WIDNES Wild moved up into the Laidler Division play off positions for the first time this season after back-to-back wins over Bradford Bulldogs at the weekend, winning 4 – 5 away in West Yorkshire on Saturday and then 5 – 2 at home at Planet Ice Widnes on Sunday.

The Wild spent the earlier part of the season concentrating on playing in the Midland Cup and fell behind the other teams in the division in terms of games played. They are currently catching up with their outstanding fixtures and are now beginning to occupy a more realistic league position.

Bradford Bulldogs have been a very good side this season and led the league table for quite a long spell. With several former Widnes Wild players in their ranks, games between the two teams are always very passionate and hard-fought affairs.

The away game on Saturday saw Widnes take the lead in the 17th minute with a short-handed goal from Czech import Jakub Hajek, however Bradford replied just 90 seconds later, with a goal from their leading scorer of the season so far – Joshua Stockton – but Widnes restored the lead just 60 seconds later, with a power play goal from Michal Novak

A third goal for Widnes off the stick of Mikey Gilbert with just 34 seconds left to go in the period, gave the Wild a healthy looking 1 – 3 lead at the first break.

The Bulldogs upped their game considerably in the second period and got their rewards with goals on 24 and 30 minutes to level the score. The Wild defence regrouped and, with no more goals, the second period ended at a finely-balanced 3 – 3.

The third period was very tense, with both teams having chances. The deadlock was broken in the 52nd minute when Matt Tarpey edged the Wild back into the lead. Mikey Gilbert made it a two goal cushion with just two and a half minutes left on the clock but a goal on 58 minutes for the hosts still left everything to play for.

Bradford withdrew their netminder for the last minute in favour of an extra attacking player to try and force a late equaliser. The Wild defence held out against this last-ditch onslaught and the game finished with a 4 – 5 win for Widnes.

The home game on Sunday started in similar vein and, despite lots of two-way hockey and chances for both teams, remained goal-less at the first period break.

Bradford took the lead just 44 seconds into the second period and, when they doubled their advantage with a short-handed goal in the 30th minute, it was beginning to look as if it was going to be their night.

However, a power play goal from team captain Danny Bullock just 40 seconds later opened the Wild’s account for the evening and then a superb individual goal from Jakub Hajek on 34 minutes, levelled the score. With Bradford on the ropes and being outshot by some two to one in the period, Widnes were able to make that dominance count with a 38 minute goal from Daniel Haid to turn the 0 – 2 deficit into a 3 – 2 lead at the second break.

The third period started with a goal from Bez Hughes to edge Widnes further ahead and, as the game began to slip away from the Bradford side, things began to get niggly. Hughes scored his second goal of the night and the fifth overall for the Wild to hand them an unassailable lead with just over two minutes left to play. A series of unnecessary penalties saw the Bulldogs play out the latter stages of the game with six players either in the penalty box or in the changing room and the Wild held out to secure the win - and to notch up a very important 4 point weekend.

The MVP awards were presented by Widnes match night volunteer Jennifer Hunt and went to Dean Boothroyd for Bradford and Bez Hughes for Widnes Wild. As Jennifer was also celebrating her birthday at the weekend, she was presented with flowers by her favourite players Hughes and Mike Mawer.

After two weekends without a game, Wild player Shaun Dippnall was finally presented with his Award for having been named Laidler Division Player of the Month for January. Each month a panel of media experts considers the performances of players in all five of the NIHL Divisions and a monthly winner is chosen. Prizes for the awards are being sponsored this season by clothing manufacturers Oddballs. Wild match announcer Paul Breeze made the presentation.

The Wild have two away games next weekend – taking on the Blackburn Hawks 2 team on Saturday, 5.45 p.m. face off – and then travelling to face league leaders Hull Jets on Sunday, 5.15 p.m. face off.

They are next at home the following weekend, when, unusually they have a home game on the Saturday as well as the Sunday. On Saturday 7th March the Wild will take on the Telford Tigers 2 team in the game that was re-scheduled a couple of weeks ago due to travel concerns caused by the storms and, on the Sunday, they will host Hull Jets for the first time at Planet Ice Widnes this season – face off 5.30 p.m.