Durham re­main the ob­sta­cle as Bow­don bid to rise again

Bow­don Hightown de­fender Ian Wil­son has ri­vals Durham in his sights, writes Will Hold­er­ness

The Hockey Paper - - NEWS -

SINCE rel­e­ga­tion to the Men’s Con­fer­ence North in 2012, Bow­don Hightown have flirted with pro­mo­tion to re­claim their place in Eng­land’s top tier – but never quite made it.

Hark­ing back to their prover­bial glory days, Bow­don were ac­cus­tomed to life in the Pre­mier Divi­sion, hav­ing spent four sea­sons there from 2007.

With Si­mon Egerton their tal­is­man, con­tribut­ing 44 goals in 35 games, it was no sur­prise that the team from Al­trin­cham es­tab­lished a reg­u­lar place amongst the na­tion’s hockey elite.

How­ever, after fin­ish­ing bot­tom in the year they were rel­e­gated, Bow­don were made to ad­just to life in the un­fa­mil­iar Con­fer­ence di­vi­sions and have re­mained there ever since.

For any rel­e­gated side, drop­ping into the Con­fer­ence is no easy tran­si­tion as the lure of the Pre­mier Divi­sion is of­ten too tempt­ing for most stars.

Keep­ing strength in depth and qual­ity is vi­tal to ev­ery side and, de­spite los­ing Egerton to Bee­ston for the 2012-13 season, Bow­don have found a for­mula to make them con­sis­tent per­form­ers in a chal­leng­ing divi­sion.

Over the past four sea­sons they have fin­ished a nar­row sec­ond on three oc­ca­sions and won the divi­sion in 2014-15, but couldn’t clinch the pro­mo­tion they crave.

Over­com­ing this bar­rier has proven a tough task for Bow­don and, given the fault­less start Univer­sity of Durham have made to this cam­paign, it might fol­low a sim­i­larly tan­ta­lis­ing trend again this season.

Cur­rently sit­ting in their all­too-fa­mil­iar sec­ond place, Bow­don have had a mixed start to the season and are eight points adrift of the lead­ers.

But ex­pe­ri­enced de­fender Ian Wil­son is in con­fi­dent mood ahead of out­door hockey re­turn­ing next month.

“We’ve been a bit up and down this season. We had some spells where we played re­ally good hockey but never man­aged to click for a full 70 min­utes in a lot of our games,” he said.

“So far I think we can feel pretty good about the first half of the season – we’re still in the mix for top spot and not too far off Durham, so now our aim is to catch them.”

Durham’s 100-per-cent record puts them firmly in the Con­fer­ence North driv­ing seat but Bow­don them­selves won five league games on the trot be­fore the win­ter break.

Mo­men­tum plays a key part in any suc­cess­ful cam­paign and, with both teams in such rich veins of form, the league is finely poised for a block­buster 2017.

“We had a run at the end where we won games right at the death, we went three or four on the bounce where we played to the last minute and won to­wards the end of the game,” Wil­son added.

“That shows how fit we are now and how much we want it. Look­ing back, it’s gone well and we’re rel­ish­ing the sec­ond half of the season.

“All credit to Durham, they’ve had a great first half of the season. They’ve won ten on the spin so the mo­men­tum is with them, but the Christ­mas break is go­ing to halt that a lit­tle bit be­cause ev­ery­one’s got to get go­ing again in Fe­bru­ary when it restarts.”

It’ll cer­tainly be some feat if Bow­don reel Durham in, but they do have the ex­pe­ri­ence when it comes to push­ing for pro­mo­tion – with Wil­son be­ing part of the side that rose back into the Pre­mier Divi­sion in 2006-07.

He said: “I’ve been in leagues be­fore where you’re at the top and teams are chas­ing you and you get ner­vous. We hope they can drop a few points here and there and take it down to the wire with them.

“We’ve al­ways been in the mix for this league, for four years on the spin we’ve been right up there.

“We have the ex­pe­ri­ence, we’ve got play­ers who have played at the high­est level so we back our­selves if things do be­come pres­surised in the last few games.”

As prepa­ra­tions for the sec­ond half of the season get un­der way, Bow­don have a fully-fit squad and two friendlies to pre­pare them­selves for the re­turn of league ac­tion on Fe­bru­ary 4.

Wil­son and his team-mates wel­come strug­gling Can­nock to the north that day, be­fore the crunch en­counter with the Palati­nates the fol­low­ing week­end – also at Bow­don.

“We’ve got to play them at our place, we back our­selves at home against pretty much any team be­cause we’re hard to beat there so hope­fully we can dis­rupt their run and make the points gap smaller,” Wil­son added.

“We had a pretty tough train­ing camp re­cently and did lots of fit­ness work to get our­selves back in shape again.

“We’ve got no-one in­jured. Our strength and con­di­tion­ing coach keeps us in re­ally good shape and with the physio look­ing after us as well I’m sure we’ll be in the best pos­si­ble place for Can­nock.”

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