Stars Ready For Derby Battle

Ward and Barnes square up in the last league encounter between the two sides.

Ward and Barnes square up in the last league encounter between the two sides.

Billingham Stars and their fans have earned the bragging rights over local rivals Whitley Warriors since the Stars battled their way from 3-1 down to a 4–3 victory in early November, leaving Simon Leach with memories of a game he would rather forget.

A New Year trip to Teesside proved no kinder to Coach Leach as his side succumbed to a 6–2 loss at Billingham Forum.

The final derby game of the season faces off on Sunday night at Whitley Bay, and Stars Head Coach Terry Ward has reminded his players that in big derby games previous results count for nothing:

“It’s all about the game on the night, derby games are tribal battles, both sets of fans are full of anticipation, there will be a highly charged atmosphere up at Whitley Bay and the Stars will be going flat out to extend our lead over the Warriors. We need to keep our league campaign on track.”

Billingham are still hanging tough in second place, 2 points ahead of third-placed Blackburn Hawks who have a game in hand over the Stars. Whitley are sitting just outside the top four play off qualifying slots and Simon Leach knows he must make the Warriors’ home ice advantage count tomorrow night to keep the Tynesiders’ play-off hopes alive.

Captain Paul Windridge scores the Stars' sixth against the Warriors earlier this month.

Captain Paul Windridge scores the Stars’ sixth against the Warriors earlier this month.

The Warriors are again this season’s most drawn against team in the league, with 5 ties to date and 8 wins from 20 starts, inconsistency seems to have been the Warriors Achilles Heel this season. Warriors pulled off their best result to date just after the New Year when they held league leaders and current champions Solway Sharks to a 2-2 draw. Then last weekend the Warriors gave Telford Titans a huge boost when after 19 games played the Shropshire side took their first point of the season in a 5-all draw.

Billingham go into Sunday night’s game on the back of a 6–2 cup loss at the hands of Sutton Sting, however recent league performances have the Stars unbeaten in three outings going back to a 6–2 win over the Warriors on January 12th.

Terry Ward is pleased with his side’s solid league start in 2014:

“We went through a really tough patch either side of the festive break, we now have light at the end of the tunnel. The return of James McCabe, Jamie Pattison and Anthony Price has certainly taken some of the pressure off some the guys, another 2 points off the Warriors tomorrow night would be the icing on the cake.”

Long term injuries Michael Elder and Andy Finn remain sidelined but Ward worries about pressures mounting to bring them back too early. Big blue liner Dave Thomas trained with the Stars this week and is available for selection.

“We don’t have such a large squad at Billingham this season, therefore when a player becomes a long term injury the pressure builds up on the other guys, however it would be counter-productive to bring people back before they are 110% fit. I expect a high speed physical game on Sunday night and the last thing we want to do is antagonise their injuries.”

Billingham manager Allen Flavell believes it’s vital for as many Stars fans to make the trip up the A19:

“There is no game like the Tyne-Tees derby, it evokes memories of some superb clashes over the years, I love the atmosphere at Hillheads. Whitley Warriors on their home ice in front of their home fans are formidable opposition, the support we take up the A19 really helps our guys lift their game, it’s like having a sixth man on the ice at times.

It will be a great atmosphere and the game means something for both sides – a win for us is vital to strengthen our league position and the Warriors will realise that a loss this weekend could leave them outside the play-off party, it would be great if we can repeat the performance from the last derby game.”

Sunday’s game faces off at 5pm. The Supporters Coach departs the Forum car park at 3pm prompt – any fans wishing to travel should contact BIHSC asap as remaining space is limited.

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