Worthing Thunder coach Daniel Hildreth is targeting a strong start to the year when his side return to action this weekend.
Thunder sit second from bottom in National League Division 1 but entertain third-from-bottom Hemel Storm on Saturday (7.30pm), before a trip to ninth-placed Essex Leopards on Sunday (4pm).
Their National Trophy semi-final against London Lituanica takes place at the end of the month and Hildreth said: “At this stage of the season, every win is vital.
“Going into the first weekend after the Christmas break, you never know how teams are going to come back, how well prepared they are and how much they have managed to practice.
“Some teams will come back and go on fantastic runs, while other teams will fall behind.
“If we beat Hemel, we’ll have the head-to-head advantage over them if we were to finish level on points, while we’ve had a good rivalry with Essex over the past couple of years.”
Thunder won just three of their 12 league games in the first half of the season but are only two points behind London Lituanica, who are eighth and occupy the final play-off spot.
Hildreth said: “There’s five or six teams fighting for a play-off spot and for positions four to eight, which is healthy for the league and exciting.
“Had we beaten Solent before Christmas, we’d be another two or three places higher up and I’d say we’ve been in every game this season, apart from two.
“We had our fair share of injuries in the first half of the season and were without Tom Ward for a number of weeks and things like that affect continuity and cohesion.
“Hopefully our injury worries are behind us now and everybody will come back from Christmas and the New Year refreshed.
“We’ve got the majority of our games at home now and only have one long trip – to Lancashire – but we’ve just got to take it one at a time.
“The bottom two go down and it will be a dog fight between five or six teams as to who will finish sixth, seventh, eighth and lower.
“If we can start the year with a couple of wins, confidence will be up and then you can win games that you shouldn’t. On the flip side, when you’re on a losing run you end up losing games that you should win.
“However, I’m looking to make an addition to the squad to give us some more firepower and to steady the ship a bit for the second half of the season.”
American Lyonell Gaines has starred for Thunder this season and Hildreth said: “We knew he was a talent when we brought him here and I’m very pleased with the way he has been performing.
“He’s the ultimate professional, goes to the gym twice a day, shoots every day and I’ve not had an import work as hard as him before.
“He’s selfless in games and he knows that for him to be successful moving forward, the team needs to be successful now.”
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