CAPTAIN Matt Foord firmly believes Bracknell Bees will be challenging for league honours this season despite their current run of defeats, writes Dave Wright.

A great run of form came to a grinding halt last month when they were hit badly by suspension and injury to key players.

Those problems still exist and last Saturday’s 4-3 home cup defeat by Telford Tigers was their eighth in succession, split equally in NIHL and National Cup group games.

Yet they remain handily placed in Division One South, occupying fourth in the table with 20 points from 14 games and well in touch with the sides above them – leaders Peterborough Phantoms with 25 points from 14 games, Basingstoke Bison (24 from 13) and Swindon Wildcats (20 from 13). Bees were third until last Saturday when Wildcats walloped pointless Cardiff Fire 15-1.

And Foord is confident his side can maintain their top-four place, saying: “We have a great chance to finish at the top end, even win the league.

“We now need to regain our recent form to take into the end of the season and the play-offs.”

Reflecting on the first half of their campaign, Foord said: “It has been a good one so far. We have a great group of guys, everyone wants to win for each other.

“But we have had a couple of injuries and suspensions and have hit a bit of a slump.

“That has left us a bit frustrated, but all the guys are working hard and, hopefully, we can come together again as a group and overcome this little slump we are in at the moment.”

Bees were on a run of 10 wins from 12 games – their two losses only coming in over-time and penalties – before losing leading scorer Frankie Bakrlik to a six-match suspension and player-coach Scott Spearing, who suffered a head injury while at work.

An ankle injury then left Shaun Thompson, their second-highest scorer, on the sidelines, where he has now been joined by Harvey Stead, while Danny Ingoldsby is serving a five-match ban.

“We have badly missed all these players,” said Foord.

“If you lose someone like Frankie you are in trouble. Then you also lose Tommo straight away and your backs are against the wall, it is difficult.

“The rest of the guys have worked hard to step up, but they are not easy players to replace.

“Take Scott, what he brings to the team is enormous. He can change games when he is on the ice and we are missing that spark,” he added.

“It’s difficult at times, but that is the hockey season, you have the ups and downs, and it is about overcoming them and working extra hard.

“Hopefully, we can get back into a winning groove and regain that momentum we had going recently.

“When guys like Tommo, Harvey, Danny and Scott all come back, I am sure we will start rolling again and building up the points – that’s the plan.”

Bracknell Bees travel to Streatham in the league on Saturday (5.30pm face-off).