For one night only - Friday Night hockey is back!!!!!!
Cardiff & UWIC v Whitchurch
After a few weeks of discussion with EHL the rearranged Cardiff & UWIC v Whitchurch game will take place on Friday 8th March at 19:30 (push back 20:00). The game, which will be taking place at the National Hockey Centre in Cardiff, will see the two top men's teams in Wales do battle again in what is always a feisty encounter. When these two clubs met earlier in the season Cardiff and UWIC came away with the victory with the only goal being scored by ex-Whitchurch player Mark Whatling. Since then both teams season have taken them in very different directions with Whitchurch battling to avoid the drop whilst Cardiff and UWIC look for promotion to the EHL Men's Premier League.
Cardiff & UWIC's last game was a 5 – 1 victory over Fareham which put them on equal points with second place University of Exeter and only 3 points behind 1st place Guilford with a game in hand.
Whitchurch however have had a mixed season, currently 8th in the league but only 2 points behind 5th placed University of Birmingham so will be looking to capture all three points in this, their game in hand. They will certainly have no intention of joining Bristol Firebrands whose relegation back to the Regional League was confirmed last weekend.
Hockey Wales asked the two managers some questions:
Q1. How has the season gone so far?
Nazir Mohamed, Whitchurch: The season so far has been a tough one as we are in the process of rebuilding.
Ben Eaton, Cardiff & UWIC: The season has gone really well so far. All we have asked the team to do in each of the last 4 seasons is to improve on the season before that. I believe we are nearly at the point this season, where we can say we have improved from 2011/12. If you class since May 2012 as being 'this season' we have won an outdoor gold medal and promotion into the EuroHockey Champions Cup, earned a bronze medal at the EuroHockey Champions Indoor Cup and have been top or joint top of the EHL Men's Conference West league for most of the season. When I look back on that record, at what everyone has achieved as a team so far, I am really proud of the team – so yes, the season has gone well so far.
Q2 – How important is this game?
NM: As far as this game goes any local derby can be a frustrating game but I hope that like the Welsh National Indoor Cup Final in January it is a good game of hockey which both sides are more than capable of playing. We have started to gel as team and it will a good test for the squad.
BE: The key to any high performance league is consistency, so in that respect it is an important match because all league games become important. Anyone looking at Whitchurch's league position shouldn't be fooled, Whitchurch are a very good team and their league position doesn't reflect the quality and experience they have all the way through their team. I really hope that Whitchurch get into a comfortable league position soon, I have good friends in the opposition team and we all want them to stay in this league so that hockey in Wales can continue to have lots of pathways to high level hockey. Cardiff and UWIC expect this match to be a hard match and the lads will have to prepare themselves in the same way they would for any other match. Many of the players on either team are good friends or ex-teammates, so gone are the days of a 'nasty' derby, the game will be two great Welsh teams playing good hockey and that is what makes this an important game, promoting hockey in the way it should be played.
Q3 – (addressed to BE) Do you think the team can claim the prize of promotion this season?
I'm going to answer this in exactly the same way Craig Bellamy answered this question when asked about Cardiff City FC gaining promotion to the Premiership. The team are concentrating on the next game and the next game only. We won't 'take our foot of the pedal' because that is not in this team's nature; we have been playing well, so naturally we want to keep that going for as long as we can.
There will also be a collection for the British Heart Foundation during the evening.
This derby game will be a tightly fought affair and with both sets of fans getting behind their team should make it a great way to spend a Friday night!