BLACKBURN Hawks player/coach James Neil says he will take time to decide on his future after the ice hockey season was brought to an abrupt end.

With the play-offs due to commence next month, it seems increasingly unlikely they will be played due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Hawks finished their regular season with a double defeat at Sutton Sting then home to Whitley Warriors meaning they have had to settle for sixth place in Moralee North One.

Neil says he will now take time out to reflect on what has been his first full season as a player/coach.

“I love it at Blackburn but I was always going to take the summer to decide what I was going to do and that is still the case,” said the 30-year-old, who is one of the youngest coaches in the country.

“I’m new to coaching, this is my first full season and it is something I am learning about all the time.

“I know I have probably made some wrong choices along the way but that is something you learn from. But as one of the more experienced players on the ice, players look to you and if you are not playing particular well then it can be tough and on top of that there is the added pressure of being the player/coach as well.”

Neil says he has had offers to return to just playing duties but says it is too soon to decide what to do next.

And the Nottingham-born coach insists the Hawks are better than the table suggests.

“That has been the most frustrating thing,” added Neil who guided his team to the final of the Midland Cup where they lost to Solihull Barons. “On our day, we can beat anyone in this division but we don’t have the biggest squad and when we have players injured, unavailable or suspended then it hits us hard.

“There have been loads of games this season where where have had to play with a short bench.”

Regarding offers elsewhere, he added: “I love playing and I am one of the youngest coaches around, if not the youngest. I have had offers but I won’t be making any quick decisions.”

Neil admitted last weekend’s double header had a ‘weird’ feeling about after the elite league had been cancelled the previous week while leagues further down the pyramid continued to play.

“It was odd, a bit weird,” he said. “We played in games no-one really wanted to be playing in and we went through the motions a bit really.

“But I have to thank all the fans who have come out to watch us all season because they have been brilliant.”

On Saturday the Hawks travelled to Sutton Sting and, just like their meeting in Blackburn last month, it was another close affair. On that occasion, Hawks went down 9-6 and on Saturday they came away from Sheffield as 9-5 losers.

Sutton opened up a two-goal lead inside seven minutes with Adrian Palak scoring both before goals from Neil and James Riddoch had the Hawks on level terms at the end of the first quarter.

The Hawks then stormed to a 5-2 lead in the second quarter thanks to goals from James Royds, overseas import Petr Valusiak and a second from Neil before Sutton closed the gap to a single goal thanks to late efforts from Warren Tait and Lloyd Gibson.

And the hosts ran away with it in the the final quarter with five unanswered goals from Sam Jones (2), Cameron Glasby, Ben Marples and Palak’s second of the game.

On Sunday, the Hawks hosted the newly-crowned champions, Whitley Warriors, which mirrored the last meeting between the sides.

History repeated itself in the first period where the Hawks more than matched the champions but two late goals from Dean Holland and Harry Harley gave the Warriors the advantage.

But Whitley started the second period as they had ended the first with two quick goals from Philip Edgar and Jamie Ord to take the game away from their hosts.

After being caught cold, the Hawks stepped it up and solidly matched Warriors for a goal-less 17 minutes.

But try as Hawks might – with some well-worked goal scoring opportunities – they just couldn’t find the back of the net.

As the period drew to a close, Warriors hit Blackburn where it hurt, book-ending the period with their fifth goal by Ben Richards with 22 seconds left on the clock.

In the final period, Whitley Warriors kept the tempo of the game high with clinical passing and slick play.

Tiredness set in for the short-benched Blackburn Hawks and, in the face of the Warriors’ high standard of hockey, the home side took a much more defensive role.

Solid defending only granted the away side a brace of further goals from Messrs Ord and a Harley.

At the other end, the Hawks only managed to create six shots on goal and, as a result, didn’t manage to find their elusive first goal leaving Warriors’ clean sheet intact.