Proud boss hails brave Devils

Kent Johnson and Kevin Tanner have both found the net for the Devils in division one. Picture: Dave Chapman
Kent Johnson and Kevin Tanner have both found the net for the Devils in division one. Picture: Dave Chapman
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Paul Fitzpatrick reflected on the baptism of fire the Devils have endured in National League south division one and declared: I’m proud of you.

The Solent & Gosport side have suffered four consecutive defeats since their promotion to the top flight last term.

Reigning champions Romford Raiders and former holders Wightlink Raiders have both inflicted heavy losses on the Forest Way-based outfit.

Having romped to the second division title by a 14-point margin – remaining undefeated throughout last season – the reversal in fortune highlights the massive jump the Devils have made.

And Fitzpatrick has praised his troops for meeting the huge challenge head on and remaining committed to the cause.

The Devils manager said: ‘It’s been a tough start to the new season.

‘But despite losing our first four games, I am so proud of the commitment the players have shown – which has hopefully been witnessed by our supporters.

‘We have been highly successful for the past three or four years in division two and made a decision, as a team, to accept promotion.

‘It was not without some very long and careful consideration of the mountain we faced, though.

‘We knew we would be pitched against some very talented teams who pay their players. Wage bills of £2,500 per month at the top of this league are not uncommon.

‘But we believed the opportunity for our players to play against some of the best teams in the country was a right they had earned.

‘And to bring these top sides and players to Gosport was something our loyal supporters deserved.

‘Every sportsman wants a challenge and to compete against the best.

‘We’re no different and whatever happens this season, hopefully we will be able to hold our heads high and say we gave it our best.’

The Devils suffered 10-1 and 10-2 defeats to Wightlink and Romford respectively as the season got under way at the beginning of the month.

A hat-trick from Kent Johnson and a Craig Weedon strike then gave them hope of victory on home ice against Bracknell Hornets. But in the end the Berkshire side edged the clash 6-4.

Last weekend the Devils went down 8-3 to Milton Keynes Thunder, despite strikes from Johnson, Kevin Tanner and George Norcliffe.

Fitzpatrick described the performance as the worst in three years by the Devils but has backed them to bounce back when they entertain Romford tonight (5pm).

He said: ‘There’s nothing like a gentle introduction into a very high-level league!

‘We will be looking to improve on the disappointment at Milton Keynes tonight, though.

‘Yes, it’s against Romford but this time it’s at Gosport.

‘So we will certainly make them aware of where they are and if the home support can get behind us, then every Devil will give their all.’