Raiders forward Pitchley is looking to end year on high at new Sapphire ‘fortress’
PUBLISHED: 15:30 21 December 2018
Everyone Active Raiders forward JJ Pitchley wants to end 2018 on a high note, after helping his side extend their winning run to five matches last weekend.
Raiders visit an off-colour Streatham on Saturday (5.30pm), before hosting defending National League Division One champions Basingstoke at Romford’s Sapphire Ice & Leisure Centre on Sunday (5.30pm).
And Pitchley, who netted the game-winning goal in their 6-4 success over Swindon last weekend, believes they are now making their new home a place to be feared, just like the old Rom Valley Way rink used to be.
The home-grown 24-year-old said: “The atmosphere is unreal at the Sapphire. I’ve had guys say again how intimidating it was to play there and it’s not a nice place to come to.
“The boys have done well to turn it into a fortress over the last two months and that’s the plan for the rest of the season.
“Now we want to keep the streak alive this weekend and go into the Christmas break with a huge amount of confidence and belief that we can do very well now, starting again in January.”
Pitchley helped Liam Chong set up Filip Sedivy’s early opener against the Wildcats, but the visitors hit back with two goals in 54 seconds from Floyd Taylor and Max Birbraer.
After the visitors lost Sam Bullas to a game penalty for slashing, Jake Sylvester levelled in the second period with a superb piece of hand-eye co-ordination, volleying the puck out of mid air past Renny Marr, only for Taylor to claim his second for Swindon.
Ollie Baldock squared matters again before the end of the session, but Raiders lost Blaho Novak to a match penalty for roughing and Sam Jones put Wildcats 4-3 up in the 47th minute.
Ashley Jackson’s power play goal got Raiders back on terms once more and Pitchley cut in from the left wing to fire into the top corner with less than three minutes remaining.
Brandon Ayliffe’s empty-net goal from inside his own half, after Marr was withdrawn for an extra skater, sealed a memorable triumph and Pitchley added: “We started off rocky, but wins like the last five are showing us hard work pays off.
“We’re all on the same page, playing the same way and it’s working, so you can’t argue with that. Coventry finals and some silverware is still the end goal and we’re working hard to get there.”