WHITLEY Warriors are now within one win of retaining the league title thanks to a 6-3 win in Blackburn at the weekend.
It was the visitors who were off the mark quickest when Adam Robinson scored his first goal for the club in the third minute, but the Hawks were quick to respond and drew level through Sam Dunford at 4.58.
Each side then scored again as Matthew Rich put Whitley back in front at 9.32, only to see Chris Arnone cancel that out with a goal three minutes later.
However, that would be as close as the home side would get and the visitors scored two more before the first interval.
DJ Good added a powerplay goal in the 15th minute and less than two minutes later skipper Adam Reynolds made it 4-2.
The middle session was much tighter, but there was nothing Blackburn could do to prevent the Warriors from extending their lead when Reynolds grabbed his second at 31.39.
And there was certainly no way back for the Hawks when Ritchie Thornton made it 6-2 with a powerplay effort on 49 minutes, although the home side did pull one back when Arnone scored again in the 55th minute; while there were two Whitley players in the penalty box.
“It started out as a typical open game that we always seem to get involved in at Blackburn,” said Warriors coach Simon Leach.
“But once we sat down in the dressing room at the end of the first, we were able to calm things down and we just didn’t give up as many scoring opportunities after that.”
With Karl Culley – who has scored more than 300 goals for the club – out for around six weeks after picking up a stomach injury against Coventry the previous weekend, Leach was looking for players to step up.
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And he was delighted to see recent signings Adam Robinson and Matthew Rich net the first two goals.
“They are both experienced players who have settled into the team very well and scoring those vital goals can only help their confidence even more,” the coach added.
Now the challenge for the Warriors is to finish the job at Hillheads and Leach used that as motivation for the Blackburn win.
“We have hardly mentioned winning the title all season, but before this game I reminded the players what the prize could be for winning in Blackburn and they responded with another excellent performance.
“I was extremely happy with what we did tonight and even when we were under pressure James Flavell was once again outstanding goal, as he has been all season, and pulled off some crucial saves.
“We’ve now put ourselves in a great position to clinch the league in front of our own fans,” he added, “and it would be great if we could see the biggest crowd of the season turn out on Sunday to see them try and win the trophy; they have certainly earned that with their record breaking performances so far this season.”
Reynolds took his points tally for the season to 50 with his two goals, while DJ Good scored his 100th goal for the Warriors.
Telford Titans are the side that stand between the Warriors and a second consecutive league title when they come to Hillheads on Sunday night (face-off 5pm) and tickets will be available on the door for what could be a historic evening, as no side has ever retained the title before.
Tickets are priced at £7 for adults, £5 for Under 16s and concessions; while there is also a family ticket (2 adults, 2 children) available at £19.