BASINGSTOKE Bison will claim the English Premier League title if they can win their remaining five games after Manchester Phoenix suffered a surprise defeat last night.
The Phoenix went down 6-4 away at lowly Peterborough Phantoms, missing the chance to overhaul the Herd at the top of the table.
The teams remain locked together on 70 points, and while the Phoenix have a game extra to play, the Bison now hold their destiny in their own hands.
They will finish top of the table if they are able to win their remaining five games, with next Sunday's clash between the top two in Manchester looking more and more like a title decider.
Win that game and the Bison will have beaten the Phoenix 4-2 over the course of the season, meaning they will finish above Manchester if the teams finish level on points. Lose, or even draw in regulation time, and they could be left relying on another slip from their title rivals.
Before that, the Herd have just one outing this weekend, when they entertain the Swindon Wildcats tomorrow (face-off 6.30pm).
Manchester entertain third-placed Guildford Flames on Saturday and 24 hours later they play their game in hand, travelling to a much-improved Telford Tigers side.
Next Saturday, 24 hours before the vital clash in Manchester, the Herd have a tough home game against Sheffield, while Manchester are away in Swindon.
On the last weekend of the season, the Bison start at Swindon, before they entertain Milton Keynes Lightning at home, while Manchester go to Peterborough again, before a home game with Telford.
So, as the league campaign enters its finale, the Herd are determined to keep themselves in the hunt for the title, starting with a victory over their local rivals the Swindon Wildcats on Saturday.
So far this season, the series is tied between these sides. The Wiltshire visitors are the most inconsistent team in the EPL, but on their day they can beat anyone with their powerful offence.
On their first visit to Basingstoke, Swindon, who amongst their ranks have former Bison players Stevie Lyle and Alex Symonds, won 2-1.
Last month, when the Wildcats returned to Hampshire, they lost 3-2, as Joe Greener scored the game-winning goal five minutes from time.
Bison player/coach Doug Sheppard is expecting another tough game and said: “They have a lot of firepower and we will need to make sure we are focused for the whole 60 minutes as they will make you pay for any small mistake.”
The Herd are currently enjoying their best winning streak of the season in the league after their success in Slough last Sunday made it six wins on the trot. Sheppard would love to make it a magnificent seven on Saturday.
The Bison boss added: “We are in good form, with all of our four lines scoring and playing good team defence. I want this to carry on until the end of the season.”