Following a successful end to 2022 Raiders started the New Year with mixed results.
In December predictable wins against Basingstoke (6-3) and Bees (away 2-3 home 4-1) were tempered with a hard fought short handed loss in Milton Keynes (5-2) on Thursday 22nd. Six out of eight points in the last 2 weeks of the year were enough to give the festive period a relatively happy ring to it for fans and players alike to accompany the carols and annual appearance of Michael Bubble.
The New Year started immediately with a January 1st fixture in the hostile cold wastes of Peterborough and Raiders festive spirit extended to the normal multi goal present to the Phantoms meaning the rest of the evening was a game of catch up just when you thought the charades had finished for another 12 months. But the traditional Bretton come back saw the final 2 goals appearing on the visitors side of the scoreboard and hostilities breaking out at the final buzzer meaning plenty of wasted time noting penalties and earning the EIHA some more money with fines. A 4-2 loss and another game where you always felt that a win could have been possible.
The visiting Tigers on Bank Holiday Monday did not arrive with the expectation or anticipation of previous seasons and thus holding the score line level till the 27th minute was perhaps the biggest surprise and frankly a good effort to do so. The third period saw Raiders open the Telford defence regularly and exposed Brad Day in between the pipes quite cruelly at times and on one occasion he could be seen pointing to the looming danger to attempt to get his defence to cover the open forward who was just about to have another free shot on goal.
A 6-1 win, a large happy crowd and the feeling that the middle of the league position, and play-off participation, is reasonably secure for the first time in nearly a decade without relying upon the last game of the season.
A more difficult weekend approaches as the journey to Swindon on Saturday and hosting Milton Keynes on Sunday will see the team playing two teams above them in the league. The form book suggests that fact alone means a nil point weekend. The optimist in us all thinks beating a team with a higher league position has to happen soon. If that win could be against arguably the most inconsistent team in the league right now (Swindon) then that mood shift could make anything possible on Sunday. Where is the fingers crossed emoticon when you need it?