this season and while they will go into this game as the favourites, Cardiff have a chance of frustrating them and then catching them on the break. If Fire can keep up the intensity they have shown in the last few games I have watched for the full 60 minutes, I could see a shock result happening.
Sunday sees another first for London, who will have their first Sunday game in their new arena. With the promise of free parking added in to sweeten the pot for fans, they will be hoping for another bumper crowd. They will also be hoping for another first – that is to take some points from a game against Bison. So far, Basingstoke are the only team that have a clean sweep of results over the Raiders who have at least one win registered against all of the others in the league. But Bison will be well aware that they have Phantoms breathing down their neck at the top of the table and will put up one hell of a fight to stop that from happening. This could be a cracker.
Streatham and Invicta also meet on Sunday, Redhawks have taken all the points from the six games between these sides so far this season and will want to do the same again to ensure that they do not leave room to be overtaken in 6th place. The Dynamos will not go down easy and most of the games between these sides have been relatively close – so there is no margin for error for the Redhawks here.
National Cup action
Tuesday sees the second leg of the National Cup semi final between Swindon and Telford. On Wednesday, a final minute equaliser by Sam Bullas to make the first leg a 3-3 draw means that it is simply winner takes all in this game. The winner will go on to play Sheffield in the final.
18:15 Swindon Wildcats vs Streatham IHC (NIHL1)
18:30 Cardiff Fire vs Invicta Dynamos (NIHL1)
18:30 Basingstoke Bison vs Bracknell Bees (NIHL1)
19:00 Peterborough Phantoms vs Milton Keynes Thunder (NIHL1)
17:15 London Raiders vs Basingstoke Bison (NIHL1)
18:00 Cardiff Fire vs Swindon Wildcats (NIHL1)
18:00 Bracknell Bees vs Peterborough Phantoms (NIHL1)
18:45 Streatham IHC vs Invicta Dynamos (NIHL1)
19:45 Telford Tigers vs Swindon Wildcats (National Cup SF)
482days will have hopefully have some live twitter updates (TBC exactly where) over the weekend. If you want to come and say ‘hi’ or would like a pin badge, just look for the bright yellow laptop! We’ll also have updates on scores and scorers from all the games across the weekend as we get the information. Going to a game? We’d love to know what’s happening – tweet us @482days with your updates!
Looking for info on the NIHL2 games? You can find the NIHL2 South preview HERE where our correspondents Laurence Thorn and Don McDemott will take a look at all the action in that league this weekend.
Tables for active competitions this weekend
NIHL1 Britton League