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New Raider excited to face old club

PUBLISHED: 17:00 29 January 2016

John Connolly made an impressive debut for London Raiders against Streatham (pic: John Scott)

John Connolly made an impressive debut for London Raiders against Streatham (pic: John Scott)

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Connolly: Hard work and perseverance the key

Former Chelmsford defenceman John Connolly pins London Raiders forward Rio Grinell-Parke to the boards during an earlier meeting between the clubs (pic: John Scott)Former Chelmsford defenceman John Connolly pins London Raiders forward Rio Grinell-Parke to the boards during an earlier meeting between the clubs (pic: John Scott)

London Raiders will look to end an eight-match winless run when they host National League leaders Chelmsford tomorrow (Saturday, 5.30pm).

And although they have lost their five previous meetings this season, recent signing John Connolly knows what it takes to beat the Chieftains.

Defenceman Connolly was released by the Essex club earlier this month, along with fellow blueliner Matt France, and the pair are now wearing the gold and blue Raiders jersey.

He said: “I’m excited to face Chelmsford again. What’s done is done, you move on from it.

“I’m looking forward to it and will be trying my best for London from now on and hopefully we can get the points.

“You need hard work and perseverance. Chelmsford are a really good team, with a lot of talent, but sometimes they can lack a bit of hard work.

“If we stick together, buy into the system and everything else, get good goaltending, backchecking and forechecking, who knows.”

Chelmsford cut Connolly and France to make room on their roster for brothers Billy and Charlie Phillips, themselves former Raiders.

And they made an impact on their Raiders debut during the 5-5 draw with Streatham last weekend, with France on target on his return to the Lee Valley-based club.

Connolly added: “Myself and Matt France coming in helps defensively and if we can cut a goal or two out, we can start winning a few more games.

“Hopefully our contributions can help the team climb the table.

“I thought I had a good performance on my debut. It was different from being at Chelmsford, but I was quite impressed with the team.

“I’d only seen them from playing against them, but I got to know a few more of the boys at practice last week and I think we were unlucky not to win against Streatham.

“A few mistakes cost us goals and if we’d tightened up we might’ve won.

“On the whole I was impressed and if we can take that into the rest of the season we can climb the table.”

Having lost six successive matches either side of the festive break, Raiders have at least stopped the rot with a pair of draws.

And Connolly has been impressed with his new team-mates, especially the energy shown by some of the rookies on the squad.

He said: “The young ones are like little whippets!

“Seb and Rio just don’t stop and playing against them was an absolute nightmare. They are always at your heels and you can’t have a shift off or they will be buzzing past you.

“They’re good in the room as well. They get involved, don’t just sit in the corner, and they will learn a lot more from this experience.”

Raiders remain without influential Liam Chong as he continues his recovery from a broken thumb, but the club are hoping the injury does not keep him sidelined for much longer.

And Connolly knows how valuable the 23-year-old is to the side, adding: ”I played with Chongy for Great Britain (under-20s) and he’s a good player who works hard.

“He’s a big loss to the team just now, but once he’s back and fit again, we’ll progress more and have more depth up front.”

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