With most eyes on the compelling 3-way race at the top of D2M, the battle between Liverpool and Doncaster to escape from 11th place and potential relegation is just as exciting. That said, we will of course cover both end of the table as we run through the 7 games on tap for this weekend. As usual, we’ll provide the score of the previous game that teams have played this season. With the primary tie breaker between two sides being their head to head record (including points difference) between each other over the 2 fixtures in a season, teams are not only looking to win but also secure any potential tiebreakers should two sides be equal on points come the end of the regular season.
Westside will look to play spoiler on Liverpool’s current upturn in form as they look to grab another 2 points and secure their position in the middle of the playoff field. With a home tie for 4th place vs whoever finishes 5th, staying within the top 4 of the division will be the main aim for London right now. With Ipswich showing no signs on letting up in 5th, every game, and win, is vitally important.
Faced by the knowledge that either Doncaster or Newham would pick up a win last weekend, Liverpool made sure that the issue would be irrelevant as they picked up 2 points of their own with an impressive win on the road against Derbyshire Arrows. With Doncaster ultimately topping Newham, the win for Liverpool allowed them to keep pace with the Eagles and add another layer of excitement to their clash in early March. As for this weekend, it’s unlikely that Liverpool have this fixture circled as a potential win, especially with Kayne Henry-McCalla in his current form, but a shock result could really swing momentum in such a tight relegation battle.
Previous meeting – Liverpool 64 v 75 London Westside
Liverpool's Uche Umekwe rises for the block against London Westside back in November - Liverpool
Like Liverpool, Doncaster are unlikely to have a match up with the league leaders as a sure fire 2 pointer, but that shouldn’t stop the Eagles from feeling they can make waves in this one. Fresh off their vital win over the Neptunes and back on their own court, the Eagles will feel they have nothing to lose in a fixture most will have them pegged as losing anyway. Think how big a win would be here to the Eagles survival chances, that will be all the motivation Doncaster needs. And don’t forget, it’s quite possible that Newcastle could have their focus on the Sunday’s fixture of a double header. It’s a pretty big one.
Team Newcastle just need to take care of business. With 7 games remaining on the season, the Knights have the luxury of being the only side in the Division whose fate is in their own hands. Win out and the title is theirs. Taking care of winnable games without too much of a problem is the sign of a top team, that will be the aim on Saturday. Still, winning their remaining games is easier said than done. Newcastle still have 2 fixtures with Thames Valley and a rematch with Kent left on the year, they’re going to be must watch encounters.
Previous meeting – Team Newcastle University 97 v 83 Doncaster Danum Eagles
And speaking of which, what a game we have on the cards for Sunday afternoon. A loss for Newcastle wouldn’t be the end of the world, but a win would stretch their advantage over the Cavs and potentially leave their main remaining challenger to the tittle as the Crusaders down in Kent. As the two sides are yet to meet this season, landing the first blow may well be huge to the title race. But which way will it go?
Based on current form, it’s reasonable to think the winner of D2M this season won’t have more than 3 losses this year. With 2 already to their name, Thames Valley would be walking a tightrope if they were to drop this game. With the head-to-head record also a consideration, a loss by a large margin would be a real blow. On the flip side though, a win would be impossible to overstate. Handing the Knights a 2nd loss on the year would make things interesting up at the top, and with it the pressure would go up another notch on every game down the stretch.
Previous meeting – 1st game this season
No doubt keeping an eye on the events elsewhere, Kent will be pleased that on such a pivotal weekend for the teams around them they have a home bout with the division’s bottom side Newham. After a competitive game in London back in early November, there is little to suggest this game will be a similar story as Kent know they need to win at every opportunity to close out the season.
The number of games left for Newham to save their D2M status is getting smaller. After last weekend’s loss against Doncaster and a win elsewhere for Liverpool, the Neptunes are now 4 points adrift at the bottom of the table. 7 fixtures remain, but an away game with Kent is hardly a guarantee of 2 points. Likewise, Newham also still have to play Newcastle and Thames Valley, meaning realistically the side need to win at least 3 of their remaining games with Pioneers, Arrows, Ipswich and Liverpool. A tall order, and don’t forget that the Eagles now hold the head to head over NASSA.
Previous meeting – Newham Neptunes 86 v 98 Kent Crusaders
Kent's Head Coach Lloyd Gardner has led his side to an impressive season to date - Kent Crusaders
How much would the Mohawks like to do a favour for their local rivals? If Tees Valley were able to hand a defeat to Thames Valley on Saturday, it would be a serious setback ahead of the Cavs match up in the North East vs Newcastle on the Sunday. Regardless of their consideration for the Knights, expect the Mohawks to put themselves first as they continue to battle for a playoff place.
For the Cavs, it’s a fine line. A win against the Mohawks counts the same in the standings as a win against Newcastle on Sunday, but they want to keep as much in the tank as possible for their clash with the Knights. Take a player like Charlton Jones lightly though, and he will certainly make you pay. Thames Valley can’t look past this game; they need a 2-win weekend.
Previous meeting – Thames Valley Cavaliers 111 v 97 Tees Valley Mohawks
As 2 sides that aren’t likely to be involved in the drama at either end of the table, that doesn’t mean both sides don’t need the points from this one as they race towards the post season. The Hoods have been road warriors in the last month or 2, playing 6 of their last 7 away from Nottingham. Going 2-5 wasn’t the best, but the Midlands side are still very much in the hunt for a playoff berth.
Ipswich’s modest 3 game win streak was ended by a Kayne Henry-McCalla inspired London Westside last week, bringing both sides level on points in 4th and 5th. With games against the Hoods, Mohawks, Eagles and Neptunes all planned before season’s end, the race for that 4th place is going to be very tight.
Previous meeting – Ipswich 77 v 59 Nottingham Hoods
Pioneers’ quest to secure a playoff spot was derailed at the first attempt by a strong Kent Crusaders team but this weekend represents a more appealing opponent for the London side. Currently sat in 6th, the Arrows are placed in a position the Pioneers should feel they can emulate and will be hoping they can string some wins together throughout February to do just that.
The Arrows will be disappointed to have dropped a home game against Liverpool last weekend but there is still time to make a push towards 4th and 5th who are just 2 points ahead. With a home clash against Westside scheduled for 18th February, and games against Newham and Nottingham as we move into March, the Arrows could build some momentum over the next few weeks.
Previous meeting - Killamarsh Derbyshire Arrows 20 v 0 London Greenhouse Pioneers