IT has been a remarkable few years for Pendle Forest; three promotions, national recognition and an incredible run of games that has seen them lose just once in 100 matches.

But there is no secret formula for the Brierfield-based team who are playing national league hockey for the first time in the club’s history...just fun and family.

While there may be two mother/daughter combinations in the team, manager Ian Bythell says the entire squad may as well be related, given the special bond between the players.

“When we set out we agreed that whatever we achieved, we played for enjoyment and for the fun of the game,” said Bythell whose wife Deb plays in defence and daughters Freya and Liv run the midfield. “We have had a fantastic few years and, as a club, we are on a roll. But nothing has changed our approach to the game. We are just one big family who just happen to be playing national league hockey.”

Bythell’s sister-in-law and niece Janet and Thea Cormack are also among the ranks for Forest, who have taken their rapid rise from Lancashire Central League to the Investec Women’s League Conference North in their stride.

It is a rise largely built on an unbeaten 87-game run that saw them named women’s team of the year in the England Hockey awards in 2018.

“That award was very special,” said Bythell, a former cricketer with Nelson CC who has been involved with Forest in one form or another for more than a decade. “It was lovely to get that recognition.”

While Forest lost game 88, it proved to be just a blip and, to a certain extent, a bit of a relief.

“That unbeaten run was becoming a bit of a burden,” admitted Bythell. “We were getting a lot of attention and when we reached 70, it was like ‘can they do 80’. No doubt had we got to 90 games then everyone would have been talking about a 100-game unbeaten run.

“It was a bit of relief in the end.”

However, they haven’t done so badly since and Saturday’s 4-2 win against promotion rivals Timperley made it one loss in 101 games and, more importantly, sees Forest sitting joint second in the league just two points behind leaders University of Nottingham.

It was another significant marker for Bythell and his players who came through their latest test with flying colours.

As expected, promotion rivals Timperley took the game to their hosts, their high tempo hockey stretching the Forest defence.

Forest went ahead against the run of play from a well-worked penalty corner when a pass from Lisa Crewe from the top of the D was converted by Thea Cormack. Steph Bedford then showed quick reactions to turn home a rebound to make it 2-0 before Timperley pulled one back. The visitors were on level terms early in the second half and Forest were forced to dig deep and thanks to a player of the match performance from Liv Bythell - running and retrieving everything in midfield - they did just that and Crewe grabbed two goals to seal a vital win.

Bythell hasn’t ruled out another push for promotion.

“Why not,” he said. “We are a small club who play our home games at a school competing against bigger and more established teams but we can do it.

“The nicest thing is that we have got here with the same group of players and that means a lot.

“Individually, other clubs may have better players but we know exactly how to play as a team.

“But, whatever happens, we will continue to have fun.”