At the risk of repeating myself, there is no such thing as an easy game in the new National League and if evidence was required, the Raiders 2-1 win over the Pirates provided a timely lesson. Whoever lifts the championship in 2020 is likely to register a greater number of losses than any league winners would normally expect. So, do Pirates’ fans have cause to be worried after a pointless weekend? Should fans already temper their expectations of lifting titles this season?
There is no doubt that the loss to Raiders came as a nasty surprise but if a wake-up call was required then that is it and a timely one at that. Any Pirates languishing under the illusion that the likes of Leeds or the Raiders will provide respite from the white-hot fixtures against the so-called leading teams, have received a reality check. The narrow defeats inflicted last weekend suggest that the Pirates are in need of fine-tuning rather than major surgery, therefore, now is not the time for panic. However, fans need to be patient and realise that the Pirates’ treble success will not be repeated. I will be as bold as to say that winning the league this season will be a greater achievement.
This campaign will be a gruelling one, where attrition rates will be high. In Hull’s case, the erosion has already commenced with injuries to key personnel. There is every chance that the team, which emerges with the league championship in its grasp, will not be the most talented but the one with the greatest fortitude and team spirit. So, should Hull fans cower at the prospect of meeting leading side Swindon and table toppers Sheffield Steeldogs when trying to reverse our recent slump? The Wildcats are proving to be poor travellers and have endured an indifferent start to this campaign but still retain an excellent home record. The Pirates will travel with little hope of capturing points in Wiltshire and so Sunday’s battle with arch rivals Sheffield, will be even more keenly contested, if that was possible. The ‘Dogs’ key outfield skater is Vladimir Luka but arguably, their most influential player is netminder, Dimitri Zimozdra. His 92.35% current average is a foreboding one for any attack-minded team, even one as potent as the Pirates but part of his success is due to the ring of steel cast around him by Ben Morgan and his fellow defenders. Break through them, and as we saw last season, Dimitri is definitely beatable with not just his ability tested but also an undeniably brittle temperament. Games against the ‘Dogs’ are never for the faint-of-heart and this weekends could prove to be one of the most ferocious ever.