Coach Pitchley so pleased by development of youngsters in Junior Raiders programme
PUBLISHED: 11:00 03 April 2020
Romford Junior Raiders head coach Ben Pitchley said he was delighted with the development of his players during the 2019/20 National League Division One season.
Raiders had won 12 of their 33 completed matches before the campaign was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic.
And Pitchely felt his youngsters held their own against more experienced and established teams throughout the schedule.
He said: “When we announced we would be taking up a spot in the new format NIHL 1 South, lots of people thought we were mad.
“Playing against established senior teams, as a two-year-old developmental programme was always going to be a tough ask, but it was the right thing to do, to challenge our players to have to compete on a regular basis.
“The player development we achieved this year has been unreal and has really pushed our young team to play harder and tougher than they would’ve had to had we stayed in Division Two.”
Facing the first teams of Streatham, Solent, Chelmsford, Invicta, Slough and Oxford was always going to be a tough test, but Pitchley added: “Over the course of the season we managed to compete against every team in the league.
“A couple of games that stick in the mind would be the 9-3 loss to Streatham when we were 3-1 down going into the third and we had them struggling to score. We then fell to pieces.
“And probably the best game we played all year would’ve been the second home game against Chelmsford, when we lost 6-5, being less than a minute away from overtime in front of our highest attendance of the season.”
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Raiders were not helped by the loss of key players early on and struggled to maintain momentum but they enjoyed staying unbeaten in December.
Pitchley said: “Consistency was probably our biggest problem all year as we struggled with being able to play for a full 60 minutes and it showed in a lot of games.
“We put this down to the age profile of the team. We were the second-youngest team in the whole of National League One across the country and this is going to be the same going forward as we are a development programme.
“But in all my time as a player and coach I’ve known a Romford team to suffer so many injuries. When we are three defencemen down with season-ending injuries inside the first three months, it makes things tough.
“We had players out on concussion protocols and most weekends we had players playing injured. Everything that could go wrong did, but we got on with it.
“Going unbeaten through the whole of December was a massive achievement for the team and we played some really good hockey along the way.”
Raiders ended their truncated season with a penalty shoot-out win at Oxford on March 11 and now wait to see what will happen this summer.
Pitchley expects changes will be made, adding: “We’re no doubt going to lose players to other teams as some of our guys did a good job of putting themselves in the shop window.
“Once we get the end of season awards out of the way, we will start announcing players for next season and start building for 2020/21.
“We have more talent coming through the junior programme and through this progression we will continue to build players for the National team. All a junior player wants to do is play for their club’s senior team.
“A big thank you to all the backroom staff that Malcolm and Catherine have at their disposal for gamed ays as without the work these people put into the club, what we do on the ice doesn’t happen.”
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