DERWENT Hockey Club’s first team coach has asked for more of the same from his players as they prepare to go for glory in the second half of the season.
Going into the Christmas and New Year break, Derwent had won all ten of their games, scoring 47 and conceding five goals in the process of opening up a 13-point lead at the top of the East Midlands League Division One.
This Saturday, they return to competitive action with a trip to take on Nottingham Players and coach Heath Roberts is confident the groundwork has been laid for a successful second half of the season.
Roberts has been coach since the last day of the 2009-2010 season and feels the basis of his side’s superb run was there in the later stages of last season.
He explained: “We had a key game towards the end where we went to Ramgarhia, who were second, we played well and didn’t look back. We didn’t lose for the rest of the season and in fact haven’t lost a league match since then, back in late February.
“The big difference this year was that we went over to Beeston to play in a pre-season summer league. Beeston are like the Man Utd of hockey, they have England games there and I think we got a lot of out of the whole experience.
“We also picked up a couple of new players who were Derby-based but played for Sheffield and that’s Ben Everett-Li and Richard Wildgoose, and through them that led to a third player, Nick Harrod-Evans, and they’ve all been key additions. I could see it all starting to click.”
He continued: “We’ve always been strong defensively but this season the difference is that, with Richard and Ben, we’ve got a real attacking threat, a cutting edge that can punish the opposition.
There was a key pre-season game where we won 6-4 against Stone, who play two leagues higher than us, and that’s when we thought ‘maybe we could really achieve something this year’.
“We’ve had a consistent line-up at the back which has helped and although we’ve not had as settled a frontline so far, that is something we are working on for the remainder of the season.
“In the defence, we have some pretty young guys who played really well and in the middle of it we have Adam Orduna who is 44, who has played at the top level of hockey and has been able to pass on that experience to benefit those around him. We’ve only conceded five goals and six or seven clean sheets so far, which is pretty unheard of. You’d be pretty happy with two or three in a season.”
Roberts believes the blend of youth with experience and attack with defence has played a big part in the success so far. “We’ve got a nice mix. Pace on the wings, a couple of good holding players in midfield and Ben Everett-Li has licence to go forward and play in and among the forward players. Teams can’t really pick him up and if he is in a one-on-one, he has the skills to beat his man.
“Our definite aim is to keep it going, keep our feet on the ground and keep our heads too. It’s an old cliche but we take it one game at a time.
“One of the things that is so good about this bunch of lads is that they are very hard working.
“Our best performance overall was probably at home to Leicester where we beat them 4-1. We expected Leicester to put pressure on us but the level of control, the workrate we put in and the skill shown was a pleasure to watch.
“We played them off the park and their coach was pretty dumbfounded by how well we had played that day.”
Asked to pick out one player who has stood out, Roberts eventually plumped for leading scorer Ben Everett-Li.
“All of the players have got considerable merits but I have to mention Ben. He has scored 18 in ten games and to do that from midfield is a fantastic achievement. There has been interest from one or two Midlands Premier sides but he turned them down as he feels really at home here, and that is a credit to the club.
“We are looking to strengthen as we continue through the season as we are in a good position to do so and we just want more of the same from them and to keep this run going. We have players expressing an interest in coming to play for us and that can only be good for the club as whole.”